ENG-235: American Literature Before 1900

Liberal Arts
Academic Level
Course Subject
Course Number
Course Title
American Literature Before 1900
Credit Hours
Instructor Contact Hours Per Semester
47.00 (for 15-week classes)
Student Contact Hours Per Semester
47.00 (for 15-week classes)
Grading Method
ENG-131 with a C grade or better (Note: A C- grade is not transferable and is not accepted by some programs at HFC)
Catalog Course Description

Focuses on reading, discussion, and written analysis of early American literature in order to understand its meaning and its relation to the development of American thought and tradition. Authors include Emerson, Poe, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Douglass, Melville, Dickinson, Whitman, and Twain.

Goals, Topics, and Objectives

Core Course Topics
  1. Introduction to literary terms and methods of discussing literature.
  2. Early American literature (optional): Pre-Columbian, Puritan, and / or Enlightenment / Revolutionary.
  3. Romanticism, transcendentalism, and reform (1820-1865).
  4. Realism and naturalism (1865-1900).
Core Course Learning Objectives (Separated)

Students should be able to accomplish the following:

  1. Formulate an interpretive thesis (as opposed to one which merely reports something factual about a literary text).

  2. Compose an essay which either

  • analyzes a literary text, for example by focusing on literary elements such as theme, character, setting, point of view, plot, imagery, metaphor, symbolism, etc., or
  • analyzes the characteristic themes, features, and / or techniques of a given writer's works, or
  • analyzes more than one literary text by comparing and contrasting works by more than one writer of the period or genre named in the course title.
  1. Identify features in a given text from this period that would commonly be considered typical of American literature and would mark it as the expression of a distinctly American culture.

  2. Evaluate a few of the key ways in which American writers of this period attempted to a) define or inaugurate a distinctively American literary tradition; b) incorporate aspects of American life (language, politics, frontier practices, etc.) into the literature; or c) produce texts that could bring American social and political life closer to the founding ideals of the republic.

  3. Explain the crucial importance and / or distinctive achievement of some of the key American writers from this period.

  4. Identify and analyze principal works and passages reflecting some of the pivotal themes in American culture.

  5. Identify some of the key literary terms that are essential to an introductory-level understanding of American literature from this period.

General Information

Note that a grade of C- is not transferrable and is not accepted by some programs at HFC

Assessment and Requirements

Assessment of Academic Achievement


Assessment may include (but need not be limited to) quizzes, class participation, essays, and exams. But assessment must include a minimum of 2,000 words of formal literary analysis.


  1. Students will write at least one out-of-class essay of literary analysis that is at least 1,200 words in length.
  2. Students will take at least one written exam which requires them to analyze literature; whether a single essay or multiple shorter responses, this expository component will count for at least half of the credit for that exam.
General Course Requirements and Recommendations


  1. Students will read substantial and representative selections from the works of Emerson, Poe, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Melville, Douglass, Stowe, Whitman, Dickinson, Twain, Crane, and others.

  2. Students will read a substantial and representative selection of literary texts that explore the themes of nature, the frontier, racial identity, democracy, individualism, self-reliance, the burden of history, liberty, revolution, slavery, technology, immigration, urbanization, work, and violence.

  3. Students will regularly engage in thoughtful discussion of the assigned readings.

  4. Students will study (through assigned readings and / or classroom discussion) the cultural contexts from which the literature emerges.

  5. Students will study concepts that are essential to an introductory-level understanding of American literature before 1900, such as character, conflict, plot, setting, theme, symbol, point of view, metaphor, rhyme, meter, allusion, irony, autobiography, essay, short story, novel, lyric poetry, epic poetry, romanticism, transcendentalism, slave narrative, realism, naturalism, and local color.


  1. Students should learn appropriate biographical information about assigned writers when such information could be helpful in understanding the literature.

  2. Students should take quizzes on assigned readings.

  3. Students should keep a journal in which they record their responses to assigned readings and class discussions.

  4. Students should learn to place the major assigned writers and texts on an historical time line.

  5. Students should satisfactorily read at least one poem or passage aloud, either in class or in the instructor’s office.

  6. Instructors should welcome and support the diverse identities, backgrounds, and academic experience of our students as essential foundations for college community.


General Education Categories
  • Humanities and Fine Arts
Institutional Outcomes
  • Humanities
MTA Categories
  • Category 5: Humanities and Fine Arts

Approval Dates

Effective Term
Fall 2019
ILT Approval Date
AALC Approval Date
Curriculum Committee Approval Date