English 169:
Ethnicity in American Literature

Professor Noelle Brada-Williams

Class: MW 12-1:15 PM MW, DMH 226B
Office: FO 110 Office Hours: MW 2-4 AM & W, 10-11:45 AM (and other times by appointment)
Phone: 924-4439
Email: awilli@email.sjsu.edu (no attachments)
Website: www.sjsu.edu/faculty/awilliams


This course examines major issues in American literature that pertain to both the ethnic experience in America as expressed by members of ethnic communities and the way in which American race or ethnicity has been narrated by authors outside those communities.  It will examine world-views and strategies of representation by a sampling of Americans with origins in the five different continents that have populated the United States: North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.  During the course of the semester, we will explore a variety of literary genres or forms including novels, poetry, oral narrative, critical essay, and short story.  You should take heed that the content of this course will not only focus on the difficult subjects of racism and the formation of racial and ethnic identity in the United States for a full semester but will contain themes related to religion, sexuality and other highly charged issues.  Some texts may offer alternative or even antagonistic value systems to your own.

Course Objectives:
1.  To gain an awareness of the range of cultural experiences and productions that make up American literary and cultural history.
2.  To explore various literary genres which have shaped (or been reshaped by) representations of ethnicity in America.
3.  To strengthen our abilities to engage literary text and to analyze both its form and content as well as its historical contexts.
4.  To hone students' reading, writing, researching, and critical thinking skills through the practice of intellectually challenging analyses.
Course objectives 1-3 will be accomplished through the readings and class discussions while the written work will allow us to accomplish objective 4 and to assess our level of accomplishment in objectives 1-3.

Course Requirements and Grading:
Coursework includes reading assignments (see schedule below); two five to eight-page formal literary analyses (which must include research); a midterm of 5 short “identification” questions/paragraphs; a final exam composed of both essay and identification questions. Late paper policy: keeping in mind the many emergencies and unforeseen events that can occur in the average SJSU student’s life, I have a very generous extension policy. As long as you give me the request in writing—print or email— (complete with a new deadline) before the paper’s due date, most requests for an extension will be granted. If the original deadline is passed by a student who has not received an extension or an extended deadline has been passed, 10% of the total points possible will be taken off for lateness up to one week, NO PAPER WILL BE ACCEPTED ONCE AN ORIGINAL OR EXTENDED DEADLINE HAS PASSED BY MORE THAN A WEEK. Extended or late papers will be graded AFTER on-time student work. Note that doing the reading and being able and willing to respond to the comments and questions of both the professor and your fellow students on a daily basis is a requirement of the course. Reading quizzes and other in-class assignments will be given to ensure that students are indeed completing and understanding the readings. These cannot be made up.
 
Paper One
5-8  page analysis w/ research
30%
Paper Two
5-8 page analysis w/ research
30%
Midterm
Comparative essay & 3 I.D.'s
10%
Final Exam
 Comparative essay & 5 I.D.'s
20%
Class Participation/Quizzes
Up to 30 class meetings/quizzes
10%
Total
 
100%

The following statement has been adopted by the Department of English for inclusion in all syllabi:

In English Department Courses, instructors will comment on and grade the quality of student writing as well as the quality of ideas being conveyed. All student writing should be distinguished by correct grammar and punctuation, appropriate diction and syntax, and well-organized paragraphs.
The Department of English reaffirms its commitment to the differential grading scale as defined in the SJSU Catalog ("The Grading System").  Grades issued must represent a full range of student performance: A = excellent; B = above average; C = average; D = below average; F = failure.

In written assignments for English 169, this scale is based on the following criteria:
A [90-92=A-, 93-96=A, 97-100=A+] = Excellent: The "A" essay is articulate and well developed with fluid transitions and a clear and persuasive use of evidence, which is drawn from the literary text itself, lecture materials (when appropriate), and research materials. An "A" essay contains a fresh insight which teaches the reader something new about the subject matter.
B [80-82=B-, 83-86=B, 87-89=B+] Above average: The "B" essay demonstrates a good understanding of its subject, a clear and persuasive use of evidence, a certain level of ease of expression, and solid organization.  However, it usually lacks the level of originality and creativity that characterizes the insight found in an "A" essay.
C [70-72=C-, 73-76=C, 77-79=C+]  = Average: The "C" essay makes a good attempt at all the assignment's requirements.  It has a reasonable understanding of its subject matter but its ideas are frequently simplistic or over-generalized.  The writing style is also more bland and repetitive than the style shown by "A" and "B" essays and it often contains flaws in grammar, punctuation, spelling and/or word choice.  It may also use textual evidence out of context.
D [60-62=D-, 63-66=D, 67-69=D+] = Below average: The "D" essay is poorly organized and generally unclear.  It has inappropriate or inadequate examples, is noticeably superficial or simplistic, and/or contains some serious mechanical and grammatical problems.  A "D" essay may also reveal some misunderstanding of the assignment requirements.
F = Failure: An "F" essay has not addressed the requirements of the assignment and is unacceptable work in terms of both form and content.

The university has defined plagiarism as “The act of incorporating the ideas, words, sentences, paragraphs, or parts of, and/or the specific substance of another's work, without giving appropriate credit, and/or representing the product as one's own work;” (excerpt from the complete policy at http://www2.sjsu.edu/senate/S04-12.htm). Plagiarism or cheating in English 169 will result in a failing grade. The incident will also be reported to the university for possible further action. All quotes must be enclosed in quotation marks or, when more than three lines, put in an indented block (like the quotes above). Full citation of the original author and source must also be included. For all papers, review excerpt from Diana Hacker’s Writer’s Handbook at the front of the reader for help with quote integration, formatting & proper citation. Your final requirement in the course is to be courteous and professional to both classmates and the professor. I realize that most people take this as a requirement in their daily lives and this statement does not need to be reiterated here. However, people sometimes forget that the classroom is a professional setting and rules that govern a business meeting apply here. For example, devices such as cell phones need to be turned off; coming to class late is unacceptable. 

Campus policy in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act: "If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or see me during office hours. Presidential Directive 97-03 requires that students with disabilities requesting accommodations must register with DRC to establish a record of their disability.”

Schedule:  [Do the assigned reading and writing in preparation for the discussion on the date on which the assignment is listed.] 

Eight Required Texts: 

• English 169 Reader available at Maple Press on San Carlos, between 10th and 11th. 
• Abraham Cahan, The Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories (text also available online)
• Louise Erdrich, Tracks 
• Arturo Islas, The Rain God 
• Jean Toomer, Cane, Norton Critical edition
• Maxine Hong Kingston, China Men 
• Z.Z. Packer, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere 
• Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange 
• I also recommend Persis Karim, ed., A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian-Americans 
• You need to keep the professor updated as to your most accessible and current email address.

Week One: Introduction 
Monday, August 27: Introduction. Recommended reading: sampling of Native American oral literature in your reader. 

Wednesday, August 29: Read China Men to page 81. Recommended reading: Excerpt of Ronald Takaki’s A Different Mirror (in 169 Reader). 

Week Two: Nineteenth-Century Immigration 
Monday, September 3: Labor Day Holiday 
Wednesday, September 5: Read China Men to page 162. 

Week Three: Concluding Kingston’s China Men 
Monday, September 10: Read China Men to page 233 
Wednesday, September 12: Complete China Men (to 308). 

Week Four: The Impact of Place on Identity 
Monday, September 17: Read Abraham Cahan, Yekl (to page 89). Recommended viewing: Hester Street (video in library). 
Wednesday, September 19: Read Abraham Cahan's "The Imported Bridegroom” (to page 162). 

Week Five: Identity and the Land 
Monday, September 24: Read Solmaz Sharif's "My Father's Shoes," and Willa Cather's "Neighbor Rosicky” (both in reader). 
Wednesday, September 26: Louise Erdrich, Tracks (to page 61). 

Week Six: Erdrich’s Historiographic Metafiction Monday, October 1: Tracks (at least to page 130). Wednesday, October 3: Conclude Louise Erdrich, Tracks (to end/p. 226). 

Week Seven: An Introduction to the Harlem Renaissance
Monday, October 8: Read W.E.B. Dubois’ “Criteria of Negro Art,” Alain Locke’s “The New Negro.” Wednesday, October 10: All essays and poems by McKay, Hughes & Brown (all in reader). 

Week Eight: Modernism, Generic Innovation, and the Depiction of Ethnicity
Monday, October 15: Read part 1 of Cane (3-37).
Wednesday, October 17: Read part 2 of Cane (41-80). 

Week Nine: Midterm & Paper 1 
Monday, October 22: Paper 1 Due. Conclude discussion of Harlem Renaissance and review for Midterm. Wednesday, October 24: MIDTERM EXAM in class—bring two blue books. 

Week Ten: Arturo Islas’s The Rain God 
Monday, October 29: Read Arturo Islas’s The Rain God (to page 50)
Wednesday, October 31:
Read The Rain God (to page 110). 

Week Eleven: Personal Responsibility and Resistance to Oppression 
Monday, November 5: Finish The Rain God (113-180). 
Wednesday, November 7: Read Adrienne Rich, "Split at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity," and Reginald McKnight, “The Kind of Light That Shines in Texas” (in reader). 

Week Twelve: Humor and Resistance 
Monday, November 12: Veteran’s Day. School Closed. 
Wednesday, November 14: Read Sherman Alexie, “The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor"; and Percival Everett, “The Appropriation of Cultures,” and Mariam Salari's “Ed McMahon is Iranian” (reader). 

Week Thirteen: Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange 
Monday, November 19: Read Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange (at least to page 70). 
Wednesday, November 21: Read Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange (at least to page 140). 

Week Fourteen: Magical Realism and Images of Dystopia/Utopia 
Monday, November 26: Read Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange (at least to page 210). 
Wednesday, November 28: Finish Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange (280 pages). 

Week Fifteen: Packer’s Stories of Group Dynamics and the Recent Past 
Monday, December 3: Read Z.Z. Packer, “Brownies” (1-31) and “Geese” (210-233).
Wednesday, December 5: Read Z.Z. Packer, “The Ant of the Self” and “Doris is Coming.” 

Week Sixteen: A Summing Up 
Monday, December 10: Paper two Due. Read Langston Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again”; Lorna Dee Cervantes' “Poem for the Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, An Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe in the War Between Races”; and Aurora Levins Morales' “Child of the Americas” (all 3 in Reader). We will review for the final on this day. 

Final Exam: December 18, 9:45 AM to Noon.