Africana Studies Center location:
Martin 221, UCM
4680 - African American Literature
here for a printable version of the syllabus.)
Dr. Bryan Carter
(blackboard login portal)
This course is designed to offer you an overview of African
American literature from just before the turn of the 20th century
until near the present. It will incorporate several thematic aspects
that, through our reading and discussion, will help shed light on
themes relevant to African American life and culture as well as why
various ideas are presented to the public as fact today. This semester
we will examine the social construction of African American literature
of the 20th century contextualized within a framework of American
history. We will also explore the ways that authors expressed themselves
through various artistic genres as they sought to establish a unique
identity within an oppressive, racist, gender biased and capitalistic
society. Through our discussion, we will also examine power, class,
gender, race, sexuality and politics as they each relate to what may
have inspired African American artists to create and respond to a
variety of events prior to and during the 20th century.
This course has two sets of general and several course specific goals.
First, it has course specific goals aimed at teaching you the various
skills and attitudes needed to appreciate and value reading and good
writing for the rest of your life. Although this course is not part
of the University Studies program, it does address the University
Studies goals of thinking and communicating.
students that successfully complete this course should be able to:
• Demonstrate knowledge of representative major works of the
period covered by this course.
• Demonstrate enough knowledge of that literature to make a
credible case of any generalization they may make about it.
• Demonstrate basic understanding of some major genres and movements
of this literary period.
• Analyze writing from this period for its literary, cultural
and historical significance.
• Use the period’s writings to generate thinking, expressed
in writing and speaking, about literature and the world in which they
• Demonstrate how power, class, gender, race, sexuality, and
politics are expressed in the period’s literature.
Your achievement of these general course objectives will be assessed
in a variety of ways including but not limited to exams, quizzes,
papers, brief journal-style writings (discussion boards), oral presentations
and class discussions.
This course addresses two of the four General outcomes emphasized
on this campus, thinking, and communicating.
You will develop thinking skills through
your ability to analyze what you read, learning to recognize relationships
between the parts and the whole (for instance, the effect of a particular
historical event on the subject of a novel or essay), and identifying
such things as the author’s theme or purpose and how those were
expressed or achieved. You will also learn to draw conclusions about
how works of literature relate to the writer’s sensibility,
to the genre or type of work it is, and to its historical and cultural
milieu. Finally, you will evaluate what you read – is it true,
beautiful, and good, or not? – using both aesthetic and ethical
considerations. These thinking skills will be demonstrated in your
exams, quizzes, papers, discussion board posts and class discussions.
Your communication skills will be developed
in several ways. We will begin by examining how different writers
communicate through literature. This examination will model for you
how to express yourself in various ways based on a variety of inspirations.
You will identify literary features such as imagery, diction, irony,
and genres such as fiction, poetry, essay and autobiography, demonstrating
how they add to your understanding of a work and the historical period.
Your reading strategies will include reading, re-reading, reflecting,
questioning, and noting significant passages. These communicating
skills will be demonstrated in your discussion boards, exams, quizzes,
and class discussions.
Specific Course Objectives:
By the end of the semester, successful students will be able to:
• Understand, value, and appreciate a work of literature, employing
the different ways you will learn to “hear” and “see”
a work of art.
• Distinguish among literary genres and their characteristics
• Define, illustrate, and apply correct literary terminology
in appropriate situations.
• Move from simply textural recall to interpretive, critical
analytical thinking when discussing a work of literature.
• Communicate clearly, logically, and interestingly about literature.
• Respond to the comments and thoughts of others in a tactful,
logical and clear manner.
• Develop defensible opinions regarding works of literature
as well as the social constructs surrounding their inspiration.
• Access, evaluate and make use of electronic resources.
• Demonstrate self-discipline and responsibility by meeting
all paper, electronic discussion forum, tutorial, assessment and conference
• Integrate what we have learned and through our reading of
African American texts during the semester into other courses and
overall cultural awareness.
Grading will be weighted and broken down into the following categories:
• Quizzes 20%
• Discussion Boards 15%
• Web Author Review 10%
• Group Author Presentation 10%
• Final Paper 30%
• Videoconference Final Exam 10%
• Participation 5%
Read All Material.
I expect you to make a commitment to read all the materials assigned
by the due date. Because of the nature of the class, learning and
teaching will progress far more effectively with this commitment.
The assumption is that you are enrolling in an African American Literature
course for political, intellectual and personal growth (not just to
satisfy a requirement, although I know some of you may feel this way.)
Quizzes will be used to measure both your understanding of the various
works and your commitment to read the material. Quizzes will be given
electronically, they will be turned off by the deadline, and I will
only allow you to make them up with a valid medical, school activity
related, or dean’s excuse. I will not accept personal computing
issues as excuses for non-completion of an online assessment because
there will be ample time for you to take the quiz from your dorm,
home or at one of the computing labs. Although there is no set number
of quizzes, there will be enough to warrant the weight placed on them.
You can expect at least one quiz per work read in class. However,
if I find that you (collectively) are talking, exchanging ideas, answering
questions, etc., then fewer quizzes will be required. Quizzes
are worth 20% of your grade.
Active and Involved Class Participation:
You must actively and voluntarily participate in class discussion.
This includes any or all of the following:
• sharing insights into reading material
• raising critical questions
• responding to questions raised, both written and orally
• advancing discussions to higher levels
• bringing in related information and ideas from outside into
the pool by circulating knowledge in the class
Because of the size of this class, I recognize the difficulty in “saying
something” every class period. So, in addition to quizzes, a
Discussion Board will be employed to evaluate your participation and
understanding of a text. Your posts may be about specific topics that
are raised in class, a reply to a comment made by me or a classmate,
or you may respond to a question or comment that I, or one of your
classmates, make on the message Board. Think of the Discussion Board
as an “electronic journal” where others will be able to
read and respond to your thoughts. There will be several opportunities
for you to continue your thoughts and I will evaluate the thought
behind each post you make, not necessarily the length, although I
do require half a page or so. In other words, if you post an “I
agree” or “yeah, me too” type of message, one that
simply mimics what someone else has already posted, or simply a summary
of what you read, it will not be counted or will receive minimal points.
The schedule notes when Discussion Board posts are due. The due date
for all Discussion Boards is also in the Discussion Boards area on
our course site. Sometimes, I will choose random posts, without revealing
your name, to begin our class discussion. Unless otherwise noted or
announced, all posts are due on the date due (usually the night before
our regular class meeting), so that I have at least overnight to evaluate
your posts and assign points and occasionally send feedback. Messages
submitted after the due date will not receive credit. I read every
post and will evaluate the thought behind each one. A guideline for
acceptable and unacceptable posts is located on the course Web Site.
Each Discussion Board post is worth five points and will
be worth 15% of your grade.
Web Author Review:
This course, along with our study of the authors of the period, will
also explore the various technologies available to assist scholars
who wish to find electronic resources for an author they are researching.
Another way that I will evaluate your overall class participation
is through your review of Two Web Sites dedicated to an author who
lived during the period that we are studying. Almost every author
in our text has a presence on the World Wide Web. During the first
two weeks of class, every student must select an author to investigate
on the Web. I encourage you choose someone that you have never researched
or read before that way you may learn something new. Your Web Author
Review must be posted anytime before Thanksgiving Break, and critically
evaluate the two sites you select by providing a brief write-up on
the Discussion Board about what you discover. There is a section on
the Course Discussion Board for you to post your Web Author Review,
and I expect you to post the exact URLs on the Discussion Board so
that I can check out the sites and evaluate your review. Your task
is to choose two sites and review them based on the following criteria:
• multimedia (sound, movies, interactivity)
• links to other sites
• last update
• usefulness from a research standpoint
You should address all of the points above in some sort
of narrative or discussion format. Periodic reminders
will be posted in the announcement area of our Course Web Site and
announced in class regarding the last date you may post your Web Author
Review. I strongly suggest you not wait until the last minute to post.
Please ensure you include all of the information noted above to receive
maximum points. My evaluation will be based not only on what you write
about the sites but also how complete you are in your evaluation using
the above criteria. The Web Author Review is worth 10
points, for a total of 10% of your overall grade.
Small Group Author Presentation:
At the beginning of the semester, you will sign up for a small group.
Your tasks are to:
• choose two authors in your text that we are reading this semester
and summarize the highlights of his/her life
• summarize and critically evaluate the reading within the text
that is assigned for our class
• review one Web Site dedicated to each author
• develop 3-5 review questions for each author regarding their
work that can be answered through your summary or evaluation (be sure
to include the answers to your questions)
• videoconference with me regarding your work on the assigned
These tasks may be divided among your group members any way you choose,
but they must be posted as one document on the discussion board in
the assigned area (Group Author Presentations). The group assignment
is due by 6:00pm on the day prior to your videoconference with me.
During the videoconference, I will ask questions regarding your authors,
the web sites you reviewed, the readings you evaluated, and the questions
you designed and should be able to answer (Don't forget to provide
the answers to your questions). Videoconferences will be held in the
Library Computer Commons, room 1240. Instructions on how to operate
the equipment are posted on our course site. You will be evaluated
as a group and will also be asked to evaluate your group members.
I will use your group member evaluations to adjust point assignments
for those who do not pull their weight within your group. The
Small Group Author Presentation is worth 50 points, 10 points for
each part of your assignment listed above. The overall assignment
is worth 10% of your grade.
Final Writing Exercise:
This assignment asks you to reflect upon and write about a specific
author that you will choose at the beginning of the semester. I expect
this writing exercise to include but not limited to the following:
• information about the author’s life
• a discussion of the author’s significance within an
• a review of important aspects of the author’s accomplishments
• a selected bibliography of the author’s work
This exercise should be no longer than three to five (3-5) pages in
length, must contain in-text citations, and have a works cited page
(not included in your page count). I will deduct points for papers
longer than the maximum length. The paper is due on or before December
1. The exercise is worth a total of 100 points and worth 30%
of your grade.
The final exam will be administered via videoconference and individually
based. You will be asked various questions about readings that we
discussed throughout the semester and for more detailed information
about your writing exercise. You should prepare for this exercise
by reviewing all of the works we read for class, discussion board
posts, web author reviews by your classmates and of course be very
familiar with your writing exercise. This exam will be given during
final exam week and you are required to schedule the time and date
based on your schedule but must be before the close of business, Friday,
December 12. The Final Exam Videoconference is worth 50
points and 10% of your overall grade.
Participation in a university level course is imperative to achieve
a more rich college experience. Along with the above activities, I
expect you to become involved with this course on a level beyond your
initial expectations. I hope that you will offer your opinions, exchange
ideas, and debate, with me or your classmates, etc. There will be
various activities that will count as “Participation Points”
and are noted on the syllabus or will be announced in class or on
the Course Web Site. These activities include attendance, course surveys,
campus activities, etc. Although this category is only worth a small
percentage of your overall grade, it may make the difference if you
are on the borderline between grades. I strongly suggest you make
yourself known in class by expressing yourself, being in attendance
every class period and participating in events outside of class.
Because attendance is included within this category, students with
more than two (2) un-excused absences will not receive a portion of
the points allotted. Students with more than five (5) un-excused absences
will receive none of the "attendance" participation points
and may be advised to drop after dean's notification. This policy
should not be interpreted as a recommended number of cuts. Absences
because of illness, a death in the immediate family or participation
in approved university activities/programs will be counted as excused
absences, but only if you present me with written documentation to
show that the absence was because of one of the above reasons. It
is, of course, a common courtesy to notify me if you know you will
be absent for a particular class period. Participation
Points are worth 5% of your overall grade.
Call and Response: The Riverside Anthology of the African American
Literary Tradition – Patricia Liggins Hill, General Editor
All work submitted must be your own. In addition, any words, ideas
or data that you borrow from another person and include in your work
must be properly documented. Failing to do either of these two things
is considered plagiarism. Central Missouri State University protects
the rights of all students by insisting that individual students act
with integrity, and accordingly, severely penalizes plagiarism. Academic
dishonesty will not be tolerated in this course and will result in
a failing grade. If you have questions on this important matter, please
consult me for clarification.
Final Exam will be videoconference during Final Exam week.
You must sign up for an appointment based on your schedule. Plan on
approximately 15-30 minutes.