Category Archives: Assignments

Thursday May 18: Assata conclusion and final exam review

 

This week we finish the autobiography of Assata Shakur. For Thursday 5/18, finish Assata. Again, make sure to pay attention to the various poems she includes in the story on pages 240 (“Current Events”), 259 (“To My Daughter Kakuya”), and 263 (“The Tradition”). Think also about the themes that we’ve been talking about so far and how Assata’s work fits into the context of urban narratives and themes of immigration/migration, return home, urban space, etc. What’s the significance of the story ending in Cuba and how does Assata adjust to her new home? Consider this prep for the final exam. If you read this carefully, it’s one less thing you’ll need to study.

Presentation by Lyna, Shonsaya, Rayne, and Jarissa.

We’ll have a structured review session for the final exam at the end of the class.

My guide to final exams, “Zen and the Art of Finals” (PDF), will help you begin to prepare for our final (and hopefully others as well). Think about major themes that we’ve been talking about all semester and bring questions to the class. We’ll have an open prep/ study session for the final exam.
As a reminder, the final is scheduled for Thursday, May 25 1:30-3:30 PM in the regular classroom and you might want to check Lehman’s Exam Schedule (PDF file) for your other classes as well. Be sure to arrange for childcare/ time off work/ whatever you need to do now, as there will be no make-ups, except for extraordinary circumstances. Unless you can provide a hospital or arrest record (your own, not a family member’s), you get no make-up. “My family bought plane tickets to go on vacation” or similar is not an extraordinary circumstance in my book. Consider college a job and be up front with family, friends, etc. about what that commitment means.

Week of May 4: Assata Shakur’s autobio, part 1

220px-AssatabioThis week we move on to the our last book of the semester, the autobiography of Assata Shakur

Announcement: The deadline for the second paper has been extended to Monday May 8 by Midnight EST. See the assignments page for details.

For Thursday 5/4, read pages 1-98 (Chapters 1-5) in Assata Shakur’s  Assata: An Autobiography. Be sure to read the foreward by Angela Davis and Lennox Hinds. Also make sure to pay attention to the various poems she includes in the story on pages 1,17,44, and 62.

Questions to think about:

  • How effective is her style of storytelling? Does the non-linear narrative with flashbacks make the book more engaging?
  • How does Assata go about re-telling history?
  • What role do poems play in an autobiography? What do they tell you about Assata or the other people that the regular story does not?
  • How does the story deal with / describe urban space and the neighborhoods the story is set in. What locations does she mention in the text? What does each one mean to her?
  • Think about how Assata’s character develops and signs for what you think makes it an “urban” narrative.Think about how she deals with different themes we’ve discussed in class so far.Choose a few significant quotes from the text to show key points. Write down why they’re significant and what they show in your notes. Explain in your own words how you think the quotes relate to larger themes in the book or other things we’ve covered this semester.

    Presentation by Robert, Shan, Zain, Natalia, and Miriam.

    Extra: Listen to “A Song for Assata” by Common, from his 2000 Like Water for Chocolate release, featuring CeeLo Green.

Thursday April 27: Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman

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Photo: Still from the 1967 film version of Dutchman

Next week (April 13) is spring break. The following Thursday (April 20) is a Monday schedule according to the Lehman calendar (opens as PDF), so we don’t meet until the 27th.

Reminder: The due date on The Warriors paper has been extended to Monday April 10 at midnight EST. After that, penalties will apply for late papers according to the assignment sheet. See the assignment sheet if you’ve lost yours and remember that you can view the film again from the video page on the course website. Also, there is a new assignment: due Friday, May 5th.
For Thursday April 27th:, we take a sharp turn and read the classic play Dutchman from Amiri Baraka (then named LeRoi Jones). For Thursday, read only the first half of the book :the play Dutchman. Even though it’s short, you need to read it slowly and carefully.

Presentation by Emerson, Dennis, Alessandra, and Nathan

Pay attention to the following to guide your reading:

  • What are the key themes or topics that you think the play talks about?
  • How does the setting of the play affect the action? What role does the subway train play?
  • What does it say about life in the city or urban environments?
  • There are crucial points in the play where the plot (action) turns that decide the outcome. What do you think they are?
  • Read the final few pages of the play more than once. What’s the significance of Clay’s final speech?

Watch the following short YouTube video with Baraka discussing the context of the play and some of what influenced him to write it.

Extra/Optional: Watch this biographical overview of Baraka and discussion of Dutchman I did for the television show The Queens Grapevine. It’s a little less than a half hour long.

Thursday April 6: Soledad conclusion

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For Thursday 4/6 finish Soledad (end–page 230) in the new paperback edition. Continue tracking the themes we’ve identified and how characters develop in the book.

  • We’ve discussed the settings in class: the split between the East Village and Washington Heights and what each represents. Watch for locations as you read, how Cruz presents them, and what different urban spaces mean to key characters.
  • Point of view. Soledad comes from a female author and the P.O.V. the reader gets is primarily from women. What differences (if any) do you notice?
  • Following on the last point, one key subtext of the book are the various forms of violence against women. Think about this as you read and what it feels like for the various characters to move through urban spaces.
  • Culture. Another point of tension in the plot is the difference between the younger and older generations of characters and between more traditional Dominican culture and the different outlook that the younger, Americanized characters have. What are the differences between how characters see the world and their place in it?
  • What’s Soledad’s view of the American Dream and class mobility? Does it change over the course of the book? How?In addition to the general themes listed above, consider the following specific points:
  • What changes do we see in Soledad’s attitudes toward her mother, Richie, and Flaca?
  • How do her feelings towards the Dominican Republic and Washington Heights evolve?
  • What is the role of the supernatural or spirituality in the book’s conclusion?
  • How do memory and trauma affect the characters?
    Presentation by John, Julio, Dauris, and Fanny.
    Reminder: [Edit: the paper due date has been extended until 4/10–during spring break] The paper on The Warriors is due on 4/6. This weekend is the time to put some work into it if you haven’t yet. Review the assignment sheet and re-watch the film, taking good notes. Note: the video’s now available to stream on the video page. Strongly consider a trip to the ACE Center for help crafting your paper, especially if you want a good grade. Schedule an appointment for early next week to make sure you have time before the due date. Of course, you can run ideas past me via email and/or meet with me in office hours next week to discuss, no matter where you are in the process.

Thursday March 30: Angie Cruz’s Soledad, Part 1

On Thursday, 3/30, we turn to Angie Cruz’s novel of Dominican immigrants in Washington Heights, Soledad.

Angie Cruz, author of "Soledad"

Angie Cruz, author of “Soledad”

Read the first 5 chapters: up to page 111 in the new paperback edition. Note: it starts slow and Cruz’s narrative is non-linear and slightly more challenging than what we’ve read so far, but the effort is worth it. It is also the first from a female POV and female author. Here are a few things to think about as you read:

  • What do the different urban spaces in the book (the East Village) and (Washington Heights) represent to Soledad?
  • What are Soledad’s feelings toward her family and the neighborhood and how do they change? (Spoiler: they do)
  • The narrative is “non linear” (i.e. it doesn’t proceed in chronological order, time-wise) and the narrator (person telling the story) changes. Try to track the characters and who is speaking.
  • What tensions are there between old school Dominican culture and the different strands of US culture?

Presentation by Ron, Angelica, Ritu, and Mamta.

Announcements: I gave out the assignment sheet for the the first paper today and it’s due April 6. Details on the assignments page. You can view The Warriors or Do the Right Thing (which we’re not officially watching this semester) on the Video page: same password as everything else.

March 2nd: Nuyorican Drama – Miguel Piñero’s Short Eyes

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For Thursday, March 2nd read “The Drama of Miguel Piñero” at the front of Outlaw and read Piñero’s play Short Eyes (pages 193-243).
Questions to think about to guide your reading:

  • What characters does he show in the play?
  • What language does he use and what effect does that have?
  • What audiences do you think Piñero is writing for?
  • What’s the setting he chooses and what side of the city does that show?
  • What are some of the key themes the play deals with?
  • Identify key points of the play where the storyline (plot) turns or changes. Mark significant points where this happens in your book and write them down in your notes. What causes the plot turns and how might actors on stage make them believable?

    Also remember that we have unannounced pop quizzes, so keep up with the reading!

    Watch the legendary singer Curtis Mayfield sing one of the songs from the film version (he also had a small part in the film and composed/performed the soundtrack).

Week of 12/6: Assata conclusion and Final Exam Review

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Thanks to Sam Anderson for his enlightening guest lecture on Assata Shakur and the Black Panther Party in New York! See more about him at his website.
 
Announcement: See the Assignments page for the extra credit assignment announced last week. It is due Thursday December 15 by email. No extensions or exceptions.
 
220px-AssatabioThis week we finish the autobiography of Assata Shakur. For Tuesday 12/6, finish Assata. Again, make sure to pay attention to the various poems she includes in the story on pages 240 (“Current Events”), 259 (“To My Daughter Kakuya”), and 263 (“The Tradition”). Think also about the themes that we’ve been talking about so far and how Assata’s work fits into the context of urban narratives and themes of identity, survival, freedom, immigration/migration, return home, urban space, etc. What’s the significance of the story ending in Cuba and how does Assata adjust to her new home? Consider this prep for the final exam. If you read this carefully, it’s one less thing you’ll need to study.
 
Presentation by Jessy, Claudia, Sky, and Kofi.
 
For Thursday 12/8 Read my guide to final exams, “Zen and the Art of Finals” (PDF), which will help you begin to prepare for our final (and hopefully others as well). Think about major themes that we’ve been talking about all semester and bring questions to the class. We’ll spend the last class reflecting on the semester and have an open prep/ study session for the final exam. Be sure to show up: I’ll present a more detailed exam overview and some prep strategies that should be helpful.
 
As a reminder, the final is scheduled for Tuesday, December 20, 3:45-5:45 PM in the regular classroom. in the regular classroom and you might want to check Lehman’s exam schedule (PDF file) for your other classes as well. Be sure to arrange for childcare/ time off work/ whatever you need to do now, as there will be no make-ups, except for extraordinary circumstances. Unless you can provide a hospital or arrest record (your own, not a family member’s), you get no make-up. “My family bought plane tickets to go on vacation” or similar is not an extraordinary circumstance in my book. Consider college a job and be up front with family, friends, etc. about what that commitment means.