Current Syllabus

Revised 2/2/17
Syllabus Download: contmpuwrtsp17syll (PDF file)

Spring 2017
Section 01W: 3 Credits, 3 Hours
Instructor: Henry (Hank) Williams
Hank.Williams [at] Lehman [dot] cuny [dot] edu
Office Location and Hours: Carman 398; Thursdays 5-6
Classroom Location: Carman Hall 317
Course Time/Location: Thursdays 2-4:40 PM

Description: This course will be a survey of writers from the last half of the 20th Century to the present focusing on those whose work conveys the urban experience through various genres — novels, poetry, autobiography – and in some cases pushes the boundaries of what we consider writing. The focus will be on New York experience viewed in a diasporic sense: as the landing place of immigrants and migrants from the south, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic. A key question we will consider is how the process of adapting to city life, particularly the changes in the time periods covered is conveyed in the works of these writers. We will also ask basic questions such as who lives in the city? What voices are heard and how do various writers articulate their unique experiences? The goal of this course is to become familiar with a few key writers from the New York literary scene from the 1960s to the present and how they relate to the Black Arts, Nuyorican, and hip hop cultural movements.

Requirements: Regular attendance (See below), a group presentation, in-class final exam, and two papers. Detailed descriptions of the assignments and due dates will be handed out in class and posted online.

Attendance and Punctuality: Because your participation is crucial to the overall success of the course (Really!), attendance—preferably on time—is important. Please note the following:

• 3 latenesses will be counted as an absence. Lateness is defined as after I officially begin class and take attendance.
• 2 absences will lower your final grade by ½ a letter grade.
• 3 absences will lower your final grade by a full letter grade.
• 4 absences may result in a failing grade.

You should drop this class and register for a different section if you will have problems attending class sessions or will be continually late. It is your responsibility to find out what happens in class if you’re absent. Please contact a classmate to get notes and/or important information if you need to miss class.


• Will be based on an average of short papers (3 @ 15% each = 45%), group presentation (10%), quizzes (10%), and final exam (25%) and attendance/participation (10%).
• Assignments not handed in will be assigned failing grades. Talk to me if you’re having some kind of serious problem completing the work and I’ll try to work out a satisfactory solution. You will be asked to revise and resubmit papers that are unclear and/or have serious structural problems.
• DO NOT MISS the in-class final exam. There are no make-up exams except for documented medical emergencies (proof required).
• Final INC grades will not be issued except for documented medical emergencies (proof required). Grades will be issued based on work completed at the end of the course.


• email is the best way to contact me. I will return messages within a day, except for weekends.
• You should sign up for the class text message notification service run by Remind. (See details/support at Send a text to 81010 with the message “@urbanwrite” to sign up. This gives me a simple way to contact the entire class for important updates or emergencies. You will not be spammed and all are deleted numbers after the semester ends.
• If you do not have a cell phone capable of text messages, send a blank email to:
• This course does not use Blackboard. Bookmark the course website
o follow the simple directions to sign up for e-mail notification of new posts.
o The password for pages with Readings is 2017.
o You can access this from anywhere, including phones and tablet computers and do not need to log-in or use any special software.

Policy on Plagiarism: In reality, this is a simple proposition. You should do your own work and be sure to properly cite sources for any ideas, words, or thoughts that are not your own or are not common knowledge, even if you are summarizing info you have read elsewhere. I have found that plagiarism primarily happens for 2 reasons: either students don’t allow enough time to complete assignments or they think their work will not be good enough. Reason #1 is not a good one, but you should discuss this with me if you are having time problems rather than resort to cheating. Reason #2 is an even worse proposition. In this class, if you think, make a good effort, and do your best, you will be fine. Your own work will be good enough. If you present work that is not your own, you will fail the assignment and possibly the entire course. Note that college penalties for this can be as severe as expulsion from the college. See policy details here:
All violations are reported to the Department of English and college’s Academic Integrity Officer.

Course Objectives (adapted from Lehman English Department guidelines). Students will:

• Utilize literary terminology, critical methods, and various lenses of interpretation in their writing.
• Learn and use the Modern Language Association (MLA) standard for formatting and documenting sources, which is the standard for the Humanities.
• Interpret and critically evaluate texts of various genres, forms, and historical periods.
• Demonstrate knowledge of the historical context of a work or author.
• Integrate primary and secondary sources into their writing.

Course Goals (adapted from Lehman English Department guidelines). Students will:
• Write analytically and creatively, that is to express ideas clearly and incisively in their writing in ways required both inside and outside of the academy.
• Analyze a broad range of literatures written in English (including representative authors and major literary periods), recognizing their temporal, social, political, and artistic contexts.
• Use effectively a range of writing, reading, and research strategies applicable to multiple disciplines.

Accommodating Disabilities
Lehman College is committed to providing access to all programs and curricula to all students. Students with disabilities who may require any special considerations should register with the Office of Student Disability Services in order to submit official paperwork to instructor.
For more information, please contact the Office of Student Disability Services, Shuster Hall, Room 238, 718-960-8441. For detailed information on services and resources visit their website, or email: [at] lehman [dot] cuny [dot] edu.

Tutoring Services
Lehman College’s Instructional Support Services Program (ISSP) is home of the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) and Science Learning Center (SLC). Both offer students an array of activities and services designed to support classroom learning. Open to students at any level, there are individual, small group, and/or workshop sessions designed to improve “proficiency in writing, reading, research, and particular academic subject areas. Computer-assisted writing/language tutorial programs are also available,” as well as individual tutors, workshops and tutors.
To obtain more information about the ACE and the SLC, please visit Old Gym, Room 205, see their website, or call ACE at 718-960-8175, and SLC at 718-960-7707.
Regular tutoring hours for fall & spring semesters are: M—T 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sat. 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Library Tutors are also available in the Library. These tutors offer help with Library resources and computers.

Required Texts: available at the Lehman College bookstore. Alternately, you can go to the usual online sources. All texts are also on reserve at Lehman’s library.

Amiri Baraka. Dutchman and The Slave. Harper, 1971. ISBN-10: 0688210848
Angie Cruz. Soledad. Simon & Schuster, 2002. ISBN-10: 0743212029
Miguel Piñero. Outlaw: Collected Poetry and Plays of Miguel Piñero.
Ernesto Quiñonez: Bodega Dreams. Vintage, 2000. ISBN-10: 0375705899
Assata Shakur. Assata: An Autobiography. Chicago Review Press, 2001. ISBN-10: 1556520743

Additional material will be distributed via the Readings page

Course outline: see the weekly Course Updates posts for exact page numbers and supplemental material.

Thursday, February 2: Course introduction, expectations, and background.

Thursday, February 9: Background on Nuyorican movement and the city. Juan Flores, “The Structuring of Puerto Rican Identity in the US” (PDF Download on Readings page)

Thursday, February 16: Nuyorican poetry: Pedro Pietri’s Puerto Rican Obituary and Pedro Pietri interview. (PDF Download on Readings page)

Thursday, February 23: Nuyorican poetry: Selections from Miguel Piñero, Outlaw.

Thursday, March 2: Nuyorican drama: Miguel Piñero’s Short Eyes (in Outlaw).

Thursday, March 9: Quiñonez. Bodega Dreams. Class visit by Carlito Rovira, former member of the Young Lords Party.

Thursday, March 16: Quiñonez. Bodega Dreams.

Thursday, March 23: Film: choice of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing or Walter Hill’s The Warriors. TBD by class vote (in class screening)

Thursday, March 30: Angie Cruz, Soledad

Thursday, April 6: Angie Cruz, Soledad

Thursday, April 13: Spring Break; Class does not meet

Thursday, April 20: Monday Schedule — Class does not meet

Thursday, April 27: Baraka’s Dutchman.

Thursday, May 4: Assata

Thursday, May 11: Assata.

Thursday, May 18: Assata. Last class meeting. Formal review session for final exam.

Final Exam will be held according to Lehman’s standard exam schedule (link opens as PDF file): Thursday, May 25, 1:30-3:30 PM in the regular classroom.