Course Information and Policies

Course Website

The course website at the URL will be your central source for information about this course. (Note that orange text flags links on this site.) It will be updated throughout the semester, and information found there supercedes information on the syllabus handed out the first day of class.


Readings survey the impressive recent historical literature on American marriage, and also introduce you to a variety of primary sources, including divorce cases, advice literature, fiction and personal letters. Much of the material can be found through links within the schedule located on the course website. Texts posted through the library’s electronic reserve [ER] system can be accessed using the password “divorce.” The following required texts are available for purchase at the IU Bookstore. They can also be obtained easily and cheaply from other retailers.

  • Nancy F. Cott. Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000.
  • Hannah Webster Foster and Cathy N. Davidson. The Coquette. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
  • Renee Romano, Race Mixing: Black-White Marriage in Postwar America. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003.
  • Carole Shammas. A History of Household Government in America. Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 2002.

You will need to refer to these readings during our class meetings, and you should bring printed copies and your notes with you to class.

Assignments & Grades

Attendance is required. If you know you cannot come to all the class meetings, consider taking another course.

30% Participation / Weekly Discussion Posts Questions about the readings should be posted to OnCourse by noon on the day of class.
25% 3 short (3-4 page) papers Due in class, unless otherwise noted. The exercise for Feb. 2 will be required of everyone. The remaining two will respond to readings from two weeks of your choice.
10% Proposal and Annotated Bibliography for Research Paper

Topic Exercise: January 19

Proposal & Bib: February 23

10% Draft & Peer Review April 2 and April 6
25% Final research paper (12+ pages)

Final Paper May 4

This course is a seminar, and its success will depend in large part on your preparation outside of our formal class meetings. Evaluation will be based on your informed and regular participation in class discussion, and on writing assignments. There are no exams.

You will write three short papers (including 2 reading responses designed to foster in class discussion and 1 source evaluation), and a research paper that will require substantial and varied written work over the course of the semester (including a detailed proposal and bibliograpy, submission of a substantial draft, reviews of 3 of your classmates' papers, and a thoroughly revised final paper). The research paper may be on a course-related topic of your choice. You are strongly encouraged to build on the assigned materials, and you will be asked to review the entire course schedule and select a topic by the second week of the semester. You will need to turn in a formal proposal and annotated bibliography for the paper by February 23, and a draft by April 2. The proposal and draft will not be formally graded, but deductions will be taken from the final grade if these are poorly done or not submitted on time.

Please see assignment Evaluation Standards for more information on how grades will be determined.

Professional Conduct

My basic expectation in this course is that everyone will conduct themselves in a professional and collegial manner. Please assess your own actions according to standards that would apply in the work place. What would your boss think if you answered your cell phone, checked email, or skipped out in the middle of a business meeting? Or if you failed to show up?

Special Needs

Special needs may be created by disabilities, chronic illness, or religious requirements. Please come talk to me about them as soon as possible. The same is true for conflicts you know about ahead of time. It is easy to make arrangements ahead of time and hard to fix things afterwards.


Attendance at all classes is expected. Your presence in class is very important to the success of this seminar. When you miss a session, it is as if you skipped more than a full week in courses that meet more frequently. I will consider excusing absences only if you notify me in advance that:

  • You have an incapacitating, contagious illness. Upon recovery, I would appreciate evidence that you have gotten appropriate medical attention, although this will not be officially required this semester. I will be following university directives regarding the anticipated flu pandemic, and will announce accomodations as the need arises. Absences due to the flu (and sanctioned flu prevention measures) will be excused, but you must make arrangements to make up work.
  • You are facing a life altering emergency. When it becomes possible, you must bring a note from your dean attesting to the fact that you are getting help with this emergency.

Habitual lateness or absence will result in deductions from your final course grade, not just the participation component. After 2 absences, you will be docked a grade for each additional miss. You cannot pass this class without at least 60% attendance.

Bottom line: Let me know about difficulties as soon as they arise, and come see me to discuss solutions as soon as it becomes possible.

Academic Honesty

All of your academic work is expected to comply with Indiana University’s Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct. Be scrupulous in citing your sources in all your written work. All quotations, derivative ideas and uncommon facts must be duly cited. While I encourage conversations with other students about the course material, all of your written work must be the original product of your own research and thought. Plagiarism or copying will result in failure of and withdrawal from the class, and will become a permanent part of the student's transcript and academic record. For further guidance about avoiding plagiarism, see the College of Arts and Sciences web pages on Plagiarism: What it Is and How to Avoid It.