American Regional Writing
ENGL V256:W01

    (an online course)*

Dr. Barbara C. Ewell
Loyola University New Orleans
FALL 2012

Photo credits:

Bob Bednar, Southwestern University
Georgetown, Texas /teaching.htm
Note: Information revised 16 August 2012; all material here remains subject to change--like life.

"The literature I care most about comes out of a deeply rooted sense of place. . . without which the work is reduced to a cry of voices in empty rooms, a literature of the self; at its best, poetic music; at its worst, a thin gruel of the ego. Place is one of the principal ingredients in fiction because we are what we are because of place to some degree. We interact with it and with its mores."
--William Kennedy, author of Ironweed (1983)

"[T]he "regional" in an emergent global economy of flows should be regarded more as a liminal, discursive terrain, a cultural imaginary produced at the point where the circulation of media imagery, the movement of transnational capital, and the voluntary or forced migrations of peoples intersect with a particular geographic locale."
--Stephen Tatum, in Postwestern Cultures (2007)

As William Kennedy suggests, the sense of place is an essential element of fiction, one that has played a particularly visible role in the fiction of the United States. Perhaps our obsession with place is related to the rootlessness that has characterized our history, first as immigrants from Europe, Africa, and elsewhere, in pursuit of an ever-retreating frontier, and eventually as the restless inhabitants of modern cities, infatuated with automobiles and motion and speed. At the same time, the very notion of region is being challenged by our increasingly transnational and virtual realities--as Stephen Tatum argues. What is "regionalism" and how does it exist today?

This course will trace several defining moments of the North American sense of place: from its nineteenth-century expressions in local color, through the mid-twentieth-century fascination with regionalism, to our contemporary interest in cultural diversity.  Our goal will be to assess the role of place in these North American fictions and to question the continuity and significance of regionalism as a defining element of our cultural and literary heritage--and our future.

To those ends, we will read a number of short stories, novels, and essays, relying on careful reading and active discussion to clarify the texts and their contexts. Requirements will include reading and reflection on the texts, participation in weekly discussion forums on Blackboard, and the completion of a multi-part writing and electronic project on a specific regional writer.

*An online course is conducted through the internet (Blackboard), though there will be an organizational on-campus meeting on Friday evening, August 29 (5:30 p.m.--8:30 p.m.) in BOBET 100 (The WAC Lab) and a final class meeting on Friday, December 7. Please contact me after August 15, if serious hardship or unavoidable conflict will keep you from attending the required organizational meeting. Students within driving distance should plan to attend--and attendees will find that the course goes much more smoothly. To be successful, online courses require that students have some degree of self-discipline.


The following list of texts and writers is confirmed, though minor changes and substitutions may occur. Some of these and some additional texts may be available as e-texts. 

Alexie, Sherman. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. New York: Grove Atlantic, 2005. ISBN-13: 978-0802141675 ($15.00

Anaya, Rudolpho. Bless Me, Ultima. New York: Warner Books, 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0446675369 ($13.95)


Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux/ Premier Edition. By John G.Niehardt. Albany: S U N Y Press, 2008.ISBN-13: 978-1438425405 ($19.95)

Franklin, Tom. Poachers. New York: Harper Collins, 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0688177713 ($12.95)

Hawthorne, Nathanial. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Signet Classics,2009. ISBN-13: 978-0451531353 ($3.95)


Jewett, Sarah Orne. The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories. New York: Signet Classics ISBN-13: 978-0451531445 ($6.95)


Southern Local Color: Stories of Region, Race, and Gender. Eds. Barbara C. Ewell and Pamela Glenn Menke. Athens: U Georgia P, 2002.  ISBN-13: 978-0820323176 ($24.00)


Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome. New York: Signet Classics, 2000. ISBN-13: 978-0451527660 ($2.95)

Additional texts will be provided online.

Instant Access: The Pocket Reference for Writers. Michael L. Keene and Katherine H. Adams. Eds. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.


*These books may also be available for purchase at Maple Street Books (support your local bookstores!) If you're trying to cut costs, many texts are also available secondhand through other commercial booksellers.

Course Pre-requisites

Course Requirements

Weekly Comments  (35%)

The heart of this course (apart from reading the texts themselves) will be our electronic "discussions": asking and answering each other's questions and sharing our responses. These discussions will be conducted on the "Discussion Board" of  Students will be expected to post a substantive comment  (150-300 words) in response to the text and my introductory remarks by Monday midnight. By the next Thursday, everyone in the class will have commented on or reacted to the responses of least two other people (100-150 words each).

Your participation in these weekly discussions, including the timely submission of comments and responses, will be graded contractually (all assignments = A; fewer = B, etc.) and will constitute your "class attendance."

You will be responsible for timely and regular contributions to the discussion group every week. If any lateness or irregularity persists in your submissions, you will be asked to drop the course or receive a failing grade.

Keeping up with these discussions is one of the most challenging parts of an online course, and falling behind is the chief reason for attrition--just remember that "online" isn't the same as "self-paced."

Writing Assignments (25-30%)
The formal writing in this course will be a series of assignments based on the contexts of and works by American regional writers, both those covered in the course and from a supplementary list.  These assignments, due throughout the semester and involving various degrees of research, will provide some of the basic content for a final collaborative presentation.

Wiki Presentation of Research (15-20%)
A final collaborative electronic presentation (wiki or website) on one or more of the writers and regions covered in the class to be presented at the December on-campus meeting.

Final Examination (15-20%)
A comprehensive essay exam. Due on or about December 7 meeting.