M A I N * L I N K S


SUNY Fredonia
College of Arts and Humanities
AMST/ENGL 296: American Identities
Spring 2010
Section 1: TTh 8-9:20, Fenton 159
Office: Fenton 265; MF 9-11, 3-5, TTh 9:30-12, and by appointment; 673-3856
E-mail: simon@fredonia.edu, brucesimon18@yahoo.com
Web Page: www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/
ANGEL Space: https://fredonia.sln.suny.edu/default.asp


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 what assignments are due and when, how your work will be assessed, how to use the course ANGEL space, 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. We will pay special attention to the ways in which images, representations, narratives, and memories influence our understandings of and feelings about these identities and constructions.

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. Textbooks. There are six 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, cooperative group work, and other learning-centered and critical thinking-oriented activities.

VI. Evaluation and Grade Assignment

A. Methods

Attendance/Preparation/Participation/Team Work (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 piece of writing 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, preparation for your written and oral assignments, and contributions to your team's success 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 (https://fredonia.sln.suny.edu/default.asp) 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/ai3/op.htm.

Team-Teaching Project (20%). I will provide detailed information on the 30-to-50-minute discussion-leading project on the course web site at www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/ai3/ttp.htm.

Identification Project (25%). I will provide detailed information on the identification project on the course web site at www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/ai3/ip.htm.

Final Project (25%). I will provide detailed information on your options for the final project on the course web site at www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/ai3/fp.htm.

C. Portfolio. English 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, notes on the texts, and suggestions for further reading.

Laying the Foundation: Constructing Borders, Imagining Identities


T 1/26 introductions, overview, set-up
Th 1/28 class's movie selection: American History X


T 2/2 class's movie selection: American History X
Th 2/4 Randall Bass and Joy Young, "Introduction" and "Border Visions: An Image Portfolio" [BB 1-11 and between 448 and 449]; Alan Thomas and Ben Crow, "Maps, Projections, and Ethnocentricity" [BB 464-480]; Wesley Brown, "Introduction" [IA ix-x]


M 2/8 IDENTITY PAPER due by 11:30 pm in IP Drop Box on course ANGEL space
T 2/9 Benedict Anderson, "The Concept of Nation: A Definition" [BB 481-484]; Mary Louise Pratt, "Arts of the Contact Zone" [BB 249-262]
Th 2/11 Ronald Takaki, "A Different Mirror" [BB 568-577]; Lewis Lapham, "Who and What Is American?" [BB 558-568]


T 2/16 Stuart Hall, "Ethnicity: Identity and Difference" [BB 228-240]; Anthony Appiah, "The Multicultural Mistake" [BB 695-699]
Th 2/18 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]

Back to the Future: Borders Then and Now


T 2/23 Willa Cather, My Antonia, Introduction-Book I (5-79)
Th 2/25 Willa Cather, My Antonia, Book II (80-137)


T 3/2 Willa Cather, My Antonia, Book III-Appendix (138-198)
T 3/4 Grace Paley, "The Loudest Voice" [IA 199-204]; Bernard Malamud, "The German Refugee" [IA 35-46]; Jeanne Schinto, "The Disappearance" [IA 326-344]


T 3/9 Louise Erdrich, Tracks, Ch. 1-3 (1-61); Robert Berkhofer, "The White Man's Indian" [BB 219-227]
Th 3/11 Louise Erdrich, Tracks, Ch. 4-5 (62-130); Richard White, "The Middle Ground" [BB 262-275]


M 3/15-F 3/19 SPRING BREAK: NO CLASSES.


T 3/23 Louise Erdrich, Tracks, Ch. 6-7 (131-191); Thomas King, "Borders" [BB 37-47; also in IA 265-275]
Th 3/25 Louise Erdrich, Tracks, Ch. 8-9 (192-226); Sherman Alexie, "A Drug Called Tradition" [IA 387-394]


T 3/30 Samuel Delany, "Atlantis: Model 1924," Parts a-b (1-56); Toni Cade Bambara, "The Lesson" [IA 145-152]
Th 4/1 Samuel Delany, "Atlantis: Model 1924," Parts c-d (57-100); Nicholasa Mohr, "The English Lesson" [IA 21-34]


T 4/6 Samuel Delany, "Atlantis: Model 1924," Part e (101-121); Ian Frazier, "Someplace in Queens" [BB 699-707]; Andrea Lowenstein, "Confronting Stereotypes: MAUS in Crown Heights" [BB 699-707]
Th 4/8 Michael Stephens, "Five Jack Cool" [IA 356-367]; Paule Marshall, "To Da-Duh, In Memoriam" [IA 368-377]


M 4/12 FINAL PROJECT PROPOSAL due by 11:30 pm on discussion forum on course ANGEL space
T 4/13 Maxine Hong Kingston, China Men (3-81); Sui Sin Far, "In the Land of the Free" [IA 3-11]; Amy Tan, "Mother Tongue" [BB 60-66]
Th 4/15 Maxine Hong Kingston, China Men (83-162); Mei Mei Evans, "Gussuk" [IA 237-251]


M 4/19 IDENTIFICATION PROJECT due by 11:30 pm in IP Drop Box on course ANGEL space
T 4/20 Maxine Hong Kingston, China Men (163-233); Wen Shu Lee, "One Whiteness Veils Three Uglinesses" [BB 675-687]
Th 4/22 Maxine Hong Kingston, China Men (234-308); Monfoon Leong, "New Year for Fong Wing" [IA 124-132]; Gish Jen, "In the American Society" [IA 158-171]


T 4/27 Richard Bausch, "Old West" [IA 283-306]; Michelle Cliff, "Election Day, 1984" [IA 378-386]; Bruce Morrow, "Near the End of the World" [IA 172-181]; Nash Candelaria, "El Patron" [IA 221-228]; Luis Alberto Urrea, "Across the Wire" [BB 350-363]
Th 4/29 Guillermo Gomez-Pena, "The '90s Culture of Xenophobia: Beyond the Tortilla Curtain" [BB 687-694]; 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]

Looking Out, Looking Ahead: Borders There, Borders Here


T 5/4 presentations
Th 5/6 course evaluations; presentations


W 5/12 8:30-10:30 am: presentations
F 5/14 FINAL PROJECT due by 11:30 pm in FP Drop Box on course ANGEL space

B. Class Policies

1. Attendance. As stated in Section VI above, barring emergencies each absence after the second will lower your final course grade by a full 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, and natural disasters; 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 in the University Catalog 2009-2010 and check with your instructor first before posting something to the course ANGEL space that is not directly related to the course.

3. Late Assignments. Online posts that are not well-timed with the course material and fail to spark other students' interest and responses will not count the same as well-timed posts or posts that do inspire further discussion. Late critical essays will not be accepted or graded. Only students who ask for an extension at least two days before the due date of any written project will be granted an extension.

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 in the University Catalog 2009-2010 and check with your instructor if you have any questions about it.

5. Students with Disabilities. If you have a documented disability, please contact our Office of Disability Support Services in the Learning Center at Reed Library.

6. Cell Phones and Other Portable Electronic Devices. Please turn them off before you enter the class. If I see you using them while class is in session, I will hold onto them for you until we are done for the day. I will consider requests to use laptops for notetaking purposes.


M A I N * L I N K S



ENGL 296: American Identities, Spring 2010
Created: 1/26/10 2:05 am
Last modified: 4/6/10 3:33 pm
Webmaster: Bruce Simon, Associate Professor of English, SUNY Fredonia
Feel free to explore the Spring 2009 and Spring 2006 version of this course! versions of this course.