ENGL 383 section 001
African-American Literature
Spring 2006 / MWF 9-9:50 a.m. / Devilbiss 327

Dr. Nick Melczarek Office phone: 410-546-6203
Office: HH 344 e-mail anmelczarek@salisbury.edu
(send no attachments!)
Office hours: MW 12:45-2p.m., TR 1-3 p.m. & by appt.

This website and the schedule updates linked to it for ENGL 383.001 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.

FINAL EXAM: Wednesday May 24 8-10:30 a.m. same room
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
Group presentation Quizzes & Reaction papers
Attendance & Tardiness Participation
Black History Month
Class Conduct Cell phones, etc.
Academic Dishonesty & Plagiarism Students with Disabilities

Related ENGL 383 pages (click to jump to the following additional sites)
Paper 1 assignment site Paper 2 assignment site Group presentation site
Reaction Papers site Terms & Concepts site Links of interest
Paper Writing Tips Site Spell-Checker Poem OED online

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 13-16

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 18th-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.
(back to Contents)

»»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.
(back to Contents)
»»Required Texts and Materials
Available at the bookstore in the SU Commons: Library reserve material for photocopying; additional handouts; online sources
A working e-mail account and reliable access to the internet
(back to Contents)
»»Assignments & Grade Distribution (elements described below)
(back to Contents)
»»Papers 40% of your grade comes from two long papers (~5 pp.) that you will compose during the semester; 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 the paper topics to discourage plagiarism (see below). Know that it will be more work for you to plagiarize than to actually write the thing on your own. 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 either of the major essays will fail you from the course. (back to Contents)
»»Mid-term and Final Exams 30% of your grade comes from two exams, one at mid-term and a final, that include terms and concepts 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 what we've covered to that point.
(back to Contents)
»»Group Presentation Early in the semester you will sign on to one of five groups that will research cultural information and/or poetry for your assigned section, and present them to the class. I will give details on the assignment and meet with each group during the semester. If poetry is involved, everyone in the class must read the poems, regardless whether you're presenting on them.
(back to Contents)
»»Quizzes & Reaction papers Expect unannounced quizzes on reading comprehension. You will also compose a brief (1 page) reaction to each of the novels/sections, including questions based on your reading. I will discuss these in greater detail early in the semester.
(back to Contents)
»»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.
(back to Contents)
»»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 encourage and welcome office visits to let me know how you feel you're doing.
(back to Contents)
»»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.
(back to Contents)
»»Class Conduct This course will discuss diverse perspectives and ideas, many of which may be unfamiliar to you. Whether you agree with ideas and perspectives from the reading material, peer groups, 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.
(back to Contents)
»»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: your pager, etc., going off during an exam will automatically fail you from the exam. Repeated incidents of interruption by such devices and your checking/responding to them will result in your expulsion from the class.
(back to Contents)
»»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.
(back to Contents)
»»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.
(back to Contents)
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. 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. I welcome and encourage office visits for you to ask questions, further explore lines of inquiry, and to update me on how you think you're doing in the course.

Notice: I do NOT hold conferences during the last two weeks of the semester before exam week--if you waited until then, it's too late.

(back to Contents)