Topic outline

  • General

    • I recommend that you write your post first using your favorite word processor.  Then save it.  Then COPY AND PASTE the contents to this blog.  Check the formatting.  Then save the blog post.  This will give you a "safe" copy of your work (always a good idea) in case something goes wrong posting to the blog.

    • Correct as of Aug. 31.  See Prof. Schmidt re necessary changes.  All students should sign up THREE times.

    • This file will be updated AFTER our first seminar on August 29, when you'll have a chance to sign up for your 3 future seminar presentations.  The file will contain a list of who is posting and leading discussion on specific weeks, plus guidelines for doing posts and leading discussion.  Please download and read before doing your first post.  Happy to confer with you ahead of time in person or via email re your post and/or leading discussion, but don't wait until the last minute please!    My regular office hours this fall 2016 are TTh 1pm to 3pm.

    • Updated August 20 2016.  English 116 seminar description; work requirements; general information and overview.   PLEASE DOWNLOAD THIS.  A second intro document (see below) contains the details of the weekly seminar assignments.

      See also the Guidelines posted below for seminar blog posts and for leading seminar discussions.

    • PLEASE DOWNLOAD THIS WORD DOCUMENT AND CONSULT IT EACH WEEK (as well as the assignments & documents listed below on our English 116 Moodle page.  This document contains live links that you can use to access many of the assigned readings for each week.

      I also recommend that you create a folder named something like "American Literature seminar" or "English 116," in which to store all your downloaded documents (pdfs, Word docs, etc.) for our seminar.  The contents of the folder will grow each week, but they will be all in one place for you to find them when you need them.

    • Please add a copy of both your final paper and final exam "practice" essay to this folder.   Add your name to both files so we know whose files are whose. Don't add the version with my comments (unless you want to), but add a "clean" copy of your file.  You of course may make any corrections you want to before uploading.

      Seniors up for Honors this May should sometime in the first month or so of the spring 2015 semester browse through these materials as a study guide.   They will also be available to you in April and May, of course, as you're doing final prep for the Honors exams.  I will also be available to meet with you to discuss your final paper, practice exam, and your other work for the course.

  • First seminar: Aug 29

    “I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay.  What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”

    –Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Letter to My Son,” (2015)

    • read these 3 items:  

      • Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence (1776), with revisions by Congress; also read the brief intro background material
      • Jefferson's comments on slavery's effects, from his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), the chapter "Manners" (a strange title for the chapter, given its content!)
      • a 1785 letter to James Madison on the consequences of "enormous inequality" of wealth and opportunity for a democracy
    • Prof. Schmidt's summary of some recent issues regarding the text of the Declaration that have been highlighted by the Constitutional historian Danielle Allen.  Also read this to find out why the Declaration phrasing says "we hold these truths" to be "self-evident," rather than "sacred and undeniable."

    • Read the intro/background material, as well as excerpts from two famous chapters:  "What Is an American?" and "Description of Charles Town [Charleston, South Carolina]; Thoughts on Slavery."  We'll also want to discuss Greeson's reading of Crèvecoeur.

    • C. Vann Woodward was one of the greatest historians of the twentieth century.  This is an essay I find really moving and eloquent, as well as useful.  Note the publication date:  1960.  It was clearly influenced by the rebirth of the Civil Rights movement in the South in the 1950s.

    • Please download and read and bring this study aid to seminar.  

    • Download and/or print and bring to seminar (ditto for all the other assigned texts)

    • Please download, read, and bring this study aid to seminar.  

    • 9pp.

    • ...on narrative and southern "space."  Note the Patricia Yaeger quotation and Davis' commentary on it.

      We'll read more from both these scholars later in the semester.  Both Yaeger and Davis have been Honors examiners at Swarthmore in the past.

    • Franchesca Ramsey’s short video talk for teenagers, originally published on the MTV site (!).  


    • on Kara Walker's "Sugar Sphinx"; or, "A Subtlety."

    • Note:  Melissa is a Swarthmore alum and English Literature major, now an Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow at NYU. 

    • In this Word doc are links to 4 short essays on Formation that appeared on social media in spring and summer 2016 after Formation and Lemonade dropped.

      Note:  the great website has extensive information and helpful annotations on all of Beyoncé’s work, including Formation: check it out.  Go to the Genius site and search for Beyoncé Formation.

    • plus a recording of Formation, so you can follow the lyrics along with the music

    • "Dr. DiAngelo asserts that “the most effective adaptation of racism over time is the idea that racism is conscious bias held by mean people.” Key word here is “adaptation.” Racism today doesn’t look the way it did in 1865, 1965, or 2000. It stays alive by shape-shifting over time, and the good/bad binary is just part of its insidious current form. The only way forward is to step outside of it. 

      If the occasional college workshop or workplace diversity training were enough to address all the insidious ways racism persists, white supremacy would already be over. And it’s not. As Assata Shakur said, “No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them.” 

      To that, I would like to add “the education White people need will make us uncomfortable.”

    • by John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance and the author of The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South, from which this essay is adapted.

      from The New York Times, May 7 2017. 

  • Sept 5

    Antebellum slavery and race debates, plus two examples of slave or freedom narratives, by Frederick Douglass (excerpts) and Harriet Jacobs.  Plus selected background material, including an excerpt from Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, scholarly overviews of the slave narrative genre, and a lively essay by the contemporary poet and scholar Kevin Young.  

    Be sure to allot several days for reading Jacobs' masterpiece.  Her "loophole of retreat," an attic crawlspace, is arguably as important for American literary history as Thoreau's cabin in the woods near Walden Pond.

    • excerpts from Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)

    • Start your reading of secondary sources for this week with this fine overview essay.

    • Explores the intersection of race and class in antebellum America.  Will give us a whole new frame or context for considering the ex-slave narrative.

    • from the New York Times, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.

    • Comment on this photo?

      Photograph credit: ddp USA/Rex/Shutterstock

    •  (Tips The Economist may want to remember next time they assign a reviewer.)

    • Controversies about Southern history & recent changes to the AP U.S. history exam

      "[W]hen [textbook author] Masoff gets to the Civil War, she goes off the rails. 'Thousands of Southern blacks fought in Confederate ranks,' she writes, 'including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson.' Historians in the state were appalled. Not only was there little evidence of mass voluntary participation among blacks in the Confederate war effort, but the Jackson line is pure fantasy. In fact, Masoff copied the claim from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group that insists on the reality of black Confederate soldiers, and whose in-house historian, Charles Kelly Barrow, argued the point in a book called Black Confederates."

      "Mainstream historians dismiss the claim, but it’s easy to see how it persists. In a world where black soldiers willingly fought for the Confederacy, your beliefs are vindicated. Suddenly, the Confederate cause is noble—a fight for freedom against invaders, not a struggle in defense of slavery. Or, as Yale historian David Blight told the Washington Post, “This isn't just about the legitimacy of the Confederacy, it's about the legitimacy of the emancipation itself.”

      Note from PS:  there were some Blacks who fought as Confederate soldiers, and many others who were near the front lines, continuing to be servants to their owners (who were often Confederate officers).  So too were there some blacks (and Indians, for that matter) who owned Black slaves.  How should we understand such facts?  In what ways should those facts impact our assessment of Masoff's book, or this review?  During next week's reading, check out Thomas Nelson Page's hugely popular "Marse Chan" on our syllabus, and remember this review.  "Marse Chan" is the story of a loyal black slave who served by his master's side during the Civil War and now many years later fondly reminisces about their relationship.  

    • Summary of selected findings from an article in the American Journal of Human Genetics.  Based on the ancestry data compiled by the commercial genetic testing company 23and Me to measure the percentage of African ancestry of people who self-identified as white.

      Another interesting graph of the data asks, at what point do people of mixed European and African ancestry tend to self-identify as black?

  • Sept 12

    For Internet links to the short stories and the novella (Twain's) we'll read this week, see our online syllabus. Use the digital syllabus with an Internet connection to access 6 of the 9  stories assigned via the links provided.  I've uploaded Harris' 2 other linked tales, the "Tar Baby" stories, below with my commentary.  Ditto for the McClellan story assigned.  All this week's stories are now all in the public domain.  

    See also below required selected secondary sources, essays on these authors and stories, to read for this week.

    • “Southern Women Writers: A Confederacy of Water Moccasins,” from Patricia Yaeger's Dirt and Desire: Reconstructing Southern Women’s Writing, pp. 1-27.

    • Eric Gary Anderson, "The Fall of the House of Po' Sandy: Poe, Chestnut, and Southern Undeadness," from the Undead South anthology.  Eric Gary Anderson will be the Honors examiner for English 116, spring 2017 and possibly spring 2018 as well.

    • Begins with Prof. Schmidt's introduction to the "Uncle Remus" stories, of which these are two of the most famous.

    • “Aunt Fountain’s Prisoner” by Harris was an extremely popular representation of the Civil War and Reconstruction with Harris’ white readers:  why?  Some background:

      An example of the resourceful Black "Mammy" character popular among white readers in post-Civil War fiction.  They are often called "Aunt _____" or just "Mammy" as a way of signifying that in whites' eyes they are "just one of the family."  (Of course, it's also a way or erasing their identities other than what is focused on serving whites.  We can discuss this paradox further in seminar.)  Harris' many "Mammy" Black characters were a precedent for the most famous one of all in 20th-century American fiction, Mammy in Gone With the Wind.

    • focus on pp. 1-36, an introductory overview and then a discussion of particular stories by Harris, Dunbar, and Chopin.

    • read these 2 essay excerpts first

    • from my book Sitting in Darkness:  U.S. Fiction, Education, and the Rise of Jim Crow Colonialism, 1865-1920 (2008).

      For Twain's wickedly good novella "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg," see our seminar syllabus for Week 3 and click on the live link.

  • Sept 19 -- Thomas Dixon

    This week we study Thomas Dixon's million-selling novel The Clansman (1905), and the famous movie made from it, D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915).  These are two of the most successful examples in history of racist propaganda at work:  what made them so effective?  Griffith is also important because he invented much of the visual language of film--such as using a moving camera on rails to track action scenes, and the use of a close-up shot of the face to display characters' emotional reactions to events.  In Birth he used these visual techniques to support  the white South's view that the nation was under siege and had to fight back.

    Read The Clansman via the online link on our syllabus, then go to YouTube, search for Birth of a Nation, and select 1-2 scenes to view so you can get a sense of how the movie worked on its audience.  Wikipedia's page on The Birth of a Nation is also excellent.  The Hale and Schmidt essays provide background and analysis.

    Some general topics for discussion this week:

    • Is the purpose of the novel to create a new consciousness among whites about what white power is and why it is necessary?  How is whiteness defined in the novel, actually, and what kind of destiny does Dixon imagine for the white race?  "In the darkest hour of the life of the South, when her wounded people lay helpless amid rags and ashes under the beak and talon of the Vulture, suddenly from the mists of the mountains appeared a white cloud the size of a man's hand. It grew until its mantle of mystery enfolded the stricken earth and sky. An "Invisible Empire" had risen from the field of Death and challenged the Visible to mortal combat..." -- from the novel's opening pages.

    • One of the strange paradoxes of the novel is that it shows that whites are weak and divided and confused--they have to be taught how to unite under the sign of white power: they have to learn a new narrative of racial superiority.  How should we understand the fact that whites have to be taught (or shown) to be white--and that Dixon felt his novel could play the role of model teacher?  (I would add that white supremacy discourse in the US in the 19th and early 20th century had a direct influence on Hitler's own version of Aryan supremacy in Nazism as a response to Germany's own Southern-like humiliation after a loss in a war.  And Naziism too, just like in The Clansman, obsessed about finding scapegoats to punish as a way for whites to become unified.)

    • In relation to the previous topic, what kind of role does the KKK and all the stuff about mystical medieval Knights play in the novel?  How is it portrayed and why is it necessary?  It's one of the novel's elements that made the book so popular.  (And remember that KKK units were active in many Northern and Western states, not just in the South.  That includes Pennsylvania.)

    • Despite the novel's narrative of getting Northern and Southern whites to unite against threats to their rule, Dixon's The Clansman is also full of contradictions and absurdities.  (I find parts of the novel's melodramatic plot unintentionally hilarious as well as scary.)  How should we understand these contradictions, and why didn't these negatively affect most of the book's fervent readers?

    • In what ways does the novel help us think about what's going on in the U.S. now, in 2016, where far from becoming "post-racial" (whatever that meant) the U.S. seems to be having a new crisis of racial panic and reaction and revenge? 
  • September 26: Gone With the Wind

  • Oct 3

    • See also accompanying notes, and Cartwright's discussion.  This excerpt is from the Benjy Compson section, which opens The Sound and the Fury.  Benjy is older but has the mind of a 3-year old (thus the disjointed narration, Faulkner's most radical experiment with stream-of-consciousness where the mind can't order sensation but is immersed in it, driven by trauma and loss which is often reawakened by particular moments so that the pain of loss is intensely felt again.)   Benjy, like Quentin Compson, is obsessed with Caddy Compson; Benjy yearns and cries for her when she's not there.  Quentin later becomes obsessed with her loss of "purity" in this scene and others, when she later as a teenager loses her virginity; in this scene, Caddy muddies her underwear when after supper they all are playing in a creek and looking for a lost quarter.   The image of her muddy underwear returns to haunt Quentin in section two, when his center of consciousness takes the story in a new direction years after this episode.   Some of the children playing together and teasing or fighting with each other are black, others white--can you tell which is which?  Jason Compson, the youngest child, makes an appearance here, and "Mammy" is referred to as well.  Jason narrates Part 3; "Mammy" 's (Dilsey's) point of view—the only one told using the third rather than first person—focuses Part 4 of The Sound and the Fury.  I've assigned just a few pages from Benjy's section, Part 1.

    • Includes a reading of some of the symbolic cultural meanings associated with Caddy's "loss" of purity or innocence in this scene from The Sound and the Fury.

    • Published in Faulkner in Context, along with an essay by Prof. Philip Weinstein and other Faulkner scholars.  Ed. John T. Matthews.  Cambridge University Press, 2015.

  • Topic 7


  • Oct 17: Jean Toomer and Zora Neale Hurston

    • "A New Race in America" and "The Americans" (1931 and ??), plus a 1930 letter to James Weldon Johnson stating his reasons for declining to allow his work to be published in an anthology of "Negro" literature.

    • a pdf assembled from the Norton Critical edition of Toomer's Cane.  I've given you just the conclusion to Whalan's essay--read it; it's very good.  Then read also Pellegrini's essay, which usefully reads Toomer's Cane in biographical, historical, and cultural contexts.

    • Note that Their Eyes Were Watching God was written in 1937 (in 6 weeks, allegedly!) while Hurston was doing anthropological work in Jamaica and especially Haiti on vodou (sometimes called voodoo or hoodoo) and other religious, performance, and story-telling traditions that are part of the African diaspora—research that resulted in her study Tell My Horse (1938).

  • Oct 24: SOUTHERN SHORT STORIES! from the 1930s to the present!

    There are a dozen gems here:  be sure to make enough time to read them all--you'll be glad you did.  Many different moods, styles, and themes represented here, and the genres of comedy, tragedy, and satire.  These writers are beyond awesome.

    NOTE:  the Katherine Anne Porter novella "Old Mortality" is also assigned this week but is not online; buy the book in the Bookstore.  "Old Mortality" is assigned but the other famous stories in this Porter collection are not.  (Though if you love this novella and would like to explore Porter's art further, that would make a fine final project!)

    • See also the Wikipedia entry on this story and its strange (?) central idea.

    • Read in conjunction with Faulkner's "Red Leaves"

    • c. 1943

    • Welty's superb send-up of celebrity pop culture and what it does to its consumers.  One of the great satires ever written, worthy of Twain but handling her materials in a way Twain never would have been able to do.  Is Welty's satire also profoundly feminist (in its critique of male misogyny and its portrait of self-hating women), or is it deeply disparaging of women?  It will be good to debate this.  Published in Welty's second short story collection, The Wide Net and Other Stories (1943).   See also Prof. Schmidt's short analysis of a feminist critique in this story of the "grotesque" vs. the "beautiful" as  mirror opposites or doubles (below).  

    • Please read these 2 brief commentaries of mine to accompany "Petrified Man."  One is a reading of the story; the other, commentary on a very witty piece of parody and pastiche about pop culture and its influence on us called "Women!! Make Turban in Own Home!" (not assigned).  "Women!!" parodies women's "advice" magazines, celebrity worship, and dangerous images of what's "beautiful" vs. what is ugly.  Welty also wrote this little espri de pastiche in the early 1940s and published it, rather subversively I think, in the Junior League Magazine for its female audience.  Both brief commentaries are from my book The Heart of the Story: Eudora Welty's Short Fiction.

    • Welty's 1963 story imaging the voice and psyche of the murderer of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, who was shot in the back and killed by a sniper in Jackson, Mississippi, Welty's and Evers' home town.  Welty wrote the story the night after news of the murder broke, and her guesses about the facts of the murderer's  life and what his "motivations" were proved so accurate that certain details for legal reasons had to be changed when the story was published in The New Yorker later that same year.  Along with Baldwin's analysis of the white sheriff's psyche in "Going to Meet the Man" [see below], this story is perhaps the most daring ever published on the sources of whites' panic and rage as the Civil Rights movement forced changes in U.S. society.  Given wide racial disparities in how the majority of whites vs. blacks responded to events such as the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in the summer of 2014,  it's easy to argue that Welty's and Baldwin's stories about white rage and fear are unfortunately still relevant.  Brown's murder was obviously not a cold-blooded assassination, as Evers' and Kings' murders were.  Rather, it's  striking how both Baldwin's and Welty's empathetically dive so deep into the dark reservoir of some whites' fears and hatreds that in the end their stories ask to be read as American tragedies.  As such, they are a far cry from how "race" and white or black identity is portrayed in most mass media "coverage" of racial conflicts.  Let's discuss these topics further in seminar.  Note too that Welty's white narrator sings a song at the end of his monologue ("sing a-down down down") evokes both a British folk-song (cf. Ophelia's song in Hamlet IV.v) and black blues music, even though his song is most obviously a mantra designed to keep both Evers dead and blacks "down" at the bottom of the social ladder.  This white man's "voice" and his  protest against blackness also draws on or "comes from" black culture (think of this story's title)—though our narrator, imprisoned in his anger, could never admit such ironies and complexities.  Which Welty & Baldwin would say is another American tragedy generated by his fixation on white supremacy.  He too is victimized by hate, though his fate in the long run is different from Evers'.  Let's discuss this too.

    • I recommend that you also consult Hale again, on lynching rituals (see the Dixon section above).  One of Baldwin's greatest and most disturbing stories, about how 1960s violence is part of a long history of violence.  Notice how Baldwin handles the Faulknerian stream of consciousness via the sheriff's flashbacks to how as a young boy he was initiated/traumatized into believing in white supremacy.  What does the title mean?

    • Before Alice Walker wrote The Color Purple she wrote this.  It was a risk-taking (and very controversial!) critique of some of the Northern citified and "educated" folks who were passing themselves off as Black Pride and Black Power radicals while at the same time being condescending towards their rural Southern roots and family members.  In part inspired by the work she did honoring Zora Neale Hurston.

    • A young teenage boy's sexual awakening occurs in conjunction with his confrontation with a grandfather his (often absent) parents have asked to watch over him.  By one of our best and most underrated authors and a personal favorite of mine. Full disclosure: Taylor was still teaching at Univ. of Virginia in Charlottesville when I went there for graduate school.  Though I never took a course from him (I wasn't in the creative writing program) I went to several of his readings, which were mesmerizing, witty, warm, and informal.  It was like listening to your favorite grandfather or uncle tell stories (or lies?) with a glass of bourbon in his hand.

    • This story is hilarious and also scary.   One of our best contemporary satirists.   

    • A jaw-dropping, awesome story and a great example of contemporary "Gothic" writing by a southerner.  Hilarious and scary and sad.  

      Russell is also author of the novel Swamplandia (if you love this story, Russell's novel is an option for you to work with in your final project).

  • Oct 31 (Hallowe'en!!): Harper Lee

    ... and of course To Kill a Mockingbird features the most famous Hallowe'en scene in American literature.

    PLEASE READ (OR RE-READ) TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD FIRST, BEFORE READING GO SET A WATCHMAN.  Though Lee wrote Watchman first (her editor told her to revise it focusing on developing the flashbacks to when Scout was a pre-adolescent girl), your reading or re-reading Mockingbird first will mean that it's fresh in your memory when you encounter its first draft, one that by the editor deemed unacceptable for a reading audience in the late 1950s/early 1960s.  

    • Given to open the Society for the Study of Southern Literature panel on Harper Lee, March 2016.  Discusses both Mockingbird and Watchman.

    • delivered at the 2016 panel on Harper Lee that I chaired.

    • What Americans as a whole thought of the Civil Rights movement in 1964.  Some historical context for our Harper Lee readings.

    • in the Books section of the New York Times, April 28, 2017.

    • A key pull quote:  let's discuss? -- "Although there persists in “Watchman” an idea of the primacy of the individual conscience, the novel serves to remind us that we are at a moment in our ongoing pursuit of justice that puts our national conscience at stake, and it is all the more pressing that the watchman be attuned to the collective soul of our nation...."

    • ... published in 2009 in The New Yorker--well before the announcement that Harper Lee's first draft of Mockingbird existed, and that it included an entirely different portrait of Atticus Finch and Scout's relationship to him!

      Let's discuss his point about the "limits of southern liberalism."  How persuasive do you find his analysis?  Does it help us understand Lee's own exploration of those "limits" (as embodied in Atticus Finch) in Watchman

      Gladwell is the author of many famous books and essays, including The Tipping Point.

    • Even more fascinating, Freeman used evidence from Mockingbird to make all his points.  Like Gladwell, he too saw that the vast majority of readers who idolized Atticus Finch were ignoring lots of clues Lee placed in Mockingbird.

      Some pull quotations:  "In 1992, a law professor named Monroe Freedman published an article in Legal Times, a magazine for practitioners. He asserted that Atticus Finch, the iconic hero of Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” ought not be lauded as a role model for attorneys.  ...Dismissed by some as the ravings of a curmudgeon, Freedman’s impression of Atticus Finch has now been largely ratified by none other than his creator, Harper Lee herself. The most dramatic feature of her “new” novel, “Go Set a Watchman” — written before “To Kill a Mockingbird” but published 55 years afterward — is the revelation that Atticus, the supposed paragon of probity, courage and wisdom, was a white supremacist." 

  • Nov 7: James Agee

  • Nov 14: Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison

  • Nov 21: Paule Marshall

    • Of the 3 critical essays assigned this week, this one focuses most directly and deeply on Marshall's novel and its African and African-American resources; therefore, read this essay first.  All 3 essays for this week provide larger ways of thinking about the novel's exploration of history and memory within an explicitly transnational (rather than U.S.-centered) frame.

    • On Blacks reclaiming and narrating "home" in the South, in literary texts and in their lives, including family reunions.  Mentions many Black authors, including Alice Walker and Alex Haley, but not Marshall.  Davis's points are relevant for our consideration of Avey's quest in Praisesong, however:  let's discuss. 

    • Lowe's book on connections between U.S. southern and Caribbean literature and history doesn't focus on Marshall but will give us an important, broader frame in which to consider the heroine Avey's journey North and then her journey South, to the Sea Islands and the Carolinas and Georgia, and then to the Caribbean as she tries to shed an old self & searches for a new identity and home.

    • Nov. 18, 2016.

    • Optional reading, but quick and easy and helpful.  From  The New York Times "Week in Review" section, Nov. 16, 2014.  All about the South, the present, and how "the past is not past," as Faulkner said.  Let's read in conjunction with Marshall's Praisesong (which presents a very different way of dealing with what's been repressed or unacknowledged: let's discuss this).   The articles here represent a sampling of how critical race theory, political science, and environmental history are all relevant for thinking about the South and the nation's past and future.

  • Nov 28: Eudora Welty and Ellen Douglas

    Yes, Mississippi has other great writers as well as Faulkner.  We'll read work by two:  Welty's The Optimist's Daughter (1972), which won the Pulitzer Prize, and Ellen Douglas' brilliant and tough novel about black-and-white friendship, ally-ship, and story-telling, Can't Quit You, Baby (1989).

    • An excerpt from her Dirt and Desire that discusses Ellen Douglas and the concepts of Southern repression and the Southern grotesque.

    • This essay discusses both Welty's novel and a Peter Taylor novel, A Summons to Memphis; Taylor's work is not on this year's English 116 syllabus.   Read this essay focusing on my reading of Optimist's Daughter, but you're welcome to check out the Taylor discussion too if you find it of interest.  

      In seminar I hope to learn what you think about my ideas regarding Welty's novel, but please also bring to our seminar discussion of Welty topics about Optimist's Daughter that you'd like to discuss.  There's lots in the novel I didn't have space to consider—

  • Dec 5: Linda Hogan

    Native Americans and "the South"

    • Prof. Anderson, from George Mason University in Virginia, will be Honors examiner for this seminar in spring 2017 and probably also spring 2018.

  • Dec 12: Study Hall

    This seminar will be a "study hall"--a chance for you to work for several hours on your research for your final project.  Most of this time you'll be working independently, but we'll also have some time when we can talk together:  Prof. Schmidt and your classmates will be available if you'd like to "test" out some of your ideas on them, ask questions, etc.  See syllabus for further details.

    The syllabus gives detailed guidance on your final research project options.  Please note that your final project 1) must be approved by Prof. Schmidt before you go ahead with your project; and 2) you must engage with at least 1-2 relevant critical essays either from our syllabus or from your own research.  Questions?  Ask Prof. Schmidt.   

    Your goals for your research project are to synthesize the ideas from this course that are most important to you and for you to do original, advanced research.

  • Upload your final paper(s) here: