M A I N * N E W S * L I N K S * R E S E R V E S


SUNY Fredonia
Division of Arts and Humanities
AMST/ENGL 296: American Identities
Spring 2006
Section 1: Thompson W-231, TTh 3:30-4:50
Office: Fenton 279; M-F 9-12 and by appointment; 673-3125
E-mail: simon@fredonia.edu
Web Page: www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/
Blackboard Site: blackboard.fredonia.edu


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 Blackboard site, what books are on reserve for your use in Reed Library, 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.

Course Description/Goals

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--to approach relations between national and personal, local, regional, and transnational identities, on the one hand, and between nation and gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion, sexuality, and language on the other.

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 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.

Texts. There are seven books in the 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 discussion-oriented activities.

VI. Evaluation and Grade Assignment

A. Methods

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 discussion questions posted on the course Blackboard site (described below 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. Since it's difficult to make good contributions to discussions about a literary work 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. On the second day of class, students will be divided into ten teams. Each team will collaborate in and out of class and on the course Blackboard site.

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 Blackboard site. 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 reading responses and contributions to team work will be factored into this grade. Due to the reliance on attendance of preparation and participation, more than one unexcused absence will hurt your preparation/participation/team work grade and each non-emergency absence after the third will lower your final course grade by one grade (e.g., with four such absences a B+ will become a C+; with six, it will become a D+).

Reading Responses (15%). Detailed instructions for subscribing to and using the course Blackboard site (www.blackboard.fredonia.edu) are given below (see Section VIIIB) and will be discussed in class. We will be using the Blackboard site to prepare for and extend class discussions and to facilitate intrateam communication. Students must submit a certain number of reading responses over the course of the semester (no more than 1 RR/week will be counted toward the semester's total, so don't wait till the last week of the semester to do this); you can get credit for doing a reading response in a given week by either a) submitting to the reading response discussion forum a total of three discussion questions on upcoming readings in time for people to read them by early morning T or Th, or b) replying to at least one discussion question in a thoughtful mini-essay by the end of that week. Advice on generating reading responses can be found on the course web site at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/amst296s06/rr.htm.

Your grade for this segment of the course will be determined by the number of on-time, passing reading responses you post to the course Blackboard site. Since there are fourteen weeks when reading responses are due in the semester, and since you are allowed six missed weeks without penalty, 8 or more reading responses=A; 7=B+; 6=B; 5=C+; 4=C, 3=D; 2 or less=F. The quality of your reading responses will be factored into your preparation/participation/team work grade (see above).

Discussion Leading Project (20%). I provide detailed information on the 30-minute team-teaching project on the course web site at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/amst296s06/dlp.htm.

Identification Project (25%). I provide detailed information on the identification project on the course web site at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/amst296s06/ip.htm.

Service Learning Project (25%). I will provide detailed information on the 30-minute group presentation on the course web site at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/engl332s06/slp.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. The following works and others may be found on reserve at the circulation desk in Reed Library (click here for the reserves list):

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. Please recall that you need to submit 8 reading responses to earn an A for that segment of your final grade (see Section VI). It's expected that you'll make use of the links page to prepare for class discussion. In discussion, we'll largely be focusing on interpretive, comparative, and evaluative issues, guided by your discussion questions. (Key: BB=Beyond Borders.)


Th 1/19 introductions; review Randall Bass and Joy Young, "Introduction" [BB 1-11] and "Border Visions: An Image Portfolio" [in BB between 448 and 449] in class and discuss

Learning to Say "America"


T 1/24 set up teams; Neil Gaiman, 1602, Parts 1-7
Th 1/26 Neil Gaiman, 1602, Part 8; Peter Sanderson, "Time after Time: From 1602 to 2004," 1602; Neil Gaiman, "Afterword," 1602; Scott McKowen, "Cover Process," 1602; Benedict Anderson, "The Concept of Nation: A Definition" [BB 481-484]


T 1/31 Philip Deloria, Playing Indian 1-9; Robert Berkhofer, "The White Man's Indian" [BB 219-227]; Richard White, "The Middle Ground" [BB 262-275]
Th 2/2 Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 1-12, 274-280; Mary Louise Pratt, "Arts of the Contact Zone" [BB 249-262]; Stuart Hall, "Ethnicity: Identity and Difference" [BB 228-240]


T 2/7 Philip Deloria, Playing Indian 10-70
Th 2/9 Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 15-38; IDENTITY PAPER DUE IN CLASS

Learning to Become "American"


T 2/14 Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 39-90; Philip Deloria, Playing Indian 71-94; GUEST APPEARANCE: Joyce Harvard Smith, Volunteer Services Coordinator, SUNY Fredonia (673-3690)
Th 2/16 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]; Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 203-222


T 2/21 Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 139-170; Philip Deloria, Playing Indian 95-127
Th 2/23 Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 91-138, 223-245; DISCUSSION LEADING PROJECT: Team Thunder


T 2/28 Philip Deloria, Playing Indian 128-153; Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color 246-273
Th 3/2 Anna Deavere Smith, Fires in the Mirror [BB 22-35]; Andrea Lowenstein, "Confronting Stereotypes: MAUS in Crown Heights" [BB 428-445]


T 3/7 Edwidge Danticat, "Foreword," We Are All Suspects Now vii-xi; Tram Nguyen, We Are All Suspects Now xiii-xxiii, 1-19; DISCUSSION LEADING PROJECT: Patty Was Nice
Th 3/9 Tram Nguyen, We Are All Suspects Now 20-71; DISCUSSION LEADING PROJECT: Ballers; Power of 3 + 1


T 3/14 Tram Nguyen, We Are All Suspects Now 113-157; DISCUSSION LEADING PROJECT: American Babies
Th 3/16 Sherman Alexie, "The Sin Eaters," The Toughest Indian in the World 76-120

Learning to Rethink "America"


T 3/21 Philip Deloria, Playing Indian 154-191; Thomas King, "Borders" [BB 37-47]; Sherman Alexie, "One Good Man," The Toughest Indian in the World 209-238; CLASS CANCELLED: DISCUSS ON BLACKBOARD SITE AND IN NEXT CLASS
Th 3/23 Luis Alberto Urrea, "Across the Wire" [BB 350-363]; Tram Nguyen, We Are All Suspects Now 72-112


F 3/24-F 3/31 NO CLASSES--Spring Break


T 4/4 Gloria Anzaldśa, "La conciencia de la mestiza/Towards a New Consciousness" [BB 708-722]; Benjamin Alire S‡enz, "In the Borderlands of Chicano Identity, There Are Only Fragments" [BB 722-737]; revisit Urrea and Nguyen
Th 4/6 Jane Tompkins, "At the Buffalo Bill Museum--June 1988" [BB 504-521]; Sherman Alexie, "Dear John Wayne" The Toughest Indian in the World 189-208


T 4/11 Sherman Alexie, "Assimilation," "Class," and "Saint Junior," The Toughest Indian in the World 1-20, 35-56, 150-188
Th 4/13 Sherman Alexie, "The Toughest Indian in the World," "South by Southwest," and "Indian Country," The Toughest Indian in the World 21-34, 57-75, 121-149; DISCUSSION LEADING PROJECT: Team Zombies Ate My Face


T 4/18 Tony Kushner, Angels in America 3-83; DISCUSSION LEADING PROJECT: The Globogym Purple Cobras
Th 4/20 Tony Kushner, Angels in America 85-119; DISCUSSION LEADING PROJECT: Team Assure
F 4/21 IDENTIFICATION PAPER DUE


T 4/25 William Mitchell, "Soft Cities" [BB 588-605]; Stephen Doheny-Farina, "Real Cold, Simulated Heat: Virtual Reality at the Roxy" [BB 618-630]; Howard Rheingold, "Disinformocracy" [BB 631-641]
Th 4/27 Sherry Turkle, "TinySex and Gender Trouble" [BB 387-403]; Allucquere Rosanne Stone, "Sex, Death, and Machinery, or How I Fell in Love with my Prosthesis" [BB 606-618]; CLASS CANCELLED: MAYA KITAMURA SIMON BORN! (DISCUSS READINGS ON BLACKBOARD SITE)


T 5/2 SERVICE LEARNING PROJECT PRESENTATIONS: Patty Was Nice, Power of 3 + 1
Th 5/4 SERVICE LEARNING PROJECT PRESENTATIONS: Team Zombies Ate My Face, Team Assure; course evaluations


W 5/10 1:30-3:30 SERVICE LEARNING PROJECT PRESENTATIONS: Team Ballers, Team Thunder, American Babies, Globogym Purple Cobras

B. Class Policies

1. Attendance. As stated in Section VI above, barring emergencies each absence after the third 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. Team Work. As stated in Section VI above, students will be assigned to a team on the second day of class and will be graded on their participation in team work over the course of the semester. Please make sure you have multiple ways of contacting team members and that your schedules allow you to meet outside class when needed. If scheduling problems emerge, contact me to be switched to another team.

3. Course Blackboard Site. You must enroll in the course Blackboard site by the beginning of the second week of class and use it throughout the semester. To do this, use a web browser to get to blackboard.fredonia.edu. Login using your network password. Then search for AMST 296 (or American Identities) and click on the enroll tab. This will send an enrollment request to me and I will enroll you. You should receive a confirmation message within 24 hours of completing your part of the enrollment process. Please familiarize yourself with the college's "Computer and Network Usage Policy" (Undergraduate Catalog 2005-2007, pp. 216-221) and check with me first before posting something to the Blackboard site that is not directly related to the course.

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

5. 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 2005-2007, pp. 212-215, see also p. 199) and check with your instructor if you have any questions about it.

6. Cell Phones. Please turn them off before you enter the class. If you forget and it rings, I'll be holding it the rest of the class.


M A I N * N E W S * L I N K S * R E S E R V E S



AMST/ENGL 296: American Identities, Spring 2006
Created: 1/19/06 12:07 am
Last modified: 5/5/06 4:26 pm
Webmaster: Bruce Simon, Associate Professor of English, SUNY Fredonia