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BYU Course Outcomes

Course Objectives

After completing this course, you should be able to do the following:

  1. State the key literary elements of the Age of Realism in American literature, including naturalism.
  2. Identify the characteristics of “local color” or regional literature.
  3. Distinguish between works of realism and works of naturalism.
  4. Read a text perceptively, challenging yourself to discover the moral value it contains, the useful lessons it teaches, and the aesthetic tenets it conveys, remembering always to “seek . . . words of wisdom” from what you read (D&C 88:118).
  5. Compare the presentation of realism in various works, including its manifestations in poetry, short fiction, and novels.

Course Materials


The list of required books below is based on the editions quoted from or referred to in the discussion material for each lesson. You may use any edition available of any of the novels, but the page references in the course and assignments only correspond to those editions listed below. The Anthology of American Literature contains all of the short works except for Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” and The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg. Links in the course will connect you with these texts on the Internet.

Finally, the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, by Joseph Gibaldi (5th ed., New York: MLA, 1995), provides guidelines you should follow in writing and preparing your term paper. It is available in most standard libraries and bookstores.

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The course consists of sixteen lessons, covering poetry, short stories, and novels, as well as an introduction presenting background material geared to help you better understand post-Civil War America as presented in American literature. You will submit one Speedback assignment for each of the sixteen lessons. In addition, you will write a term paper of moderate length (8-10 pages) on a specific novelist of your choice who wrote during this period and at least one of his or her novels. The discussion material in each lesson focuses on the life of a particular writer or writers, background specific to a work or works, and comments about each writer’s art and place in American literature.

Thought Questions

Each lesson contains a series of ten self-check questions (except for lesson 7 which contains only five) designed to provoke critical thought and lasting reflection about your reading. In many ways, these substitute for the class discussion that would occur in a typical on-campus class. Your answers to these questions will not be submitted. However, since you will not have the benefit of class discussion, I encourage you to spend time developing answers to these questions in order to give yourself the fullest possible experience in the course. Thoughtful consideration of these questions and their implications will extend the meaning of the works you read beyond the time you devote to each lesson; certainly, a goal for any literature course is for you to keep what you have learned with you after you have completed the course.

Speedback Assignments

You will submit Speedback assignments on a regular basis. These assignments will be processed by computer, resulting in several advantages for you. First, you will receive feedback individually tailored to your responses; second, you will receive your graded lessons very quickly; third, this system works more efficiently than traditional assignments. These Speedback assignments consist of a variety of objective questions: true/false, multiple choice, matching, quotation identification, etc. Answering most of these questions will require a close reading of the texts covered in each lesson and the respective discussion material.

Term Paper

Your term paper will be of medium length (8-10 pages) and will address a specific novelist from this period and at least one of his or her novels. This must be a novel that is not assigned for the course, but which may be by one of the authors studied in the course. In the paper, you should seriously consider the place of the writer you have selected in American literature as well as the contribution the writer has made to American literary realism. Since much of this period’s literature deals with significant social issues—women’s place in society, class relationships, labor and working conditions, prejudice of various kinds, hypocrisy, inequalities in wealth, corruption, marital inequities, the role of the artist, etc.—you may want to analyze in detail a social ill depicted in the novel you have selected. How does the author handle the issue? Is it of primary or secondary importance in the work? How does the author’s treatment of the problem affect handling of character, setting, theme, imagery, symbolism, structure? Is the problem the occasion for the novel (as in Frank Norris’s The Octopus) or is it merely tangential (as in William Dean Howells’s A Hazard of New Fortunes)? Naturally, you need not confine yourself to social dilemma but can take a more traditional approach by considering a standard literary aspect of the novel, such as the author’s use of humor, irony, narrator, style, tone, characterization, etc.

In any case, you should think of the paper as a vehicle for accomplishing considerable research. You will definitely need to spend time in a library reviewing relevant criticism of your author and novel. You must also manifest your ability to agree with this criticism without parroting or to disagree without caviling. This paper is an opportunity to share the results of your own original thinking through writing. As a rule of thumb, your research should reflect your use of at least ten sources, including, as a minimum, ten books and articles. In short, the paper should represent your highest professional, critical, analytical, and creative powers. You will submit your paper at the end of the course. Please note that you should follow Modern Language Association (MLA) guidelines for format, bibliographic citation, quotation, and other particulars.

Formatting Written Work

Remember to submit your assignments as Microsoft Word .DOC or .DOCX files. Name the file using this style—be sure to use your own name: ENGL362R_JaneSmith_WritingAssignment1.docx.

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You will be required to take two midcourse exams and a final exam. Each exam is proctored and consists of forty objective questions drawn from the information presented in the discussion material of each lesson and from the texts themselves. Thus, you can best prepare for all three exams by rereading the discussion material, reviewing the Speedback assignments and feedback, and recalling significant ideas and events in each work. The first midcourse exam will cover lessons 1-5, the second midcourse exam will cover lessons 6-11, and the final exam will cover lessons 12-16. The exams are closed book and closed notes.

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Your final grade for the course will be determined by combining the percentages you receive for the sixteen Speedback assignments, the two midcourse exams, the final exam, and the term paper. Each Speedback assignment will count as 4 percent of your grade. The term paper submitted in lesson 17 comprises 15 percent of your final grade. Your midcourse and final exams will each contribute 7 percent of your grade for a total of 21 percent toward your final course grade.

Percentage breakdown of the assignments is as follows:

Lesson Assignment % each %  total
1-16 Speedback Assignments 4% 64%
17 Term Paper 15% 15%
5 Midcourse Exam 1 7% 7%
11 Midcourse Exam 2 7% 7%
  Final Exam 7% 7%
  Total 100%

Grading Scale

The following scale shows percentage equivalents for letter grades:

A 100 94
A- 93 90
B+ 89 87
B 86 84
B- 83 80
C+ 79 77
C 76 74
C- 73 70
D+ 69 67
D 66 64
D- 63 60
E 59 0

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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 t9coordinator@byu.edu or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at titleix.byu.edu/report 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 titleix.byu.edu 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.


16 computer-graded assignments, may resubmit once for a fee. 1 8-10-page term paper, no resubmissions.


3 proctored computer-graded exams, may retake each once for a fee.

Retake an exam for a fee.

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