American Literature Web Resources

Review of Perspectives in American Literature - A Research and Reference Guide (PAL) 12th Edition
Michael O'Conner, Millikin University

It should be stated without hesitation that Professor Paul Reuben's Perspectives in American Literature web pages are an invaluable resource to instructors of surveys of American Literature, along with their students. Perhaps no other site on the world wide web is more often cross-referenced and "linked to" from the thousands of other literary web pages than the PAL site. Reuben, a professor of literature at California State University at Stanislaus, has been constantly updating and revising the information found in these pages since 1979. The project went online over four years ago. This extensive site is now composed of 280 distinct web pages.

In one of his prefaces to the site, Reuben allows Dr. James P. Jensen, Professor Emeritus of English, to observe about The Guide :

This work is a carefully organized and knowledgeable compendium of sources, definitions, and key topics for use in connection with undergraduate courses in American Literature. Based on Professor Reuben's considerable experience in teaching and developing such courses, this is a useful and conveniently arranged vade mecum for either the experienced or new instructor and for the student.

The organizational strategy for the online guide is clear and succinct. It is divided into ten specific chapters, along with a set of appendixes, which can best be categorized as major perspectives and traditionally identified literary movements. Chronologically ordered, each chapter includes a selected bibliography and an introduction, then contains information on major and minor authors. The ten chapters are broken down much as sections from American literature survey textbooks are, for example: Chapter 1 Early American Literature to 1700, Chapter 3 Early Nineteenth Century and Romanticism, Chapter 5 Late Nineteenth Century and Realism and Chapter 7 Early Twentieth Century to 1945. These chapters take us up to the present and even cover the often neglected study of American drama.

The individual author pages within each chapter tend to include photographs or portraits, primary works of the writer and a selected bibliography of those works, commentary on the author's achievements and contributions, and a set of study questions often drawn from the Norton and Heath instructors guides. Hence, the study questions tend to focus on the most often anthologized works of each author.

The appendixes include discussions of Useful Resources for Research, Minorities and Women Studies, Various Comments on the American Novel, Writing Assignments, The Theme of Alienation and Initiation, Elements of Poetry, Elements of Fiction, Elements of Drama, The MLA Style, Research Topics, American Literary History & Theory, The Frontier in American Literature, Film Criticism and American Literature, and The Gothic and American Literature. Many of the appendixes are listings of general and secondary sources, while the Writing Assignments page lists multiple kinds of written assignments students may perform in survey courses, along with detailed directions for excelling in those projects. The three Elements appendixes include literary terms and definitions necessary for students to identify and explicate parts of a text.

Each and every web page ends nicely with an example of how to document the page, using the MLA style sheet. This reinforces the fact that Reuben's online information is indeed a secondary source and students should credit the author for his hard work and research. In addition, each of the web pages in the PAL site are searchable, allowing specific information in this vast project to be easily located in a minimum amount of time.

Finally, though the primary intended audience for these pages are probably introductory American literature students, or perhaps even advanced high school students, veteran instructors of American literature surveys would be well advised to direct their own students toward the accurate and valuable supplemental information found at Professor Reuben's PAL site. Newer instructors will also find plenty of ideas, suggestions, templates and recommendations for their own teaching. Reuben does the internet community a valuable service by supplying this growing body of information as "shareware" to all.

Major Reviews

These resources provided through Project CROW, the Associated Colleges of Illinois, and a generous grant from UPS.Last Updated: Apr 17 14:27:24 2000by Dr. Michael O'Conner, Millikin University.