Camden Hills Regional High School

Home of the Windjammers

Honors American Studies
Mr. Doubleday
Room 222 - Period
Honors American Studies                                      1 Credit

Prerequisites: Open to juniors, to sophomores who have completed Sophomore English, and to seniors who have not taken American Literature/Junior Narrative, Exposition, and Research

Course Description: Students enrolled in this full-year course will read, listen to, study, discuss, write essays about, develop and present PowerPoint projects on selected works of American literature, music, and art. The poems, short stories, novels and plays are thematically and chronologically organized. Students will write from a selection of topics and in analytical, creative, and research-based modes according to current MLA format. The course also includes a vocabulary development/SAT-preparation strand based on Vocabulary for Achievement (Sixth Course). Honors American Studies is open to motivated and intellectually curious sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Download American Lit Narrative Common Core Standards Aligned Outcomes.pdf


Course Rationale and Expectations: Students will be asked to use and develop their critical reading, thinking, and writing skills by analyzing selected works of American literature, film, and art. Students are also expected to complete  a summer reading assignment, described below.

Summer Reading Assignment 
Instructions: Choose and read two (2) of the following three (3) novels:The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, and Empire Falls by Richard Russo.

You do not have to write an essay or keep a journal during the summer; just read two of the three novels. You are certainly free and encouraged to read all three! However, you will be required to write an essay on your reading during the first week of school in August/September. Below are some essay prompts that you may wish to keep in mind and note passages that could shape and support your thesis as you read these novels.

You will write an essay on one of the topics listed below shortly after returning to school.  Remember to·   state a thesis, develop and illustrate your ideas with well chosen examples and passages from the novels, use parenthetical citations and to include a works cited page according to the Modern Language Association (MLA) format. Do not merely summarize the plot.   

    1. Compare and contrast the characters of Miles and Quoyle to their families: as sons (and perhaps in Quoyle’s case as a nephew), brothers, husbands or ex-husbands, and parents. What do their relationships with their parents, siblings, wives or ex-wives, and children tell the reader about their strengths and weaknesses? 
    1. What is the relationship to what one does for a living to who a person is? What can what Quoyle and Miles each does for a living tell the reader about the relationship of work to their self-images? How fulfilling are their jobs? Are they dead ends or avenues to self-fulfillment? How do the conditions and terms of their employment change over the course of the novels? 
    1. Discuss the themes of entrapment and escape in Cold Mountain, Empire Falls and/or The Shipping News. How can the settings--the places Inman travels through on his way home to Cold Mountain (and Inman’s service in the Confederate Army), the small towns of Mockingburg and Empire Falls and the islands of Newfoundland and Martha’s Vineyard—be viewed as places of entrapment or of escape?  Are Inman, Miles and/or Quoyle trapped by their pasts and the history of their families and relationships? In what ways are Inman, Miles, and/or Quoyle trapped by old loves, by their devotion to their families, by their own sense of decency. Do Inman, Miles, and Quoyle manage to escape from the limitations imposed on their lives by the places in which they live, by the past, and by their own strengths and weaknesses by the ends of the novels?
    1. How are the settings of the places Inman travels through on his way home to Cold Mountain, of Empire Falls, and/or of Newfoundland dreary yet engaging characters unto themselves in the novels? What effects do the settings have on determining the lives of the characters in the novels?

5.     Frazier, Russo and Proulx tell the stories of several relationships between married, formerly married, soon-to-be married, and de facto couples in Cold Mountain, Empire Falls and The Shipping News: Inman and Ada, Ruby and Reid, Miles and Janine, Janine and Walt, Max and Grace, C.B. and Francine Whiting, Otto and Anne Meyer; Quoyle and Petal Bear, Herold and Wavey Prowse, Quoyle and Wavey Prowse, Agnis Hamm and Irene Warren, Dennis and Beety Buggit, to name a few. (You do not have to write about all of the relationships listed above. Select only those relationships that support and illustrate your thesis and ideas.) Discuss what these relationships can tell the reader about the possibility of love between married couples.

6.     Determine which of the following premises Cold Mountain, Empire Falls and/or The Shipping News supports:

·      The universe tends toward order, and this order extends into the lives of men.

·      or

·      The universe is inherently chaotic; any order is artificially and temporarily imposed by man.

State, explain, and develop your argument with passages and examples from the novel.


7.     Cold Mountain, Empire Falls and/or The Shipping News are full of memorable minor characters: Select one (or more) minor character from two of the novels and determine

·      to what extent each minor character is a foil who helps the reader better understand the qualities of the main character(s),

·      to what extent the minor character helps a main character better understand himself or herself, and

·      to what extent each minor character is a freestanding character.


An important note about structuring this essay topic: Do not write about one character in the first part of your essay and another minor charter in the second part of your essay. Rather, discuss the minor (and major) characters from both novels under common subtopics so that your essay presents an integrated, coherent argument.


8.     Discuss the theme of getting whole again after witnessing and, in Inman’s case, engaging in horrific and traumatic acts. How successful are Miles, Quoyle, and/or Inman in their attempts not to turn “hateful” (Frazier 9)? How can certain locations in each of the novels—Cold Mountain in Cold Mountain, Martha’s Vineyard inEmpire Falls, and Newfoundland in The Shipping News—have a healing effect on the main characters?


Please remember to cite any ideas that are not your own.  Do not plagiarize.  If you have any questions regarding the proper citation of borrowed ideas, please ask Mr. Doubleday.





Grading Policy:

Essential Concepts or Questions
1. How do texts both reflect and contribute to the cultural and societal values of the time in which they are written/created?
2. What are some major themes in American literature and how are they treated in different time periods?
3. Who are the major American authors and what is their influence in American literature?
4. How can research and technology be used to support the presentation of ideas through writing and other media?
5. How can reading and listening skills help formulate reasoned judgments about written and oral communication in various media genres.
6. How can critical approaches (historical, biographical, mythological, archetypal, psychological, gender and cultural studies, etc.) shed light on our understanding on works of literature, art, and film?

Intended Course Outcomes
1. The form of a work of literature affects the meaning of the work and the process of interpretation of the text.
2. Texts allow for multiple warranted interpretations, but warranted interpretations must be supported by textual evidence.
3. Theme/underlying meaning represent a universal view or a comment on life or society (American individualism, the American dream, cultural diversity).
4. Texts are both a reflection of and a contributor to cultural and societal values of the time in which they are written/created.
5. Texts from a particular time period and/or place often exhibit commonalities in structure, content, and/or underlying meaning.
6. Readers establish a context for understanding by merging life experiences and knowledge of vocabulary, reading strategies, and techniques and structures specific to the author's purpose.
7. Readers respond to text by using a variety of discourses.
8. Creators of text employ particular words, structures, rhetorical strategies, and/or styles for specific purposes:  to create different perspectives, to convey different messages, and/or to elicit desired responses from readers/audiences.
9. Writing is a process involving planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.
10.  Research and technology support all aspects of language arts.
11.  Listeners/viewers use discernment in responding to and understanding media.
12. Purpose and setting of language use is an important consideration in the speaker’s choice of words and style.

Unit Outline/Learning Strands
The writing strand is focused on developing students’ critical reading, thinking, and writing skills. Instruction will include on-demand writing pieces as well as processed writing pieces, which evolve through a series of drafts and edits. Students will write essays analyzing single works and synthesizing multiple works. Students will be required to document their sources using MLA format.

The vocabulary program for Honors American Studies is designed to improve the student’s ability to articulate and understand ideas and to familiarize students with the types of questions and words used on the SAT. Vocabulary may be drawn from texts they are reading in class and/or from Vocabulary for Achievement 6th Course.

Assessments can include quizzes, tests, essays, PowerPoint and Keynote presentations, other projects, and midterm and final exams.

The literature strand will use challenging novels to increase student understanding of American literature, art, film, and culture. Students will evaluate texts within their thematic, historical and/or cultural contexts. Students will be expected to read and analyze literature and to convey their ideas through written and oral presentations. Possible texts include (but are not limited to) the following works:

Summer Reading (Students choose 2 out of 3 of the following or to-be-named novels)

  • Empire Falls (2002) Richard Russo 
  • The Shipping News (1994) Annie Proulx
  • Cold Mountain (1997) Charles Frazier

First Semester - Race: Slavery and Racism

  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) Frederick Douglass
  • “No More Auction Block” and “Follow the Drinking Gourd” Songs of the Civil War (VHS) Ken Burns 
  • Follow the Drinking Gourd (1988) by Jeanette Winter
  • Benito Cereno (1855) Herman Melville
  • “Declaration of Independence” (1776) Thomas Jefferson
  • “The Slave Singing at Midnight”, “The Warning”, “In the Churchyard at Cambridge” (1845) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 
  • “The Sleepers” (1855) Walt Whitman
  • Near Andersonville (1866) Winslow Homer
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) Mark Twain 
  • Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (video)
  • Light in August (1932) by William Faulkner
  • Jazz (1993) Toni Morrison
  • Amistad (1999 film) Steven Spielberg
  • The Murder of Emmett Till (2003 documentary) Stanley Nelson

Second Semester - Gender Roles in Selected Works: Types and Stereotypes

  • The Scarlet Letter (1851) Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • “To My Dear and Loving Husband” and “Upon the Burning of Our House” (published 1678) Anne Bradstreet
  • “Young Goodman Brown” (1835) Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • “Rappacini’s Daughter” (1844) Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Evangeline (1847) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Daisy Miller (1878) Henry James
  • “A New England Nun” (1891) Mary Wilkins Freeman
  • “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” (1898) Stephen Crane
  • “The Blue Hotel (1899) Stephen Crane
  • “Roman Fever” (1934) Edith Wharton    
  • “Dime Novel” (Handout), “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” (1898) by Stephen Crane
  • My Antonia (1918) Willa Cather
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) Tennesse Williams
  • “A Rose for Emily” (1930) by William Faulkner
  • “Good Country People” (1955) by Flannery O’Connor     
  • “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” (1936) Ernest Hemingway
  • “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” in The Things They Carried (1990) 
  • Peyton Place (1957 film) Jerry Wald and Mark Robson

War: Departure, Initiation, and Return 

  • “Editha” (1905) by William Dean Howells
  • “On the Rainy River”, “Speaking of Courage”, “Notes”, “The Man I Killed” and “Ambush”  The Things They Carried (1990) by Tim O’Brien
  • “Killed at Resaca” (1891) and “Coup de Grace” (1914) Civil War Stories by Ambrose Bierce
  • “Return of the Private” (1891) by Hamlin Garland
  • “Soldier’s Home” and “Big Two-Hearted River” Part I and Part II” In Our Time (1925) by Ernest Hemingway
  • “A Way You’ll Never Be” (1933) The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
  • Excerpt from Saving Private Ryan (1999) Steven Spielberg
  • Our Watering Places, The Empty Sleeve at Newport, Veteran in a New Field (1865) by Winslow  Homer
  • Slaughter-House Five (1969) Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Outside Reading 

The Rise of David Levinsky (1917) Abraham Cahan
My Antonia (1918) Willa Cather 
Age of Innocence (1921) Edith Wharton
Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) Zora Neale Hurston
Jazz (1992) Toni Morrison

Tall Tales 

  • “Pecos Bill” (1988 video) Robin Williams
  • “Paul Bunyan” (1990 video) Jonathan Winters
  • “John Henry” (1992 video) Denzel Washington
  • “John Henry” (The Norton Anthology of African American Literature:  Audio Companion: “Work Songs/Secular Songs/Ballads” performed by Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry, 1958)
  • Swamp Angel (1994) Anne Issacs
  • “The Simpsons’ Tall Tales” (1990)

Assignments are posted on webcal://