WRA-195H: “Writing: Major Topics of American Thought”

Spring Semester, 2005; Section 005

Course Title: “The Story of Adventure in American Culture”

Course Location: C101 Wonders Hall

Course Time: TU TH—10:20-12:10

Instructor: Professor Gary Hoppenstand

Office 258 Bessey Hall

Office Hours: TU TH 8:00 to 10:00 a.m., or by appointment

Office Phone: 432-1533

Office Email: hoppens2@msu.edu


“For this is the marrowbone of every American adventure story: some men with guns, going somewhere, to do something dangerous. Whether it be to scout a continent in a covered wagon, to weld the Union in a screaming Wilderness, to save the world for democracy, to vault seas and rip up jungles by the roots and sow our seed and flag and spirit, this has ever been the essence of our melodrama: some men with guns, going somewhere, to do something dangerous.”

                              --from Bless the Beasts & Children

                                                by Glendon Swarthout

Course Philosophy:

Tier I writing courses, including WRA-195H, are designed to improve students’ ability to read carefully and critically; to collect, analyze, and share information; and to develop arguments and present ideas to others in clear, effective, and persuasive prose in a variety of genres. Analysis of verbal and visual texts (such as film and television) helps students develop their knowledge of cultural heritages of the United States and the larger global community, regarding such topics as public issues and the principles of effective writing.


The overall goal of Tier I writing is to prepare students for the kinds of writing they will be called upon to produce academically, professionally, personally, and publicly.


In this course, students receive instruction and practice in drafting, editing, revising, and completing papers of various lengths, based on sources that challenge them to seek new information and to reflect upon its relevance to their own observations and experiences. Necessarily, This class is a reading course as much as it is a writing course, and these two activities tend to permeate each other. Ultimately, this course emphasizes critical thinking, as students learn to question and connect, to analyze and synthesize.


Writing is the key component of a student’s intellectual endeavor and is inherently linked to other aspects of comprehension and communication, such as reading, listening, thinking, and speaking about specific subjects. The important goal of Tier I writing is to prepare students for the kinds of writing they will be called upon to produce in the academy, in their professional and business lives, and as citizens of a democracy.


In Tier I writing, students will receive instruction and practice in conceiving, drafting, revising, and completing papers of various lengths (from a paragraph to an essay ten pages in length), based upon sources that challenge them to seek new information and to reflect upon its relevance to their own observations and life experiences.


Students in Tier I writing courses will receive specific instructions in the following skills in connection with their writing in and out of class:


·         reading, discussing, and analyzing cultural texts of various types

·         generating ideas for essays

·         defining an audience

·         creating a thesis and argument

·         organizing information and weighing evidence

·         composing and revising through multiple drafts

·         using handbooks and editing for standard usage

·         researching library and other sources of information

·         writing from sources, and learning how to incorporate these sources into a text via     documentation

·        writing essay examinations


This class requires a writing text/handbook to help focus and complement classroom instruction. Students will be expected to produce a minimum of 6,000 words of instructor-evaluated writing during the semester. This requirement will be distributed over a minimum of five separate major writing assignments. These assignments will take the form of three polished essays, one research essay, and one essay final exam. The 6000-word requirement does not include in-class writing assignments, or early drafts of polished essays.


Course Topic:

 The specific content for this WRA-195H class is “The Story of Adventure in American Culture,” which will involve an American Studies approach in examining the mythic archetypes and iconic symbols of the popular adventure narrative in print and film, from the nineteenth century to the present day.


Course Texts (required):

 Obtain these texts in only the editions listed, as follows--


1) A Writers Reference by Diana Hacker. Bedford/St. Martin

2) Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. Modern Library.

3) King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard. Modern Library.

4) The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. Modern Library.

5) The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle. Modern Library.

6) The Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy by Francis Stevens. Bison Books.

7) College-Level Dictionary and Thesaurus.


Course Evaluation:

1. Three Polished Essays                      45%

2. Research Essay                                20%

3. Final Exam Essay                              15%

4. Class Presentations                           5%

5. Reading Quizzes                               10 %

6. Attendance                                       5%_________

                                    TOTAL:            100%

 1. Three Polished Essays: The three polished essays will involve critical reading, writing, drafting, thesis development, and organizing skills. They will be approximately 1,000 words in length each, for a total of 3,000 words of polished, instructor-evaluated writing. Every essay must be typed. For each day that a paper is late, it will be penalized one grade level (e.g. a 4.0 paper will receive a 3.5 if it is a day late; a 3.0 if it is two dates late; a 2.5 if it is three days late; and so on). No essays will be accepted electronically. Papers must be turned in at the start of the class period they are due, or else they will be counted one day late. No exceptions. Unless a student produces a verifiable medical or professional reason as to why a paper is turned in late, then the grade penalty will be automatically deducted. No exceptions.


The class period before the polished essay is due will involve a “writing workshop” session. During this writing workshop, students will be asked to edit and evaluate fellow students’ papers. A writing workshop checklist will be provided at the start of the semester that will outline how each student should conduct his or her editing session. This checklist is an important document and must be kept by the student for the entire semester. At the start of the writing workshop period, each student must present to the instructor a completed draft of the paper (that is typed, stapled, and contains an essay title). If this draft copy is not turned in at the start of the writing workshop session, then the final polished essay grade will be reduced one level. No exceptions.


2. Research Essay: The research essay will involve your own analysis of class themes and concepts. It must be a minimum of 2,000 words in length (typed, double-spaced, one-inch margins, 12 point-Times New Roman font, MLA citation format), and it will be due the last day of class. You must include a minimum of eight secondary sources in your research essay, only half of which may be from the internet.


3. Final Exam: The final exam will involve several essay questions about course concepts and topics that will require substantial written responses. It will be given during the final exam period, as noted at the end of this syllabus, and you will write no less than 1,000 words. The final exam will be comprehensive, covering material from the entire semester.


4. Class Presentations: At the beginning of the semester, students in the class will be divided into four smaller groups. Each group will be asked to offer a class presentation on an assigned novel. Each class presentation will be at least one half hour in length, and must cover the following subjects: 1) the life of the author of the novel; 2) a discussion of the novel’s setting; 3) a discussion of the major and minor characters of the novel; 4) a discussion of the novel’s plot; and 5) an analysis of the major adventure themes of the novel. The use of media (such as handouts and videos) will be encouraged during the group presentation. Each group will submit a typed report of the group’s work at the time of their presentation that outlines the specific contributions of each group member. The grade evaluation for the group will be what each member of that group receives.


5. Reading Quizzes: Five short reading quizzes will be given during the semester, one reading quiz for each novel assigned for class. These quizzes will be short (ten sentences in length) and will cover the major characters, settings, and plots of each novel. A quiz will be given at the start of the class period for which the reading of a novel is due. Students will be able to drop their lowest quiz score. If a student is absent and does not take a quiz on a given date, then this will be the quiz dropped. No “make-ups” will be given for missed quizzes.


6) Attendance: The attendance portion of your grade will be evaluated as follows—

 0 absences                   4.0

1 absence                     3.5

2 absences                   3.0

3 absences                   2.5

4 absences                   2.0

5 absences                   1.5

6 absences                   1.0

7 or more absences      0.0


Students who arrive to class more than ten minutes late or leave class before it is dismissed will be counted as absent for that day. No exceptions.


Students will also be expected to participate fully in class discussions.


Course Grading Scale:

 All grades received for the major course assignments will be calculated as follows—


93-100                           4.0

88-92                             3.5

83-87                             3.0

78-82                             2.5

73-77                             2.0

68-72                             1.5

60-67                             1.0

0-59                               0.0


Informal in-class writing will be evaluated differently from the major course requirements. An in-class writing assignment that is completed to the instructor’s satisfaction will receive a check mark, An in-class writing assignment that is completed, but not to the instructor’s satisfaction, will receive a check-minus mark. An in-class writing assignment that exceeds the instructor’s expectations will receive a check-plus mark, and will count as an extra-credit point for the course. If a student has earned at least two extra-credit points during the semester, and if the student’s final grade for the class is within one number of the next highest grade level (an overall 92/100 average, for example), then the next highest grade will be given (a 93/100 overall average) as the final course grade.


Course Expectations (a.k.a. “The Ten Commandments of Courtesy”:

 1)      Turn cell phones off before class begins. It is extremely rude for fellow classmates and your instructor to be disturbed during class by your ringing cell phone.

2)      The day you turn in a draft of your polished essay, remember to have it stapled or paper-clipped before you turn it in. It is your responsibility to prepare your paper in the proper fashion before you submit it.

3)      Turn in your polished essay at the start of the period, when your instructor asks for it. If you turn in your paper after class starts, it will be counted as one-day late. No exceptions.

4)      You must submit a complete draft of your polished essay at the start of a writing workshop period. This draft must be typed, stabled, and have a complete title. If you do not provide your instructor with a copy of your completed essay draft, then your final polished essay grade will be reduced by one level (e.g. from a 3.5 to a 3.0). Thus, you must bring two copies of your completed draft essay at the start of the writing workshop session, one for the instructor and one for the workshop session.

5)      Show the same courtesy to your classmates during a discussion period or a presentation that you would expect in return.

6)      Knowing the course expectations regarding attendance or late paper assignments, do not ask for exemptions, unless you can produce a verifiable medical or professional reason for doing so.

7)      No writing assignments will be accepted electronically, either by email or by email attachments.

8)      Remember to bring paper and something to write with to class everyday.

9)      Remember to bring your dictionary and thesaurus to class every day.

10)  You must bring your textbook (novel) to class during the time it is discussed.


Special Needs: If you are a student with a learning challenge or special needs, please see the instructor.


Disruptive Behavior: Disruptive behavior of any kind will not be tolerated in this classroom—this means talking during the instructor’s lecture, studying or completing assignments for other courses during class time, sleeping, bothering other students, or inhibiting the learning process in any way.


Course Schedule:


1)      Class readings are due on the days they are listed in the following schedule.

2)      The course schedule may be altered at the instructor’s discretion.

3)      Full production details of the films viewed for this class can be found at the International Movie Database website (at www.imdb.com). Students are expected to print their own copies of the cast lists, featuring the major character names, of each film covered in class, and keep them on file in their notebooks.


WEEK ONE======================================================


Tuesday, January 11

            --Discuss course requirements and expectations


Thursday, January 13

            --Diagnostic in-class writing assignment

--Discussion of writing expectations for polished essays and in-class writing assignments

            --Discussion of the cultural and historical contexts of the adventure story


WEEK TWO======================================================


“Castaways and the Origins of Adventure”


Tuesday, January 18

            --Begin viewing the film, Castaway


Thursday, January 20

            --Conclude viewing the film, Castaway

            --Discussion of Castaway, Daniel Defoe, and the origin of the adventure story

            --First Polished Essay is assigned


WEEK THREE====================================================


“Jules Verne and the Extraordinary Voyage”


Tuesday, January 25

            --Begin viewing the film, Atlantis


Thursday, January 27

            --Conclude viewing the film, Atlantis

            --Discussion of the film, Atlantis, and Jules Verne


WEEK FOUR=====================================================


Tuesday, February 1

            --Quiz #1 on Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth

            --Group #1 Class Presentation on Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth


Thursday, February 3

--Writing Workshop for First Polished Essay. Two typed copies of completed first draft of the First Polished Essay is due


WEEK FIVE======================================================


Tuesday, February 8


            --First Polished Essay is due

            --Second Polished Essay is assigned


Thursday, February 10

            --Individual Student Conferences (to be conducted at the instructor’s office)


WEEK SIX=======================================================


Tuesday, February 15

            --Individual Student Conferences (to be conducted at the instructor’s office)


“H. Rider Haggard and the Tomb Raider Adventure”


Thursday, February 17

            --Begin viewing the film, Raiders of the Lost Ark


WEEK SEVEN====================================================


Tuesday, February 22

--Conclude viewing the film, Raiders of the Lost Ark

            --Discussion of the film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and H. Rider Haggard


Thursday, February 24

            --Quiz #2 on Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines

            --Group #2 Class Presentation on Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines                  


WEEK EIGHT====================================================


Tuesday, March 1

--Writing Workshop for Second Polished Essay. Two typed copies of completed first draft of the Second Polished Essay is due


Thursday, March 3

            --Second Polished Essay is due

            --Third Polished Essay is assigned


WEEK NINE======================================================


Tuesday, March 8

            --Spring Break



Thursday, March 10

            --Spring Break


WEEK TEN======================================================


“Arthur Conan Doyle and the Lost World Romance”


Tuesday, March 15

--Begin viewing the film, Jurassic Park  


Thursday, March 17

                            --Conclude viewing the film, Jurassic Park

                        --Discussion of film, Jurassic Park, and Arthur Conan Doyle


WEEK ELEVEN===================================================


Tuesday, March 22

            --Quiz #3 on Doyle’s The Lost World

            --Group #3 Class Presentation on Doyle’s   The Lost World


Thursday, March 24

--Writing Workshop for Third Polished Essay. Two typed copies of completed first draft of the Third Polished Essay is due


WEEK TWELVE==================================================



Tuesday, March 29

            --Third Polished Essay is due

            --Research Essay is assigned


“The Anti-Adventure”


Thursday, March 31

            Begin viewing the film, Lost Horizon


WEEK THIRTEEN=================================================


Tuesday, April 5

            Conclude viewing the film, Lost Horizon

            Discussion of the film, Lost Horizon, and H.G. Wells


Thursday, April 7

            --Quiz #4 on Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau

            --Group #4 Class Presentation on Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau


WEEK FOURTEEN=================================================


Tuesday, April 12

            --MSU Library Exercise: finding sources at the library


Thursday, April 14

            --Research Essay Works Cited assignment


WEEK FIFTEEN===================================================


Tuesday April 19

--Quiz #5 on Stevens’ “The Nightmare” and “Sunfire” from The Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy


Thursday, April 21

-- Research Essay Formal Outline and Abstract assignments


WEEK SIXTEEN==================================================


Tuesday, April 26

            --Writing workshop for Research Essay.

-- Two typed copies of completed first draft of Research Essay is due


Thursday, April 28

            --Last day of class for the semester

            --Research Essay due


FINAL EXAM: The Final Exam will be held in the regular classroom (C101 Wonders Hall) on Thursday, May 5, from 10 a.m. to 12 Noon.