•  Class Attendance

Though your attendance will not be formally used to calculate your final grade, you are expected to attend class every day, arrive on time and participate in an informed and consistent matter.  Anything less will not be tolerated and will result in problems in this class. Despite not being a formal component of your course evaluation, attendance does have the potential to affect your grade.  Consistent tardiness will result in the lowering of your overall grade by one-half of a grade (e.g. a B would become a B-).  During the course of the semester you are allowed three absences. After three absences (excused and unexcused) EACH further absence will result in a reduction of your overall grade of one-half of a grade (e.g. a B would become a B-).  This may seem punitive but (1) class discussions are one of the most important elements of class; (2) there will be several extra credit opportunities given randomly in class. Moreover, students missing any class meeting are responsible for missed lectures and media material shown/discussed in their absence.  Any in-class assignments cannot be made up.  Make sure you sign the attendance sheet, which will be distributed at the beginning of each class meeting.  If you come to class late and don’t sign the attendance sheet at the end of class you will be considered absent on that particular day.  Finally, you will automatically FAIL the course if you miss more than 5 classes, regardless of what your course grade is up to that point.



•  Participation (15% of final grade)

This class is a student-centered learning environment in which you are largely responsible for making the meaning of the course.  Unlike some approaches to learning in which the professor largely determines the content of course lectures and discussions, a student-centered approach views learning as a process of intense exchange and a negotiation of each other’s different beliefs, social locations, and ways of knowing.  Student-centered courses are not lecture-based, and so they depend on student dialogue and the professor’s relentless facilitating, questioning, and mediating of student ideas.  Because of this pedagogical approach, participation is the cornerstone of this class, and a significant portion of your final grade.


As such, you are expected to be present intellectually as well as physically in the classroom.  This means that not only must you attend, but that you must endeavor to contribute to the flow and body of the course. You will be expected to prepare carefully for each class by completing the required readings by the day on which they are listed in the course schedule.  This course asks you to read texts closely and responsively.  This means that if you want to do well you will actively engage with your books by writing questions in the margins, circling key terms, looking up words you do not know, and underlining themes or issues you find intriguing.  Responsive readers think of themselves as having a dialogue with the author and use reading as the basis for formulating their own interesting ideas, questions, and arguments.  This approach will likely assist you with comprehending the material and it may give you ideas for your contributions to the class and its discussions. 

Note:  Some of the reading on this syllabus may feature material of a sexual or violent nature, including explicit language; you should not remain in this class if you are uncomfortable reading works that may include this material. 


Your level of readiness to participate in a conversation about issues of race and racism is predicated upon a number of issues such as one’s personality, awareness of issues, experience, and classroom climate.  I also recognize that time constraints and size of the class will limit the number of people who participate.  Ultimately though, while it is understood that not everyone contributes to the same degree or in the same manner, total silence during the course of the semester will affect your evaluation. 


Your classroom participation grade will be based on the following criteria:


Excellence (A) requires that you play a leadership role in discussion, demonstrate that you carefully read and thoughtfully consider the text; discuss points articulately; listen sensitively and respond intelligently to other’s views; do not interrupt, obstruct or dominate discussion; ask insightful, carefully-constructed questions; and take responsibility for the overall quality of the discussion.


Above Average (B) requires that you participate actively in discussion, demonstrate good knowledge of the text, work to achieve understanding, listen to other viewpoints, and ask sound questions.


Average (C) requires that you follow the discussion, make occasional comments, have a basic knowledge of the text, and sometimes ask questions.


Below Average (D) requires that you occupy a seat and occasionally show signs of life.


Failure (F) requires that you occupy a seat but show no signs of life.


Reader Reflection In-Class Exercises

Throughout the term you will be asked to spend time to participate in reader reflection activities.  The purpose of these exercises is to help you to consider more in-depthly the significance of the reader to literature, as well as the ways in which you, specifically, as a reader approach and engage literature.  These reader reflections require no more than a few paragraphs of written response.  Your written work will be submitted to the professor.  Each submitted reflection will be worth 1 point toward your participation grade.



•  Discussion Questions (5% of final grade)

Throughout the semester you will be asked to post a total of FIVE (5) discussion questions regarding the critical essays in the “Comments” section of the course blog.  You may only post one questions per essay.  For your question to count toward a particular day’s critical essay it must be submitted NO LATER THAN 9 A.M. on the day the essay is to be discussed in class as the questions will provide a framework for that day’s discussion of the essay.  Any questions posted after that time WILL NOT COUNT.


The question needs to demonstrate that you have read the essay, as well as the fact that you are attempting to make connections with how the ideas within the essay inform our class themes and topics.  In other words, the question should be more complex than a yes/no query or a request to identify a definition or piece of data that the author uses.


The professor will post to the course blog to accompany each critical essay.  You should leave your question in the “Comments” section for the post that corresponds with the essay you are addressing.  Make sure TO NOT use nicknames when you post your question.  The professor will need to be able to identify you in order to give you credit for the question, so use a recognizable form of your real name.



•  Reading Responses (15% of final grade)

Each student will prepare and answer FIVE reading questions throughout the semester, one to correspond to each novel we will be reading during the course.   Students will prepare a question based on the reading and submit the question along with a one-page (single-spaced) response to the question at the beginning of class the Tuesday following our completion of each respective text. Reading responses should provide a careful and focused consideration to a question at issue you see arising from each particular work.  Each reading response should begin with a stated question at issue.   The body of your response will develop ideas related to your question.  These questions and their responses will be graded primarily on the thoroughness and intelligence with which you grapple with issues at hand in the text rather than on traditional criteria of a persuasive essay.  I will place significant emphasis on the clear statement of a viable question at issue, so think carefully about the kinds of questions that the texts and our discussions evoke.  Reading responses will be worth 20 points each.



•  Facilitation (15% of final grade)

During the second week of class you will be put into small groups.  During the semester you and your group will be responsible for administering ONE in-class assignment based on ONE of the day’s novel readings to be assigned to each group by the professor. Your duties will be: 1) to choose a passage from the day’s reading assignment, 2) to devise a topic/question related to the assigned reading for that day that is demonstrated through the passage you have chosen, 3) send me your passage and topic/question via e-mail THE DAY BEFORE your assigned day, 4) write a 2-page, double-spaced essay responding to your topic. Attach a copy of chosen passage separately.  (It does not count toward the 2 pages.), 5) during class, when asked to do so by the professor, write the topic on the board, 6) time your fellow classmates as they write a 10-minute essay.  The topic you and your group members create should reflect what you find to be the most interesting, important, or even confusing element of that day’s reading.  Your topic may be thematic or technical (concentrating on stylistic choices such as language, setting, point of view, characterizations, use of irony, etc.).    Your topic should have a very narrow focus and include key words (i.e. analyze, summarize, compare, define) that will enable your classmates to quickly devise a writing strategy. 


At the end of the 10-minutes you and your partner will read aloud your essay responses to your topic.  You and your group will also randomly choose one person from the class to read his/her response to your topic. You may only be chosen ONCE as the in-class reader.



• Midterm Exam  (20% of final grade)

There will be an in-class midterm exam on Thursday, March 12, consisting of 3 parts: 1) multiple choice and true/false questions, 2) 1 essay question dealing with one of the critical essays, and 3) 1 close reading passage question taken from the novels.



•  Final Group Project (30% of final grade)

During the third week of the course students will be assigned a group with whom they will work for the final project.  (NOTE: This is a DIFFERENT group than your “Group Facilitation” group.)


In class during the third week, each group will randomly choose a time period.  The group is then to choose a novel by an African American author (NOT on the course syllabus) from that time period to be read by all members of the group.  At the end of the semester each group will be responsible for doing a 30-minute presentation on their chosen novel.


Each presentation MUST incorporate the following elements:

1.     A historical context/background for both the book and its author

2.     A short, but representative, reading of a passage from the book, along with a critical commentary of why that particular passage was chosen.

3.     A critical discussion and analysis of the particular themes and forms the author highlights within the story

4.     A concluding discussion of how your chosen novel represents an African American literary tradition that takes into consideration the course discussions from throughout the semester


In addition to the final 30-minute presentation to the class, EACH member of the group will turn in a final 5-page book review of the group’s chosen novel (on the day of their presentation).  The presentation must include all members of the group. Though you are not required to use them, you are encouraged to use visual materials, and/or other media, to get across your point and engage the students in the class.


Weekly workflow logs will be due each Friday beginning on Friday, February 13, demonstrating the group’s progress, individual assignments and progress on all materials. Designate one group member to turn in the workflow log into my mailbox in the CES office (Wilson 111) by 5PM on Fridays.  If you do not consistently turn in your workflow logs it will adversely affect your grade for the final project.


Each group will e-mail me ( with their chosen novel no later than Friday, February 6, 2009.  If I have not received your choice by this date at 5 p.m. a novel will be assigned to your group and the group will lose 5 points from their grade for the final project.