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ENGLISH 2AA3 American Literature Before1900 (C01)

Academic Year: Winter 2019

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Jeffery Donaldson


Office: Chester New Hall 308

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24132


Office Hours: TBA

Course Objectives:


This course offers a study of a selection of central texts in American Literature in English from first contact to early modernism.  We will use the concept of the American double vision to help us understand how American cultural, religious, and political habits of mind are rooted in its early settler history. 

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Norton Anthology of American Literature, 9th Edition, Vol 1

Melville, Moby Dick, Dover

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Broadview   

Twain, Huckleberry Finn, Broadview

Chopin, The Awakening, Broadview

Method of Assessment:


First Essay, 1000 words (Feb 13)                   15%

Final Essay, 1500 words (Mar 20)                   25%

Seven reading quizzes (7 x 1.42%)                 10%

Examination Question Exercise (19 March)     10%

Tutorial                                                         10%

Final Examination                                          30%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Unauthorized late papers are penalized two percentage points per day.

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 9   

Introduction: The American Dream

Week 2            Jan 16 

First Nation Creation Stories

Week 3            Jan 23 

Reading Quiz (11:30 am Jan 21 – 11:30 am Jan 23)

Bradstreet, Bradford, Winthrop

Week 4            Jan 30 

Phillis Wheatley, poems

William Cullan Bryant, poems

Week 5            Feb 6  

Quiz on Hawthorne (11:30 am Feb 4 – 11:30 am Feb 6)

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Week 6            Feb 13

First Essay      

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Reading Week

Week 7            Feb 27

Reading Quiz (11:30 am Feb 25 – 11:30 am Feb 27)

Melville, Moby Dick selections

Week 8            Mar 6

Reading Quiz (11:30 am Mar 4 – 11:30 am Mar 6)

Whitman, “Song of Myself”

Week 9            Mar 13

Reading Quiz (11:30 am Mar 11 – 11:30 am Mar 13)

Thoreau, Walden

Week 10          Mar 20

Final Essay

Dickinson, poems                    

Week 11          Mar 27

Reading Quiz (11:30 am Mar 25 – 11:30 am Mar 27)

Exam Question Assignment  

Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn      

Week 12          Apr 3

Reading Quiz (11:30 am Apr 1 – 11:30 am Apr 3)

Chopin, The Awakening