Instructor: Ms. Mitzi McFarland

Class Location: Pafford 302

Days/Time: M/W 3:30-4:45pm

Phone: You may contact me at 678-839-4859 or via email,


Consultation Times:  

° Office hours in Paff. 317:  M/W 8:15-9:30am;

T 8:15-10:30am; Th 12:30-1:45pm

and by appointment

° Writing Center Tutorials: M (10-12pm) and

W (10-11am)




The Making of an American (dream): Conversations Past and Present


Throwing the gauntlet at patriarchal roles for women, Toni Morrison’s heroine Sula enumerates a quintessential theme in American discourse: “I don’t want to make somebody else.  I want to make myself.” The search for self and place—within and without the community—is not a uniquely feminist project: it resonates as a whole mode of national consciousness, illuminating the conundrums of individuality and community that are the core of the American character. Our readings this semester will take us through a sweeping study of cultural constructions of the self in American literature from the Enlightenment era to the present. Collectively, our readings view narrative not merely as evidence of a national identity but as instruments for its (re)fashioning. We will situate our trajectory within American historical, cultural, and literary contexts, analyzing disparate religious, philosophical, psychological, racial, and gender models of identity at contrasting moments in our nation’s history.  Through careful study and close reading of texts, we will probe the notion of literary value (“What makes a text American?” and “What is an American masterpiece?”) as we foray multiple genres and look at some of the aesthetic, literary, psychological, and socio-historical facets out of which our texts are both generated and interpreted.


Course Rationale and Outcomes:

*       Develop the ability to recognize and identify significant achievements in American literature.

*       Understand the relevant social, historical, and aesthetic contexts of these literary works.

*       Appreciate the implications of theoretical and critical approaches to such literature.

*       Develop enhanced cultural awareness and analytical skills.

*       Demonstrate their command of academic English and of the tenets of sound composition by means of thesis-driven analytical prose.


Section Objectives:

1)       To examine American literature in the context of American culture and society.

2)       To develop the habits of reading a variety of literary forms with concentration and interest.

3)       To understand the coherence and contradiction inherent in the story of American literature.

4)       To sharpen and strengthen skills in critical thinking, writing, and speaking through class discussion, presentations, and writing assignments in various modes.

5)       To develop and encourage independent thinking.

6)       To experience pleasure in the act of examining texts and exchanging ideas and information with other members of a literary community.


COURSE DESCRIPTION: A survey of important works of American literature. Required for English majors. May count for credit in Core Area C.


Required Texts (I expect you to purchase these specific works in full during the first week of classes):

Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography. Simon & Schuster. 978-0-7432-5506-6.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. Scribner. 978-0743273565.

Little Miss Sunshine. Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valeri Faris. 20th Century Fox. ASIN: B000K7VHQE.

“Grizzly Man.” (2005). Director Werner Herzog. ASIN: B000BMY2NS.

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Puffin. 978-0141321097.

Toni Morrison, Beloved. Vintage. 978-01400033416.

Sherman Alexie. First Indian on the Moon. Hanging Loose Press. 978-1882413024.

Online readings: misc. Puritan readings and Emerson’s essay, “Self-Reliance,” found as links in the syllabus—these are part of your primary texts for this course. Each student is responsible for printing his or her own copies of materials from the websites in advance and bringing them to class as posted on the syllabus for discussion.


Note: You’ll notice that each unit contains a historical and literary overview (included as links in the supplemental notes section of my website). You may use these as study guides, both for our discussion of texts as well as preparation for the midterm and final exams. However, you are not required to print these materials in hard copy form. This also applies to the materials (again posted as links) that review key aspects of the writing process.


Course Requirements & Policies: 


Attendance: Students may be administratively withdrawn from class based on the following attendance policy.  For classes that meet three times a week, a student is allowed four absences. Upon the fifth absence, the student may be withdrawn.  For classes that meet twice a week, a student is allowed three absences.  Upon the fourth absence, the student may be withdrawn.  Be aware that no distinction exists between excused and unexcused absences. Students may be dropped from the class by the instructor for violation of the attendance policy with a grade of W on or before the midpoint of the semester (Friday, October 14th) or with the grade of either F or WF following the midpoint of the semester.


Participation: Because this is a writing- and reading-intensive course, student participation is both essential and mandatory. As much of this class is discussion and workshop oriented, your presence, careful preparation, and active participation are crucial to your success. Students should come to class prepared to contribute to class discussion, listen attentively and critically to others’ comments and questions, respond collegially to others’ views, and generally conduct themselves in a professional manner. I expect you to take your work very seriously, preparing for each class by carefully reading each assignment, reflecting upon that reading, and thinking about the implications of the reading. 

·     Bring ALL required materials to class every day! Students who come to class without the required materials will be dismissed from class. Please understand, the attendance policy also applies with these kinds of dismissals.


Course Writing Component: Writing assignments will be generated by discussions from readings and from personal responses to literary works. Students will develop various essay types with practice also on the writing process and the realization that revision is an essential step. To assist these goals, we will commit ourselves to sharing works-in-progress in various workshops that endeavor to help you learn how to be (1) rigorous yet supportive readers of your peers’ work, and (2) more adept, nuanced, and sophisticated thinkers and writers.  


Essay Format: ALL papers must be in accordance with MLA guidelines, typed and double-spaced. If you submit an essay that does not abide by the MLA guidelines, your grade for that assignment will automatically result in a 10-point deduction. Keep your Writer’s Resource handbook on hand where you can refer back to it when you need it.


Late and/or Make-Up Work Policy:

·     All late essays will be penalized one letter grade per day late and are no longer accepted for a grade past one week of the deadline (unless you make arrangements with me in advance and you have a legitimate medical reason for submitting the work after the deadline). Essays are late when they are not submitted to me at the beginning of class.

·     If you arrive to class late and miss a quiz, or if you miss a quiz or in-class assignment due to an absence, you may not make it up.

·     I do not accept assignments sent to me via email unless approved by me in advance. 


Email Policy: Be aware that an email asking questions about an essay CANNOT replace an actual meeting with me during office hours. It is very difficult to respond to your questions and your needs by only responding to an email, especially if your questions are general. I welcome any email correspondence you wish to have with me; however, this type of correspondence is best used only when you have a very specific question that doesn’t require discussion. Note: The official email communication method will be through campus e-mail (MyUWG). 


Disability Pledge:

·     I pledge to do my best to work with the University to provide all students with equal access to my classes and materials, regardless of special needs, temporary or permanent disability, special needs related to pregnancy, etc.

·     If you have any special learning needs, particularly (but not limited to) needs defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and require specific accommodations, please do not hesitate to make these known to me, either yourself or through Disability Services in 272 Parker Hall at (770) 839-6428.

·     Students with documented special needs may expect accommodation in relation to classroom accessibility, modification of testing, special test administration, etc. This is not only my personal commitment: it is your right, and it is the law!

·     For more information, please contact Disability Services at the State University of West Georgia.


Resources for Writing Instruction: 1) I will gladly assist you in the writing process and with any concerns you may have in the course; 2) The Writer’s Resource; 3) my online website, A Writer’s Archive; 4) the Writing Center, located in the Parkman Room, TLC 1200, is a student support centre designed to offer consultation in which tutors question, respond to, offer choices, and encourage revision in student essays. Tutors do not evaluate or prescribe solutions to problematic areas in student essays, and tutors are specifically trained to avoid appropriating the student’s work. For more information on appointments, hours, and policies, visit the Writing Center online at


Disruptive Behavior Policy: Students may be dismissed from any class meeting at which they exhibit behavior that disrupts the learning environment of others. Such behavior includes – but is not limited to – arriving late for class, allowing cell phones to ring, speaking disrespectfully to the instructor and/or to other students, checking email or surfing the web, and using personal audio or visual devices. Each dismissal of this kind will count as an absence and will be applied toward the attendance policy above. (Department Policy)


Plagiarism and Academic Honesty: All work you turn in for this class (from quizzes, writing prompts, to out-of-class essays) must be your own original work, with all outside reference sources properly cited and acknowledged. The English Department, in adherence with the University’s code for academic honesty, defines plagiarism as “using the words and/or ideas of another without properly giving credit to the source(s)” ( and offers the following descriptive list: submission of material that is wholly or substantially identical to that created or published by another person or persons, without adequate credit notations indicating authorship; “false” attempts at paraphrasing and/or documentation (as in making up sources); substitution for, or unauthorized collaboration with, another individual (excessive collaboration is considered plagiarism). Note well: unintentional plagiarism is plagiarism nonetheless.  


This is a no-tolerance policy, not open to negotiation. If caught and substantiated, plagiarism results in an F for the course and will be reported to the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs for possible probation or suspension from the University. Click here for the University’s policies for handling Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty: and See also the Preventing Plagiarism link in my website’s “A Writer’s Archive.” 


Course Assessment:

*    Daily quizzes and writing responses (15%). Quizzes, announced and unannounced, along with in-class and out-of-class writing responses will be given weekly; the writing assignments may take the form of short explications or brief analytical responses to questions on the text being discussed. I proctor these prompts to spur your thinking, immerse you in the process of analytical discovery, and prep you for out-of-class writing assignments. For this reason, it’s essential to read the text in advance of class discussion. Peer evaluations and in-class workshops (including all draft workshops) also comprise a certain percentage of this grade.

*    Response essays (45%). Two 3 ½ -4 page essays dealing with analyses of chosen literary works and based on a range of topics from class discussion. These formal out-of-class papers will be graded according to the recommended rubric: click here.

*    Midterm (20%). The midterm exam, which is cumulative, includes identifications, explication and concise analyses of salient passages from texts we have read and discussed in class.

*    Final Exam (20%). The final exam will be administered in the form of a take-home essay.

*    No extra credit will be assigned or accepted in this course. In addition, work completed for another course will not be accepted in this course.


Questions or Concerns:

I am here to make sure you receive a quality education. If ever you have a question, comment, or concern regarding your success in my class, please feel free to use any of the following options:


·           Call and leave a message for me at the office: 678-839-4859

·           Send me an email:

·           Call the English Department’s main office to schedule a conference with me: 678-839-6512.


Please understand that the life of a teacher can sometimes be hectic. Therefore, allow me at least 24 hours to return your email or voicemail. If you do not get a response, please do not give up. Feel free to try back at a later time.