Spring 2013 Syllabus

For the current semester’s syllabus go here

Spring 2013 Syllabus
Download: ContmpUWrtSp13Syll

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), midterm exam, a final exam, and two short papers. Detailed descriptions of the assignments and due dates will be handed out in class and posted online.

Attendance and Punctuality: Because much of the course material will be given out in class and your participation is crucial to the overall success of the course (Really!), attendance—preferably on time—is important. More than 3 absences will lower your final grade by ½ a letter grade. More than 5 absences may result in a failing grade. Don’t let this happen to you! Talk to me if there are unusual circumstances and we can probably work something out. 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.

Grading: Will be based on an average of midterm (20%), papers (2 @ 20% each = 40%), and final exam (30%) and attendance/participation (10%). All assignments must be handed in—period. Assignments not handed in at all will be assigned failing grades. Again, this is something to avoid. Talk to me if you’re having some kind of serious problem completing the work and I’ll try to work out a plan that satisfies us both. You will be asked to revise and resubmit papers that are unclear and/or have serious structural problems.

Communication: e-mail is the best way to contact me and I check it often and will return messages within a day, except for weekends. Note that this course does not use Blackboard. You should bookmark the course website https://urbanwriterscourse.wordpress.com and follow the simple directions to sign up for e-mail notification of new posts. See your printed syllabus for password-protected pages or e-mail the instructor. You can access this from anywhere, including phones and tablet computers and do not need to log-in or use any special software. Additionally, you should sign up for the class text notification service run by Remind 101. (See details/support at http://remind101.com) Send a text to (608) 467-1300 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, get sales calls, or be put on any strange list and I delete all numbers after the semester ends.

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.

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.

Required Texts: available at Revolution Books, 146 W 26th St, NYC. 212-691-3345. http://revolutionbooksnyc.org Note: Revolution will make a delivery to the class early in the semester and you can buy your books then if you choose. They sell books at a discount. Alternately, you can go to the usual online sources.

Amiri Baraka. Dutchman and The Slave. Harper, 1971. ISBN-10: 0688210848
Angie Cruz. Soledad. Simon & Schuster, 2002. ISBN-10: 0743212029
Ernesto Quiñonez: Bodega Dreams. Vintage, 2000. ISBN-10: 0375705899
Assata Shakur. Assata: An Autobiography. Chicago Review Press, 2001. ISBN-10: 1556520743
Willie Perdomo. Where a Nickel Costs a Dime. W.W. Norton, 1996. ISBN-10: 0393313832
Book is out of print. Substitute reading TBA and will be PDF.
Additional material will be distributed via the course website: https://urbanwriterscourse.wordpress.com

Tentative Schedule: changes or additions will be announced in advance and posted on the course site.

Monday, January 28: Course introduction, expectations, and background.

Wednesday, January 30: Background on Nuyorican movement and the city

Monday, February 4: Nuyorican poetry: Pedro Pietri’s Puerto Rican Obituary and Pedro Pietri interview. (On website.)

Wednesday, February 6: Miguel Piñero’s La Bodega Sold Dreams, (On website.)

Monday, February 11: Nuyorican drama. (On website.)

Wednesday, February 13: Baraka’s Dutchman. Guest Speaker: Donavan L. Ramon of Rutgers University.

Monday, February 18: President’s Day – class does not meet

Wednesday, February 20: Monday schedule—class meets as usual. Baraka’s Dutchman.

Monday, February 25: Quiñonez, Bodega Dreams.

Wednesday, February 27: Bodega Dreams

Monday, March 4: Bodega Dreams.

Wednesday, March 6: Bodega Dreams.

Monday, March 11: Review for midterm.

Wednesday, March 13: Midterm Exam

Monday, March 18: David Riker’s La Ciudad (The City) film. In class screening. First half.

Wednesday, March 20: La Ciudad. Second half of film.

Spring Break: class does not meet

Wednesday, April 3: Soledad

Monday, April 8: Soledad

Wednesday, April 10: Soledad

Monday, April 15: Soledad

Wednesday, April 17: Finish Angie Cruz’s Soledad.Where a Nickel Costs a Dime.

Monday, April 22: Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry Jam. Selections linked on class website.

Wednesday, April 24: Excerpt from Donald Bogle’s Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks on Black stereotypes. PDF download on Readings page.

Monday, April 29: Begin Assata

Wednesday, May 1: Assata: Guest speaker: Donavan L. Ramon of Rutgers-New Brunswick

Monday, May 6: Assata

Wednesday, May 8: Assata. Guest lecture by Dr. Mary Phillips, Lehman African and African American Studies Department.

Monday, May 13: Assata

Wednesday, May 15: Last class meeting. Review for final exam.

Final Exam will be held according to Lehman exam period schedule (PDF): currently scheduled for Tuesday, December 17, 3:45-5:45 PM in the regular classroom.