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
ENGL 240: Introduction to African American Literature and Culture
Fall 2003
Section 1: Thompson E-120, TTh 2-3:20
Office: Fenton 240; MWF 10-12, 2:30-3:30, and by appointment; 673-3859
E-mail: simon@fredonia.edu
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 you will be graded, how to join and use the course listserv, what reading and writing assignments are due and when, what books are on reserve for your use in Reed Library, and how to use the world-wide web for research. Please take the time over the weekend after the first week of classes to read this page carefully and to familiarize yourself with the other pages for this course. Please get in the habit of checking back to this web site to keep track of changes to the tentative schedule listed in your syllabus and to find advice on papers, 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 hope you enjoy taking this course as much as I enjoy teaching it!

I. Course Description

An examination of major 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?

ENGL 240 is part of the core of the minor in African American Studies; you may contact Saundra Liggins (English) for more information about this minor. This course is an elective in the English and English Adolescence Education majors; for non-majors who entered Fredonia before Fall 2001, it satisfies Part IIB of the General College Program (GCP), and, for all students who entered Fredonia in Fall 2001 or after, it satisfies Part VIIIB of the College Core Curriculum (CCC).

II. Rationale

In ENGL 240, 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 general education 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. The textbooks adopted for this course are:

IV. Course Objectives and Outcomes

The course has been approved for Part IIB of the GCP and Part VIIIB of the CCC. 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 disciplines of American Studies and Black Studies. Specifically, this course is designed to enable students to:

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 discussion-oriented activities.

VI. Evaluation and Grade Assignment

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, you must contact me ahead of time or soon after your absence, preferably by email (see section VIII for more on attendance policies in this course). Even 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!), along with your peers' responses to it posted to the course listserv (see below), 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 and background for 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 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, the quality of your participation in class and on the class listserv (described below), and your preparation, effort, and improvement over the course of the semester. As there is no final exam in this course, think of my evaluation of your preparation/participation as a different but equally important method of assessing your overall performance in the course. Due to the importance of attendance 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 a full grade (e.g., with five absences a B+ will become a C+; with seven, it will become an E). Please see Section VIIIB, below, for definitions of excused and emergency absences.

Reading Responses (20%). Detailed instructions for subscribing to and using your section's listserv (engl24001@listserv.fredonia.edu) are given below (see Section VIII), will be discussed in class, and are available on the course web site, along with a troubleshooting guide, at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/engl240f03/listserv.htm. This listserv will be your space; I will keep my own input to a bare minimum. Although you may use the listserv in any number of ways, you must use it in the following way: over the course of the semester, you must post a number of weekly reading responses to the course listserv and come to each class having read and thought about your peers' responses. Only one response per week will count toward your total. Hence, each week you may post a reading response (including at least one sustained observation and one substantive question) that you believe would spark discussion discussion either by 10 pm Monday for Tuesday's class or by 10 pm Wednesday for Thursday's class. Advice on generating reading responses can be found elsewhere on the course web site at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/engl240f03/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 listserv. Since there are fifteen weeks when reading responses are due in the semester, and since you are allowed seven missed weeks without penalty, 8 or more reading responses=A; 7=B+; 6=B; 5=C+; 4=C, 3=D; 2 or less=E. The quality of your reading responses will be factored into your preparation/participation grade (see above).

Critical Essays (40%). You are required to write two 4-to-6-page critical essays, each worth 20% of your final course grade. For detailed information and advice on the critical essay, go to http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/engl240f03/ce.htm.

Your grade for this segment of the course will be determined by the coherence and validity of the paper's arguments, the effectiveness of the paper's structure in conveying your ideas and convincing your audience, and the quality of the paper's prose (including grammar, syntax, and punctuation).

Final Project (25%). I will provide detailed information and advice on the 7-to-10-page final project elsewhere on the course web site at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/engl240f03/fp.htm.

B. Grading. All work during the semester will be graded on a letter basis (A=outstanding, B=good, C=average, D=bad, E=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); E=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 Secondary English Education majors should be aware of the English department's guidelines for ongoing portfolio submissions.

VII. Bibliography. Some of the following works 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). (Key: NA=The Norton Anthology of African American Literature.)

Race, Culture, Identity

Week 1: Intro

T 8/26 Introductions and Overview

Th 8/28 Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Nellie McKay, "Preface: Talking Books" [NA xxvii-xli]; "Timeline: African-American Literature in Context" [NA 2612-2623]; 1773: Phillis Wheatley, "To Maecenas" [NA 169-170]; 1851: Sojourner Truth, "Ar'n't I a Woman?" [NA 198-201]; 1895: Frances E.W. Harper, "Songs for the People" [NA 421-422]; 1899: Paul Laurence Dunbar, "Sympathy" [NA 900]; 1907: W.E.B. Du Bois, "The Song of the Smoke" [NA 612-613]; 1908: James Weldon Johnson, "O Black and Unknown Bards" [NA 769-770]

Week 2: Overview

T 9/2 1921: Langston Hughes, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" [NA 1254]; 1925: Countee Cullen, "Yet Do I Marvel" and "Heritage" [NA 1305, 1311-1314]; 1928: Zora Neale Hurston, "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" [NA 1008-1111]; 1937: Margaret Walker, "For My People" [NA 1572-1573]; 1945: Gwendolyn Brooks, "kitchenette building" [NA 1579]; 1951: Langston Hughes, "Harlem" [NA 1267]; 1952: Ralph Ellison, Prologue to Invisible Man [NA 1518-1525]

Th 9/4 1968: Etheridge Knight, "The Idea of Ancestry" [NA 1867-1868]; 1970: James Alan McPherson, "A Solo Song: For Doc" [NA 1986-2002]; 1973, 1974: Alice Walker, "Everyday Use" and "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens" [NA 2380-2394]; 1978: Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise" [NA 2039-2040] and Audre Lorde, "A Litany for Survival" [NA 2208-2209]; 1983: Paule Marshall, "The Making of a Writer: From the Poets in the Kitchen" [NA 2072-2079]


Week 3: Vernacular

T 9/9 Robert O'Meally, "Introduction: The Vernacular Tradition" [NA 1-5]; 1921: James Weldon Johnson, Preface to The Book of American Negro Poetry [NA 861-884]; 1934: Zora Neale Hurston, "Characteristics of Negro Expression" and excerpts from Mules and Men [NA 1019-1041]; 1979: Colleen McElroy, "The Griots Who Know Brer Fox" [NA 2214-2215]; listen to CD (particularly tracks 1-10) and read any three folktales from those among NA 102-125

Th 9/11 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, from Their Eyes Were Watching God [NA 1041-1050]

Week 4: Slavery

T 9/16 William Andrews, "Introduction: The Literature of Slavery and Freedom" [NA 127-136]; 1845: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life [NA 302-369]

Th 9/18 1853-1857: Frances E.W. Harper, "Ethiopia," "Eliza Harris," "The Slave Mother," and "Vashti" [NA 412-417]; 1855: Frederick Douglass, from My Bondage and My Freedom [NA 369-379]

Week 5: Migration

T 9/23 Frances Smith Foster and Richard Yarborough, "Introduction: Literature of the Reconstruction to the New Negro Renaissance, 1865-1919" [NA 461-472]; 1944: Richard Wright, Black Boy, Ch. 1-6: 1-189 (small paperback)/1-160 (larger paperback)

Th 9/25 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]


Week 6: Segregation

M 9/29 CRITICAL ESSAY I due no later than 5 pm

T 9/30 1944: Richard Wright, Black Boy, Ch. 15-18: 304-386 (sp)/258-328 (lp)

Th 10/2 1944: Richard Wright, Black Boy, Ch. 19-20: 387-453 (sp)/329-384 (lp)

Week 7: Renaissance I

T 10/7 Fall Break: No Class.

Th 10/9 Reading Day: No Class. The following readings will be discussed along with the readings for T 10/14: Arnold Rampersad, "Introduction: Harlem Renaissance, 1919-1940" [NA 929-936]; 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]

Week 8: Renaissance II

T 10/14 1918: Claude McKay, "Harlem Shadows" [NA 984]; 1925: Langston Hughes, "The Weary Blues" [NA 1257]; 1925, 1927: Rudolph Fisher, "The City of Refuge" [NA 1175-1187] and "The Caucasian Storms Harlem" [NA 1187-1194]; 1927: Helene Johnson, "Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem" [NA 1317]; 1929: Jessie Redmon Fauset, from Plum Bun [NA 952-960]; 1932: Wallace Thurman, from Infants of the Spring [NA 1229-1239]; 1940: Langston Hughes, excerpts from The Big Sea [NA 1282-1296]

Th 10/16 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

T 10/21 Deborah McDowell and Hortense Spillers, "Introduction: Realism, Naturalism, Modernism, 1940-1960" [NA 1319-1328]; 1953: Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha [NA 1602-1650]

Th 10/23 1945-1960: Gwendolyn Brooks, selected poems [NA 1579-1591]; 1946: Anne Petry, from The Street [NA 1484-1497]


Week 10: Color Lines

T 10/28 1903: W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk [NA 613-702]

Th 10/30 1903: W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk [NA 703-740]

Week 11: Black America

M 11/3 CRITICAL ESSAY II due no later than 5 pm

T 11/4 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]; 1903: Paul Laurence Dunbar, "The Fourth of July and Race Outrages" [NA 905-906]; 1913: James Weldon Johnson, "Fifty Years" [NA 770-773]; 1921: Claude McKay, "America" [NA 985-986]; 1925: Langston Hughes, "I, Too" [NA 1258]; 1944: Melvin Tolson, "Dark Symphony" [NA 1331-1334]

Th 11/6 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]; 1986: Essex Hemphill, from Conditions: XXI and XXIV [NA 2609-2611]

Week 12: Black Arts

T 11/11 Houston Baker, "Introduction: The Black Arts Movement, 1960-1970" [NA 1791-1806]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]; 1977: Audre Lorde, "Poetry Is Not a Luxury" [NA 2210-2212]

Th 11/13 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]; 1984: John Edgar Wideman, from Brothers and Keepers [NA 2328-2335]


Week 13: New World Slavery

T 11/18 Barbara Christian, "Introduction: Literature since 1970" [NA 2011-2020]; 1962: Robert Hayden, "Middle Passage" [NA 1501-1505]; 1988: Gloria Naylor, Mama Day 1-97

Th 11/20 1988: Gloria Naylor, Mama Day 97-165

F 11/21 PROPOSAL for FINAL PROJECT due no later than 5 pm

Week X: R'n'R

M 11/24-F 11/28 NO CLASSES: Thanksgiving Break [it's in your best interest to a) turn in your third critical essay when you turn in your proposal for the final project--before you leave for break--and b) to bring Naylor's Mama Day with you and finish it over break, so that you aren't scrambling to read it and work on your final project at the same time after we return from break!]

Week 14: Diaspora

M 12/1 CRITICAL ESSAY III due no later than 5 pm

T 12/2 1988: Gloria Naylor, Mama Day 166-226

Th 12/4 1988: Gloria Naylor, Mama Day 226-312

Week 15: Global Politics

T 12/9 1923: Marcus Garvey, selected essays [NA 974-980]; 1953: James Baldwin, "Stranger in the Village" [NA 1670-1679]

Th 12/11 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: Wrapping Up

W 12/17 4 pm (regular classroom): wrap up course

F 12/19 FINAL PROJECT due no later than 5 pm

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. Course Listserv. You are required to subscribe to your section's listserv and to read and think about your peers' observations and discussion questions before each class meeting. To subscribe to your section's listserv, compose an email message to listserv@listserv.fredonia.edu, leave the subject line blank, and write this exact command in the body of message: subscribe engl24001 Your Name. Please be sure to delete any signature or other text that may appear in the body of your message, as it will only confuse the very literal-minded machine that handles listserv subscriptions. Very soon after sending this message, you will receive an email from the machine that handles subscriptions asking you to confirm your subscription; please follow the instructions in this email carefully, as you are not subscribed to the listserv until you have done so. Soon after doing this, you will receive another email message from the machine that handles subscriptions informing you that you are indeed subscribed to your section's listserv and laying out basic information about the listserv. Save this message--it's very useful. Once you get this message, you will begin receiving messages from others who are subscribed to the listserv; you also will be authorized to send messages to them by composing a message to the machine that distributes messages to those who are subscribed to the listserv. To do so, simply send an email message to engl24001@listserv.fredonia.edu. It is highly recommended that you either save a copy of every message you send to the course listserv (many email programs automatically save all messages sent in a "sent mail" folder) or "cc:" yourself whenever you send a message to the listserv, as your listserv participation will be graded both quantitatively and qualitatively (see Section IV, above) and it is possible that technical or human error could result in your messages being lost in transit, accidentally deleted, misfiled, or miscounted. . Please familiarize yourself with the college's "Computer and Network Usage Policy" (College Catalog 2003-2005, pp. 241-246) and check with your instructor first before posting something to your section's listserv that is not directly related to the course.

3. Late Assignments. Late reading responses and final projects will not be accepted or graded. Other assignments will be accepted and graded but will lose one-third of a grade per day late (e.g., a paper turned in two days past the due date that would have otherwise received an A- would be penalized two-thirds of a grade and thus receive a B). Only students who ask for an extension at least two days before the due date will be granted one; asking for an extension on the final project means that your final grade for the semester will be an incomplete (I), and that you must turn in your final project before the end of the following semester so that the I becomes a grade other than an E.

4. Plagiarism and Academic Honesty. 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" (College Catalog 2003-2005, pp. 237-239, see also p. 225) and check with your instructor if you have any questions about it.

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, Fall 2003
Created: 8/25/03 5:06 pm
Last modified: 11/3/03 12:33 pm
Click here for the Fall 1999 version of this course and here for the Spring 2001 version of the course.