English 117: Ethnic American Literature Spring 2009

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English 117 - Ethnic American Literature
Spring 2009

Instructor: Natasha Azank
Office: 462 Bartlett Hall
Office Hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays 12:00-1:00
Email: ude.ssamu.hsilgne|knazan#ahsataN

Required Course Materials

Imagining America: Stories from the Promised Land – Edited by Wesley Brown and Amy Ling (B&L)
Silent Dancing: Partial Remembrances of a Puerto Rican Childhood– Judith Ortiz Cofer
Passing – Nella Larsen
F.O.B. and the House of Sleeping Beauties – David Henry Hwang

The books for this course (except the course packet) have been ordered and are available at: Amherst Books - 8 Main Street Amherst, MA; www.amherstbooks.com

Ordering the Course Packet:

The course packet must be ordered online from University Readers at
www.universityreaders.com. The course pack price is $22.00, and includes materials that we will use in class on a regular basis, so you should purchase your own copy. Also, please keep in mind that our institution adheres to copyright law, so any
copyrighted material should not be copied or duplicated in any manner.

To purchase the course pack, please follow the instructions below:

Step 1: Log on to www.universityreaders.com.
Step 2: Click on the white "STUDENTS BUY HERE" button located in the
"Student Store" section (upper right-hand corner of the page).
Step 3: Create an account or log in if you have an existing account to purchase
Step 4: Easy-to-follow instructions will guide you through the rest of
the ordering process.

Payment can be made by all major credit cards or with an electronic check. If you experience any difficulties, please email moc.sredaerytisrevinu|sredro#moc.sredaerytisrevinu|sredro or call 800.200.3908.

Course Description:

It can be argued that ethnic American writing (and identities) often reflect a “borderlands” reality, or what Gloria Anzaldua calls “a constant state of transition”. In this course, we will examine texts from several genres (novels, short stories, plays) by American writers from ethnically identified groups (e.g., Native American, African American, US Latino/a, Asian American, Italian American) in order to formulate a diverse view of the representations and constructions of various American identities in ethnic American literature ranging from the 19th century to the present day. How do race and ethnicity, as well as this fluid sense of identity shape and complicate the depictions of men and women as mothers, fathers, siblings, friends and lovers in this literature? To what extent do these authors sustain, subvert, or dismantle the dominant American stories or cultural myths that often define us in rigid and oppositional terms?

We will consider several themes at work in these texts, such as generational conflicts, the legacy of enslavement and genocide, language as central to identity, assimilation versus the struggle to retain one’s cultural heritage, and the complex interplay of race, ethnicity, gender, and class. With close attention to each text’s cultural and historical contexts, as well as their artistic and formal aspects, we will examine the ways in which ethnic American writers both contest the central paradigms that have dominated American literature and also expand notions of American identity.

Course Format

This course will be a combination of both lecture and discussion, with a larger emphasis
on class discussion. To do well in this course, you must be present (in both mind and body), prepared (always have the assigned reading for the day) and ready to share your ideas. Participation is a vital component of this class (as well as 10% of your total grade) and includes the following: an appropriate balance of talking and listening; a willingness to take risks in formulating questions, observations and interpretations; and active involvement in learning. (i.e., careful, analytical reading of all texts by assigned due dates as well as thorough note-taking). I expect that you will treat other members of the class with respect and that you will be open with your opinions. I would like to foster a “safe environment” in our classroom, where you will feel comfortable voicing your opinions and ideas, as well as respecting those of your peers.


There is a Spark site associated with this course where you will find the syllabus and schedule of class meetings, as well as pertinent information for the course here. There is also an open discussion forum where students can talk further about ideas and issues from class and pose questions to one another. Please log on to Spark and familiarize yourself with the course site as soon as possible. To log-in to Spark, go to: http://www.oit.umass.edu/lms/index.html
Enter your OIT username and password (the same as your Umail accout), then click on English 117: Ethnic American Literature

Attendance Policy

It is mandatory that you attend class. If you miss a class, you are responsible for contacting another member of the class for all material covered, all assignments distributed, and all assignments due. You are allowed two unexcused absences, i.e., class cuts. Students are never penalized for missing class due to an excused absence. Excused absences are doctor/dental appointments, court appearances, car wrecks, documented illnesses (notes required), religious holidays, and grievous life events (the death of a friend or family member). Please notify me via email in advance if such absences become necessary for you during the semester. Students with more than two absences per semester will have their final grade lowered one half letter grade (from a B to a B- for example). If you have more than four absences, I will either ask you to withdraw from the class (if the deadline has not yet passed) or you will fail the course. All students are expected to come to class on time. It is likely that I will make important announcements at the beginning of class regarding paper due dates, changes to the syllabus, etc. Excessive tardiness will count as absences.

Cell Phone & Laptop Policy: Please turn your phones off before you come into the classroom. This means all ringers and voice mail indicators as well. Laptop-use is not permitted during class – please bring pen and paper to take notes.

Exams and Grading Criteria
Participation/Presentation – 20%
Weekly writing responses – 20%
Midterm – 20%
Literary Analysis Paper (5-7 pgs) – 20%
Final Exam – 20%

Weekly Writing Responses [20% of Final Grade]
Beginning in week two of the course (2/3) and continuing throughout the semester, there will be in-class writing assignments in response to some aspect of that week’s reading. Students are expected to write a thoughtful, coherent, and organized 2-3 paragraph response that uses textual evidence to make its points, which means you will need to bring the day’s reading with you to every class. Responses will be done at the beginning of class, so please arrive on time. If you are absent, you cannot make up missed writing assignments. The purpose of this weekly exercise is to get all students in the course into the habit of thinking through writing, as well as to practice the use of textual evidence, analysis and interpretation in preparation for the 5-7 pp. paper due on Tuesday, March 24th.

Midterm Examination [20% of Final Grade]
The midterm examination will consist of short passage identification from the texts in which you will identify the author and title of the work, and 2 short essay questions, in which you will identify and analyze the work in terms of major themes, imagery, and relevant concepts to the class. It will be held during class on Tuesday, March 10th.

Literary Analysis Essay [20% of Final Grade]
You will be asked to compose an original, well conceived and well organized analytical essay on one or more texts from the course, drawing on interpretation and analysis of the text to fully explicate your argument. Paper topics will be distributed. This essay will be DUE in class on Tuesday, March 24th.

Final Examination [20% of Final Grade]
Similar to the midterm, the final will consist of short passage identification from the texts after the midterm, and one essay question, which will require you to choose two texts (from a list provided in the question) to illustrate how they represent a particular theme or concept in terms of ethnic American literature. The final exam will be given in class on Tuesday, May 12th.

Participation & Presentation [20% of Final Grade]

Students are expected to be active and engaged participants in class discussions. One of the most compelling kinds of learning you will do at this university is to engage in intellectual discussions with your peers and instructors. Your participation grade will be composed of attendance and the level and quality of your participation in discussions.

Presentations: Each week there will be a group presentation on a specific author and text by three members of the class (one group will consist of 2 people due to the odd number of students in the class). Your presentation should include biographical information on the author, major themes/issues in the text, and discussion questions for the class. The format of the presentation is open-ended and I encourage you to be creative: you may do a power-point presentation, make handouts, create a game, show short interviews or video clips (that are relevant to your topic), etc. Students will sign up for presentation topics the second week of class and should plan to meet with their group members at least once outside of class.

Paper Format
Papers must be typed, using 12 point Times New Roman font and one-inch margins all around. The literary analysis paper should be 5-7 pages in length, with a works cited page done according to MLA guidelines. All work must have your name, date, course number, page numbers, and a title. Please staple all papers. For your own protection, remember to keep a copy of all work turned in (a hard copy, on your Udrive or flash drive, or both).

I expect that you hand in the paper on the day it is due. If you are absent on a day that a paper is due, you are responsible for getting your paper to me (either in my office or my mailbox on the 4th floor of Bartlett). Please do not email your paper. Papers handed in late will be dropped by a full letter grade for each class day it is late. For example, if you hand in a “B” paper on Friday when it was due on Wednesday, you will receive a “C” on the paper.

Writing Center

Staffed by trained undergraduate and graduate students in English, the Writing Center is a place where you can find free tutorial sessions for your writing assignments. They can help with you at any stage of your writing process, from brainstorming, to organizing and revising. They cannot provide you with line-by-line copy-editing, but can discuss grammar issues and trouble areas, and suggest changes for revision. The center is located in the Learning Commons (basement floor) of the Library.

English 117: Ethnic American Literature
*Schedule of Class Meetings*

Week 1 – Introduction to Ethnic American Literature

January 27 (Tues) Course Overview & Introduction
January 29 (Th) Reading: Emma Lazarus - “The New Colossus” (CP); Sandra Maria Esteves -“Here” (CP)

Week 2 – African Americans: The Legacy of Slavery

February 3 (Tues) Reading: Phillis Wheatley – “On Being Brought…” (CP); Frances Harper – “The Slave Mother” (CP)
February 5 (Th) Reading: Paul Lawrence Dunbar, “We Wear the Mask” (CP); W.E.B. DuBois, from The Souls of Black Folk (Spark)

Week 3 – Native Americans and Forced Assimilation

February 10 (Tues) Reading: Zitkala-Sa – “The School Days of an Indian Girl” (Spark)
February 12 (Th) Reading: Leslie Marmon Silko – “The Man to Send Rain
Clouds”(B&L); Louise Erdrich – “American Horse” (B&L)

Week 4 – Crossing Borders: Latino/as in the United States

February 17 (Tues) Reading: Gloria Anzaldua, from Borderlands (CP); Nash Candelaria – “El Patron” (B&L)
February 19 (Thurs) Reading: Nicholasa Mohr – “The English Lesson” (B&L);
Tato Laviera – “AmerRican” (CP); Martin Espada (CP)

Week 5 – Coming of Age with the American Dream

February 24 (Tues) Reading: Judith Ortiz Cofer – Silent Dancing
February 26 (Th) Reading: Silent Dancing…(con’t)

Week 6 – The Problem of the Color-Line: Lynching in America

March 3 (Tues) Reading: James Baldwin, “Going to Meet the Man”; Claude
McKay, “The Lynching”; Billy Holiday and Abel Meerpol - “Strange Fruit” (all in CP)
March 5 (Th) Reading: Langston Hughes, “Little Klanny” (CP); Midterm Review

Week 7

March 10 (Tues) MIDTERM
March 12 (Th) NO CLASS

Week 8 – 3/16-3/22 SPRING BREAK

Week 9 – Liminal Spaces: Race, Gender, and Sexuality during the Harlem Renaissance

March 24 (Tues) Reading: Nella Larsen - Passing
March 26 (Th) Reading: Passing (con’t)

Week 10 – Regeneration Through Violence: Rodney King and the L.A. Riots

March 31 (Tues) Literary Analysis Paper Due
Reading: “Making Systems of Privilege Visible” (CP)
Film Showing: Twilight: Los Angeles

April 2 (Th) Reading: Famous Trials, L.A. Police Officers’ Trials

Film Showing: Twilight: Los Angeles

Week 11 – Imprisoned and Interned: Asian American Experiences in the U.S.

April 7 (Tues) Reading: David Henry Hwang – F.O.B.
April 9 (Th) Reading: F.O.B (con’t)

Week 12 – The Arab-American Experience in the U.S.

April 14 (Tues) Reading: Bharati Mukerjee – “A Wife’s Story”; Tahira Naqvi – “Thank God for the Jews” (B&L)
April 16 (Th) Reading: Gregory Orfalea – “The Chandelier” (B&L); Mikail Naimy – “His Grace” (B&L)

Week 13 - Current Events: Race & Politics in the 21st Century

April 23 (Th) Reading: Reading: Beverly Tatum “Defining Racism: Can We Talk?” (CP)
Film Showing: TBA

Week 14 – Challenges to Assimilation

April 28 (Tues) Reading: Alejandro Portes “English-Only Triumphs, But the Costs Are High” (CP); Naomi Ayala – “A Coqui in Nueva York”
April 30 (Th) Reading: Gish Jen – “In the American Society”(B&L); Hisaye Yamamota – “Seventeen Syllables” (B&L)

Week 15 – What is “American”?

May 5 (Tues) Reading: Amy Tan – “Mother Tongue” (CP); Edwidge Danticat – “Women Like Us” (CP)

May 7 (Th) Final Exam Review; Course Evaluations

Week 16 – Final Exam

May 12 (Tues) FINAL EXAM (in class)

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