On-line Course Syllabus
Contemporary U.S. Women of Color
(Re) rac-/class-/gender-/sex-ing Identities
Fall 1999

Instructor: Nick Melczarek
Office: 4303-D Turlington
Office hours: MW 6th Period & by appt.
Department 'phone: 392-0777
Office 'phone: 392-6650 ext.295
e-mail: nickym@melczarek.net
(remember -- no attachments)
MWF Per 6 (10:40-11:30 a.m.)
Rolfs 105

Before you go any further, know that this syllabus is subject to and will change according to the needs of the course.

Course Purpose/Overview
AML 2410.1631 introduces students to issues of sex(uality), race/ethnicity, class, and (ac)culturation explored in fiction and criticism by contemporary "women of color" in the U.S. The course continually requires students to question and investigate constructions of subjecthood and objecthood for women, treating the U.S. itself as a multilayered episteme. Through combined readings of critical texts and novels, students are immersed in not only contemporary defining tropes for/of women, but also in critical methodology and praxis. Students are encouraged to challenge both their own knowledge and thinking, as well as their social environment, through experiment with literary and cultural critique.

We will organize our readings and writing around a few central tenets: Toni Morrison and bell hooks' inquiries into the necessity of "blackness" for construction of "whiteness"; Mary Louise Pratt's concept of the "contact zone"; Adrienne Rich and others' conceptualization of "lesbian"; Gloria Anzaldua's vision of the mestiza. Each of these approaches (and others) will help us interrogate the construction of identity (for both observer and observed) as well as problematize what it means to be a citizen of the U.S. for women of color.

AML 2410.1631 entails copious reading of historical, critical, and literary material. Students are required to cover historical background to establish contexts; literary texts as reflections of and reactions to those contexts; and critical explorations/responses to aid students' own cultural and literary critiques. There will be 3 papers of 5-8 pp. each, reading quizzes/ short work, and a creative project.

Texts and Materials

  • Kingston's The Woman Warrior , Morrison's Playing in the Dark and Beloved , Mukherjee's Jasmine , Erdrich's Love Medicine , Cisneros' House on Mango Street , Sinlair's Coffee Will Make You Black and a course packet(maybe two?) (all available at Wild Iris Books on University Avenue)
  • various materials on Webluis reserve
  • various handouts on grammar, extra readings, etc., as necessary (I provide these)
  • an e-mail account for correspondence with myself and class peers
  • any college-level handbook (for grammar, MLA format, etc. -- pends my approval)
  • (strongly suggested) an affordable recent COLLEGE dictionary no "happy family" dictionaries!)
  • (strongly suggested) an affordable recent thesaurus

    3 papers of 5-8 pp. each (positively no less than 5 pp!), 60% (20% each)
    1 creative project, 20%
    quizzes, short work, 10%
    class participation 10%
    (See Course Policies sheet for grading scales.)

    Each of the three papers is intended to reflect students' abilities to engage both literary and critical texts in responsible and creative ways, through textual evidence and extra-textual critique. Papers will be discussed in class and individual conferences, and drafts encouraged (all previous drafts must accompany rewritten papers). As befits the 2000 level, papers must be scrupulously proofread. More than two spelling or simple grammatical mistakes make a paper unacceptable. I presume (dangerously) that students have by this time successfully passed ENC 1101 or an equivalent, and are therefore familiar with the basic requirements of clear writing; I also presume that students already possess a college-level writing guide and dictionary -- and know how to use them.

    The creative project will be discussed at length in class. It comprises creative textual and visual explorations of the issues found in the novels and critical readings. Each project requires a visual component as well as a written explanatory accompaniment. While I intend the projects to be fun explorations of the course's subject matter, I also expect them to be seriously researched and executed -- any sloppy or obviously thrown-together jobs are unacceptable.

    "Pop" quizzes -- as necessary to ensure that students do indeed read and try to understand the assigned material. Short work (such as brief explications de texte, analyses, "journal entries," etc.), whether in- or out-of-class, will also be used and figured into your grade.

    (Tentative) Course Schedule

    Week 1 (23-27 Aug) course introduction; concepts/framework; Sollors, hooks, Pratt (handouts)

    Week 2 (30 Aug - 3 Sept) Morrison Playing in the Dark ; "Immigration and Diaspora" (packet)

    Week 3 (6-10 Sept) off Monday 6 for Labor Day; "General Introduction -- A Woman-Centered Perspective" (packet); "The World of Our Grandmothers" (packet); Kingston The Woman Warrior

    Week 4 (13-17 Sept) The Woman Warrior cont'; "The Mother as Other" (packet); "Nissei Women and Resettlement During WWII" (packet)

    Week 5 (20-24 Sept) Yamamoto "Seventeen Syllables" and "Yoneko's Earthquake" (packet); "Interview with Hisaye Yamamoto" (packet); "Transplanted Discourse in Hisaye Yamamoto's 'Seventeen Syllables'" (packet); "Asian American Lesbians" (?)

    Week 6 (27 Sept - 1 Oct) "Matchmaking in the Classifieds" (packet); Mukherjee Jasmine ; PAPER 1 DUE

    Week 7 (4-8 Oct) Jasmine cont'; "How the West Was Really Won" & "Who Is Your Mother?" (packet); Allen "Where I Come From Is Like This" (packet); Erdrich Love Medicine

    Week 8 (11-15 Oct) Love Medicine cont'; "Blurs, Blends, Berdaches" (packet); Anzaldua "How to Tame a Wild Tongue" (packet); "We Came All the Way from Cuba..." & "When I was Puerto Rican" (packet)

    Week 9 (18-22 Oct) Cisneros The House on Mango Street ; "Memories of Girlhood" (packet)

    Week 10 (25-29 Oct) "The Erasure of Black Women" (packet);Morrison Beloved

    Week 11 (1-5 Nov) off Friday 5 for Homecoming; "invisible week" -- you'll see why

    Week 12 (8-12 Nov) off Thursday 11 for Veterans' Day; ; Beloved cont'; "Beloved, She's Ours" & "Gendering the Genderless" (packet); PAPER 2 DUE

    Week 13 (15-19 Nov) "Compulsory Heterosexuality" (handout/reserve?); "What Has Never Been" (handout/reserve?); "A Cultural Legacy Denied"; Sinclair Coffee Will Make You Black

    Week 14 (22-26 Nov) off Thurs & Fri 25-26 for Thanksgiving; Coffee Will Make You Black cont'

    Week 15 (29 Nov-3 Dec) Coffee Will Make You Black cont'; final questions

    Week 16 (6-8 Dec) CREATIVE PROJECTS DUE; final class & wrap-up

    PAPER 3 DUE during exam week -- t.b.a.

    Note: for reasons of time and/or student interest, writers -- except for the novelists -- might be either deleted from this list or substituted with other writers; you will be notified ahead of time.

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