American Novels

Half Year Course – Fall; 90 minutes

Christmas party fun ...

The novels listed below will be explored not only for their literary qualities but also for their focus on consequences of action. Each of the characters in these stories make choices, like people do every day, and we see that they WILL be held accountable. This is a fifteen week course and will be broken down into three four-week segments. The four-week segments will follow the clear pattern of (1) Invention; gathering our thoughts about a particular novel, (2) Arrangement; deciding how to best organize our ideas, and (3) Elocution; expressing our thoughts clearly through essay and presentation. Computer access is strongly recommended for this course.

The first two novels will be required to be read over summer break, but after that, each novel will be given two weeks to complete. Every four weeks the students will turn in a five paragraph essay reflecting on character, theme, setting, plot, or literary devices as they are presented in the novels. We will explore choices and irony, survival and self-reliance, social classes and respect as well as hope and self-sacrifice. There will be a simple rubric to accompany each assignment. The goal of the course is to grow as thinkers and writers as we explore not only the character of the major roles in the novels, but also the character of ourselves as we reflect upon them. How do they touch our hearts and expand our minds? This is what great literature is all about.

Grading: Students are graded on effort as much as ability. Since this is the first thinking course that some students have taken, I allow students to explore various avenues without the fear of failing. Effort is the key. I find it easy to tell when students have waited till the last minute and dashed off an assignment. I do not have a cache of knowledge that I expect students to memorize. Instead, they need to think. I do give a final essay exam that incorporates all the works studied.

Prerequisite(s): N/A

Text(s): Summer reading as well as course texts:
Students will need a copy for class activities (Please, no Kindle editions). Tentative booklist (still being revised):

  • Frankenstein, 1818 Shelley
  • Last of the Mohicans, 1826 Cooper
  • Little Women, 1868 Alcott
  • Red Badge of Courage, 1895 Crane
  • Call of the Wild, 1905 London
  • Old Man and the Sea, 1952 Hemingway

Required Materials: N/A

Additional Fee: $20 to offset the cost of copies/ink and pre-organized binder of materials

Instructor: Joanne Van Wie

Revised: 16 April 2024