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Texts & Contexts
(LIT-C487, Spring 1999)

Course Essentials

City College
Loyola University
Dr. Barbara C. Ewell 

Main Page 

Course Description and Goals

This course seeks to explore some of the literary, historical and social contexts of The Awakening, Kate Chopin's remarkable novel, published in 1899. Our focus will be on the important shifts that were occurring in American culture at the end of the last century, especially with respect to notions of gender, race and empire. By writing and by close readings of Chopin's work, as well as several other significant works of fiction published in 1899 (by Charles Chesnutt, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Frank Norris and others), we will try to understand some of the issues and assumptions that shaped the era in which these works were written a hundred years ago. And in the process, we will try to learn something about our own fin de siecle / fin de millenium.

Two thirds of the course will be conducted on-line, using primarily email and this web-site to discuss and reflect on our reading and writing. We will also learn to use some of the resources of the internet.

Course Requirements

Weekly Comments & Periodic Summaries

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 in two or three groups (depending on the size and preferences of the class), each with its own email listserv. 

Weekly Discussions: 

Discussions will be organized as follows*: 

1. One week before the selected reading is due, I will also post some brief introductory comments and a set of more-or-less standard questions to guide everyone's reading of the text or texts. 

2. By the next Saturday midnight, everyone will have: 

a.) read the texts and contexts, and 

b.) posted a comment to your small group (including me), responding to at least one of questions I have posed and raising any other issues elicited by the readings. 

The comment should be roughly 150-250 words--about two screenfuls on an email message. 

The main thing will be to get to your point; try to avoid mere summary, though be sure you've provided enough context to be clear; and don't neglect to refer to specific places in the text when appropriate. 

3. By Tuesday midnight, everyone in the class will have commented on or reacted to the responses of least two other people from their small group. (About 50-150 words--or one screen). These should be posted to everyone in the small group (and me). 

4. By the end of the week (Friday), I will post to the website a sampling of the comments and interesting excerpts from the groups, as well as my own reflections on the discussions. I will also post new text questions and website evaluations (as they become available), and the next round of readings will begin. 

*On weeks that we meet on campus or when holidays occur, the posting days are shifted to Friday or Monday. Check the syllabus for details. 

Periodic Summaries: 

Three times during the semester, a Summary Reflection will also be required and posted to the Class Listserv by Monday midnight [Feburary 22, March 22, and April 26]. These comments (about 200-300 words) should reflect you best thoughts on the readings for that four-to-five-week period: what you found most interesting; the connections you discern among the readings; the insight (yours or someone else's) that you have found most provocative, etc. You might even revise one of your initial comments, incorporating others' responses to deepen your reflection. [More.]

Summary Reflections are the only email comments that will be graded--on the basis of their originality, thoughtfulness, coherence and relevance. 

Your participation in these weekly discussions, including the timely submission of the Comments and Responses, as well as the three Summary Reflections, will constitute 30 - 35% of your grade. 

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Website Evaluations

As information on the web continues to proliferate, we need to know better how to evaluate its usefulness and reliability. [There are increasing numbers of websites devoted to evaluation that you can also consult on these issues]. This assignment requires you to locate two internet sites, on an author or topic relevant to the course, explain how you found it and why you chose it, and then evaluate its usefulness as a resource: what kinds of information and features it provides; what sources and authority does it have; what are its strengths and weaknesses. 

The websites you select and your evaluations will be posted to the class listserv and posted on the website. 

You must also submit a paper version of your evaluation (200-250 words). This assignment will represent 15-20% of your grade. (More information on this assignment.)

  Research Essay [See revised assignment]  
Students will complete a formal research essay (6-10 pp.) on some aspect of The Awakening and its relation to other fin de siecletexts and contexts. Revised versions of these essays will be incorporated into the final project. The essay will be due in stages: prosposed topics will be due February 7; a draft will be due on Monday, March 8 at the WAC Lab for feedback and responses from WAC tutors. The final paper version will be due on Friday, March 19. This work will constitute 15-20% of your grade. [Check revised due dates.]

    Format for formal papers:  
    All essays should be typed or printed and proofread, with any errors neatly corrected. Double-space, type or print on one side of the page only, and number each page. Separate computer sheets. A title page should be included. MLA or APA documentation style should be followed.

Final Project: Centennial Website

The final project will be the collaborative construction of webpages highlighting the centennial contexts of The Awakening. Material from the research essays, website evaluations, and other internet resources will be incorporated into a collective centennial website. Students will work together in small groups to develop portions of the website, as well as linking individual papers and external sites with other relevant materials. The Final Project will represent 20-25% of your grade. 

Final Examination

The usual: comprehensive, some essays, some "objective." Scheduled for Saturday, May 8; more details as the course proceeds. 10-15% of your grade. 

Class Participation

You are responsible for timely and regular contributions to your small discussion group every week. If you are for any reason unable to meet the established deadlines or fulfill the assignments, please advise me (and your group members) as soon as possible. Since our class meetings are both infrequent and important, the penalty for more than one absence will be a one-letter reduction in the final grade; more than two absences will result in failure of the course. Chronic or severe lateness with weekly assignments also constitutes grounds for failure.

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Extra Credit Options

Extra credit of up to 5% of your grade is available for attending and writing a short report about a literary or other intellectual event during the semester.


    1. Attend a lecture, reading, play or other literary event. [Check the Loyola or Newcomb Calendars for good possibilities; if you're not sure something is appropriate, ask me first.]
    2. Write a brief (300-500 words) evaluative review of the event.
    3. Submit the review to me (emailed or typewritten) within two weeks of your attendance.

Meeting Dates and Times

The class will meet from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p. m. in either the WAC Lab or a Monroe Seminar Room on the following Saturdays: 

January 16 [brief organizational meeting], January 23, February 20, March 13, and April 17. 


Both the South Central Women's Studies Association, meeting at Newcomb March 12-14, and the Tennessee Williams Festival, meeting in the French Quarter from March 24-28, will include special events marking the centennial of The Awakening.  The Kate Chopin Conference will be held in Natchitoches from April 8-10.

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Required Texts 

(Note:  Texts for the course are available in the University Bookstore. Some additional readings are available online and/or will be on reserve at the library [after it opens!]) 

Chesnutt, Charles. The Collected Stories. Ed. William Andrews. New York: Penguin, 1992. Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Ed. Margo Culley. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1994. Chopin, Kate. The Awakening and Selected Stories. Ed. Barbara Solomon. New York:    Signet, 1976.
DuBois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Dover, 1994.*
Norris, Frank. McTeague. New York: Penguin, 1981.
Veblen, Thorsten. The Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Dover, 1994.*

*These texts are also available on-line. Other short texts will be placed online and/or on reserve in Monroe Library .

Dunbar-Nelson, Alice. Works. Vol. 1. New York: Oxford UP, 1988. This book is only available in hardback. Copies will be on reserve, and an online edition is available at the Digital Schomberg website []

Also Recommended:
A Pocket Style Manual. 2nd ed. Ed. Diana Hacker. New York: St. Martin's, 1996.
Online!: A Reference Guide to Using Internet Sources. 2nd ed/ Ed. Andrew Harnack and    Eugene Kleppinger. New York: St. Martin's, 1999.

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Copyright (c) 1999; all rights reserved.

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