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Contemporary American Literature



The requirements of this course are connected to the student learning outcomes of the English Department's major emphasis in Literary/Textual Studies. Below please find a list of the LTS Student Learning Outcomes (LO) and, in brackets, how they correlate to particular requirements.

  • LO 1: Read, explicate, and analyze texts within their cultural, historical, and critical contexts.
  • LO 2: Research using a variety of methods and sources and document sources according to standard guidelines.
  • LO 3: Apply relevant critical theories to the interpretation and production of texts.
  • LO 4: Write effectively about texts for varied purposes and audiences across multiple genres and media.
  • LO 5: Demonstrate knowledge of major writers, works, genres, periods, and literary histories of texts.


Attendance and Participation

  • I expect regular attendance. Regular attendance will enable you to make regular contributions to our discussions. The more you contribute, the better – both for the intellectual climate of the classroom and for your own learning curve.  If you know that you're going to have to miss more than 2 classes, you should drop the course this semester and enroll at another time. There are no "excused absences." (LO 1, 3, 5). If you do have to miss class, please contact a peer – not me – to find out what we did and the homework for the next class period.  Here is a rough guide how your participation is adjudicated, based on a scale a colleague has kindly shared with me:

+10    Student frequently offers comments that really develop the conversation, often producing “Aha!” moments. The student’s comments reflect in-depth knowledge of the class material, bringing in supplementary research not assigned by the professor, and showing the student’s exceptional intellectual ability and effort.

+5   Student frequently offers comments that are intelligent and useful and demonstrate thorough knowledge of course material, sometimes including supplementary information.

+0    Student routinely offers comments that show his/her knowledge of and thoughtful reflection on the course material. This student meets the class expectations but has not exceeded them.

-5   Student either comments less often than his/her peers or offers comments that do not reflect understanding of course materials. The student falls just short of class expectations.

-10   Student either comments rarely or offers comments that are factually inaccurate and distracting, suggesting they are not reading carefully. The student is not meeting class expectations.

-15   Student never comments or offers comments that are off-topic and disruptive. Not only is this student failing to meet class expectations, but s/he is preventing others from learning.


  • I will ask you to keep a notebook, which should prepare you for class discussion by allowing you to write in advance about our material: At the end of most classes, I (or your classmates) will pose a question or suggest a topic that is related to your assigned reading, in which case you should demonstrate that you have thought about a text critically at some length. Alternately – what I really encourage you to do – I want you to explore the readings on your own and develop your own insights, provisional, fleeting, and tentative, as they may be. – I will ask you to hand in your printed/typed :) and stapled notebook three times during the semester. Do not submit it electronically. Your weekly notebook output should be about two double spaced pages in a reasonable font (ca. 500 words). Bottom line: notebooks are not essays, but a space of exploration and experimentation. Please take risks! I will read all of your entries in their entirety each time, but please indicate at least one entry (with a big * for example) to which you would like me to respond in detail. Here is some Student Sample Notebook I, Sample II  (esp., LO 1, 3, 5)

Talk and Class Facilitation

  • Since this course builds on the exchange of insights and viewpoints among class members, the development of your speaking skills is central to its (and your) success. I will ask you -- perhaps in groups -- to give an introductory presentation of about 15-20 minutes on a writer/artist or group of writers/artists, which we will not have time to "cover" in class (including film footage and web research). Your presentation should serve as a point of departure for further discussion, which you facilitate, and must be accompanied by a typed handout that you distribute in the class period before your report. The handout should not exceed two pages (one sheet, front and back) and contain the following information:
    • title of presentation/name of presenter(s)
    • text(s) you expect your fellow students to study
    • a summary of your major ideas and observations
    • the sources/web sites you have consulted.  Here is a recent sample I,  II

  • This way we can all think through your report in advance and formulate helpful questions and responses. A sign-up sheet for these presentations is posted on my door (esp. LO 1-3). To enhance your learning (and, let's be honest, to kill two birds with one stone, different as these birds may be), I encourage you to build upon your oral report for your paper. Use the class as a testing ground for your ideas!

Research Essay or Final Digital Project (FDP)

  • You have the option of crystallizing what you have learned in our class in one of two basic forms:
    (a) write a 6-10 page essay on any text on syllabus. This paper must be typed and well written. Here are some recent Student Sample Essays (LO 1-5).

    (b) As writing continues to manifest itself in new digital formats, you might consider "translating" your learning into a substantive digital project using Adobe Spark, Top Hat, and Rush, among others. If you choose this option, important is that your content maintain the same high standard of thought one would expect in a paper while delivering that content through a different medium that incorporates sound (narration or music) and visuals (film clips, pictures, footage of you talking, etc.).  (LO, esp. 1-4)  Here are some recent FDP samples: FDPI, FDP II. Message, in either form: let's talk! And while I am the immediate audience for your final essay or digital project, please consider writing or developing them with a view toward presentation at NULC, Weber State's National Undergraduate Literature Conference, in Spring 2020.  I would be happy to work with you on either of these assignments to get them ready for submission.

    Did you know: WSU has made licenses for Adobe Creative Cloud available for students for the next 5 years. Current students of the university are eligible to request a license through a form accessible through your eWeber portalA Student with an active Adobe Creative Cloud license will be able to sign in at with their email address. From there they will be able to use any of the Adobe Creative Cloud Applications and a select number of their services. Users are also granted 100GB of cloud storage to synchronize their Adobe projects. Users can download the software onto any number of devices but will only be able to have 2 devices licenses at any given time.

Essay Question Exam

  • An in-class or take-home essay question exam that will allow you to show off what you have learned this semester. (esp. LO 1, 3, 5).
  • Your final grade will be made up as follows:
Notebook 20%
Class Participation 20%
Oral Presentation 20%
Research Essay or FDP 20%
Final Exam 20%

MENG 5550 students: In order to fulfill the requirements for graduate work, please talk to me at the very beginning of the semester.  Thank you.

Please note that you will have to fulfill all of these requirements to pass the class.

It is your responsibility to become familiar with the standards of academic integrity at WSU. Passing off someone else's work or ideas as your own is grounds for failure.


  • Laptops and notebooks are part of classroom resources, but I expect you to use them judiciously. That means you are focused on class learning, not checking email, surfing, or checking social networking sites during class. Doing so suggests a contempt for the class and for the thoughts of your peers. I reserve the right to ask a student to switch off a laptop/notebook if I feel it is not used appropriately. I do not allow the use of cell phones or handheld devices in class and, in the event of non-compliance, will ask you to leave class for the remaining period. Please understand as well that I will ask repeat offenders to drop the class, get whatever remaining money back from the registrar's office, and re-enroll in the course another time. It's simple: silence or turn off your phone during the class hour and put it in your school bag. Thank you.


  • Plagiarism is a violation of the WSU Student Code. To plagiarize means to pass off someone else’s work as your own or to improperly or insufficiently document your sources. If you plagiarize, you will receive an E for the assignment. If it happens again, you will fail the class, and I will notify university authorities about disciplinary action.
  • WSU subscribes to, an electronic service that verifies the originality of student work. Enrollment in this course may require you to submit some or all of your assignments to, and documents submitted to are retained, anonymously, in their databases. Enrollment in this course constitutes an understanding of an agreement with this policy.

Disability Accommodation

  • PPM 3-34 notes: “When students seek accommodation in a regularly scheduled course, they have the responsibility to make such requests at the Center for Students with Disabilities (SSD, #181 of Student Services Center) before the beginning of the semester in which the accommodation is being requested. When a student fails to make such arrangements, interim accommodations can be made by the instructor, pending the determination of the request for a permanent accommodation." Such accommodations include reading services, provisions in case of mobility impairment, sign language and interpretive assistance, and closed captions for the hearing impaired, among others.

Emergency Closure

  • In the unlikely event of an extended campus closure, we will conduct our course electronically via email and virtual discussion groups. In this case, please make sure that you check your email account regularly for messages and attachments (in Word, PowerPoint, or audio) coming from me and/or your fellow seminar participants. Such messages may function as lecture substitutes, provide directions for reading and writing assignments, and contain other relevant information. Also make sure that your account has adequate storage capacity for transmitting documents. Please let me know by the end of the first week of the semester if you do not have access to a computer and/or the Internet from your home. Thanks.

Core Beliefs

  • According to PPM 6-22 IV, students are to “determine, before the last day to drop courses without penalty, when course requirements conflict with a student's core beliefs. If there is such a conflict, the student should consider dropping the class. A student who finds this solution impracticable may request a resolution from the instructor. This policy does not oblige the instructor to grant the request, except in those cases when a denial would be arbitrary and capricious or illegal. This request must be made to the instructor in writing and the student must deliver a copy of the request to the office of the department head. The student's request must articulate the burden the requirement would place on the student's beliefs."
  • If you prefer an alternate name or gender pronoun, please advise me of your preference and I will happily honor your request.

Recycling Policy

  • Weber State University is dedicated to being a leader in sustainability to ensure present needs are met without compromising the ability for future generations to inherit a healthy planet, society, and economy. Part of this commitment includes sustainable waste management practices with the ultimate goal of becoming a zero-waste campus. In order to achieve this goal, it is up to the WSU community to be informed about the various recycling policies on campus. Please recycle following items on campus: plastics #1 & #2 (rinsed), cardboard, non-glossy paper, & metal cans.
  • For more information on recycling at WSU, please reference Energy & Sustainability Office website

The Golden Rules

  • Assignments must be typewritten and are due on the date specified—no exceptions.
  • For reasons of class integrity, and out of consideration of others, do not come late or leave early. For the same reason, I will not be able to accept late work.
  • To repeat: you are welcome to take notes on your laptops and tablets but do not text, surf, facebook, or engage in (old-fashioned) email while in class. Silence your phones, put them off the table and out of sight in a bag.
  • Bottom line (repeat): Be there in body and mind!
  • Here is a Netiquette Refresher, if you need to contact me or any of your other instructors.
  • Mid-day bonus (but no bonbons): A class starting mid-morning or mid-day may be early — not to say, in the middle of the night — for some of you, but it's also getting close to lunchtime (or breakfast, as the case may be). Please feel free to bring a snack or beverage to (re)charge your intellectual batteries and to ward off hypoglycemic fantasizing, but munch and imbibe with discretion.

Let's Connect!

mwutz@weber.eduPhone  801-626-7011
Skype  michaelwutz007

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Weber – The Contemporary West
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Mailing Address


Michael Wutz, Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor
Editor, Weber - The Contemporary West
Department of English, 1404 University Circle
Weber State University
Ogden, UT 84404-1404 USA