M A I N * L I N K S


SUNY Fredonia
College of Arts and Sciences
AMST/ENGL 296: American Identities
Fall 2012
Section 2: TTh 9:30-10:50, Thompson E363
Office: Fenton 265; M 10-12, 1-3, TTh 11-12, 2-3, W 1-3, 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 (which will also be announced on ANGEL) 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 aims to put recent trends and events that influence and reveal aspects of changing American identities--from globalization to immigration, from the Obama presidency to the rise of the Tea Party and the Occupy movements, from American interventions to foreign revolutions--in a broad historical, political, legal, social, cultural, and economic context. While examining how selected novelists, memoirists, historian, sociologists, legal scholars, and cultural critics represent and reflect on American identities in major works from the past fifteen years, we will consider the traditions they draw on and revise, the tensions they respond to and play out, and the perspectives they enable us to gain both on recent events and issues and our own identities.

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 Categories 4B 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 ten books in the campus bookstore for you to purchase:

IV. Course Objectives and Outcomes

Courses in Part 4B of the CCC are designed to provide knowledge of a basic narrative of American history--political, economic, social, and cultural--including knowledge of unity and diversity in American society; knowledge of common institutions in American society and how they have affected different groups; and understanding of America's evolving relationship with the rest of the world. Courses in Part 11 of the CCC are designed to give students the opportunity to research a topic, develop an argument, and organize supporting details; develop proficiency in oral discourse; 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 (10%). 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. 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 attentively or thought about it thoroughly, 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 course 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. Due to the reliance on attendance of many aspects of preparation and participation, more than two unexcused absences will hurt your preparation/participation grade and each non-emergency absence after the fourth will lower your final course grade by one full grade (e.g., with five such absences, a B+ will become a C+; with six, it will become a D+).

Online Participation (10%). If you need any help using course ANGEL site (https://fredonia.sln.suny.edu/default.asp), please see me. We will be using it 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 site. In addition to the required contributions you will make as part of your team work (see below), you should use it regularly and often 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. 0-5 posts will earn you a zero, 6-11 posts an F, 12-17 a D, 18-23 a C, 24-29 a B, and 30+ an A on this segment of your final grade. Posts to American Identities, the course blog, will also be added to your total (how much depends on their quality). The quality of your online participation will also be factored into your preparation/participation grade.

Team Work (25%). We will break up into eight four-student teams during the first week of classes. Students in each team will rotate through a series of roles--summarizer/passage-finder, questioner/provocateur, linker/researcher, discussion-leader/presenter--which I describe in more detail at www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/ai6/tw.htm.

Identification Project (25%). I will provide detailed information on the identification project, which involves revising a multi-part self-reflective identity paper into an experimental blog post, at www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/ai6/ip.htm.

Final Project (30%). I will provide detailed information on your options for the oral/written final project, which include participating in a team service-learning project or an individual critical, creative, pedagogical, or web-authoring project, at www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/ai6/fp.htm.

B. Grading. All work during the semester will be graded on a letter basis (A=outstanding, B=good, C=average, D=bad, F=unacceptable) 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 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 and to the course ANGEL space for announcements of changes.


T 8/28 Introductions, Overview, Set-up.
Th 8/30 American? Identities?

American Revolutions


T 9/4 Collins, Foreword-Ch. 5 (ix-58); Foreword-Introduction focus: Teams 4, 5; Ch. 1-2 focus: Teams 3, 6; Ch. 3-4 focus: Teams 2, 7; Ch. 5 focus: Teams 1,8
Th 9/6 Collins, Ch. 6-Conclusion (59-124); Ch. 6 focus: Teams 3, 6; Ch. 7-8 focus: Teams 2, 7; Ch. 8-9 focus: Teams 1, 8; Ch. 10-Conclusion focus: Teams 4,5
F 9/7 IDENTITY PAPER due by 11:30 pm in IP Drop Box on course ANGEL site (attach as .rtf, .doc, .docx, or .pdf document, please).


T 9/11 Lepore, Prologue-Ch. 2 (1-69); Prologue focus: Teams 1, 2; Ch. 1 focus: Teams 3, 4, 5; Ch. 2 focus: Teams 6, 7, 8
Th 9/13 Lepore, Ch. 3-Ch. 4 (70-125); Ch. 3 focus: Teams 1, 2, 3, 4; Ch. 4 focus: Teams 5, 6, 7, 8


T 9/18 Lepore, Ch. 5-Afterword (126-175); Ch. 5 focus: Teams 1, 2, 3, 4; Epilogue-Afterword focus: Teams 5, 6, 7, 8
W 9/19 If you wish to attend the Maytum Convocation Lecture by Jean Kilbourne, "Deadly Persuasion: The Power of Advertising," for extra credit, free tickets must be reserved in advance at the ticket office or at http://www.fredonia.edu/president/inauguration/rsvp.asp--click on "All Other Guests" button for pop-up reservation window)

American Transformations


Th 9/20 Lipsitz, Introduction-Ch. 4 (vii-104); Introduction-Ch. 1 focus: Teams 2, 7; Ch. 2 focus: Teams 3, 6; Ch. 3 focus: Teams 4, 5; Ch. 4 focus: Teams 1, 8


T 9/25 Lipsitz, Ch. 5-8 (105-184); Ch. 5 focus: Teams 1, 3; Ch. 6 focus: Teams 5, 7; Ch. 7 focus: Teams 2, 4; Ch. 8 focus: Teams 6, 8
Th 9/27 Lipsitz, Ch. 9-11 (185-248); Ch. 9 focus: Teams 3, 4, 6; Ch. 10 focus; Teams 1, 5, 8; Ch. 11 focus: Teams 2, 7


T 10/2 Obama, Preface-Part One (vii-130)
Th 10/4 Obama, Part Two (131-296)


T 10/9 Obama, Part Three (297-442)
Th 10/11 NO CLASS: FALL BREAK

American Competitiveness


T 10/16 Rauchway, Introduction-Ch. 3 (3-84); Introduction-Ch. 1 focus: Teams 1, 3, 5; Ch. 2 focus: Teams 2, 4, 6; Ch. 3 focus: Teams 7, 8
Th 10/18 Rauchway, Ch. 4-Conclusion (85-173); Ch. 4 focus: Teams 1, 2, 3; Ch. 5 focus: Teams 4, 5, 6; Ch. 6-Conclusion focus: Teams 7, 8


T 10/23 Chua, Part One-Part Two (1-154)
Th 10/25 Chua, Part Three (155-229)

American Citizenship


T 10/30 Spiro, Introduction-Ch. 3 (3-80); Introduction-Ch. 1 focus: Teams 4, 6, 7; Ch. 2 focus: Teams 1, 3, 5; Ch. 3 focus: Teams, 2, 8
Th 11/1 Spiro, Ch. 4-Conclusion (81-163); Ch. 4 focus: Teams 2, 4, 8; Ch. 5 focus: Teams 1, 3, 7; Ch. 6-Conclusion focus: Teams 5, 6
F 11/2 FINAL PROJECT PROPOSAL due by 11:30 pm on discussion forum on course ANGEL site (attach as .rtf, .doc, .docx, or .pdf document, please).


T 11/6 Yamashita, Ch. 1-14 (1-94)
Th 11/8 Yamashita, Ch. 15-28 (95-172)


T 11/13 Yamashita, Ch. 29-42 (173-240)
Th 11/15 Yamashita, Ch. 43-49 (241-268)


M 11/19-F 11/23 NO CLASSES: THANKSGIVING BREAK

American Battlefields


T 11/27 Der Derian, Preface-Ch. 7 (xvii-176); Preface-Ch. 1 focus: Teams 5, 7; Ch. 2-3 focus: Teams 1, 3; Ch. 4-5 focus: Teams 2, 4; Ch. 6-7 focus: Teams 6, 8
Th 11/29 Der Derian, Ch. 8-12 (177-294); Ch. 8 focus: Teams 1, 2; Ch. 9-10 focus: Teams 3, 4; Ch. 11 focus: Teams 5, 6; Ch. 12 focus: Teams 7, 8


M 12/3 IDENTIFICATION PROJECT due by 11:30 pm in IP Drop Box on course ANGEL site (attach as .rtf, .doc, .docx, or .pdf document, please).
T 12/4 Doctorow, Ch. 1-7 (9-120)
Th 12/6 Doctorow, Ch. 8-14 (121-230)


T 12/11 Doctorow, Ch. 15-Epilogue (231-365)
Th 12/13 Final Project presentations; course evaluations


M 12/17 8:30-10:30 am: Final Project presentations in regular classroom
F 12/21 FINAL PROJECT due by 11:30 pm in FP Drop Box on course ANGEL site (attach as .rtf, .doc, .docx, or .pdf document, please).

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 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 2012-2013 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 written assignments 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 2012-2013 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. 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 rest of the class. I will consider requests to use them for academic purposes.


M A I N * L I N K S



ENGL 296: American Identities, Fall 2012
Created: 8/28/12 12:50 pm
Last modified: 11/27/12 11:54 am
Webmaster: Bruce Simon, Associate Professor of English, SUNY Fredonia
Feel free to explore the Spring 2012, Fall 2011, Spring 2010, Spring 2009, and Spring 2006 versions of this course.