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Fall 2010
Lectures on T/Th, 2:00-2:50 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 Laura Williams
Sections 0101, 0102, 0107 Sections 0103, 0105 Sections 0104, 0109,
Tawes 2230 Tawes 2232 Tawes 2104
Office Hours: Tues 11-12pm Office Hours: Fri 10-11am Office Hours: Tues 12-
and by appt. and by appt. and by appt.

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 black authors tell about themselves and their communities are informed
by time and place, gender, and class. 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 a
contemporaneous African American poet.

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Charles Chesnutt, The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories (1899)
Langston Hughes, The Ways of White Folk (1934)
Richard Bruce Nugent, “Smoke, Lilies, and Jade” (1926) (online)
Richard Wright, Uncle Tom’s Children (1936-38)
Ralph Ellison, Flying Home and Other Stories (1940-1950)
Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha (1953)
Poetry of the 1960s (TBA)
Andrea Lee, Sarah Phillips (1984)
James Alan McPherson, “Crabcakes” (1995) (online)

Online Readings –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.


 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.

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
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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
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 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.

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 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
( 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.

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
 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.


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 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)
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below 60% – F (0-240 points)


 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
 Also, please BRING YOUR BOOK(S) TO CLASS on the date they are
 All assignments listed are to be done by class time, or time
indicated, on that date.

T, August 31 – Introduction to the Course

Th, September 2 – Charles Chesnutt, The Wife of His Youth – “The Wife of His

F, Sept. 3 – Discussion Sections

T, Sept. 7 – Charles Chesnutt, The Wife of His Youth – “The Sheriff’s Children,”
“Cicely’s Dream,” “Her Virginia Mammy”

Th, Sept. 9 – Charles Chesnutt, The Wife of His Youth – “The Passing of
Grandison,” “Web of Circumstance”; James Weldon Johnson, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and
Sing” (Blackboard) and “Fifty Years”

F, Sept. 10 – Discussion Sections, Paper #1 Due

T, Sept. 14 – Langston Hughes, The Ways of White Folk – “Cora Unashamed,”


Th, Sept. 16 – Langston Hughes, The Ways of White Folk – “The Blues I’m Playing”

F, Sept. 17 – Discussion Sections

T, Sept. 21 – Langston Hughes, The Ways of White Folk – “Home,” “Slave on the

Th, Sept. 23 – Langston Hughes, The Ways of White Folk – “Mother and Child,”
“Father and Son”; Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” (Blackboard)

F, Sept. 24 – Discussion Sections

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T, Sept. 28 –Richard Bruce Nugent, “Smoke, Lilies, and Jade”

Th, Sept. 30 –“Smoke, Lilies, and Jade”

F, October 1 – Discussion Sections

T, Oct. 5 – Richard Wright, Uncle Tom’s Children – “Big Boy Leaves Home,” and
“Down by the Riverside”

Th, Oct. 7 – Richard Wright, Uncle Tom’s Children – “Long Black Song” and “Fire
and Cloud”

F, Oct. 8 – Discussion Sections

T, Oct. 12 – Ralph Ellison, Flying Home – “Party Down at the Square” “Boy on A

Th, Oct. 14 – Ralph Ellison, Flying Home – “Hymie’s Bull,” “I Did Not Learn Their

F, Oct. 15 – Discussion Sections, Paper #2 Due

T, Oct. 19 – Ralph Ellison, Flying Home--“Mister Toussan,” “Afternoon,” and

“Flying Home”; Rita Dove’s poem “Homework” (Blackboard)

Th, Oct. 21 – Ralph Ellison, Flying Home – “In A Strange Country”

F, Oct. 22 – Discussion Sections

T, Oct. 26 – Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha – Chapters 1-5

Th, Oct. 28 – Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha – Chapters 6-17

“Kitchenette Building” (Blackboard)

F, Oct. 29 – Discussion Sections – Paper #3 Thesis Statement and Outline


T, November 2 - Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha – Chapters 18-34

Th, Nov. 4 – Film: The Power of An Illusion

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F, Nov. 5 – Discussion Sections

T, Nov. 9 – Andrea Lee, Sarah Phillips – “In France,” “New African,” “Mother,”

Th, Nov. 11 – Andrea Lee, Sarah Phillips – “Marching,” “Servant Problems”

F, Nov. 12 – Discussion Sections

T, Nov. 16 – Andrea Lee, Sarah Phillips – “Matthew and Martha,” “The Days of the
Thunderbirds,” “An Old Woman”

Th, Nov. 18 – Andrea Lee, Sarah Phillips – “Negatives,” “Fine Points,” “A Funeral
at New African”
F, Nov. 19 – Discussion Sections


T, Nov. 30 – James Alan McPherson, “Crabcakes”; Paper #3 Due

Th, Dec. 2 – James Alan McPherson, “Crabcakes”

F, Dec. 3 – Discussion Sections

T, Dec. 7 – James Alan McPherson, “Crabcakes”

Th, Dec. 9 – Review for Final Exam

F, Dec. 10 – Discussion Sections/ Last Day of Class