M A I N * L I N K S


SUNY Fredonia
Division of Arts and Humanities
AMST/ENGL 296: American Identities
Spring 2009
Section 1: TTh 8-9:20 am, Fenton 159
Office: Fenton 265; M 10-4, TTh 4-5, W 1-3, and by appointment; 673-3856
E-mail: simon@fredonia.edu (during working hours); brucesimon18@yahoo.com (evenings and weekends)
Web Site: www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/
Course ANGEL Site: https://fredonia.sln.suny.edu/frames.aspx


About the Course Web Pages

This web site is designed to help you get as much out of this course as possible--you can use it to find out how your work will be assessed, what assignments are due and when, how to use the course ANGEL site, and how to use the world-wide web for research, among other things. Please get in the habit of checking back to these pages to keep track of changes to the syllabus and advice on assignments, as well as to surf the ever-expanding list of links to interesting web pages related to the course. And please contact me anytime (see above for my coordinates) if you have ideas about how to improve these pages or the course as a whole.

I. Course Description

An exploration of the historical construction of American gender, ethnicity/race, and class; their present status; and their literary and cultural representations. Focusing on intersections between these categories of identity, the course will utilize an interdisciplinary approach, integrating materials from fields such as literary studies, history, women's studies, ethnic studies, geography, sociology, music, and art.

This section of AMST/ENGL 296 uses the problematic of borders--their construction, maintenance, negotiation, crossing, dismantling, and so on--to approach relations between national and personal, local, regional, and transnational identities, on the one hand, and, on the other, between nation and gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion, sexuality, and language.

ENGL 296 is an elective for students in the English and English Adolescence Education majors while AMST 296 is a required course for the American Studies major and minor; AMST/ENGL 296 satisfies Parts 8B and 11 of the College Core Curriculum (CCC).

II. Rationale

In AMST/ENGL 296, as in most courses offered by the English Department, students from a range of majors, minors, and concentrations interact, and the goals of the professional programs are integrated with specific course and CCC goals. Achieving these goals (described in Section IV below) will require us to foster academic skills and intellectual habits of reading closely and carefully, thinking critically and creatively, listening actively and attentively, speaking thoughtfully and concisely, and writing clearly and analytically--skills and habits useful to everyone, but of particular importance to future teachers.

III. Texts. There are eight books in the campus bookstore for you to purchase:

IV. Course Objectives and Outcomes

Courses in Part 8B of the CCC are designed to provide insight into particular histories and cultures of American experience; awareness of multiple American cultures, subcultures, and values; recognition of the existence of multiple world-views and how they influence the recording of American history and interpretations of Americanness; and discussion of the concept of American identity and analysis of its repercussions on other cultures. Courses in Part 11 of the CCC are designed to give students the opportunity to conduct research, evaluate information, and develop and support sound arguments; develop proficiency in oral discourse across a variety of speaking genres and in academic, civic, and work contexts; and evaluate an oral presentation according to established criteria. To achieve these goals, students will

V. Instructional Methods and Activities

The methods used in the classroom will include lecture, in-class writing, guided discovery, open discussion, various kinds of cooperative group work, and other critical thinking-oriented activities.

VI. Evaluation and Grade Assignment

A. Methods

Attendance/Preparation/Participation (15%). Regular attendance and thoughtful participation are crucial to your enjoyment of and success in this course. If there is absolutely no way for you to avoid missing a class, please contact me ahead of time or soon after your absence, preferably by email. More important than showing up on time, of course, is coming to class prepared and focused. I expect you to read what has been assigned for a given date at least once (and preferably more than that!) by the time we begin to discuss it in class, and to familiarize yourself with and think about the postings on the course ANGEL site's discussion board and on American Identities, the course blog (described below and in Section VIIIB). This is a discussion rather than a lecture course, after all; although I will provide some context for and interpretations of our reading, the bulk of class time will be spent in small- or large-group discussions and activities. Since it's difficult to make good contributions to discussions about a literary work or historical study if you haven't read it carefully or thought about it extensively, how well you budget your time outside of class will to a large degree determine how well you do in this class in general and how well you do on this portion of your course grade in particular.

Your grade for this segment of the course will be based on a combination of your attendance and your preparation/participation in class and on the course ANGEL site and/or blog. As there are no exams in this course, think of my evaluation of your preparation/participation as a different but equally important method of assessing your overall performance and improvement in the course. The quality of your online participation and preparation for your written and oral assignments will be factored into this grade. Due to the reliance on attendance of many aspects of preparation and participation, more than two unexcused absences will hurt your preparation/participation/team work grade and each non-emergency absence after the fourth will lower your final course grade by one grade (e.g., with five such absences, a B+ will become a C+; with six, it will become a D+).

Online Participation (15%). Detailed instructions for using the course ANGEL site (fredonia.sln.suny.edu/frames.aspx) are given below (see Section VIIIB) and will be discussed in class. We will be using the site to distribute announcements, provide research and other resources, and collect certain assignments, so be in the habit of checking it regularly. To supplement and prepare for our class discussions and activities, as well as continue them after the end of class, I have created a discussion board on our course ANGEL space. You should use it to develop your writing and critical thinking skills, demonstrate your engagement with the course material, and consider and respond to others' ideas and interpretations. For instance, you can, among other things,

Over the course of the semester, I will keep track of the timing, amount, and quality of your posts to the discussion board, including the quality of the ensuing online discussions initiated by them; 0-4 posts will earn you a zero, 5-9 posts an F, 10-14 a D, 15-19 a C, 20-24 a B, and 25+ an A on this segment of your final grade. Posts to American Identities, the course blog, will be added to your total (how much depends on their quality). For further information on the course ANGEL space's discussion board and the course blog, including more specific requirements and extensive advice, go to www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/ai2/op.htm.

Discussion-Leading Project (20%). I will provide detailed information on the 10-to-30-minute discussion-leading project on the course web site at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/ai2/dlp.htm.

Identification Project (30%). I will provide detailed information on the identification project on the course web site at www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/ai2/ip.htm.

Oral Learning Analysis (20%). I will provide detailed information on this 5-minute individual presentation on the course web site at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/ai2/ola.htm.

B. Grading. All work during the semester will be graded on a letter basis (A=outstanding, B=good, C=average, D=bad, F=awful) and converted into a number for purposes of calculating final grades. I use the following conversion system (the number in parentheses is the "typical" or "normal" conversion, but any number in the range may be assigned to a given letter grade):

A+=97-100 (98); A=93-96.99 (95); A-=90-92.99 (91); B+=87-89.99 (88); B=83-86.99 (85); B-=80-82.99 (81); C+=77-79.99 (78); C=73-76.99 (75); C-=70-72.99 (71); D+=67-69.99 (68); D=63-66.99 (65); D-=60-62.99 (61); F=0-59.99 (55)

Your final grade is determined by converting the weighted numerical average of the above assignments into a letter grade, according to the above scale.

C. Portfolio. English and English Adolescence Education majors should be aware of the English department's guidelines for ongoing portfolio submissions.

VII. Bibliography.

A. Contemporary References

B. Classic References

C. Key Journals



VIII. Course Schedule and Policies

A. Tentative Course Schedule. The following course schedule is subject to revision--please refer here regularly for updates to this schedule, as well as to the course ANGEL site for notes on the texts and suggestions for further reading. It's expected that you'll make use of the links page to prepare for class discussion. In class, we'll largely be focusing on interpretive, comparative, and evaluative issues, guided by previous online and in-class discussion topics. Please recall that you need to submit 25 original posts to the ANGEL discussion board to earn an A for the online participation segment of your final grade (see Section VI). (Key: BB=Beyond Borders; KACS=Keywords for American Cultural Studies.)

Constructing American Borders


T 1/27 introductions; set-up
Th 1/29 Hua Hsa, "The End of White America?" and Marc Ambinder, "Race Over?" The Atlantic (January/February 2009); Randolph Bourne, "Trans-National America" The Atlantic (July 1916) [available on course ANGEL site in Lessons area]


T 2/3 Randall Bass and Joy Young, "Introduction" [BB 1-11]; Kirsten Silva Gruesz, "America" [KACS 16-22]; Carla Kaplan, "Identity" [KACS 123-127]; Mary Pat Brady, "Border" [KACS 29-32]; Donald Pease, "Exceptionalism" [KACS 108-112]
Th 2/5 Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 1-12, 274-280; Thomas Bender, A Nation among Nations 3-14, 296-301


T 2/10 Randall Bass and Joy Young, "Border Visions: An Image Portfolio" [in BB between 448 and 449]; Ronald Takaki, "A Different Mirror" [BB 568-577]; Lewis Lapham, "Who and What Is American?" [BB 558-568]; Anthony Appiah, "The Multicultural Mistake" [BB 695-699]; George Yudice, "Culture" [KACS 71-76]
Th 2/12 Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 13-38; Thomas Bender, A Nation among Nations 15-60; Myra Jehlen, "Papers of Empire" [BB 453-464]; Mary Louise Pratt, "Arts of the Contact Zone" [BB 249-262]


M 2/16 IDENTITY PAPER due in ANGEL dropbox by 11:30 pm
T 2/17 Thomas Bender, A Nation among Nations 61-115; David Kazanjian, "Colonial" [KACS 52-57]; Fred Moten, "Democracy" " [KACS 76-79]; Alys Eve Weinbaum, "Nation" [KACS 164-170]; Benedict Anderson, "The Concept of Nation: A Definition" [BB 481-484]
Th 2/19 Thomas Bender, A Nation among Nations 116-181; Walter Johnson, "Slavery" [KACS 221-225]; Robert Fanuzzi, "Abolition" [KACS 7-10]; Kevin Gaines, "African" [KACS 12-16]; Matthew Pratt Guterl, "South" [KACS 230-233]


T 2/24 Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 39-90; Pamela Perry, "White" [KACS 242-246]; Henry Yu, "Ethnicity" [KACS 103-108]; Stuart Hall, "Ethnicity: Identity and Difference" [BB 228-240]
Th 2/26 Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 203-222; David Shields, "Civilization" [KACS 44-49]; Shelley Streeby, "Empire" [KACS 95-101]; Vijay Prashad, "Orientalism" [KACS 174-177]


T 3/3 Thomas Bender, A Nation among Nations 182-245
Th 3/5 Sandra Zagarell, "Region" [KACS 199-201]; Krista Comer, "West" [KACS 238-242]; Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" [BB 484-489]; Patricia Nelson Limerick, "Adventures of the Frontier in the Twentieth Century" [BB 489-503]; Jane Tompkins, "At the Buffalo Bill Museum--June 1988" [BB 504-521]


T 3/10 Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 139-170
Th 3/12 Grace Kyungwon Hong, "Property" [KACS 180-183]; Amy Dru Stanley, "Contract" [KACS 60-64]; Christopher Newfield, "Corporation" [KACS 66-71]; John Kuo Wei Tchen, "Asian" [KACS 22-26]; Moon-Jo Hung, "Coolie" [KACS 64-66]


M 3/16-F 3/20 NO CLASSES--Spring Break

Crossing American Borders


T 3/24 Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 91-135, 223-245; Eithne Luibheid, "Immigration" [KACS 127-131]; Priscilla Wald, "Naturalization" [KACS 170-174]
Th 3/26 Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 246-273; Lauren Berlant, "Citizenship" [KACS 37-42]


T 3/31 Gish Jen, Mona in the Promised Land, Ch. 1-8 (1-165); Sandra Gustafson, "Literature" [KACS 145-148]; Judith Halberstam, "Gender" [KACS 116-120]; Carla Peterson, "Family" [KACS 112-116]; Rosemary Marangoly George, "Domestic" [KACS 88-92]
Th 4/2 Gish Jen, Mona in the Promised Land, Ch. 9-Epilogue (166-304); Amy Tan, "Mother Tongue" [BB 60-66]; Wen Shu Lee, "One Whiteness Veils Three Uglinesses" [BB 675-687]


T 4/7 Sherman Alexie, Reservation Blues, Ch. 1-5 (1-170); Robert Warrior, "Indian" [KACS 132-135]; Robert Berkhofer, "The White Man's Indian" [BB 219-227]; Richard White, "The Middle Ground" [BB 262-275]
Th 4/9 Sherman Alexie, Reservation Blues, Ch. 6-10 (171-306)


T 4/14 Tony Kushner, Angels in America, Cast-Act Two [3-83]; Bruce Robbins, "Public" [KACS 183-187]; Glenn Hendler, "Society" [KACS 225-230]; Miranda Joseph, "Community" [KACS 57-60]; Janet Jakobsen, "Religion" [KACS 201-204]; Michael Warner, "Secularism" [KACS 209-213], Nikhil Pal Singh, "Liberalism" [KACS 139-145]
Th 4/16 Tony Kushner, Angels in America, Act Three [85-119]; Siobhan Somerville, "Queer" [KACS 187-191]; Bruce Burgett, "Sex" [KACS 217-221]; Eva Cherniavsky, "Body" [KACS 26-29]; Elizabeth Freeman, "Marriage" [KACS 152-156]; Christopher Castiglia, "Interiority" [KACS 135-137]


T 4/21 Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange, Ch. 1-14 (1-94); Brent Edwards, "Diaspora" [KACS 81-84]; Lisa Lowe, "Globalization" [KACS 120-123]
Th 4/23 Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange, Ch. 15-28 (95-173); Eric Lott, "Class" [KACS 49-52]


T 4/28 Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange, Ch. 29-42 (174-242); David Ruccio, "Capitalism" [KACS 32-36]; Timothy Mitchell, "Economy" [KACS 92-95]; Meredith McGill, "Market" [KACS 149-152)
Th 4/30 Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange, Ch. 43-49 (243-270); Paul Thomas, "State" [KACS 233-236]; Susan Jeffords, "War" [KACS 236-238]


T 5/5 Curtis Marez, "Mestizo/a" [KACS 156-160]; Gloria Anzaldua, "La conciencia de la mestiza/Towards a New Consciousness" [BB 708-722]; Benjamin Alire Saenz, "In the Borderlands of Chicano Identity, There Are Only Fragments" [BB 722-737]; Guillermo Gomez-Pena, "The '90s Culture of Xenophobia: Beyond the Tortilla Curtain" [BB 687-694]
Th 5/7 Thomas King, "Borders" [BB 37-47]; Luis Alberto Urrea, "Across the Wire" [BB 350-363]
F 5/8 IDENTIFICATION PAPER DUE no later than 11:30 pm in the ID Drop Box on the course ANGEL space


Th 5/14 8:30 - 10:30 am ORAL LEARNING ANALYSIS presentations in regular classroom

B. Class Policies

1. Attendance. As stated in Section VI above, barring emergencies each absence after the fourth will lower your final course grade by one grade. Be aware that absences due to emergencies are the only absences that will not be counted toward your total for the semester. Emergencies include but are not limited to death in the family, hospitalization or serious illness, natural disasters, and snow days; scheduled and unavoidable school-sponsored events (games, meets, performances, etc.) are also counted as emergencies for the purpose of this attendance policy. Besides emergencies, the only other absences that won't affect your participation/preparation grade are excused absences. Please notify the instructor over email, in advance if possible and, if not, as soon after the absence as possible, if you wish an absence to be considered as an emergency or excused absence; the decision will be made at the instructor's discretion.

2. Online Participation. Please familiarize yourself with the college's "Computer and Network Usage Policy" (Undergraduate Catalog 2007-2009, pp. 240-247) and check with me first before posting something to the discussion board on the ANGEL site that is not directly related to the course. If you wish to join the American Identities blog as a co-author, please send me your email address and the name (real, shortened, or invented) you plan to be blogging under. I'll send an invitation to join the blog to that email address and let you know how many discussion board posts each blog post you do is equivalent to.

3. Late Assignments. Only students who ask for an extension at least two days before the due date of any assignment will be granted an extension. For everyone else, late work is penalized by a grade off per day late.

4. Plagiarism and Academic Integrity. To plagiarize is "to steal and pass off as one's own the ideas or words of another" (Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary). SUNY Fredonia strongly condemns plagiarism and takes severe action against those who plagiarize. Disciplinary action may extend to suspension from privileges or expulsion from college. Please familiarize yourself with the college's "Academic Integrity Policy" (Undergraduate Catalog 2007-2009, pp. 236-239, see also p. 222) and check with your instructor if you have any questions about it.

5. Students with Disabilities. If you have a documented disability, please see our Office of Disability Support Services in the Learning Center at Reed Library (www.fredonia.edu/tlc/DSS/dss.htm).

6. Cell Phones. Please turn them off before you enter the class. I'll be holding onto any phones that buzz or ring for the duration of the class.


M A I N * L I N K S



AMST/ENGL 296: American Identities, Spring 2009
Created: 1/28/09 7:52 pm
Last modified: 4/30/09 11:29 am
Webmaster: Bruce Simon, Associate Professor of English, SUNY Fredonia
Check out the Spring 2006 version of this course!