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English 336 is an upper-division university course requiring significant reading and writing. It should not be confused with freshman-level general education courses.

BYU Course Outcomes

  1. Analyze selected American novels in order to create a foundation for the further study of literature.
  2. Explain the general formal and historical development of the American novel and define a coherent approach to the study of American novels.
  3. Form a research strategy appropriate to the study of American novels, independently locate relevant digital and print sources, and draw upon these sources to develop a focused and effective written argument about an American novel(s).
  4. Produce polished, competent, formal writing, free from distracting errors in mechanics, syntax, and formatting, and in accordance with MLA formatting and citation guidelines.

Course Objectives

The following list outlines what I expect you to learn—or to learn to do—in this course:

Course Materials

Textbook Information

Because English 336 is a survey course, no author or literary period will be treated in depth. I have tried to choose at least one representative novel from each of the traditional literary periods incorporated in the history of the American novel: early nationalism, American romanticism and transcendentalism, American realism, American naturalism, American modernism, American postmodernism, and the contemporary period (still nameless). The purpose of the class, however, is not to provide you with well-founded knowledge of the periods or movements comprising American literary history, much less an understanding of that history itself. Instead, it is to afford you a feeling for the historical sweep of the American novel—in form, theme, subject, aesthetics, politics, and authorial intent.

I am satisfied that this course will provide you with a rich, provocative, and satisfying learning experience. Perhaps more than any other course you take, it will help you understand—from literary and historical perspectives—what it means to be American and how one best bears that responsibility.

Required Textbooks

This undoubtedly appears to be a long and intimidating list. But it isn’t quite as fearsome as it looks. In on-campus versions of this course, students read the equivalent of 8 to 10 substantial novels—where “substantial” refers to a novel of 300 to 400 pages. Two of these are very short novelettes that often are referred to as long short stories—Melville’s Benito Cereno and Davis’s Life in the Iron Mills. Three others are genuine novelettes, barely over 100 pages each (depending on the edition): Rowson’s Charlotte Temple, James’s Washington Square, and Wharton’s Ethan Frome. And two others aren’t much longer: Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Cather’s My Ántonia! This leaves five average-length novels. In terms of raw page numbers, then, the reading load in this class should correspond very favorably with the reading load in on-campus versions of the course.

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Course Structure

This course is divided into four parts. Each part of the course will require you to complete reading and writing assignments and a short examination. The writing and examination assignments are explained in the “Assignments” section in the course syllabus.

The first part of the course, comprising lessons 1 to 4, provides background on the history of the American novel—and then focuses on the earliest novels written in the United States, with special attention to Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple (from the 1790s) and Catherine Maria Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie (from the 1820s).

The second part of the course, comprising lessons 5 to 10, focuses on the novels of the Romantic and Realistic periods—as represented by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno, Rebecca Harding Davis’s Life in the Iron Mills, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Henry James’s Washington Square. This segment is the longest of the course for a good reason: many critics agree that the flowering of the American novel occurs during the mid- and late nineteenth century, and some have even referred to this literary era as the American Renaissance. Most simply put, the American novel as it exists today is in large measure the consequence of what transpired as the American novel emerged during the nineteenth century.

In the third part of the course we will consider three novels representative of American naturalism and modernism: Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, and Willa Cather’s My Ántonia. These are three very different novels in purpose, theme and style; collectively, they embody many of the salient attributes of the early twentieth-century American novel. This course segment will comprise lessons 11 to 15.

Finally, we will conclude the course with two novels representative of the postmodern and contemporary periods in American literature, together with the challenges and the exuberance which contemporary American novels generate: Vladimir Nabakov’s Pale Fire and Lydia Minatoya’s The Strangeness of Beauty. During this final segment of the course, comprising lessons 16 through 18, you will also submit a conference paper on a topic of your choice.


There are two categories of writing assignments for this course: short papers and a conference paper (or short research paper).

Short Papers

You will be required to write a short paper (approximately one single-spaced page) on each of the novels and other primary texts you read during this course. You will complete 13 short papers, one for each of the following lessons: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 16, and 17. When I assign your final grade, however, I will drop the three lowest short-paper grades, and you will be graded according to the remaining 10 highest paper scores. Each paper will be written as a concise, tightly focused, and sophisticated response to a particular question about the relevant novel. Early in the course, your short papers will be written in response to questions included in the course materials. Later, your papers will respond to questions which you compose. In the following paragraphs are the formatting requirements and grading standards for the short papers you will write.


You will need to submit your papers electronically. An assignment drop box is included at the end of each lesson requiring a short response paper. Your papers should be saved and submitted in .doc, .docx, or PDF format. They should also be no longer than 600 words (about 1½ single-spaced pages). The preferred length for each response is 400 to 450 words (about one single-spaced page). Your paper will have as its title the question to which your paper itself responds. The body of your paper will provide an efficient and sophisticated answer to the question—and it must be written as a brief essay with an introduction/thesis, body, and conclusion. You should make any relevant textual references WITHOUT formally documenting them in your response. (You may use informal documentation if you wish, showing author and page number in the body of your discussion.)

Grading Rubric

Each short paper will be graded on a 40-point scale for clarity, sophistication of analysis, and originality.

Percentage equivalents for numerical scores on the response papers are as follows: 40 = 100%; 38 = 95%; 36 = 90%; 34 = 85%; 32 = 80%; 30 = 75%; 28 = 70%; and so on.

Conference Paper

In lesson 14 you will complete a conference paper proposal preparatory to beginning work on the conference paper itself. If you’ve not already completed the proposal assignment, please turn to lesson 14 and follow all instructions there. You must complete and submit the proposal assignment at least four weeks before submitting the conference paper assignment.

The conference paper is a relatively short (8 to 10 pages, excluding notes or “Works Cited” pages) and tightly focused research paper of the sort that literary scholars read at academic conferences. This does not mean that you are expected to produce the kind of sophisticated argument that professors of literature would. It means instead that you will do your best to write an appropriately meaningful argument in response to an appropriately focused question. I’ve learned from my teaching experience that students often get bogged down when they try to produce standard 12- to 15-page research papers. Requiring students to write short and tightly focused papers removes much of the “clutter” and frustration from the research experience—and results in superior thinking, analysis, and writing.

Again, the conference paper proposal MUST be completed a minimum of four weeks before the conference paper itself is submitted to ensure you have time to incorporate changes based on feedback from your instructor.

Your conference paper is worth 200 points. It will be graded (1) on the sophistication and “worth” of its central argument; (2) on its organization and coherence; (3) on its development and support of your claims; (4) on its appearance, length, and conformity to MLA style; and (5) on the clarity and correctness of its language. I have included the grading sheet online: [ LINK REMOVED ] Conference Paper Grading Sheet.

Assignment Submission Instructions

This courses uses two features for submitting your assignments, Brainhoney and Turnitin. Instructions on how to submit these assignments are clearly stated in the instructions for each individual assignment. For your convenience, we've provided instructions for submitting assignments both ways here..

Submitting the Instructor-graded Assignments through Brainhoney

  1. Type your paper in a word-processing program (such as Microsoft Word).
  2. When you save the file, click the Save as type: drop-down list.
  3. Select .doc or .docx or PDF.
  4. Use the course number, your first and last name, and the assignment name for the filename. For example, “ENGL336_JohnSmith_ConferencePaper.pdf.”
  5. Click Save.
  6. Submit the assignment file through the corresponding submission drop box provided for grading.

Submitting the Instructor-graded Assignments through Turnitin
This course also uses Turnitin (plagiarism checker technology), which lets you post your assignments online for me to grade. The first time you use Turnitin, you will need to agree to the “Terms of Use” agreement. Please do that, or you will not be able to submit your asignments. Once you've completed that, you will be able to submit assignments by:

  1. Going to the specific assignment within the course, and clicking the Uploadbutton missing image.
  2. Typing a title for your assignment (for example, ENGL336_JaneSmith_Lesson1Assignment).
  3. Clicking Select the file to upload, or drag the file onto the Submit File window.
  4. When the submission is complete, preview your file, then click Accept submission-save.

Hint 1 : Click the "summary tab" within your assignment for more information about grading, instructions, dates, resubmissions, and originality reporting. You will notice that the "summary tab" has a due date (most likely set up as Dec 31, 2020) for the assignments. Ignore the dates. It is a Turnitin feature that does not apply to BYU. You will know that your assignment has been graded when the score appears in the grades section of this course.

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At the conclusion of each of the four units of this course (lessons 4, 10, 15 and 18), you will be required to take a short subjective examination. The exams are open book and you may refer to relevant novels (and your own notes) during the examination. I will ask you subjective questions about what you’ve read, questions to which I have not formulated my own clear-cut responses. In other words, I will ask you questions that I still think about, questions that still intrigue me. In your responses to these questions, I want to see your own thinking. I want to see evidence that taking the examination was a learning process for you. I want to see that you’ve internalized principles of clear, original analysis and sound argumentation—and not that you can memorize well or that you can cleverly anticipate what I “want you to write.”

In most cases, unit examinations will consist of two parts. The first part will require you to write short answers to 5 or 6 questions that, as a rule, are focused on individual novels, characters, or themes. The second part will require you to write a brief essay in response to a more broadly focused question, one that will necessitate your referring to multiple novels, characters, settings or themes—and making appropriate connections (or distinctions) among them. (The last two unit examinations concentrate on the second kind of questions rather than on the first.)

Each examination will be worth 50 points. You will be graded on the originality of your thinking, the clarity of your writing, and the strength of your argumentation or support.

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Your final grade will be computed according to your performance on written assignments for this class. You must complete all assignments in order to pass this course. The percentage breakdown of the final grade is as follows:

Grade Percentage Grade Percentage
A 100–94 C 76–74
A- 93–90 C- 73–70
B+ 89–87 D+ 69–67
B 86–84 D 66–64
B- 83–80 D- 63–60
C+ 79–77 E (FAIL) 59 or below

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Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is defined as the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work. This may also include when a student copies and pastes directly from another source and passes it off as his or her own, copies computer-generated text from a translation tool and uses it as his or her own, or fails to cite a source after loosely summarizing its content in his or her own words.

As determined by your instructor or the BYU administration, if evidence of academic misconduct on assignments or exams is established, one of the two following consequences will apply to each incidence:

First Offense of Plagiarism

Second Offense of Plagiarism

Copyright Notice

The materials used in connection with this online course are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. Any copying or further dissemination of these materials may be subject to applicable U.S. Copyright Laws. For questions or more information, please visit the BYU Copyright Licensing Office website.

“Members of the BYU community who willfully disregard this Copyright Policy or the BYU Copyright Guidelines place themselves individually at risk of legal action and may incur personal liability for their conduct. The unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject individuals to civil and criminal liabilities, including actual and statutory damages, costs and fees of litigation, fines, and imprisonment

Violations of the Copyright Policy may result in university disciplinary action including termination of university enrollment or employment.” (Emphasis added. Excerpt taken from the BYU Copyright Policy)

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University Policy - Title IX Statement

Preventing & Responding to Sexual Misconduct

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Brigham Young University prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. As outlined in university policy, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "Sexual Misconduct" prohibited by the university.

University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of Sexual Misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Incidents of Sexual Misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at or 1-888-238-1062 (24-hours a day).

BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by Sexual Misconduct, including the university’s Victim Advocate, as well as a number of non-confidential resources and services that may be helpful. Additional information about Title IX, the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements, and resources can be found at or by contacting the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

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Accessibility Notice

BYU is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to participate in BYU's programs and activities. In this spirit, BYU Independent Study aspires to improve web accessibility for users. While not required by law, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Levels A and AA provide a wide range of helpful recommendations to make Web content more accessible. BYU Independent Study strives to apply WCAG 2.0 recommendations where feasible, but may deviate from any recommendations that would result in an undue hardship to BYU Independent Study or alterations to program and course content and objectives. If you have questions about accessibility, or if you need to report problems with any accessibility features please see our Accessibilities and Accommodations Web Page.

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Course Policies

These policies are specific to this course. For additional information about general policies, please refer to Independent Study Course Policies page.


14 written assignments, 13 short papers (three lowest scores dropped), 1 conference paper.


4 instructor-graded exams (essay questions), may not retake any of the exams.

Getting Help

Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor. You can find a list of free tutors available to BYU Independent Study students on the Free Tutoring Services website.

Note: The Harold B. Lee Library website provides a number of online resources and librarians are available via phone, chat, and email to answer questions about library-related issues.

Inappropriate Use of Course Content

All course materials (e.g., outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, media, lecture content, audio and video recordings, etc.) are proprietary. Students are prohibited from posting or selling any such course materials without the express written permission of BYU Independent Study. To do so is a violation of the Brigham Young University Honor Code.

Copyright © 2016 Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.

Published by the
Department of Independent Study
Division of Continuing Education
Brigham Young University
120 MORC
Provo, Utah 84602-1514