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ENGLISH 2BB3 20th&21st Cent-Amer Lit&Cult (C01)

Academic Year: Winter 2020

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Jeffery Donaldson


Office: Chester New Hall 308

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24132


Office Hours: Tuesdays 12:30 & Friday 1:30PM

Course Objectives:


While this course in American literature of the 20th century is ostensibly historical and periodic, our constraining theme will be myth and metaphor, or if you like, narrative and lyric forms.  We will explore how national histories reveal their unique characteristics in how they absorb literary form itself and adapt it to its own needs and concerns.  Our course then will be partly an exploration of literary modernism itself and its defining characteristics in America of the last century. 


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Baym et al., Norton Anthology of American Literature, Shorter Seventh

Cather, The Professor's House, Vintage

Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross, Grove

Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Harper and Row


Method of Assessment:


First Essay (1000 words, Feb 7)                       15%

Seven reading quizzes (best 6 x .6)                   10%

Twelve lecture quizzes best 10 x 1.5)               15%                

Second Essay (1500 words, Mar 20)                20%

Tutorial                                                              10%

Exam Question Exercise (March 28)                 5%

Final Exam                                                        25%


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Assignment Policy:


Written assignments are due at the beginning of lecture on the date indicated.  Unauthorized late papers are penalized one percentage grade per day.  Graders reserve the right to omit commentary on late papers.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Week 1 Jan 10 Introduction

Modernism in America (Reconstruction, Whitman et al)


Week 2 Jan 17 Modern Women

Chopin/Freeman Reading Quiz: Wed Jan 15 2:30pm – Fri Jan 17 2:30pm

Kate Chopin, “The Storm,” “Story of an Hour”

Mary Wilkins Freeman, “A New England Nun”


Week 3 Jan 24 Echoes of Emerson

Wallace Stevens, “The Emperor of Ice Cream,”

“Idea of Order at Key West”

Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on Snowy Evening,” “Mowing,”

“The Wood-Pile,” “Design”


Week 4 Jan 31 The Harlem Renaissance

Hurston Reading Quiz: Wed Jan 29 2:30pm – Fri Jan 31 2:30pm

Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “I, too”

Countee Cullen, Jean Toomer


Week 5 Feb 7 African American Romance Narrative

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

First essay due


Week 6 Feb 14 Society in a Nutshell

O’Neill Reading Quiz: Wed Feb 12, 2:30pm – Fri Feb 14, 2:30pm

Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey into Night


Reading Week


Week 7 Feb 28 The Western Spirit

Cather Reading Quiz: Wed Feb 26, 2:30pm – Fri Feb 28, 2:30pm

Cather, The Professor’s House


Week 8 Mar 6 Shorts

Faulkner/O’Connor Reading Quiz: March 4 2:30pm – March 6, 2:30pm

Faulkner, “Barn Burning”

O’Connor, “Good Country People”


Week 9 Mar 13 Postwar American Poetry

Cheever/Lahiri Reading Quiz: Wed Jan 15 2:30pm – Fri Jan 17 2:30pm

Robert Lowell, “Skunk Hour,” Elizabeth Bishop “The Fish,”

Adrienne Rich, “Diving into the Wreck”


Week 10 Mar 20 The Post- in Modernism

John Cheever, “The Swimmer”

Lahiri, “Sexy”

Second essay due


Week 11 Mar 27 A New Language of Commerce

Mamet Reading Quiz: Wed Mar 25, 2:30pm – Fri Mar 27, 2:30pm

David Mamet, “Glengarry Glen Ross”

Exam question assignment due


Week 12 Apr 3 Native American Threads

Sherman Alexie, “Indian Education”