Engl 234/aasp298L – Introduction to African American Literature Spring 2011 Lectures on T/Th, 3: 00-3: 50 p m. • Key 0106 Discussion Sections on Thursday and Friday


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ENGL 234/AASP298L – Introduction to African American Literature

Spring 2011

Lectures on T/Th, 3:00-3:50 p.m. • Key 0106

Discussion Sections on Thursday and Friday

Professor Mary Helen Washington

Office: Tawes 3206

Office Hours: By Appointment


Anna Steed Christin Taylor Kara Morillo

Sections 0102, 0107 Sections 0103, 0105 sections 0101 and 0106

asteed@umd.edu cmtaylor@umd.edu kmorillo@umd.edu

Tawes TBA Tawes 2104 Tawes 2232

Office Hours: Tues 11-12pm Office Hours: Fri 10-11am Office Hours: Tues 12-1pm

and by appt. and by appt. and by appt.

Course Description

Short stories by African American writers often go untaught in survey courses on African American literature. This course will introduce the themes, histories, and rhetorics of African American literature solely through the short story, or more accurately, through collections of short stories. Reading the collected short stories of six major African American writers from the end of the nineteenth century through the beginning of the twenty-first century, we will explore how the stories these authors tell about themselves and their communities are informed by time and place, gender, class, and sexuality. We will look at how stories by the same writer – sometimes complementary, sometimes competing – offer to the reader many different characters, perspectives, impressions, and narrations of important cultural and historical moments in African American history, and therefore the history of the nation. We will ask how the authors intend for us to understand each story, and what our obligation is as readers to understand how the stories talk to each other. How do they fit together as a collection? Examining texts from both the pre- and post-Brown v. the Board of Education eras, this course introduces African American perspectives on universal literary themes such as art, childhood, sexuality, marriage, alienation and mortality, as well as representations of slavery, Reconstruction, racial violence and the Nadir, legalized racism and segregation, black patriotism and black ex-patriots, the optimism of integration, and the prospects of a post-racial America. Finally, alongside each collection of short stories, we will read one poem by an African American poet that reflects the themes and images in the stories.

This course satisfies both the General Education “Humanities” and “Understanding Plural Societies” requirements.
Learning Outcomes
Part One: Humanities. By the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:
1) Demonstrate familiarity and facility with fundamental terminology and concepts in the study of African-American literature.

2) Demonstrate understanding of the methods used by scholars in the study of African American literature.

3) Demonstrate critical thinking in the evaluation of sources and arguments in African-American literature.

4) Demonstrate the ability to formulate a thesis related to African-American literature and to support the thesis with evidence and argumentation.
Part Two: Understanding Plural Societies. By the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:
1) Demonstrate understanding of fundamental concepts and methods that produce knowledge about plural societies.

2) Explicate the processes that create or fail to create just, productive, egalitarian, and collaborative societies.

3) Analyze forms and traditions of thought or expression in relation to cultural, historical, political, and social contexts.

4) Use a comparative and intersectional framework to examine the experiences, cultures, and histories of different social groups within a single society across historical time.

Course Textbooks (all are required)
Charles Chesnutt, The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories (1899) ISBN 9780472061341

W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Coming of John” from The Souls of Black Folk (1903) (online)

Langston Hughes, The Ways of White Folk (1934) ISBN 9780679728177

Richard Bruce Nugent, “Smoke, Lilies, and Jade” (1926) (online)

Richard Wright, Uncle Tom’s Children (1936-38) ISBN 9780061450204

Ralph Ellison, Flying Home and Other Stories (1940-1950) ISBN 9780679776611

Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha (1953) ISBN 97808837890619

Malcolm X, “ Saved” and “The March on Washington” from Autobiography of Malcolm X (1964)

Poetry of the 1960s (TBA)

Andrea Lee, Sarah Phillips (1984); and “The Golden Chariot” (2002) (online)

William Henry Lewis, “I Got Somebody in Staunton” (2005) (online)
Online Readings

Syllabus- Please downlaoad from Blackboard and print out by next class

There are several poems and two stories that are part of the course readings. We will announce these in class and make them available on Blackboard. You can also find all of Chesnutt’s short stories from The Wife of His Youth online as well.

Course Schedule

  • This schedule is subject to change. The lecturer and instructors will announce changes and post them on Blackboard.

  • You are responsible for all announced changes to the schedule.

  • Also, please BRING YOUR BOOK(S) TO CLASS on the date they are discussed.

  • All assignments listed are to be done by class time, or time indicated, on that date.

M, January 24 – Introduction to the Course; Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

W, January 26 – Charles Chesnutt, The Wife of His Youth – “The Wife of His Youth”
Th/F – Discussion Sections
M, January 31 – Charles Chesnutt, The Wife of His Youth – “Cicely’s Dream,” “Her Virginia Mammy,” “The Sheriff’s Children,” and “The Passing of Grandison,”
W, February 2 – Charles Chesnutt, The Wife of His Youth – “Web of Circumstance”; and James Weldon Johnson “Fifty Years”
Th/F, February 3/4 – Discussion Sections, Paper #1 Due
M, February 7 – W.E. B. Du Bois, “The Coming of John” (Blackboard)
W, February 9 – Langston Hughes, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”; poems of the Harlem Renaissance; Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” (Blackboard);

The Ways of White Folk – “Cora Unashamed,” “Passing”
Th/F, February 10/11 – Discussion Sections
M, February 14 – Langston Hughes, The Ways of White Folk – “Home,” and “Slave on the Block,” “The Blues I’m Playing”

W, February 16 – Langston Hughes, The Ways of White Folk – “Mother and Child,” “Father and Son”;

Th/F, February 17/18 – Discussion Sections
M, February 21 –Richard Bruce Nugent, “Smoke, Lilies, and Jade”
W, February 23 –“Smoke, Lilies, and Jade”; Nugent’s visual art;
Th/F, February 24/25 – Discussion Sections
M, February 28 Richard Wright, Uncle Tom’s Children – “Big Boy Leaves Home,” and “Down by the Riverside,” and “Long Black Song”
W, March 2 – Richard Wright, Uncle Tom’s Children –“Fire and Cloud” and “Bright and Morning Star”
Th/F, March 3/4 – Discussion Sections
M, March 7 – Ralph Ellison, Flying Home – “Party Down at the Square” “Boy on A Train”
W, March 9 – Ralph Ellison, Flying Home – “Hymie’s Bull,” “I Did Not Learn Their Names”
Th/F, March 10/11 – Discussion Sections, Paper #2 Due
M, March 14 – Ralph Ellison, Flying Home--“Mister Toussan,” “Afternoon,” and “Flying Home”;
W, March 16 – Ralph Ellison, Flying Home – “In A Strange Country”; Rita Dove’s poem “Homework” (Blackboard)
Th/F, March 17/18 – Discussion Sections
Spring Break. March 21-25
M, March 28 – Film: Race: The Power of An Illusion
W, March 30 – Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha – Chapters 1-17

“Kitchenette Building” (Blackboard)

Th/F, March 31/April 1 – Discussion Sections –

Paper #3 Thesis Statement and Outline Due
M, April 4 - Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha – Chapters 18-26
W, April 6 Maud Martha – Chapters 27-34
Th/F, April 7/8 – Discussion Sections
M, April 11 – Introduce the Black Arts Movement and poetry about Malcolm X; show Make It Plain
W, April 13 – Malcolm X - Autobiography, two chapters
Th/F, April 14/15 – Discussion Sections
M, April 18 – Malcolm X, poetry by Robert Hayden

Introduce Andrea Lee, Sarah Phillips – “In France,” “New African,” “Mother,” “Gypsies” ““Marching,” “Servant Problems”

W, April 20 – Andrea Lee, Sarah Phillips – “Matthew and Martha,” “The Days of the Thunderbirds,” “An Old Woman,”
Th/F, April 21/22 – Discussion Sections
M, April 25 –Andrea Lee, Sarah Phillips – “Negatives,” “Fine Points,” “A Funeral at New African”
Paper #3 Due
W, April 27 – Andrea Lee, Complete reading of Sarah Phillips; “The Golden Chariot” (xp)
Th/F, April 28/29 – Discussion Sections
M, May 2 – William Henry Lewis, “I Got Somebody in Staunton”
W, May 4 –2 essays from Half and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial + Bicultural
Th/F, May 5/6 – Discussion Sections/

May 9 - Last Day of Class; Review for Final Exam

Course Policies

  • Changing Sections: You may not change your discussion section. You may not take a quiz in another discussion section

  • Class Preparation: This course is a student-centered learning environment. You are expected to come to class prepared for discussion. That means reading the texts carefully and taking notes. Each week, we will give you a set of questions about the text we will discuss. You should have notes about those questions and be prepared to answer those questions, using your notes. We expect you to be able to support your answers with examples from the text; that means having page and paragraph marked. Discussions may often include your reaction to a text—always a good way to begin—but class discussion is meant to lead you to deeper ways of understanding texts; it is not meant to be merely an exchange of personal opinions and reactions.

  • Class Etiquette:

Please DO: Bring your copy of the book we are reading to every lecture and discussion section.
Please DO: Come to class on time. This course meets three times each week. In addition to the weekly lectures, you are required to attend the discussion section for which you have registered. Instructors lead the discussion sections. Punctuality and attendance are important. We expect you to come to all lectures and discussions, to come on time, and to participate fully in all aspects of this class. If there is some reason you must be late, let us know ahead of time. Your presence and participation may help to raise your grade if you are on the borderline.

Please DON’T: Come to class after an absence and ask us if you’ve missed anything. Assume that something important goes on in your absence. Please DO partner: If you miss a class, you must have a “partner” to give you missed work and to give you the notes of the class. We are available during office hours and by appointment, and we can be reached by email.

Please DON’T: Eat, sleep, talk on your cell phone, dial out on your cell phone, send or receive text messages on your cell phone, listen to your iPod, play games or surf the web on your computer, or use any other technology that gets invented during this semester. If you use your laptop for taking notes, you must sit in the first row. All of this comes under the heading of respect for yourself, your classmates, and your instructors. If you exhibit any of these behaviors, we will ask you to leave the lecture hall or your discussion section immediately. If there are repeated violations, we will refer you to judicial review.
Please DO: Remember that old proverb, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” and ask for help when you need it. We are here to help structure an environment that will enable you to be successful in this class. We view this class as a learning community in which questions are welcomed, you and your success in this class are important.

  • Guidelines for Papers and Assignments: Papers and assignments are due on the day assigned, by class time. A late paper is any paper not received at the beginning of class on the day the assignment is due. WE WILL NOT ACCEPT LATE PAPERS unless there is a documented emergency, illness, or some exceptional circumstance (which must be documented) that prevents you from turning your work in on time. The instructors will return all of your papers and assignments promptly, so that you have evidence of how they grade, how you are doing, and what you need to do to improve. You may ALWAYS come in and discuss your papers or your grades or any other aspect of your work in this class with your instructor. Consult UM guidelines and penalties for academic dishonesty.

  • Use of blackboard: Please check your e-mail and the course calendar at least once a day. If you do not have a UMD account, please sign up for one within the first week of classes. If you need assistance, contact OIT at 301.405.1500. Blackboard will enable you to keep track of your grade, turn in assignments, submit discussion questions, communicate with your instructors and classmates via e-mail, access handouts and web links, and view the course syllabus. Tutorials for Blackboard are available on the course website, which is accessible through www.courses.umd.edu. Use your UM e-mail ID and password to access the web space for our course.

  • Students with Disabilities: If you have a registered disability that requires accommodation, please talk with us immediately. If you have a disability and have not yet registered it with Disability Support Services in the Susquehanna Building (4-7682 or 5-7683 TTY/TDD), do so immediately.

Course Assignments

  • Quizzes: You will take a quiz on the lectures and readings in your discussion section every week. If you come to your discussion section late, i.e. five minutes after class begins, and miss the quiz, you will not be able to take the quiz. Students may make up quizzes under the following four circumstances:  1. illness (where the student is too ill to attend class); 2. religious observance (where the nature of the observance prevents the student from being present during the class period); 3. participation in university activities at the request of University authorities; or 4. compelling circumstances beyond students’ control (death in your family). No other excuses will be accepted. You must advise your instructor of your absence in writing or via e-mail in advance and documentation may be required. Make-up quizzes, a typed, take-home essay, must be submitted within a week of your excused absence. Please consult the university’s policy for more information about rescheduling assessment in the event of excused absences (http://www.faculty.umd.edu/teach/examination.html). At the end of the semester, we will drop your two (2) lowest quiz scores.

  • No Extra-Credit Work: We will not offer any extra-credit assignments.

  • Cheating and Plagiarism: You will be happier if you turn in your own work. The instructors enjoy reading what YOU think even if it is not the greatest prose style. It’s you. Cheating is a serious offense and a sign of a lack of self-esteem. See the University guidelines for the policies of University of Maryland, which are very strict. Cheating involves claiming work or content as your own when the idea of the information comes from another source. Paraphrasing someone else’s words or ideas is the same as plagiarizing unless you credit that person or text. A plagiarized assignment—even if it is only one sentence or paragraph—will result in an ‘F’ for that assignment and notification to the Academic Dean. A serious or repeated offense can result in your failing the course.

  • Three Papers

You will receive a detailed writing assignment sheet for each paper.

    • Paper #1. Personal Story. Due Friday, September 10th.

  • In this paper you will write a 2-3 page typed, double-spaced essay describing one migration in your family that has had an impact on you.

    • Paper #2. Close Reading. Due Friday, October 15th.

      • In this paper you will write a 3-4 page typed, double-spaced essay that examines a passage from a story selected by the lecturer and instructors.
    • Paper #3. Critical Essay. Due Tuesday, November 30.

      • In this paper you will write a 4-5 page typed, double-spaced essay that examines a recurring word, image, or figure and tell us what work it is doing in the story.

  • Format for ALL Homework Assignments:

      • All papers assigned as homework must be typed in 12-point Times New Roman font, with one-inch margins (top, bottom and sides), using MLA documentation style. If you do not have a computer with word-processing capability, computer labs are available on campus with necessary software.

      • Please place the following information in the upper left-hand corner of each assignment that you turn in:

Course Name, Section

Your Name


Title of Assignment
Double-space after typing the information above and center the title of your paper on the first page before beginning your first paragraph. Use regular font Times New Roman, and do not underline the title, use all caps, or place it in quotation marks. Please do not use cover sheets or folders. If your assignment is two or more pages, staple your paper together before bringing it to class.

  • Final Exam: You will complete a comprehensive test based on the readings, lectures, and class discussions. The final exam is scheduled by the University during final exam week. We will notify you of the time and place as soon as final exam schedules are published.


Your instructor is completely responsible for evaluating all of your papers, assignments, quizzes and exam. Please direct all of your questions about your grades to him or her. Professor Washington will not become involved in grade disputes. After you receive your first graded assignment, you can check your current grade-to-date for the course at any time on Blackboard.

Your grade is based on the total points earned for the following:
60 points – Quizzes (15%)

60 points – Paper #1 (15%)

80 points – Paper #2 (20%)

100 points – Paper #3 (25%)

100 points – Final Exam (25%)


400 points – Total Points Possible

Grades are calculated as follows:

90-100% – A (360-400 points)

80-89% – B (320-360 points)

70-79% – C (280-320 points)

60-69% – D (240-280 points)

below 60% – F (0-240 points)

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