Spring 2022 - ENGL 345 D100

American Literatures (4)

Class Number: 4835

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu, Th 10:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    BLU 10031, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    30 units or two 200 division English courses.



Study of selected works of American literature. May survey a particular era or topic, may draw on transnational or hemispheric perspectives, and may be organized by any number of critical approaches including race, Indigeneity, sexuality, gender, historicism, class, or ecocriticism. This course may be repeated for credit if a different topic is taught.


Tell All the Truth But Tell It Slant

So says (Saint) Emily Dickinson. This is a class about why Dickinson and other nineteenth-century American poets – Walt Whitman, Frances E. W. Harper, Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (Ojibwa) – felt the need to tell truths obliquely, and how they went about doing so. In the process, we’ll suss out how poetry was (and yes, remains) a potent vehicle for social critique. How does it pack such a punch? And what was it throwing its punches at in the nineteenth century? Well, pretty much everything: sexuality, gender, racism, revolt, settler colonialism, politics, and of course love and its predictable successor, revulsion). Piatt even penned a poetic post-mortem of a pathetic first date.

Hear me now: You don’t need to be a poetry expert to take this course. It’s okay if you don’t know the difference between a poetic foot and a rabbit’s foot, because in addition to poems by the poets listed above we’re going to read a recent novel about how to read poems (and poets), Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist (2009). In addition to being surprisingly funny (You, skeptically: “A funny book about reading poetry?” Me, seriously: “Yes.”), Baker’s novel is a deft treatise on why poetry matters. I say that without even the hint of a blush. Poetry matters. There, I said it again. Let’s talk about how. It’s a cooler discussion than people tend to think.


Refine the understanding of how language, especially figurative language, creates the world and perceptions of it.
Recognize complex relationships between texts and contexts.
Understand key aspects of the histories, forms, principles, and contexts of literary expression in the nineteenth-century United States.
Develop skills in analyzing and interpreting language and text, broadly defined, and learn advanced strategies for creating and communicating informed claims about them.
Use language, its history, and its capacities to engage with the ideas of others.


  • Participation 10%
  • Informal Writing 10%
  • Explication Exercise (300-400 words) 15%
  • Paper 1 (1000 words) 30%
  • Paper 2 (1500-2000 words) 35%



Nicholson Baker, The Paul Chowder Chronicles (Penguin, 2014; The Anthologist is republished in this collection)
ISBN: 9780399172595

Amy Hungerford, et. al., eds., The Norton Anthology of American Literature, vol. B, 9th ed. (Norton, 2017
ISBN: 9780393264470

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the spring 2022 term.