American Regionalism and Regional Writing
ENGL O256:W01

    (an online course)*
Dr. Barbara C. Ewell
Loyola University New Orleans
Fall 2016

Photo credits:
Bob Bednar, Southwestern University Georgetown, Texas /teaching.htm
Note: Information posted 11 July 2016; all material here remains subject to change. Check for further updates.

"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)

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.

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.

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 project on a specific regional writer, and a final (optionally collaborative) re-mix reflection.

*An online course is conducted through the internet (Blackboard) and has regular weekly deadlines (that is, this is not a self-paced course). To be successful, online courses require that students have some degree of self-discipline, especially in the compressed version of summer school. Please contact me if you have any questions about your readiness for an online course.


The following is a proposed list of texts and writers (and they have been ordered through the Loyola Bookstore), but changes and substitutions may occur. Don't buy anything yet that you don't want to read. 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
    Publisher: Grove Press; 20th Anniversary Edition edition (October 8, 2013) $16.00
Anaya,Rudolpho. Bless Me, Ultima. New York: Warner Books, 1999. ISBN-10: 0446600253 ($8.00)
John G.Niehardt, Philip J. DeLori, Black Elk Speaks: The Complete Edition, Publisher: Bison Books; Reprint edition (March 1, 2014) ISBN-10: 0803283911 $19.95
Franklin, Tom. Poachers. New York: Harper Collins, 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0688177713 Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 30, 2000) ISBN-10:         0688177719 ($12.99)
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) Publisher: Signet Classics.       (November 3, 2009) ISBN-10: 0451531442
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) Publisher: Dover Publications; Reprint edition (January 1, 1991) ISBN-10: 0486266907

Additional texts will be provided online.

 If you're trying to cut costs, many texts are also available secondhand through other commercial booksellers. Please do not purchase books until this list is confirmed--unless, of course, you want to read them.

Course Pre-requisites

Course Requirements

Weekly Comments  (35-40%)

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 (35-40%)
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 will be due throughout the semester and involve various degrees of research.

Re-Mix Reflection (20-25%)
A final reflection, constructed alone or in groups, on the themes and writers of the course. More details will be provided as appropriate.

Final Examination (20-25%)
A comprehensive essay exam. Due on or about December 10.