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


ENGL 240: Introduction to African American Literature and Culture
Spring 2001
Classes: TR 11-12:20, Fenton 176
Office: Fenton 240; M 1-4, T 3:30-4:30, W 10-12, 1-4, TH 3:30-4:30, and by appointment
Contact Info: bruce.simon@fredonia.edu; 673-3859
Web Page: www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/



About the Course Web Site

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 subscribe to the course listserv, 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

In this course, we will consider works by African American novelists, poets, dramatists, and essayists (along with selected filmmakers and musicians) in terms of the aesthetic, intellectual, and political concerns of their periods and locations. The course is organized into four geographical (rather than historical) units: country, city, nation, world. We will pay careful attention to relationships between works from the various genres, media, and locations. We will repeatedly ask: in what ways do these artists speak to each other? where do their representations consistently come into tension? how do they interact with the concerns of the dominant society around them, and when do they refuse to do so?

You may choose to take this course for honors credit as part of the new Honors Program in the English Department. If you are interested in doing this, please come to my office hours during the first two weeks of classes for more information. This course is part of the core of the minor in African American Studies; you may contact Najia Aarim (History) for more information about this minor. The course has been approved for Part IIB of the GCP. As such, it provides an introduction to two disciplines: on the one hand, you will gain a firm footing in the practice of literary and cultural criticism, and on the other, you will become familiar with humanistic inquiry in the discipline of African American Studies.

Texts. There are four books in the bookstore for you to purchase:

There are many primary and secondary readings on reserve at the circulation desk of Reed Library; click here or on the links at the top (and bottom) of this (and every) page for details. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the reserves system at Fredonia, to browse through works on reserve that appear interesting, and to use the reserves and the library when preparing for class and working on assignments.

Course Requirements/Expectations

Your grade in the course will be determined through the following assessments (see the schedule of assignments, below, for due dates):

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; if you fail to do this or notify me within a day of your absence the reasons for it, it will be counted as an unexcused absence (see below). 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. 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.

Your grade for this component of the course will be based on a combination of your attendance and your preparation for/participation in class and on the course listserv (described below), along with a more holistic assessment of the level of your engagement and effort. 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 performance in the course. Due to the importance of our class conversations, more than two unexcused absences will hurt your preparation/participation grade and, barring emergencies, each absence (whether excused or not) after the fourth will lower your final course grade by one-third of a grade (e.g., with five absences an A- will become a B+; with seven, it will become a B-, and so on).

Discussion Questions (15%). We will be using a course listserv (en24001@listserv.fredonia.edu) to facilitate critical thinking and out-of-class discussions. This listserv will be your space; I will keep my own input to a bare minimum (thus, most of my announcements can be found on the news page, links to which are also at the top and bottom of every page on the site). Although you may use the listserv in any number of ways, you must use it in the following way: no later than 7 pm Monday OR Wednesday of every week, you must post to the course listserv three to six questions that you believe would spark discussion of the texts we'll be discussing in class the next day. Click here for advice on generating discussion questions.

Your grade for this component of the course will be determined by the number of on-time, passing sets of questions you post to the course listserv. Since there are fourteen weeks when discussion questions are due in the semester, and since you are allowed four missed weeks without penalty, 10 or more sets of questions=A; 9=B+; 8=B; 7=C+; 6=C, 5=D; 4 or less=E. The quality of your discussion questions will be factored into your preparation/participation grade (see above).

To participate in the course listserv (i.e., to send to, and receive messages from, the rest of the class by email), you must first "subscribe" to it. To do this, send an email message to "listserv@listserv.fredonia.edu" with the subject line blank and the command "subscribe en24001 Your Name" in the body. Almost immediately after you send this message, you should get a reply from the machine that handles subscriptions to the listserv; you must follow the directions on this message to complete the subscription process. You should then receive another confirmation message notifying you that you are subscribed to the list; save this message, as it has important instructions for using the listserv. Only after you complete this subscription process will you be able to send a message to the entire class. To do this, simply compose an email message as you normally do, but instead of addressing it to an individual, address it instead to "en24001@listserv.fredonia.edu"--the machine will then automatically send that message to everyone subscribed to the list. Receiving messages, then, is as simple as checking your email. Further information--and answers to typical questions--can be found by clicking here. This link will take you to an on-line troubleshooting guide from one of last semester's course web sites. If you find this site helpful, great; if not please feel free to call me or stop by my office if you need any technology-oriented help--better to see me than to let an easily fixable problem get worse by ignoring it!

Critical Essays (45%). For detailed information on the three four-to-six-page critical essays--one for each of the first three geographical units--click here.

Research Project (25%). Click here for detailed information on the research project (which may take the form of a nine-to-twelve[-plus]-page critical essay, an analytical web site, or a carefully-designed and justified lesson plan, among other possibilities, on a subject closely related to the course content) here a bit later in the semester. You must turn in a proposal for your research topic by the beginning of April (see below); it is highly recommended that you turn in the proposal well before this time. We will arrange for a mandatory individual conference on your research project topic after I return my comments to your proposal to you; I will be available during office hours and over email as questions arise in the researching and writing of this essay, web site, or lesson plan.

Schedule of Assignments

Note: It's expected that you will read the introductory essay for each author assigned for a given day and refer back to the preface and timeline in the Norton Anthology as necessary for basic context and understanding of what you're reading. It's also expected that you'll make use of the links page to prepare for class discussion. If you have factual, biographical, or historical questions, it's your responsibility to use the resources available to you to try to answer them on your own. In discussion, we'll largely be focusing on interpretive, comparative, evaluative issues.

Race, Culture, Identity


Week 1: Intros

Th 1/18 Introductions

Week 2: Overviews

M 1/22 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm

T 1/23 Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Nellie McKay, "Preface: Talking Books" [NA xxvii-xli]; "Timeline: African-American Literature in Context" [NA 2612-2623]; study the syllabus and course web site carefully; search the world-wide web for, and bring to class a print-out of, an "Introduction to African American Literature" course from another college or university

W 1/24 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm (if not done M)

Th 1/25 1773: Phillis Wheatley, "To Maecenas" [NA 169-170]; 1899: Paul Laurence Dunbar, "Sympathy" [NA 900]; 1908: James Weldon Johnson, "O Black and Unknown Bards" [NA 769-770]; 1921: Langston Hughes, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" [NA 1254]; 1925: Countee Cullen, "Heritage" [NA 1311-1314]; 1928: Zora Neale Hurston, "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" [NA 1008-1111]; 1945: Gwendolyn Brooks, "kitchenette building" [NA 1579]; 1951: Langston Hughes, "Harlem" [NA 1267]; 1952: Ralph Ellison, Prologue to Invisible Man [NA 1518-1525]; 1968: Etheridge Knight, "The Idea of Ancestry" [NA 1867-1868]; 1978: Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise" [NA 2039-2040]


Country


Week 3: Vernacular

M 1/29 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm; email me three links you think should be added to the links page and, for each, explain why

T 1/30 Robert O'Meally, "Introduction: The Vernacular Tradition" [NA 1-5]; 1908: reread James Weldon Johnson, "O Black and Unknown Bards" [NA 769-770]; 1921: James Weldon Johnson, Preface to The Book of American Negro Poetry [NA 861-884]; 1934: Zora Neale Hurston, "Characteristics of Negro Expression" [NA 1019-1032]; 1979: Colleen McElroy, "The Griots Who Know Brer Fox" [NA 2214-2215]

W 1/31 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm (if not done M)

Th 2/1 1899: Charles Chesnutt, "The Goophered Grapevine" [NA 523-532]; 1900: James Weldon Johnson, "Sence You Went Away" [NA 768]; 1895-1903: Paul Laurence Dunbar, "An Ante-Bellum Sermon," "When Malindy Sings," "We Wear the Mask," "A Cabin Tale," and "The Poet" [NA 891-896, 898-900, 905]; 1922: Langston Hughes, "Mother to Son" [NA 1254-1255]; 1927-1931: Sterling Brown, "Odyssey of Big Boy," "Long Gone," "Southern Road," and "Tin Roof Blues" [NA 1211-1214, 1220]; 1934, 1937: Zora Neale Hurston, excerpts from Mules and Men [NA 1032-1041] and from Their Eyes Were Watching God [NA 1041-1050]; listen to the CD, tracks 1-14, so you are both reading and hearing the vernacular, before coming to class

Week 4: Slavery I

M 2/5 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm

T 2/6 William Andrews, "Introduction: The Literature of Slavery and Freedom" [NA 127-136]; 1845: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life [NA 302-369]

W 2/7 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm (if not done M)

Th 2/8 continue Douglass's Narrative; 1853-1857: Frances E.W. Harper, selected poems [NA 412-417]

Week 5: Migration

M 2/12 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm

T 2/13 1944: Richard Wright, Black Boy, Ch. 1-6: 1-189 (small paperback)/1-160 (larger paperback)

W 2/14 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm (if not done M)

Th 2/15 1944: Richard Wright, Black Boy, Ch. 7-14: 190-303 (sp)/161-257 (lp); 1895: Ida B. Wells, from "A Red Record" [NA 595-606]; 1903: Paul Laurence Dunbar, "The Haunted Oak" [NA 901-903]; 1916: James Weldon Johnson, "Brothers" [NA 773-775]; 1919: Claude McKay, "If We Must Die" [NA 984]; 1923: Jean Toomer, "Portrait in Georgia" [NA 1105]; 1927: Langston Hughes, "Song for a Dark Girl" [NA 1262-1263]; 1975: Sterling Brown, "Sam Smiley" [NA 1225-1226]


City


Week 6: Segregation

M 2/19 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm

T 2/20 reread 1903: Paul Laurence Dunbar, "The Haunted Oak" [NA 901-903]; 1916: James Weldon Johnson, "Brothers" [NA 773-775]; 1923: Jean Toomer, "Portrait in Georgia" [NA 1105] and come to class prepared to discuss what's at stake in the differences among their anti-lynching strategies and from Wright's take on lynching; read 1944: Richard Wright, Black Boy, Ch. 15-18: 304-386 (sp)/258-328 (lp); optional reading: Frances Smith Foster and Richard Yarborough, "Introduction: Literature of the Reconstruction to the New Negro Renaissance, 1865-1919" [NA 461-472]

W 2/21 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm (if not done M)

Th 2/22 1944: Richard Wright, Black Boy, Ch. 19-20: 387-453 (sp)/329-384 (lp)

F 2/23 CRITICAL ESSAY #1 due no later than 5 pm

Week 7: Renaissance I

M 2/26 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm

T 2/27 read two of the following four essays carefully and be prepared to discuss in class which arguments you find most convincing in them (you are responsible for reading them all, but analyze two particularly closely): 1925: Alain Locke, "The New Negro" [NA 960-970]; 1926: W.E.B. Du Bois, "Criteria of Negro Art" [NA 752-759]; 1926: George Schuyler, "The Negro-Art Hokum" [NA 1170-1174]; 1926: Langston Hughes, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" [NA 1267-1271]; optional reading: Arnold Rampersad, "Introduction: Harlem Renaissance, 1919-1940" [NA 929-936]

W 2/28 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm (if not done M)

Th 3/1 read two of the following four works carefully and be prepared to discuss in class how they respond to the debates among last class's readings (you are responsible for reading them all, but analyze two particularly closely): 1927: Rudolph Fisher, "The Caucasian Storms Harlem" [NA 1187-1194]; 1932: Wallace Thurman, from Infants of the Spring [NA 1229-1239]; 1935: Claude McKay, "Harlem Runs Wild" [NA 993-996]; 1940: Langston Hughes, excerpts from The Big Sea [NA 1282-1296]

Week 8: Renaissance II

M 3/5 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm

T 3/6 1918: Claude McKay, "Harlem Shadows" [NA 984]; 1925: Rudolph Fisher, "The City of Refuge" [NA 1175-1187] and Langston Hughes, "The Weary Blues" [NA 1257]; 1927: Helene Johnson, "Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem" [NA 1317]; 1929: Jessie Redmon Fauset, from Plum Bun [NA 952-960]; 1932: Sterling Brown, "Cabaret" [NA 1222-1224]; listen to the CD, tracks 11-19, before coming to class

W 3/7 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm (if not done M)

Th 3/8 read either Baldwin's essay or Delany's narrative particularly carefully and be prepared to contrast the writer's perspective on Harlem with Hughes's: 1955: James Baldwin, "Notes of a Native Son" [NA 1679-1694]; 1961: Langston Hughes, "A Toast to Harlem" [NA 1299-1301]; 1995: Samuel Delany, from "Atlantis: Model 1924" [NA 2342-2361]

Week 9: Realism

M 3/12 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm

T 3/13 1946: Anne Petry, from The Street [NA 1484-1497]; 1953: Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha [NA 1602-1650]; optional reading: Deborah McDowell and Hortense Spillers, "Introduction: Realism, Naturalism, Modernism, 1940-1960" [NA 1319-1328]

W 3/14 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm (if not done M)

Th 3/15 continue Brooks's Maud Martha; 1945-1960: Gwendolyn Brooks, selected poems [NA 1579-1591]

Week 10: R'n'R

M 3/19-F 3/23 NO CLASSES: Spring Break [it's in your best interest to bring Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk with you and finish it over break, so that you aren't scrambling to read it and write your second critical essay upon your return--you may, of course, choose to complete and turn in the critical essay before you leave for break]


Nation


Week 11: Color Lines

M 3/26 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm

T 3/27 1903: W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1-104

W 3/28 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm (if not done M)

Th 3/29 1903: W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 105-164

Week 12: Black America

M 4/2 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm; CRITICAL ESSAY #2 due no later than 5 pm

T 4/3 read at least two poems and one essay particularly carefully and be prepared to discuss in class patterns in the strategies for critiquing and claiming America (you are responsible for reading them all, but analyze three particularly closely): 1773: Phillis Wheatley, "To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth" [NA 172-173]; 1829: David Walker, from Appeal [NA 179-190]; 1852: Frederick Douglass, from "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" [NA 379-391]; 1853: James Whitfield, "America" [NA 402-405]; 1921: Claude McKay, "America" [NA 985-986]; 1925: Langston Hughes, "I Too" [NA 1258]; 1927: George Schuyler, "Our Greatest Gift to America" [handed out]

W 4/4 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm (if not done M); PROPOSAL FOR FINAL RESEARCH PROJECT due no later than 5 pm

Th 4/5 read two of the following five works particularly carefully (no more than one by King, please) and be prepared to discuss similarities and differences from last class's strategies (you are responsible for reading them all, that is, but analyze two particularly closely): 1944: Melvin Tolson, "Dark Symphony" [NA 1331-1334]; 1951: James Baldwin, "Many Thousands Gone" [NA 1659-1670]; 1958: Ralph Ellison, "Change the Joke and Slip the Yoke" [NA 1541-1549]; 1963, 1964: Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream" (read and listen to track 20 on CD) and "Letter from Birmingham Jail" [NA 80-83, 1853-1866]; guest lecture by Stephen Kershnar, Philosophy Department, SUNY Fredonia

Week 13: Black Arts

M 4/9 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm

T 4/10 we will divide the class up into three groups--Fuller/Neal/Karenga [Arcoraci to Daly]; Gayle/Reed [Damico to Lovaglio]; Walker/Lorde [McNiff to Zeitz]--and each group will be responsible for discussing what they like and don't like about the manifestos they were responsible for analyzing most carefully: 1968: Hoyt Fuller, "Towards a Black Aesthetic" [NA 1809-1816], Larry Neal, "The Black Arts Movement" [NA 1959-1972], and Maulana Karenga, "Black Art: Mute Matter Given Force and Function" [NA 1972-1977]; 1971: Addison Gayle, Introduction to The Black Aesthetic [NA 1870-1877]; 1972: Ishmael Reed, "Neo-HooDoo Manifesto" [NA 2297-2301]; 1974: Alice Walker, "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens" [NA 2380-2387]; 1977: Audre Lorde, "Poetry Is Not a Luxury" [NA 2210-2212]; optional reading: Houston Baker, "Introduction: The Black Arts Movement, 1960-1970" [NA 1791-1806]

W 4/11 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm (if not done M)

Th 4/12 we will divide the class up into three groups--Brooks/Madhubuti/Giovanni/Jordan [Arcoraci to Daly]; Evans/Rodgers/Baraka/Sanchez/Clifton [Damico to Lovaglio]; Walker/Lorde/Wideman [McNiff to Zeitz]--and each group will be responsible for discussing how and to what ends their poems or stories respond to the manifestos from last class's readings: 1960-1981: Gwendolyn Brooks, selected poems [NA 1591-1601]; 1967-1969: Haki R. Madhubuti, selected poems [NA 1978-1982]; 1968: Nikki Giovanni, selected poems [NA 1983-1985]; 1968-1976: June Jordan, "In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr." and "I Must Become a Menace to My Enemies" [NA 2229-2231]; 1969: Mari Evans, "I Am a Black Woman" [NA 1808], Carolyn Rodgers, selected poems [NA 2007-2010], and Amiri Baraka, selected poems [NA 1881-1884]; 1969-1974: Sonia Sanchez, selected poems [NA 1902-1906]; 1972-1980: Lucille Clifton, selected poems [NA 2220-2224]; 1973: Alice Walker, "Everyday Use" [NA 2387-2394]; 1978: Audre Lorde, "A Litany for Survival" [NA 2208-2209]; 1984: John Edgar Wideman, from Brothers and Keepers [NA 2328-2335]


World


Week 14: New World Slavery

M 4/16 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm

T 4/17 1975: Gayl Jones, Corregidora, 1-68; optional reading: Barbara Christian, "Introduction: Literature since 1970" [NA 2011-2020]--continue discussion of relation between manifestos from last Tuesday's class and the poems, stories, and novel we read for last class and are reading for this one

W 4/18 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm (if not done M)

Th 4/19 1975: Gayl Jones, Corregidora, 69-132

Week 15: Trauma

M 4/23 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm; CRITICAL ESSAY #3 due no later than 5 pm

T 4/24 1975: Gayl Jones, Corregidora, 133-185

W 4/25 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm (if not done M)

Th 4/26 1980: June Jordan, "Poem About My Rights" [NA 2230-2233]; 1983: Ntozake Shange, "Bocas: A Daughter's Geography" [NA 2523-2524]; 1985: Michelle Cliff, "Within the Veil" [NA 2463-2466]

Week 16: Diaspora

M 4/30 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS due to listserv no later than 7 pm

T 5/1 1923: Marcus Garvey, selected essays [NA 974-980]; 1953: James Baldwin, "Stranger in the Village" [NA 1670-1679]; 1962: Robert Hayden, "Middle Passage" [NA 1501-1505]

Th 5/3 wrap up course

Week 17: Wrapping Up

M 5/7-Th 5/10 individual conferences on research project

Th 5/10 1:30-3:30 pm (Fenton 176): review session (using music to raise and discuss issues in the course, so bring relevant CDs); RESEARCH PROJECT due by 5 pm in my office

For a link to a web project by Meghan Gabor on Black Boy: The Historical Effects of Migration, click here; for a link to a web project by Nestor Rodriguez on the Harlem Renaissance, click here; for a link to a web project by Lindsey Briggs, click here [link under construction].


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


ENGL 240: Intro to African American Lit and Culture, Spring 2001
Created: 1/17/01 8:30 pm
Last modified: 5/16/01 9:20 pm
Click here for the Fall 1999 version of this course.