ENG 497B: Ethnicity, Gender and American Identity

University of Nevada, Reno

English 497B – Ethnicity, Gender and American Identity

(General Capstone Course)

June 8 to July 10, 2015: Mon/Tues/Wed/Thurs, 8:00-10:00AM FH 233

Instructor: Mrs. Jennifer Forsberg

Course Description:

In this course, we will examine, analyze, and discuss various genres of literature of ethnic groups within the American population. Through our reading, writing, and discussions of multicultural literature about growing up in America, you will enhance your writing and critical thinking skills about race, class, gender, family and the dominant culture as forces shaping the development of one’s identity.

Course Outcomes:

After completing this course, you should be able to

  • Write a coherent, well-supported argument with a clear thesis, relevant claims, and compelling use of evidence about ethnic minority literature in the U.S.
  • Read, interpret, and analyze primary source texts with attention to thematic content, historical and cultural context, and language
  • Develop an understanding of how members of minority groups in the U.S. have used literary and artistic expression to represent their own experiences
  • Examine the ways in which race, class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality intersect to create complicated realities and narrative representations
  • Engage others in ongoing conversations about the minority experience in the U.S. against the intersections of identity

Course Materials:

Required Primary Texts

  • Octavia Butler: Parable of the Sower
    Sandra Cisneros: House on Mango Street
    Jeffery Eugenides: Middlesex
    Sherman Alexie: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian
    Gene Luen Yang: American Born Chinese

Required Supplementary Primary and Secondary Texts

  • Available to download and/or print from WebCampus. If reading electronic versions please use a program like Adobe Pro so you can annotate and highlight the text. Also be sure to match up page numbers/selections in the novels if reading electronically—every device/program is different.


Course Assignments and Evaluation:                        

Participation and Attendance:                                                                                                   20%

To earn credit, you must attend class, read the assigned texts, and be prepared for class tasks. Meaningful discussion is expected, is important to the success of this class, and will positively affect your grade. There may be random quizzes and homework assignments in addition to the readings given throughout the semester that will count toward your final grade. If you fail to bring the reading assignment and/or writing materials to class, you may lose all participation points for the day. COME PREPARED.

Reading Journals and Message Threads                                               18%

For each of our designated class meetings, half of the class will be expected to stage a strong question or offer a possible answer on our course message board. These reading updates will help you focus your readings and analytical skills and provide starting points for discussion and writing responses. Each day we meet, up to 2 representatives from the posting group will be responsible for compiling the questions and summarizing the conversation as a primary way to open discussions to the class, noting trends, concerns or areas to address. To earn points here you must both participate in each night’s reading thread for your group and come prepared on your designated day to compile the findings. Threads will close each night at 10PM. Responses posted after that time will not earn points. Each post reply is worth 1.5% (for 9 total posts) and the in-class compilation will be worth 4.5%.

Weekly Reading Responses:                                                                               32%

Each week you will construct a tightly focused 350-400 word (1½-2 page) reading response. These responses should select a small part of at least two of that week’s texts to construct an argument about. In these responses, you need to make a compelling claim supported by a close reading of a significant passage or scene. These must be in MLA format and should be uploaded to WebCampus no later than 10PM each Thursday. I will return these responses ASAP so you can use the feedback for future responses. R1 is worth 5%, R2, 3 & 4 are 9% each.

Author Presentations:                                                                                            10%

These presentations will require a little Internet searching. So long as you cite your sources, any source is fair game. You will need to create a handout that is at least 1 page in length, but does not exceed 2 (front and back). Upload your handout to the appropriate WebCampus message board before class begins on the day you present (if a group of two, you must BOTH upload it). Your group will also be expected to help lead the discussion that day as the resident expert on your author and deliver a brief 3-5 minute presentation of material. We will sign up for presentation groups on day 1.

Areas to Consider: Brief biography; Works written, genre; Key issues or topics; Audience reception overall; Known for, notes about their career, politics, reputation, place in American literature, etc. For critics and theorists, try to pin down what they argue and how they present it to the reader. Feel free to meet with me 1-2 class periods prior to your presentation if you need help!

Final Essay:                                                                                                     20%

There will be one essay, 1600-2000 words (6-8 pages), due to Webcampus the final day of the class. While you choose the topic, you may meet with me to discuss your paper, and will workshop your ideas/upload an outline during week 4.

Course Policies

Attendance: Missing three or more classes may result in failure of the course.

Late work: No late assignments will be accepted. Get the phone number of at least two of your classmates. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to contact a classmate and not me to find out about missed assignments or what may be due at the start of the next class. I will expect you to fully catch up with assignments and readings prior to the start of class. If you added the class late, you are responsible for all readings and assignments that were due before you added.

Remember, early and proactive communication with me will only benefit you. I am available to answer any questions about your assignments or any content you are struggling with.

Assignment Submissions: All work should be submitted electronically through WebCampus. Except for posting message threads and presentation handouts (.pdf or .docx), work should be in an attached .doc or .docx file that has your last name and the assignment for a file name. For example: ForsbergRR2.doc. In the event that WebCampus has a documented outage or problem at the time of the deadline, email your submission to me to meet deadline, but upload to WebCampus ASAP. All work will be graded via WebCampus so it must be submitted there to be accepted.

Classroom decorum: You are expected to enter class on time and be prepared with assignments, readings, and discussion for that day. You are not to use any electronic devices in the classroom, including cell phones or personal computers without approval or direct correlation to the task at hand. Students that abuse this will be asked to leave.

In-class discussion: It is my class commitment to establish a safe space for differing voices and opinions. In this course, your input through discussion is a vital and valued must. Discrimination, harassment, or intimidation will not be tolerated. All students have the right to a classroom free from hostility, ridicule, or embarrassment, and an atmosphere conducive to learning. Any conduct that disrupts the learning process may lead to loss of participation points and/or administrative disciplinary action mandated under the University’s Student Code of Conduct.

Disability accommodations: If you have a documented disability and will be requiring assistance, please contact the Disability Resource Center at 784-6000 (Thompson Building Suite 101) as soon as possible to arrange for appropriate accommodations.

Academic dishonesty: All work you do for this class must be your own. “Cheating, plagiarism, or otherwise obtaining grades under false pretenses” constitute academic dishonesty according to the code of the University. Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated and penalties may include cancelling a student’s enrollment without a grade or giving an F for the assignment or the course. A more detailed discussion of UNR’s policies is available online: http://www.unr.edu/stsv/acdispol.html. We will work on proper citing of quotations, paraphrasing, and sources in this class, and if are unsure about whether or how to properly cite sources, please ask me.

Statement for academic success services: Your student fees cover usage of the University Writing Center (784-6030 or http://www.unr.edu/writing_center/). This center supports your classroom learning; it is your responsibility to take advantage of their services. Keep in mind that seeking help outside of class is the sign a responsible and successful student.

Statement on audio and video recording: Surreptitious or covert video-taping of class or unauthorized audio recording of class is prohibited by law and by Board of Regents policy.  This class may be videotaped or audio recorded only with the written permission of the instructor.   In order to accommodate students with disabilities, some students may be given permission to record class lectures and discussions.  Therefore, students should understand that their comments during class may be recorded.

Grade percentages:

A         94-100%             C+         77-79%             D-         60-63%

A-         90-93%             C         74-76%             F         59 or below

B+         87-89%             C-         70-73%

B         84-86%             D+         67-69%

B-         80-83%             D         64-66%


**I reserve the right to change the schedule. Should this happen, you will be notified in advance via WebCampus or email. Assigned readings are to be completed for class period listed.

Note: Try to Read Primary Texts before Secondary Criticism or Theories

Week 1:                                                                                                 June 8th


Task: Get acclimated to concepts, terms and concerns; course policies and expectations. Sign ups.

Read: In class: “Constructing Differences” (Ore)

Due: Group A Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM


Task: Beatty Presentation; Frazier Presentation

Read: White Boy Shuffle (Beatty All Posted Selections) and “Race, Ethnicity and Place in a Changing America: A Perspective” (Frazier)

Due: Group B Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM



Task: Writing structure and claim making; Butler Presentation

Read: Parable of the Sower (Butler 1-166; Chapters 1-14)

Due: Group A Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM



Task: Agusti Presentation

Read: “The Relationship between Community and Subjectivity” (Agusti)

Due: RR1 Due to WebCampus by 10PM; Group B Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM

Week 2:                                                                                               June 15th



Read: Parable of the Sower (Butler 167-329; Chapters 15-25)

Due: Group B Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM



Task: Gonzales Presentation; Perez Presentation

Read: Butterfly Boy (Gonzales All Posted Selections) and “Toward a Mariposa Consciousness” (Perez 95-126)

Due: Group A Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM



Task: Cisneros Presentation

Read: House on Mango Street (Cisneros)

Due: Group B Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM


Task: Anzaldua Presentation

Read: “How to Tame A Wild Tongue” and “Towards a New Consciousness” (Anzaldua)

Due: RR2 Due to WebCampus by 10PM; Group A Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM

Week 3:                                                                                            June 22nd


Task: Foer Presentation; Lee Presentation

Read: Everything is Illuminated (Foer All Posted Selections) and “Selves” (Lee 37-66)

Due: Group A Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM



Task: Eugenides Presentation

Read: Middlesex (Eugenides 1-4; 39-118; 232-318)

Due: Group B Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM



Task: Herron Presentation

Read: “Motor City Breakdown” (Herron)

Due: Group A Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM



Read: Middlesex (Eugenides 319-513)

Due: RR3 Due to WebCampus by 10PM; Group B Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM

Week 4                                                                                                June 29th


Task: Silko Presentation; Krupat Presentation

Read: Ceremony (Silko) and “Postcolonialism, Ideology and Native American Literature” (Krupat 73-83; 90)

Due: Group B Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM


Task: Alexie Presentation

Read: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (Alexie 1-117)

Due: Group A Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM


Task: Kertzer Presentation

Read: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (Alexie 118-end) and “Not Exactly: Intertextual Identities and Risky Laughter in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” (Kertzer).

Due: Group A+ B Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM



Task: Final Paper Outline Writing Workshop

Due: RR4 Due to WebCampus by 10PM

Week 5:                                                                                            

  July 6th


Task: Kingston Presentation; Lowe Presentation

Read: Woman Warrior (Kingston All Posted Selections) and “Hybridity, Heterogeneity, Multiplicity” (Lowe)

Due: Group B Post/Respond to Reading Thread by 10PM



Task: Yang Presentation

Read: Yang American Born Chinese (1-130)

Due: Group A Post/Respond to Final Reading Thread by 10PM


Task: Boatright Presentation

Read: Yang American Born Chinese (131-end), “Graphic Journeys: Graphic Novels’ Representations of Immigrant Experience” (Boatright)



Due: Final Papers uploaded to Webcampus by 12pm (noon)