Engl. 772-01 Period in Literature:
American Realism

Spring Semester 2011

MWF 10:00-11:50, Grubbs Hall 312

Dr. Nichols,



Course Description

This course studies the literature produced between the Civil War and World War I in relation to the literary concepts of regionalism, realism, and naturalism. We will question how much human lives are shaped by chance or Darwinian forces, by the new urban environments and emerging consumer cultures of the late-nineteenth century, and/or by free will; we will also explore the extent to which "reality" is a socially constructed and historically shifting category dependent, to some degree, on a writer's class, gender, ethnicity, and/or race. Although the course will focus on novels and short stories, some attention will be paid to the poetry and non-fiction prose from the period.

Required Textbooks

  • James Nagel and Tom Quirk, eds., The Portable American Realism Reader. Penguin. ISBN-13: 978-0140268300.
  • Sarah Orne Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories. Signet Classics. ISBN-13: 978-0451531445.
  • Stephen Crane, Maggie, A Girl of the Streets and Selected Stories. Signet Classics. ISBN-13: 978-0451529985.
  • Kate Chopin, The Awakening. Simon & Schuster. ISBN-13: 978-0743487672.
  • Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie. Signet Classics. ISBN-13: 978-0451531148.
  • Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth. Dover Publications. ISBN-13: 978-0486420493.

The Reading Schedule will have links to online texts for additional short readings.


All major assignments must be completed to pass the course.

You may e-mail papers to me at, but make sure they are attached as a .doc file or a .rtf file.

Late Work Policy

Late papers and exams will be graded down one-letter grade for each day they are late.

Absence Policy

Regular attendance is required. Everyone has four pre-excused absences for those difficult times in life that interfere with class attendance, so you do not need to clear absences with me, but it is a good idea to check with me (or a classmate) to make sure an assignment was not changed while you were gone. Students who miss more than four classes may be dropped from the roster for "excessive absences."

Plagiarism Policy

I strongly support the policies of the English Department and the University on plagiarism. Undocumented use of someone else's material (including "borrowing" their language or their ideas) will result in an F on the paper or for the course--or worse for the most egregious cases.

NOTE: I'm always happy to help students who are making good-faith efforts to do things right.

Course Web Pages

You can quickly access our online syllabus by typing in one of the following addresses:

You can also access my home page (which links to all my web pages) by going to the the faculty listings on the English Department web page and clicking on my name.

Instructor's Office Hours

My office is in Grubbs Hall, Room 450. I can be available at the following times to talk with you about our course or related matters. If that time does not fit your schedule, let me know. We can arrange a more convenient time.

MWF 11:00-12:00; 1:00-2:30 or by appointment

The best ways to contact me are to leave a note taped to my office door or, even better, email me at the following address:

Return to Nichols Home Page


Updated: 10-24-12