HU300N Topics: Literature of New England


Instructor: Donald Wellman, DWH 222. Office hours, Tues. and Thurs.  11-12:30. Email: Phone 603 577-6654. Please feel free to visit during the above office hours as well as the virtual office hours available through Angel. Face-t0-face appointments are also available.


This course focuses on the works of selected New England authors who have shaped both the regional and the American national identity. Selected authors include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. Students will read one major work by each of these authors. Topics addressed by these authors include nature and the environment, slavery and abolition, and visions of a just and democratic society.



In addition to upper-level General Education outcomes, students will:

·         understand the historical and cultural importance of the American Literary Renaissance, in its own time and in its continuing importance for contemporary culture and literature,

·         identify similarities and differences of values as they are found in the texts of selected authors,

·         express themselves in an original and  creative manner on topics related to course readings and other material.


Argument #1: I have chosen to lay a foundation so that you will come to understand  the different views of human nature represented by the above authors who are associated with the American Literary Renaissance. Topics include man in relation to the environment, in relation to issues of social justice, and in relation to the concepts of good and evil. The Emersonian point of view, which is the most widely held American belief regarding these questions, posits individual integrity and self-reliance as the basis for morality. In their meditations on evil and negative aspects of the social fabric, Hawthorne and Melville complicate this faith in human goodness. The experiences of women, of slavery, and the genocide of indigenous American populations complicate the notion of the essential “goodness” of human nature advanced by Emerson. In addition to affirming the concept of self-reliance, understanding these experiences requires an examination of social forces and social facts.


Argument # 2: What it is to be a poet. “The poet is the only teller of news,” writes Emerson, “for he was present and privy to the appearance which he describes” (309). Continuing in the essay, “The Poet,” he writes “For it is not metres but a metre-making argument that makes a poem, --a thought so passionate and alive, that, like the spirit of a plant or an animal, it has an architecture of its own and adorns nature with a new thing” (310). This association of form with self-expression led to Emerson’s embrace Walt Whitman and his Leaves of Grass. At a middle distance between the works of Puritan Divines like Edward Taylor and Jonathan Edwards and the modern poetry of contemporary America lies the work of Emerson, Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Like Emerson, her work is foundational for the creation of a distinctly expressive American poetry. At the close of the course we will look at the history of the reception of Dickinson through the eyes of Susan Howe, a contemporary poet whose work, in addition to offering an understanding of a female perspective represented by Dickinson, also engages a revisioning of the capture narratives from the contact period and the Puritan and Indian wars. You are invited to contribute your own poetry or other creative works to the class experience by publishing it in your blog.


Required books

Ralph Waldo Emerson. Selected Writings Of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  William H. Gilman,  Editor. Signet

Classic, 2003. 9780451529077.

Henry David Thoreau. The Portable Thoreau. Penguin, 1964. 0140150315.

Herman Melville, Billy Budd and Other Stories. Penguin 1986. 9780140390537.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Blithedale Romance. Penguin, 1983. 9780140390285.

Emily Dickinson. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Back Bay Books, 1976. 0316184136.

Susan Howe, My Emily Dickinson. New Directions, 2007. 0811216837.

Susan Howe, Singularities. Wesleyan, 1990. 0819511943.


Method of Instruction and Grades

The class work is divided into seven units.  Each unit is the equivalent of 6 classroom hours plus the necessary study time for reading and writing assignments. There will be a discussion board for each unit. There are questions attached to each unit. You are expected to post your preliminary answers to these questions on the appropriate discussion board. These first answers will have a value equivalent to grades on a quiz, that is 20% of the final class grade.


In addition, you are expected to critique one another’s postings. Share insights and resources for further reading. Participation in the discussion board phase of instruction is worth 20% of your final grade. Frequent postings will be vital to success in the class. Failure to post is equivalent to a class absence. The course calendar allows for you to concentrate on your essay writing in the last 3 weeks of the term. There will be fewer discussion board assignments at that time.


There is a portfolio component to course work. You should create a blog for yourself either in Angel or on the web. I recommend using the free software from or Each blog will contain your improved and revised answers to discussion board questions. It should also contain independent reflections on class work and class reading. Value 20%.


You will write two research-essays, corresponding to the two argument identified above. These will be due in Week 5 and Week 7. Each essay is to conform to MLA style. It is to be between 5 and 8 pages in length. Bibliographies are to be part of the same file and paginated consecutively with the passages of the essay. Block quotes may be single-spaced. Most quotes will come from identified class reading. Further independent research will improve your grade. Independent research should come from reliable source whose authorship you can authenticate. This rules out the use of Wikipedia except for some initial reconnoitering of a topic. Each essay has a value of 20%.


Most instruction will be asynchronous. I will respond to your postings, either privately or as a participant in the thread. I will be available for on-line office hours and chats. Initially I will be available on Monday, Mar. 22 from 6-8 pm and on Thursday, Mar. 25 from 7-8 pm. Chats for purposes synchronous discussion can be arranged on Yahoo.



Points will be deducted from your class average for absence and late work. Failure to post to the discussion board in any week counts as an absence. All absences beyond the two that I allow will cost 2 penalty points  Any late work will also cost 2 points. In cases of teamwork assignments or roundtable discussions, you are responsible for being prepared and doing your part in a timely fashion.


Plagiarism is any attempt to pass off another’s work as your own. The penalty is at least an ‘F’ on the assignment. For deliberate plagiarism or cheating, such as purchasing or copying a paper from a web-based term paper mill, the penalty is an ‘F’ in the course. Another form of deliberate plagiarism is the practice of “pastiche,” the cutting and pasting together of paragraphs and sentences that were taken from different authors and submitting this work as your own. The penalty for cut and paste pastiche is a failure on the individual assignment. Neglecting to document the sources used in your work will also mean failure on that assignment. You are expected to use the MLA system of documentation for all passages of quotation or paraphrase. For help with documentation, I encourage you to take your work to the College Writing Center.


Americans with Disabilities Act: Students with any type of disability that may require accommodation should contact the Office of Academic Affairs at or 577-6615 to arrange a meeting within the first two weeks of the fall 2009 semester. This meeting is extremely important, as it allows us to prepare your accommodations for the upcoming semester.  In order for a student to be accommodated for a disability under the ADA, the individual seeking disability accommodations must disclose to the appointed disability coordinator. Disclosure to a staff, faculty or other campus affiliate does not determine eligibility or grant a student reasonable accommodations.  Should you not wish to receive accommodations, or fail to arrange a meeting, you will be subject to all academic standards in your courses.


Academic Integrity Policy: “Daniel Webster College believes that all students have the right to learn in an academic community that insures fair competition and respects truth and honesty.”  (Student Handbook-Ethical Standards)  Students are expected to demonstrate scrupulous honesty in all academic work.  Any violations of such honesty, including cheating on exams and plagiarism on papers, will result in two levels of penalties applied: Academic penalties and Disciplinary penalties.  Academic penalties include, but are not limited to, a failing grade for the assignment and possible dismissal from the class; Disciplinary penalties include, but are not limited to, a written warning from the Vice President for Academic Affairs and temporary or permanent dismissal from the institution..


PEER-TUTORING RESOURCES: Daniel Webster College offers various tutoring resources for all students to utilize. If you feel you need tutoring in a course that you are currently enrolled, please contact the Dean of your School of study to make an appointment to review your needs. Your Dean will work closely with you and our Peer-Tutoring Coordinator to arrange appropriate tutoring as well as if deemed necessary to develop an academic plan with you that will assist with keeping you on track to achieve your educational goals.  Should you need Writing or Math/Science Support, you will be referred appropriately to the Writing Center and the Math/Science Support Center for further assistance.  


Class calendar, schedule of reading.

Each unit contains links to additional readings. There is a hyper-link to the assignment page for each unit. Some of these assignment pages are under construction at this point, early in the term. Below you will find the main readings and the dates of required postings to the discussion board for each unit. All discussion board postings are due by 10 pm on the specified date.




First discussion-board posting

Follow-up posting


Ralph Waldo Emerson, selections from “Nature” (Writings 186-202, 215-223) and Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown.”

Thurs. Mar. 25

Sun. Mar. 28


Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance” (Writings 257-280).

Thurs. Apr. 1

Sun. Apr. 4


Henry David Thoreau, “Where I lived and What I lived For,” “The Pond in Winter,” “Spring,” and Conclusion: (Portable Thoreau, Walden,  334- 351, 524-572).

Thurs. Apr. 8

Sun. Apr. 11


Nathaniel Hawthorne, Blithedale Romance (complete text).

Thurs. Apr. 15

Sun. Apr. 18


Herman Melville, Benito Cereno in Billy Budd and Other Stories (141-223).


Thurs. Apr. 22

Argument #1 Essay due Sun. Apr. 25. There will be a drop bx. There is no follow-up posting.


Emily Dickinson, various poems, and Susan How, My Emily Dickinson.

Thurs. Apr. 29

Sun. May 2.


Susan Howe, Singularities.

Final versions of blog and Argument #2 Essay due, Fri. May 7.