American Literature

From: $98.00 / month for 8 months

Grades: 9th–12th

Live Class: Sec 1: Tues 12:30–1:30 p.m. ET

Sec 2: Tues 5:00–6:00 p.m. ET

Dates: August 24–Apr 29

Price: $699

Instructor: Susan Spivey

See Reviews of Instructor Susan Spivey


Course Description

This live online American Literature course is a college prep high school-level survey of American authors, poets, and essayists. On completion, students may earn college credit by taking the American Literature Clep Exam.

By taking a close look at the writer, as well as their work, students begin to develop a better understanding of how literature reflects both the person who wrote it, as well as the time period in which it was written. Students are provided with a variety of authors who helped describe the challenges, joys, and perseverance that went into the building of this nation. Literary genres and techniques are explained so the reading that follows makes sense, and students can begin to see patterns and then provide their own explanations of the meaning behind the stories they read. My goal is to make literature understandable and fun. Students are encouraged to ask question, offer comments, and find unique ways to respond to the works written by some of America’s well-known writers.

Course Structure

This is a 32-week course. Students will find all assigned work posted on our class Canvas page. Students will be given an assigned reading and related homework each week. When they attend our weekly live class, the work they read that week will be discussed. This offers students a chance to come to class prepared to engage with the teacher, as well as their fellow classmates, in analyzing that week’s selected reading. Twice a year, students will be given an opportunity to create a longer paper in response to their reading. Students will be able to choose the subject they would like to explore in this paper. On the weeks the larger paper is due, there is little or no other homework. Students can also expect to produce one creative project in this class related to something we have covered. Students in former classes have crafted art pieces, composed songs, performed skits, and built structures from wood in response to this assignment. Students find using their personal talents for this assignment makes it one of the highlights of the class. Students can expect to spend five to ten hours per week on this course.

Who should enroll?

Any student in grades 9 through 12 may take this course. There are no prerequisites.

Technology Requirements:

  • High speed, broadband Internet
  • Sound card and microphone (for live sessions)
  • Streaming video capabilities to watch recorded lectures

Evaluation and Feedback

Students can expect their homework to be evaluated and graded weekly. Since homework is due the day of our live class sessions, I try to have all homework graded before the next class. If the work is completed on time and questions are answered completely, full credit is normally awarded for the weekly assignments. For the larger papers, students should expect to have a grade and my comments back within two to three weeks. For the larger papers, I offer a deep evaluation of both style and content. Former students have said these evaluations have been most beneficial as they prepare for higher level writing in college. Students are welcome to communicate with me via email, and I usually respond with 24 hours.


Once a student registers for my class, they and their parent will receive an email welcoming them to American Literature. They will be added to the course and will be alerted when the Canvas page is open and they can begin their study of literature.

Course Syllabus

Class Sample: (edited to protect student privacy)



Required Texts

 Prentice Hall Literature: The American Experience, 2010 edition

  • ISBN-10: 0133666549
  • ISBN-13: 9780133666540

Any unabridged version of the following:

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

6 reviews for American Literature

  1. E.D. (British Literature Student)

    I took Mrs. Spivey’s 2017-2018 British Literature class, and I absolutely loved it! I have always been a lover of literature, but this class taught me so much more about poetry and novels. We read books from Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and, my personal favorite, Charles Dickens. We also had many exciting activities in this class. Over the year, we had two creative projects to complete. For my first project, I made my own Queen Elizabeth costume and recited the speech she gave before defeating the Spanish Armada, which was one of the pieces we read in the first semester. I had so much fun creating this project, and in every other part of this class. Mrs. Spivey is an amazing teacher, and she brings the literature we read to life. British Literature was my favorite class this year!

  2. R.S. (British Literature Student)

    British Literature has been a great class! Not only did I get to read many great pieces of British literature, I also learned a lot about the history of Western Europe. Mrs. Spivey has a very engaging teaching style; she does not only lecture, but also asks the students questions and invites discussion. In addition, she also explains literary interpretations of the pieces we discuss, clarifying their meaning.

    A specific example of a subject Mrs. Spivey enlightened me on was English metaphysical poetry. When I first read the poetry and prose of John Donne, Ben Jonson, and the other metaphysical poets, I did not contemplate the meaning behind the verses enough to realize the special characteristics of metaphysical poetry. However, after attending class, I understood metaphysical poetry far better, and even enjoyed rereading the poems!

    Not all of learning with Mrs. Spivey has been strictly academic. One of my favorite experiences in her class has been the creative project, in which I illustrated characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. While imagining them engaging in lively conversation as I read the book was entertaining, drawing them brought them to life in a way that I could not have done by reading.

    While usually the reading assignment is in the book, Mrs. Spivey also assigns books, plays, and online resources to read on occasion. In her class, I’ve had the opportunity to read many classics like the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Pride and Prejudice, Shakespeare, and Auguries of Innocence. Taking Mrs. Spivey’s British Literature class has taught me a lot, and surprised me sometimes with the prevalence of British literature references – ranging from ubiquitous Shakespeare to lesser-known authors like Elizabeth Barrett Browning – in everyday life. Whether reading newspapers or consuming pop culture, British literature is everywhere. I am very glad I chose to take this class and definitely feel like it has made me much more knowledgeable about British literature!

  3. G. Beaumont

    (Mrs. Spivey) has a vast knowledge of writing, is extremely friendly and kind, and super understanding. Not many teachers WANT their students to learn, they just want them to pass and be done with. I know she genuinely cared about how I did.

  4. E. C.

    I enjoyed reading many different kinds of writing from a wide array of authors and eras. I also enjoyed class discussion. Mrs. Spivey always made class time interesting and informative by providing direction where needed but also opening up time for discussion of our own perspectives and interpretations, allowing us to grow further.
    Mrs. Spivey is very passionate about what she teaches, which makes this course very fun. She asks engaging question and encourages the class to be readers that meditate on the works they read and analyze the contents. Mrs. Spivey is open to new perspectives form her students and never ignores or discounts a persons thoughts.
    This course taught me how to analyze a work of literature and form an extensive understanding of it. This course also gave many opportunities for practice of creating well-developed and detailed papers about a piece of literature. -American Literature Student

  5. Parent, PA

    Susan Spivey does an excellent job of instilling the love of learning and literature into her students. I have had two children participate in her English/Literature classes, and even though they enjoyed reading before, Susan was able to unlock areas of interpretation that allowed them both to understand more fully what the authors are attempting to convey. Her writing assignments challenged them to think deeply and put into their own words portions of specific text. Susan also challenges her students by assigning projects that may not be in their particular strength. For example: Not only do the students write, but some assignments may require them to perform a dramatization or an art project. She realizes that not all the students have the same strengths, but she motivates them to branch out and try something new. Susan also wants each of her students to succeed and encourages them to use whatever gifts or abilities they have to do their best. Thank you, Susan, for using Literature to help my children to mature and flourish.

    parent, PA

  6. J.S., PA

    Mrs. Spivey’s literature class challenged and equipped me for college in a way few other high school experiences did. The class, which I took at a homeschool co-op during my senior year, surveyed great Christian literature with a diverse and challenging reading list. Our class meetings were a chance for Mrs. Spivey to push her students to think critically about the material we read; she encouraged us to reevaluate our presuppositions and validated our thoughtful opinions, even when she didn’t share them. This open discussion stood in contrast to many high school classes that shielded authors from critique. Mrs. Spivey’s approach to in-class discussion helped prepare me for college literature and writing classes, where criticism of an author and their worldview is encouraged. Her love of literature was apparent in everything she did; from her enthusiasm in class to her warm invitations to continue discussions and reading outside of it, Mrs. Spivey was a hugely influential teacher who was instrumental in my decision to pursue English and writing as a part of my college and career.
    J.S. PA

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Instructor Bio

Susan Spivey

Susan Spivey is enthusiastic about sharing her love of literature with students and finds tremendous joy in teaching. Susan earned her MA in English from Arizona State University and her BS in Journalism from the University of Maryland. She worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for several years before starting her family. Susan also worked as a freelance writer for magazines and as a substitute teacher in public schools. She has taught English for many years and has been teaching for AIM Academy since 2015. When she is not reading a book, discussing a book, or teaching about books, you can find her in her garden, likely with a book nearby.

British Literature
American Literature
Christian Literature
American Literature (Minicourse)


All classes taught by Susan Spivey