ENGL 383 sections 001 & 002
African-American Literature Survey

Spring 2005 / section 001 MWF 9-9:50/section 002 MWF 12-12:50 p.m./Devilbiss 211
Dr. Nick Melczarek Office phone: 410-546-6203
Office: HH 344 e-mail anmelczarek@salisbury.edu
(send no attachments!)
Office hours: MTWF 10-11 a.m. & by appt.

This website and the schedule updates linked to it for ENGL 383.001/.002 supercede and overrule the paper syllabus. You must have an e-mail account and web access to participate in this course. If you don't have both of these yet, obtain them immediately.


Updated Schedules (highlighted as available); these sites overrule the paper syllabus schedule:

Weeks 1-2 | Weeks 3-4 | Weeks 5-6 | Weeks 7-8 | Weeks 9-10 | Weeks 11-12 | Weeks 13-14 | Weeks 15-16

Contents on this site
(click to jump to the following sections below)
Course Decsription/Overview Course Objectives and Goals
Required Texts and Materials Assignments & Grade Distribution
Papers Mid-term and Final Exams
Quizzes, etc. Attendance & Tardiness
Participation Class Conduct
Cell phones, etc. Academic Dishonesty & Plagiarism
Students with Disabilities

Related ENGL 386.001/.002 pages (click to jump to the following additional sites)
Exploratory Research Paper assignment site
Links of interest to this course

This syllabus remains deliberately brief to allow flexibility to the unpredictable needs of students. Once updates are posted online, you are responsible for tracking due dates. To ensure that you do not miss class notes, familiarize yourself with at least two other students -- trade 'phone numbers or e-dresses so that you have two people to contact. I should be the last person you contact for any such information. Always consult the online syllabus and schedule updates before asking me any questions about assignments or the class.
»»Course Decsription and Rationale
What role have African-American writers conceived for the black artist in America? Which have they emphasized more: "black" or "artist"? Why have some writers urged blacks to segregate themselves from dominant white society, while others have advocated assimilation? What possibilities for personal, social, and global change do black thought and writing hold? Our readings, lecture, and course discussions will use a few primary themes (the black intellectual, black self-identity, a black aesthetic) and images or discourses (ships, passage, passing, Biblical reference, folk/oral tradition, and African legend) to help us answer these questions and interpret the rich and volatile history of African-American literature. We will trace the course of black identity in and through literature in the U.S. as both a response to historical forces and as a historical force in itself.

To do so, ENGL 383 surveys short fiction, novels (some excerpts), drama, essays/autobiographies, and speeches by African-American writers spanning the 19th-20th Centuries. Our fiction readings are framed by historical background material. While studying how African-American literature intersected and participated in such literary movements as Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism, as well as Postmodernism and Postcoloniality, we will also investigate the developing process of self-identification for both U.S.-born and naturalized foreign-born blacks within the U.S. as reflected in their literatures.
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»»Course Objectives and Goals
This course will not enable you to point to a text and say "this is obviously a black piece" -- as if it were an animal behind a sign in a zoo. Rather, this course emphasizes the individuality of each of the authors who speaks from within a particular experience labeled "African-American." None of the authors we'll read is representative of blackness overall, but rather is one of many possible voices to speak from the experience of blackness in the U.S. So, this course seek to expose you to the changing idea of the "black artist" in the U.S. over time, through the stories, poems, drama, essays and novels we'll read during the semester.
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»»Required Texts and Materials
Available at the bookstore in the SU Commons: Additional material on the web, or library reserve (including written materials and visual arts)
A working e-mail account and reliable access to the internet
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»»Assignments & Grade Distribution (elements described below)
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»»Exploratory Research Paper 30% of your grade comes from a research paper (6-7pp.) that you will compose during the semester that will include elements of literary research as well as creative thought of your own; I will issue detailed instructions on the website in plenty of time. We will derive topics for these papers from our readings and classroom discussion. Given the ubiquity of papers for sale, on the internet, etc., however, I will set strict guidelines to discourage plagiarism (see below). Papers are due on the date/time that they are listed as due. Late papers will be penalized one letter grade for each day late, including weekends. Failure to turn in the research paper will fail you from the course.
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»»Mid-term and Final Exams 50% of your grade comes from two exams, one at mid-term and a final, that include terms, concepts, and writers covered to each respective point in the course. We will discuss the specifics of the exam as we draw closer to each date -- I compose each exam based on the flow of the class during the semester.
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»»Quizzes, etc. Expect unannounced quizzes on reading comprehension. I may also ask you to write brief, informal responses to class readings to supplement classroom discussion; I will announce due dates/times for these assignments upon issuance.
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»»Attendance & Tardiness Since most of this class comprises class discussion and some lecture, class attendance remains crucial. This counts for unannounced quizzes and in-class assignments as well. Nevertheless, I allow you 3 absences (equivalent to a week of class) before I begin to penalize you. If you anticipate an absence, notify me in person or by e-mail; e-mail must be time/date-stamped at least 24 hours before your absence. Tardiness disrupts class flow. Arrive to class on time -- not five or ten minutes later. Travel difficulties are immaterial. Three late arrivals will count as an absence. Check with me at the end of class to be counted on that day's roll; unless you check with me, you will stay marked absent.
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»»Participation Simply attending class is not enough. Have assigned texts read before you come to class. I also expect you to actively participate, in class in general but particularly in discussion. Ask questions and offer ideas based in the texts. I do not give you participation points just for showing up. You may contribute to the course discussion through e-mail as well. I also welcome individual student conferences.
Black History Month Events: This February, SU celebrates Black History Month with a series of events (I have included the schedule with your syllabus). Attending any of these, or visiting any of the black historical sites on the Eastern Shore or in Baltimore, and providing a detailed one-page commentary can contribute to your overall quiz grades. Check the website for links, and the brochure I gave you in class.
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»»Class Conduct Whether you agree with ideas and perspectives from the reading material, peers, or class discussion, you will show respect for those ideas, perspectives, and the people who hold them. This counts in class, on paper, and in e-mail. You will participate in class discussion in a polite, responsible, adult manner. ANY name-calling, derogatory or belittling comments, disparaging attitude or the like, directed toward either myself or another student, will NOT be tolerated One instance will receive a verbal reprimand; another will lose you all class participation points. After the first instance, it remains at my discretion to expel you from class and seek disciplinary measures from SU authorities.
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»»Pagers, cell phones, beepers, PDAs, electronic alarm watches, etc. All such electronic devices must remain switched off during class time and in individual conferences -- turn them off before class. If any of these in your possession goes off during class or conferences, you will automatically be counted absent for that session. This counts especially for exams. Repeated incidents of interruption by such devices and your checking/responding to them will result in your expulsion from the class.
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»»Academic Dishonesty & Plagiarism You're here to learn and to prove yourself, not simply to accrue empty grades like a scavenger hunt. I will therefore pursue and prosecute any instance of cheating, plagiarism, or other academic dishonesty in my class with the utmost vigor, in accordance with SU policies. "Plagiarism" constitutes any of the following
Any form of dishonesty will result in automatic failure from the course; will be reported to SU authorities; and could result in expulsion from the university.
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»»Students with disabilities Please discuss with me during the first week of the semester any special accommodations you will require due to a verifiable disability.
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Students remain responsible for knowing when assigned readings and essays are due. I advise you to collect 'phone numbers from at least two peers in class, so that you have someone to contact for assignments in case of absence. After I have announced the website's launch, check the website regularly for schedule updates. Avail yourself of my office hours as well -- instructor availability remains one of the key advantages of a small university.
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