What is literature and why does it matter? How can literary texts help us think differently about the world? In this course, we will explore these and other questions through works of modern and contemporary U.S. literature. In particular, we will consider the ways resources are unevenly distributed along embodied axes of race, class, gender, and sexuality and the roles that language, literature, and culture play in producing and altering these conditions. Students will learn to closely read literary texts in relation to different genres, historical moments, and literary and social movements, and as tools for making sense of the world. We will experiment with the artistic strategies we encounter by producing our own critical and creative texts and attend to each other’s work with the same care and scrutiny given to assigned readings. Thinking alongside Audre Lorde, we will work together to “envision what has not been and…make the reality and pursuit of that vision irresistible.” Note: this course emphasizes experimentation, creativity, collaboration, and student-centered learning. [Introduction to prose, poetry and drama that reflects the diverse ethnic, cultural and social worlds of North America and the Caribbean today. Fulfills: GE 4, GE 11; LASR; PRES.]


All additional readings will be available on our course website.
Myriam Gurba, Mean (Coffeehouse, 2017) 1566894913
Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun (Vintage, 2004) 0679755330
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior: A Memoir of Childhood Among Ghosts (Vintage, 1989) 0679721886
M. NourBeSe Philip, Zong! (Wesleyan, 2008) 0819571695
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf, 2014) 1555976905


In this course, you will learn

  • To analyze literary and non-literary texts in relation to the material, economic, social, and political conditions in which they were produced.
  • To read critically and creatively and draw connections among a wide variety of texts.
  • To make persuasive arguments that are organized and supported by sufficient evidence.
  • To communicate with different audiences and in different contexts, with an emphasis on digital, multimodal, and public publishing.
  • To develop effective revision skills, both in revising one’s own work and in giving helpful feedback to others.
  • To collaborate effectively, for the maximum benefit of everyone in the group.


20%     Active in-class participation, quizzes, homework, course evaluation
25%     Blog, class facilitation, comments
10 %    Found poem and artist’s statement
25%     Midterm essay
20%     Final: keyword for literary studies


Class URL:

This semester, instead of Blackboard, our course will use a customized site built using the content management system. is the free, open-source software upon which roughly 30% of the world’s websites are built.

One-time registration: Before you are able to access readings, blog, and comment on our course site, you will need to register. For this course, you will be writing blogs that are publicly available. For that reason, I encourage you to sign up for an account with a username that will not disclose your identity.

From the homepage click “Register.” Your username and name should include your first name and last initial and I recommend you set “Who is allowed to see this field?” to “All Members” so that only our class can identify you. Remember to save your username and password!

Once you are registered, you will be able to access readings, blog, and comment by logging in to our class site using your username and password.


Academic integrity: Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students who cheat or plagiarize will be disciplined according to the guidelines in chapter 340 of the College Handbook. All students are expected to have read this chapter and to understand the Handbook’s definitions of these terms.

Accommodation of disabilities: If you are a student with a disability and wish to request accommodations, please contact Student Disability Services, located in Van Hoesen Hall B-1 or call 607-753-2066 for an appointment. Information regarding your disability will be treated in a confidential manner.

Attendance: All students are given three unexcused absences. All subsequent absences will reduce your final grade by one-third of a letter grade. For example: if you earn a B+ but miss four classes, you will earn a B. Two late arrivals constitute an absence. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to contact other students and find out what you missed.

Respectful discussion: Discussion is encouraged but you must always be respectful of ideas shared by your peers; the classroom should be a challenging, fun, and positive place for all.

Submission of work: All work in this class should be properly cited according to the Modern Language Association (MLA) specifications. For blog posts you may use a combination of hyperlinks and MLA style citations. Unless otherwise stated, all formal writing assignments should be submitted in hard copy (printed), with 12 pt, Times New Roman font, double-spaced, with one-inch margins, and your last name and page number in the upper righthand corner of the document. Your grade will decrease one step every day an assignment is late (ex. 1 day late a B+ becomes a B, 2 days late a B+ becomes a B-).

Tutors: If you would like additional help with an assignment, you can visit the Academic Support and Achievement Program (A.S.A.P.) in Van Hoesen Hall B-205 and the new Writing Center (Brockway Hall, opening October 2018) and utilize the NightOWL online tutoring service.


  • Identify your intellectual investment in the course material. Pay attention to what most interests and perplexes you each class. Take note of these. Try to make connections among them. These will help you craft interesting blog posts and essays.
  • Come see me during office hours. If you want to come but aren’t sure what you’d like to talk about, start with your list of intellectual investments. I’m here as a resource for you.
  • Ask questions. No question is too small. We are all learning and experimenting.
  • Make an effort to connect our course discussions, readings, and activities to your experiences outside of the classroom. This is called praxis.
  • Be an active classroom participant. Come to class ready to share questions and ideas. This includes reflections on the structure of the class itself. Be vocal about what does and doesn’t work for you, and suggest learning experiments you’d like us to try as a class.
  • Because this class is structured around experiments, take creative risks and be willing to fail.
  • Care about your work as much as I do. This means proofreading ad nauseum (so many times that you can’t bear to look at it again) and finding people, such as peers and tutors, willing to proofread your work. I won’t proofread your papers but if you come to office hours we can talk specifically about your revising and editing strategies.
  • Plan ahead. At the beginning of the semester, write all of your assignments down in a calendar, agenda, or planner. Include reminders two weeks, one week, and two days before each deadline. If you need to print something, do so the day beforehand. Printer problems are not an acceptable excuse for late work.


  1. Active in-class participation, quizzes, homework, course evaluation (20%)

    Class discussions are a vital part of our class and it is essential that all are actively involved. The more effort and energy you put into this course, the more we will all learn. In order to actively listen, participate, and learn you must not use electronics in class for anything unrelated to our course. Every class will involve some assortment of group discussion, note taking, quizzes, and in-class writing activities. In order to get full credit for participation, you should try to contribute at least one comment or question during each class. Most quizzes will be announced ahead of time. The frequency of quizzes will increase if students attend class unprepared, without readings and notes.


  1. Blog post, class facilitation, comments (25%)

Blog post (10%): At the beginning of the semester, you will sign up to write a blog about the assigned reading and serve as a discussion leader for one of our course sessions. Blog posts must be uploaded onto the course blog by NOON the day before class so other students have ample time to comment. Responses should be well thought out and organized, but do not have to be written as formal papers. Posts should be around 600-800 words (roughly 3 thoughtful paragraphs), and should end with two robust discussion questions. (We will go over how to ask excellent questions. NOT: what did you think about the reading? Did you like my blog post?)

Your blog should draw our attention to something specific about the assigned reading, helping us to see it in a new way. Your blog does not have to address every aspect of the assigned readings; instead, the best posts will make 1-2 observations, elaborate on these, explore their implications, and use these observations to raise new questions. The deliberate use of images, music, video, and supplementary materials is encouraged.

Some options for your blog post:

  • trace a significant pattern you see developing throughout a text.
  • illustrate an important connection between two texts, such as a common question they both take up.
  • provide historical context or a theoretical perspective that reveals something about a text.
  • connect an example from the text to something going on in the world beyond the classroom.
  • creative option: translate an excerpt from the reading into another medium — a drawing, poem, painting, short narrative, dialogue, collage, etc.
  • creative option: experiment with one of the literary techniques from the assigned text to create something of you own.

Facilitation (5%): On the day of class for which you are blogging, you will also facilitate a class discussion based on your blog post and discussion questions. Similar to the blog posts, the goal of these facilitations is to help the class see a specific aspect of the readings in a more complex way. You may lead the class in a short activity (think-pair-share, a close reading exercise, a writing prompt, etc.), design a worksheet, give a presentation, organize a debate, or lead a discussion based on your post and students’ comments. Students can elect to work individually or as a group. Each student is responsible for a 10 minute facilitation. If you elect to work with other students, this time compiles (so two students would be expected to lead a 20 minute activity). Either way, you must coordinate ahead of time with the other blogger(s). If you need additional time for your activity, some exceptions can be made if you contact the professor at least 48 hours ahead of time.

Facilitations should

  • Teach us something: help the class see an aspect of the assigned reading(s) in a new way.
  • Encourage class participation, engagement, and critical thinking.
  • Be well-organized (not haphazardly thrown together) and stick to the time allotment of 10 minutes per person.
  • Include every member of the group (if you elect to work as a group).
  • Be creative and delivered with enthusiasm – this is your opportunity to teach the class in whatever way you want. Make it your dream lesson! The way every course should be taught!

Comments (10%): For classes in which you are not responsible for writing a blog entry, you are expected to comment on someone else’s post. These comments should demonstrate a respectful and collegial engagement with other students’ ideas and/or questions. For this reason, commenters are expected to quote at least once from either the original blog entry or any other preceding comments on the page. Comments should be about 50-150 words in length and must be posted before class. We will go over effective commenting strategies in class. Comments will be evaluated collectively for a total of 10% of your final grade.

I will not accept any late blog posts, facilitations, or comments. These cannot be made up so remember to check your own schedule before signing up for response dates. 

  1. Found poem and artist’s statement (10%)

For this assignment, you will create a found poem inspired by M. NourBeSe Philip’s Zong! Your poem will become part of our digital gallery and will be accompanied by a short artists’ statement explaining your creative process and what you learned/experienced by making the poem.

  1. Midterm essay (25%)

You will receive several options for your midterm essay or you may propose your own topic. Successful essays will use close reading to make an argument that engages one of the central questions of the course. More details to follow.

  1. Final: keyword for literary studies (20%)

For our final class project, we will co-author a digital glossary of key terms for reading, analyzing, and using literary texts to think about the world. You will work in small groups to author a keyword entry in our collective glossary, which future students and educators can use as a resource. Your keyword entry should help a reader understand a particular literary text (or several literary texts) in a compelling, critical, and creative way. More details to follow.


Dates designate the day on which readings will be discussed in class and the due dates of assignments. Dates and assignments are subject to change. 

Week Class Date Assignment
1 1 Mon Aug 27 Welcome! Introductions & blog sign up.
2 Wed Aug 29 Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story” (transcript) & Lorde, “Poetry is Not a Luxury.”

Post a blog introducing yourself to the class. Comment on one other post.

3 Fri Aug 31 Lorde, “Poet as Teacher, Teacher as Poet,” & Walker, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens”
2   Mon Sep 3 No classes, Labor Day
4 Wed Sep 5 Nemiroff, “Introduction” & Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun Act I
Blog posts and comments
5 Fri Sep 7 Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun Act II, scene i
3 6 Mon Sep 10 Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun Act II, scene ii
Blog posts and comments
7 Wed Sep 12 Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun Act II, scene iii
8 Fri Sep 14 A Raisin in the Sun (1961 film)
4 9 Mon Sep 17 Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun Act III
Blog posts and comments
10 Wed Sep 19 Coates, “The Case for Reparations”
11 Fri Sep 21 Kingston, The Woman Warrior, “No Name Woman,” (1-16)
5 12 Mon Sep 24 Kingston, The Woman Warrior, “White Tigers,” (17-54)
Blog posts and comments
13 Wed Sep 26 Kingston, The Woman Warrior, “Shaman”(55-87)
14 Fri Sep 28 Kingston, The Woman Warrior, “Shaman”(88-110)
6 15 Mon Oct 1 Kingston, The Woman Warrior, “At the Western Palace” (111-160)
Blog posts and comments
16 Wed Oct 3 Kingston, The Woman Warrior, “A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe” (161-209)
In class: Go over midterm assignment
17 Fri Oct 5 Cheung, “The Woman Warrior versus The Chinaman Pacific: Must a Chinese American Critic Choose between Feminism   and Heroism?”
7 18 Mon Oct 8 Lorde, “The Uses of Anger” & “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”
19 Wed Oct 10 Rankine, Citizen parts I & II (1-40)
Blog posts and comments
20 Fri Oct 12 Rough draft of midterm essay due in class for peer review
8   Mon Oct 15 No classes (fall break)
21 Wed Oct 17 Rankine, Citizen parts III-V (41-81)
Blog posts and comments
22 Fri Oct 19 Final draft of midterm essay due in class
Class constitution exercise
9 23 Mon Oct 22 Rankine, Citizen part VI (81-135)
24 Wed Oct 24 Rankine, Citizen part VII (136-end)
25 Fri Oct 26 Ahmed, “Feminist Killjoys (And Other Willful Subjects)”
10 26 Mon Oct 29 Philip, Zong! (xi-20, 183-207)
Blog posts and comments
27 Wed Oct 31 Philip, Zong! (20-76)
28 Fri Nov 2 Philip, Zong! (100-123, 175-182)
Please bring in a short text (article, form, document, song lyrics, bill, etc.) that makes you mad or upset, that feels inaccurate or offensive. Be prepared to write on it.
11 29 Mon Nov 5 Found poems and artist’s statement due. Comment on at least one other post.
30 Wed Nov 7 Gurba, Mean (1-36)
Blog posts and comments
  31 Fri Nov 9 Prof. away at conference, read Mean!
12 32 Mon Nov 12 Gurba, Mean (37-100)
Blog posts and comments
33 Wed Nov 14 Gurba, Mean (101-144)
In class: introduce final keyword assignment
34 Fri Nov 16 Three keyword sketches due in class
In class: WordPress workshop
13 35 Mon Nov 19 Gurba, Mean (145-175)
Blog posts and comments
    Wed Nov 21 No class, Thanksgiving break
    Fri Nov 23 No class, Thanksgiving break
14 36 Mon Nov 26 Pratt, “The Advantages of Mingling Indians with Whites” (1892) and Harjo, “The Woman Who Fell from the Sky”

Blog posts and comments

37 Wed Nov 28 Nora Naranjo-Morse, “Gia’s Song,” Louise Erdrich, “Boarding School: The Runaways”
38 Fri Nov 30 Computer lab: Group working session on keyword
15 39 Mon Dec 3 Rough draft of keyword essays due in class for peer review
40 Wed Dec 5 Computer lab: Group working session on keyword
41 Fri Dec 7 Final day of class! Keyword entry presentations & celebration!

Final course reflection due via email by Friday, December 14.