Senses of Place in American Literature

Professor: William Rossi
Institution: University of Oregon
Course Number: English 469/569

Winter 2007 

Professor William Rossi
363 PLC; 6‑3955
Office hrs: M 3-6

Senses of Place in American Literature

In this course we will explore the many ways American writers have represented senses of place‑‑and senses of being displaced‑‑in poetry, fiction, and non‑fiction from the mid-nineteenth century to the present.  Within the limitations of a ten-week quarter, we will examine these varying of senses of place in relation both to key literary historical movements and to particular geographical regions, giving due attention to selected ethnic groups and landscapes.


Required Texts

Wendell Berry, Fidelity: Five Stories (Pantheon, 1992).

Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (Random House, 1984)

William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (1940; Random House, 1990).

Barry Lopez, Vintage Lopez (Random House, 2004).

Bobbie Ann Mason, Shiloh and Other Stories (1982; Modern Library, 2001).

John Edgar Wideman, Philadelphia Fire (1990; Houghton Mifflin, 2005).

Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1997).



Three unexcused absences are permitted; thereafter final grades are lowered one-third letter grade for each absence.


Readings Schedule

BB= available on Blackboard; e-Res= available via E-Reserves


1/9 T: Introductions and course overview; key terms from The Dictionary of Human Geography,

4th ed. (2000) [handout]

1/11 Th: Edward Casey, “Implacement” and “Displacement” from Getting Back into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World (1993); and Barry Lopez, Introduction to Home Ground(2006) [BB]


1.  Romantic Implacement and Displacement

1/15 T: Wm Wordsworth,  “Tintern Abbey” (1798) and “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” (1807);   Dorothy Wordsworth, from Grasmere Journal (1802); John Clare, “The Passing          Traveller” (1820); Henry Thoreau, Spring” (from Walden, 1854) [BB]

1/17 Th: Walt Whitman, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (1855); Herman Melville, “Bartleby, the

Scrivener” (1853) [BB]


2. Regionalism, Ethnic Landscape, and Alienation

1/23  T: John W. Frazier, “Race, Ethnicity, and Place in a Changing America” (2006) Janice

Monk, “Gender in the Landscape” (1992); Barry Lopez, “Landscape

and Narrative”; Sarah Orne Jewett, “A White Heron” (1886), Willa Cather,

“Paul’s Case” (1905) [all of e-Res except Lopez]

1/25 Th: Rina Swentzell, “Conflicting Landscape Values: The Santa Clara Pueblo and


Day School”; Zelinsky, et. al. , “Seeing Beyond the Dominant

Landscape;” Zitkala-Sa, [Gertrude Simmons Bonnin] “Impressions

of an Indian Childhood,” “The School Days of an Indian Girl,” “An Indian

Teacher among Indians,” “Why I Am a Pagan” (1900-1901) [all on e-Res]

1/30 T: Bobbie Ann Mason, stories (1982): “Shiloh,” “The Rookers,” “Old Things”

2/1 Th: Mason, “Residents and Transients,” “Nancy Culpepper,” “A New-Wave Format”


3. Loss, Memory, and Resistance

2/6-8 TTh: William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses stories (1942): “The Old People,” “The

Bear,” “Delta Autumn”

2/13-15 TTh: Lopez, “American Geographies;” Wendell Berry, “Higher Education and

Home Defense” (1983) [handout]; Berry stories: “The Boundary” (1986) [BB] and         “Fidelity” (1992)  [note: only the title story of this collection is assigned]

2/20 T: Sandra Cisneros, House on Mango Street (1984)

Place/alternate essay description due


4. Imagining Globalizations

2/22 Th: Doreen Massey, Imagining Globalisation: Power-Geometries of Time-Space”

(1999); Paul Adams, “Mediascapes” (2002) [ e-Res];Barry Lopez, “Flight”

2/27-3/1 TTh:  John Edgar Wideman, Philadelphia Fire (1990)

Place Project oral presentations in class, beginning Thursday

3/6 T:  Place Project oral presentation

3/8 -13 ThT: Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange (1997)

3/15: Last things; Final Take-Home Essays distributed

Last day to turn in personal place/alternate essay

3/22: FINAL ESSAYS DUE by 9am in PLC 363


Written and Oral Graded Work

For 469 students, the graded work for the class will consist of one group-led discussion (10%) and response (5%), a short paper based on the group-discussion (15%); two short response papers (10% each); a personal place or additional literary studies essay (15%), described below; and a take‑home final essay examination (35%).  569 students will also participate in a group-led discussion (10%), write a short paper based on it (15%), and do the personal place or alternate essay (15%). In addition, they will compile an annotated bibliography and write a review of one or two books included therein (20%).  For their final essay grad students may either write a longer version of the take-home final or a comparable paper on a topic to be worked out in conference with me (35%).  Guidelines for group work, the short papers, annotated bibliography and book review will be distributed separately.


Personal Place Essay /Alternate Literary Analysis

During the term, each student will work independently on a 4-5 page essay that either explores his/her own sense of “place” or, building on approaches to place literature and issues in class, examines an additional literary work by a writer not included in our readings.  A two paragraph description of this essay–detailing your topic, rationale, and approach–is due no later than February 20.  Email is preferred, so that I can more readily return a response with suggestions.  This project will culminate in a brief (5 minute) oral description of your project during weeks 8 and 9 and the submission of your essay on or before March 15, our last class day.