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AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE | ALIT/ALS 250-01


SYLLABUS | FALL 2019

Dr. Racheal Fest | SUNY Oneonta | English Department

Classroom: XX Meeting Time: XX


Email: XX Office Hours: XX
Office: XX Office Phone: XX

CATALOG DESCRIPTION | ALIT/ALS 250 | 3 credit hours


A study of works by African-American writers since 1890. The forms studied will include
novels, short stories, plays, and poems. General Education Attributes: LA, H3
SECTION DESCRIPTION
In this course, we’ll survey literary works composed by African American writers from 1890 to
the present. We’ll explore the range of styles and themes black writers develop and track some of
the tradition’s key debates about what black literary activity is and does. We’ll notice how poets,
novelists, and orators respond to the changing conditions of modern life they face in the US and
beyond. As we’ll see, not only do writers with diverse commitments argue over literature’s
nature and function at any given moment. Many vital figures—among them W.E.B. Du Bois,
Amiri Baraka, and Audre Lorde—also revise over time their goals and their ideas for
transformative collective projects. Rather than approach African American literature as a
minority canon within US letters, we’ll consider how the tradition opens onto and influences
broader conversations about culture, politics, and economics in the twentieth century and today.

REQUIRED TEXTS
Purchase books at Damascene Book Cellar and print PDFs from Blackboard (BB). No
electronic texts.

Locke, Alain, ed. The New Negro Anthology. 1925. Touchstone, 1999.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. 1987. Vintage, 2004.
Rankine, Claudia. Citizen. Graywolf, 2014.
*PDFs available on BB (see “Sequence,” below). Print out and bring to class.

SUNY GENERAL EDUCATION 3 ATTRIBUTE STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES


Humanities (H3): Students will demonstrate knowledge of the conventions and methods of at
least one of the humanities in addition to those encompassed by other knowledge areas required
by the General Education program.

COURSE GOALS
By the end of the course, you’ll be able to:

• describe the themes and styles African American writers develop after 1890
• compose original arguments about course texts
• support your arguments with evidence drawn from close attention to texts
• evaluate the texts you read and explain why they might deserve attention

ASSIGNMENTS AND GRADES

Final Grades
Assignment Weight
Quiz (6) 10%
Participation 15%
Discussion Board (4) 20%
Midterm Essay 25%
Final Essay 30%

Grade Intervals
A = Excellent (A- 92; A 95; A+ 100)
B = Good (B- 82; B 85; B+ 88)
C = Fair (C- 72; C 75; C+ 78)
D = Poor (D- 62; D 65; D+ 68)
E = Failure

Assignments
Quiz (6)
Quizzes assess reading completion. Be sure to review the course schedule in advance so that you
complete assigned reading on time. Makeup quizzes are not permitted.

Participation
I note participation at the end of each session. Come to class each day ready to talk and think.
Complete all reading, bring assigned texts to class, and speak often. Each day you do, you’ll earn
one participation point. Any day you don’t bring your text, arrive late, seem distracted, or use a
device during class, you will earn a zero for participation. At the end of the semester, I tally your
daily participation points and evaluate your contributions to class conversation. See
“Attendance,” below, for more information.

Discussion Board (4 @ 500 words/each)


For each Discussion Board (DB) assignment, you’ll post a response to a prompt and comment on
one peer’s post. Find the Discussion Board on Blackboard. Please contact me in advance of the
due date if you encounter technical difficulties. Posts are due the night before we meet and
comments are due any time before class (see “Sequence,” below). Sometimes, I share posts or
comments in class. See assignment sheet for details.

Midterm Essay (6+ pages)


Midterm essays make an argument about a literary work and cite at least one expository text.

Final Essay (9+ pages)


Final essays put two literary works in conversation, make an argument about them, and cite at
least two expository texts.

Essay Formatting Guidelines


Essays should be double-spaced with standard margins in 12-point Times New Roman font.
Number pages and include a title. Use MLA style for headings and citations (include in-text
citations and Works Cited page). The MLA Handbook is available at the library or for purchase
online. Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab also offers reliable guidance:
https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/ml
a_formatting_and_style_guide.html. Essays lose 1/3 of a letter grade (for instance, B = B-) when
they do not conform to these guidelines.

SafeAssign
Students must upload digital copies of midterm and final essays to SafeAssign, a tool that helps
me check for plagiarism. SafeAssign compares the essays you upload to BB with existing online
sources and with student writing submitted at SUNY Oneonta and at other institutions. It then
generates an “originality report” and links your document to similar sources online or in a
database.

Each day an essay is due, bring a hard copy to class and upload a digital copy to SafeAssign on
BB before class meets. In BB, select “Assignments” from the sidebar menu. Then, select the
appropriate assignment and upload your document. Contact me in advance of an essay’s due date
if you have technical questions. You must upload a draft to receive credit for turning in your
essay on time. I cannot return a graded essay to you before you have uploaded a copy of it to
SafeAssign.

COURSE POLICIES

Academic Integrity
Do not cheat, plagiarize, or engage in other forms of academic dishonesty. SUNY Oneonta
defines academic dishonesty as “any act by a student that misrepresents or attempts to
misrepresent to an instructor or any College official, the proficiency or achievement of that
student or another student in any academic exercise, or that is intended to alter any record of a
student’s academic performance by unauthorized means.” In this course, take special care to
present as your own only original writing. Use MLA style to cite all quoted or paraphrased
material for all course assignments. Do not borrow another’s composition or hand in writing you
produced for another class.

If you violate SUNY Oneonta’s Academic Integrity Policy, you will receive a score of zero for
the assignment and you may fail the course. I will also report the violation to the Office of
Community Standards. Depending on the severity of the violation, you might be dismissed from
the university. Second violations, in this or another course, may result in suspension or dismissal.

Attendance
Attendance at all sessions is mandatory. I permit each student two unexcused absences for the
term. After three unexcused absences, I subtract one letter from your final participation grade.
You will receive a final participation grade of “0” after five or more unexcused absences, and
you may fail the course. Three late arrivals constitute one absence. If you miss most of two
sessions (due to late arrival or early departure), I record one full absence. You are responsible for

material we discuss when you do not attend class. Visit office hours or contact a peer to discuss
that material.

As SUNY Oneonta’s attendance policy requires, I will excuse any absence for which you
provide me with documentation. See SUNY Oneonta’s College Handbook for more information
about what constitutes an excused absence (military leave, documented illness, jury duty,
athletics): https://suny.oneonta.edu/policy-library/policies/college-handbook-policies/excused-
absences.

University policy also requires you to attend one of the first two class hours. After the fifth class
day and up until the last date to withdraw from our course, I may request an “Involuntary
Withdrawal” if you miss 25% of scheduled class meetings.

Electronic Devices
Do not use electronic devices (cell phones, laptops, readers, etc.) during class. Please contact me
if you have special needs.
Email Communication
I contact you through your SUNY Oneonta email account. Check it every day.

Emergency Evacuation Procedures


In the event of an emergency requiring evacuation from Human Ecology, please report to Chase
Gymnasium so that College officials can account for you. The College encourages students to
register for NY Alert at http://www.oneonta.edu/security for immediate notification of campus
emergencies on or near the campus.

Final Exam Schedule


SUNY Oneonta requires that all courses meet during the university’s final exam week. Find out
more about final exams here: https://suny.oneonta.edu/academics/college-calendar/fall-final-
exam-schedule

Late Work
Please submit all work at the date and time the sequence indicates. I do not accept late final
papers. I deduct one third of a letter from the Midterm essay’s final grade for each day it is late
(for instance, C+ = C). Late essays do not receive comments. Late DB posts must be completed
within one week of the assignment’s initial due date and will earn only half credit. Request an
extension at least one day before an essay is due.
RESOURCES

Accessibility Resources
All individuals who are diagnosed with a disability are protected under the Americans with
Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. As such, you may be entitled
to certain accommodations within this class. If you are diagnosed with a disability, please make
an appointment to meet with Accessibility Resources, 133 Milne Library, ext. 2137. All students
with the necessary supporting documentation will be provided appropriate accommodations as
determined by the Accessibility Resources Office. It is your responsibility to contact

Accessibility Resources and to supply me with your accommodation plan, which will inform me
exactly what accommodations you are entitled to. You will only receive accommodations once
you provide me with an Accessibility Resources accommodation plan. Any previously recorded
grades will not be changed.
Office Hours
I offer support and answer questions about assignments and readings during office hours. You
don’t need an appointment to speak with me, but I encourage you to make one so that I’m sure to
be available to you, especially in advance of assignment due dates.

Writing Center
Located in the Student Learning Center (SLC, Milne Library, 2nd floor), SUNY Oneonta’s
Writing Center offers students free courses and tutorial assistance in writing. Find out more
about their services here: https://suny.oneonta.edu/slc/writing-assistance. Students can sign up
for workshops, ongoing coaching, individual tutoring sessions, and more through SLC’s online
scheduling service, available at https://tracktion.oneonta.edu.

SEQUENCE (may change) *Available on BB

Date Unit Reading Due Assignment Due


T Introduction
8.27
R *Oxford English Dictionary
8.29 Course Keywords
T *Booker T. Washington Quiz 1
9.3 “Atlanta Exposition Address”
Beginnings

*W.E.B. Du Bois
“Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others”
R *Hubert Harrison
9.5 “On a Certain Conservatism in Negroes” and
“What Socialism Means to Us”

*Marcus Garvey
“The Future as I See It”
T Alain Locke Quiz 2
9.10 New Negro Anthology
“Foreword” (xxv-xxvii) and “The New Negro”
(3-16)

*Henry Louis Gates


“Visual Essay”
Harlem Renaissance

R Jean Toomer
9.12 New Negro Anthology
“Fern” and “Carma” (96-104)
T Poetry
9.17 New Negro Anthology (127-150)
R Poetry DB 1 | Toomer or Poet (post by 9.18,
9.19 New Negro Anthology (127-150) 6 PM; comment before class)

Elise Johnson McDougald


“The Task of Negro Womanhood”
New Negro Anthology (369-382)
T *James Baldwin
9.24 “The Creative Process”
Civil Rights

“If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell


Me, What Is?”
R *James Baldwin Quiz 3
9.26 “Sonny’s Blues”

T *Black Panther Party


10.1 “Platform and Program”

Black Arts Movement and Beyond *Amiri Baraka


“Myth of Negro Literature”

*Larry Neal
“Black Arts Movement”

R *Amiri Baraka DB 2 | Baldwin or Baraka (post by


10.3 Selected poems 10.2, 6 PM; comment before class)

T *Audre Lorde Quiz 4


10.8 “Poetry Is Not a Luxury”
“Learning from the Sixties”

R *Audre Lorde
10.10 Selected poems

T MIDTERM Midterm Essay due


10.15
R Morrison
10.17 Beloved (Foreword-33)
T Morisson
10.22 Beloved (34-86)
R Morrison Quiz 5
Postmodernism

10.24 Beloved (87-133)


T Morrison
10.29 Beloved (134-159)
R Morrison
10.31 Beloved (160-195)
T Morrison
11.5 Beloved (196-241)
R Morrison
11.7 Beloved (242-277)
T Morrison DB 3 | Morrison (post by 11.11, 6
11.12 Beloved (278-324) PM; comment before class)
R Claudia Rankine Quiz 6
Contemporary

11.14 Citizen (1-55)


T Claudia Rankine
11.19 Citizen (56-79)

*Jayson Musson (YouTube)

“Art Thoughtz: How to Be a Successful Artist”


“Art Thoughtz: How to Be a Successful Black
Artist”
R Claudia Rankine DB 4 | Rankine (post by 11.20, 6 PM;
11.21 Citizen (80-129) comment before class)
T Claudia Rankine
11.26 Citizen (130-169)
R 11.28 | NO CLASS | THANKSGIVING RECESS
T Final Paper Proposal Final Paper Proposal
Conclusion

12.3
R *Robin D.G. Kelley
12.5 “Black Study, Black Struggle”

12.12 FINAL
11 AM – 1:30 PM