UPDATED: 11/12/15  



New York City College of Technology, CUNY

Fall 2015  

Professor: A. Lavelle Porter



Section: ENG2200-E244

Thursdays, 6:00pm – 8:30pm

Classroom:  N701                                                                                             

Course Website:


Office:  Pearl Building 410 

Office Hours:  Tuesday 1pm-2pm, Thursday 4pm-5pm                                                  


Phone:  TBD 



This course is a survey of American Literature to 1865.  In this course we will interrogate the very concept of an “American” Literature, and explore some of the theoretical and historical questions about what defines the nation, its writing and its traditions.  There are many possible texts to choose from in this designated period, so our reading will necessarily be selective.  We will begin with the early days of the Republic and continue through the Civil War (and beyond).  In particular we will spend quite a bit of time discussing the institution of chattel slavery, the importance of slave labor in the global economic market during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the struggle over abolition that led up to the Civil War, and the importance of race in the formation of American citizenship and identity.  By reading a short list of selected authors, writing about their work, and discussing this work together in class, it is my hope that you will come away from this class with a better understanding of American literature and the complex history of the nation in which this body of work was produced.

Required Books

The Classic Slave Narratives, Edited by Henry Louis Gates.  (In particular we will read the full texts by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs.)

Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass.  Library of American Edition.

This particular edition is required for this course.

These are the only physical books that you are required to purchase for this course.  All other course materials are available in open source on the web or will be given to you in handouts.  Total cost of the above books is less than 25 dollars.  You are REQUIRED to have these books in order to participate in this class. 



Your success in this class depends on your regular, punctual attendance and participation. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to check with a classmate for any missed information.  I am not obligated to review what you missed if you decide not to attend class. Attendance is required. An excused absence is an illness with a doctor’s note, a family emergency, or a religious holiday. Please let me know in advance by e-mail or phone if you are going to absent for any of those reasons

Please be on time.  Arriving to class late is disruptive to everyone. Excessive tardies will be docked from your participation grade at the professor’s discretion.

Your third absence will result in a five point deduction from your participation grade.  Four or more absences will result in a ten point deduction from your participation grade.

Absolutely no make-up exams will be administered unless the absence is an excused absence.

Classroom Decorum:

Personal communication devices including cell phones, smart phones, laptops and iPads are not allowed in this course, except for on specified dates. You must have physical copies of the texts in each class. For the purposes of this course we want to minimize digital distraction for the brief time that we are together each week.  We will have a classroom computer that we can use to examine digital resources when needed.  You will have ample opportunity to consult the Internet outside of class.  In fact, online research will be a significant part of your out-of-class preparation.  To get the most out of our class time, however, we need to be attentive and focused on our classroom discussion and assignments.  Please be sure to turn your ringers off before class begins.  Participation points will be deducted for the use of devices in class, at the professor’s discretion.  Repeated abuse of this policy will result in your dismissal from the course.



100 points total


Participation: 20 points

-This part of your grade includes active participation in class and completion of in-class assignments. Tardiness and absences will result in point deductions from the participation grade. Failure to participate in class activities will also result in deductions from this grade.


Presentations: 20 points

Everyone in the course will have a turn leading a discussion of one particular text.  You will be assigned to a text along with five or six of your classmates (depending on enrollment) at the beginning of the course, and your group will be responsible for leading the discussion and answering questions about the text.

Participation with the group is expected in order to receive full credit.  Anyone who does not contribute to the group will not receive full credit for leading the discussion.



A quiz on the readings for that week could be given at the beginning of a class each week, without notice. Any given quiz could include multiple choice, fill in the blank or essay questions. There may also be short assignments related to the readings given for this portion of the grade.  Point amounts will be clearly indicated for each assignment, and will accumulate over the course of the semester.


Research Proposal and Annotated Bibliography: 10 points

Early in the semester you will be required to submit a research proposal and an annotated bibliography of peer-reviewed sources related to your research project.  A detailed assignment sheet will be provided.


Research Paper: 20 points

Your research paper will be an in-depth examination of one of the texts covered in the course.  In the paper you will be required to incorporate and analyze at least two substantial peer-reviewed sources in addition to the primary text.  This is something we will work on over the course of the semester.  The sources that you use will need to be pre-approved before the paper is accepted.

All essays must be turned in on time, at the beginning of class, to receive full credit. If you choose to email them, the email must be received before class time on the due date.  (An assignment turned in or emailed during or after class is not “on time.” It will be penalized one day.)

Late papers will be penalized one point per calendar day.  No papers will be accepted three calendar days after the assignment is due.


Mid-Semester Review

By October 15, any student who has missed two or more classes, who has missed multiple assignments, or who has not participated in the class discussions will be required to have a meeting with me and the chair of the department in order to continue in the course. The last day to withdraw from a Fall 2015 course with a “W” is November 9.



City Tech Statement on Academic Integrity:
“Students and all others who work with information, ideas, texts, images, music, inventions, and other intellectual property owe their audience and sources accuracy and honesty in using, crediting, and citing sources. As a community of intellectual and professional workers, the College recognizes its responsibility for providing instruction in information literacy and academic integrity, offering models of good practice, and responding vigilantly and appropriately to infractions of academic integrity. Accordingly, academic dishonesty is prohibited in The City University of New York and at New York City College of Technology and is punishable by penalties, including failing grades, suspension, and expulsion. The complete text of the College policy on Academic Integrity may be found in the catalog.”

We will review some guidelines about plagiarism at the beginning of the course, and several times throughout the semester.  For further information about plagiarism, cheating and academic integrity see pages 90-92 of the City Tech student handbook available online at


Citation Format:

We will be using the Modern Languages Association (MLA) format in this course, and we’ll spend time in class covering MLA citation as well as introducing you to other forms of citation in other disciplines.  One popular website which can help you get acquainted with MLA format is The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL):



Readings will be covered in class on the day listed here.  

In addition to these readings there may be short supplemental readings, video clips, or other assignments added to the list to complement the main texts covered in class.



8/27     Course Introduction



9/3       “Declaration of Independence”; Thomas Jefferson: A Film by Ken Burns



9/10     NO CLASS – Classes follow a Monday


9/17     (Handouts) Query XIV from Notes on the State of Virginia.  Poems by Phillis Wheatley.



9/24     Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; “Dred Scott v. Sanford”  



10/1     Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

10/8     NO CLASS for ENG 2200 (Responses Due by Email) Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl



10/15   Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; RESEARCH PROPOSALS AND ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY DUE



10/22   Library Instruction Session – Class meets in the library, 4th floor Atrium Building
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl



10/29   American Experience: Walt Whitman;   Leaves of Grass “Introduction” and “Preface”; REVISED PROPOSALS DUE (Topics cannot be changed after this date)



11/5     Leaves of Grass, 1855



11/12   Leaves of Grass, 1855


11/19    Leaves of Grass, 1891-1892



11/26   NO CLASS – Thanksgiving



12/3      Leaves of Grass, 1891-1892; Abraham Lincoln “Gettysburg Address” (November 19, 1863); Abraham Lincoln, “(Second) Inaugural Address” (March 4, 1865)



12/10   RESEARCH PAPERS DUE; Review of Walt Whitman



12/17     Final class session



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