Stacy Cabrera » English 11CP: American Literature

English 11CP: American Literature

Major Essential Question: What does it mean to be a 'Person'--as well as a Good 'Person'--in America? What is more important, simply Being or being an actively Productive member of society?


- - - 


General Course Description:

America was—and in many ways still is—the great social experiment of modern civilization. Not without it’s struggles, the American ‘Way of Life’ has come to mean a great deal many things to many different people. The culture’s literature mirrors that multifariousness. In this course, we’ll look at the dynamics of the American written form, aiming to discover the evolving cultural identity of what it means to be ‘American’ and also what we come to believe about Citizenship and Personhood. The Fall semester will focus specifically at framing perspectives prior and leading to the Revolution, through the turn of the century prior to the World Wars. Then, the Spring semester switches focus after the turn of the 20th century, America’s literary and artistic ‘Renaissance,’ where cultural expression diversifies, and the American voice becomes alive, active, and multifaceted (maybe with a twinge of pessimism, as well).


Semester 1 Course Objectives and Focus Texts:

Unit 1: Defining Personhood

Unit 1 will explore the variety of stakeholders in the formation of the American Experiment, including the dynamic pendulum swings between determinist ideals and philosophies of free will, the good of man and Original Sin, and the Good and Evil of ‘human nature.’

  • Primary Literature: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  • Other Writers: The American Framers, Puritan theologians, Romantic poets, Transcendental philosophers

Unit 2: Defining Culture

Unit 2 will take an in-depth look at Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions through the lens of literature, focusing on the dynamic ‘shades of grey’ that exist within our definitions of personal liberty, ‘citizenship,’ and moral obligation.

  • Primary Literature: Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
  • Other Writers: other works of Realism and Naturalism; Baldwin, Morrison, London
Unit 3: Material vs. Moral Values
Unit 3 leads students through a discussion of moral and material value, and the way in which those interact, intersect, and contend within the Roaring Twenties into post-World War society.
  • Primary Literature: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald; Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller
  • Other Writers: short stories by Hemingway and O'Connor, poetry by Eliot, and expository work from Steinbeck, Fromm
Unit 4: Individual Identity in a Social World
Unit 4 finishes with a tone of Deconstruction, focusing on post-modern America, the host of counter-cultural movements, and how those play into contemporary mindsets today as activism and ‘giving voice to the voiceless’ have become prominent themes.
  • Primary Literature: Fight Club (film), with selection from the book by Chuck Palahniuk (with parent permission); Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • Other Writers: Harlem Renaissance and Beat generation poetry from Kerouac, Ginsberg, Hughes, McKay, etc.; modern and pop art and music (assorted)


Major Assignments and Grading:

Discussion Participation: 25 points

Argument Analyses (5 per semester, 25 points each): 125 points

Seminar Paper (1000 words): 50 points

Response Paper (500-800 words): 25 points

Midterm: 50 points

Research Component: 50 points

Final Semester Paper (1500-2000 words): 100 points



This course is run as a college preparatory class, aimed at introducing students to the type of critical reading, thinking, and writing strategies necessary for any college major—not just English. Work will be scaffolded so as to give students the basic skills to complete long-term assignments that require personal time management and project control and choice. The policies enacted follow this same philosophy.


Plagiarism includes (but is not limited to) copying work, non-attribution or misattribution of sources, purchasing “factory” papers, and “borrowing” the logic or ideas of thinkers, websites, or other students. Offenders will be subject to the school’s Ethics Policy (see school handbook).

Late Work

Students have full access to all schedules and due dates for this course. As a result, no late work will be accepted. For certain circumstances, however, extensions will be considered for students who effectively and clearly communicate need (in person AND in writing). Communication does NOT guarantee extension—students must demonstrate good reason for need.

Revision of Writing

Students who turn work in on time may revise their work to replace the initial grade. Students have two weeks after the posted grade and commentary to resubmit revisions. Changes must be highlighted in the second submission. Second submission does NOT guarantee a change of grade—revision must show significant improvement to earn the revised grade.


See the attached course expectations, and outline for semester 1, below.