The Black Writer in America
  [an online course*]

ENGL A373:W51  Summer 2013
[Eight-week Session: May 20-July 19]
Dr. Barbara C. Ewell

   Black Writers of America

  Posted March 27, 2013. 
All information here remains subject to change; check for updates.
This course will survey the many contributions of African-American writers to the literary traditions of the United States. Those contributions are virtually contemporary with the colonization of North America--represented in the poetry of African-born Phyllis Wheatley--and shaped the themes and genres of American literature for the next three hundred years. The wealth of available material will force us to be selective, but we will try to construct a coherent overview of the major writers and significant periods: from the slave narrative to local color fiction, from the Harlem Renaissance to the Civil Rights movement. Writers will include familiar figures like Frederick Douglass, Richard Wright and Toni Morrison as well as lesser-known authors such as Charles Chesnutt, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and Lorraine Hansberry. And to help us better appreciate the contexts of these works, we will also read a selection of non-fiction, by influential thinkers like W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Toni Morrison and James Baldwin.

Requirements will include reading and reflection on the texts, participation in weekly discussion forums on Blackboard, and the completion of a multi-part writing project on a Black writer in America.

  An online course is conducted through the internet (Blackboard). To be successful, online courses require that students have some degree of self-discipline. This is NOT A SELF-PACED course--there are regular weekly deadlines.


Required Texts:
[Note: Some of these texts may also be available as e-texts. This list is reasonably firm, though minor changes may still occur. Check with me if any uncertainty represents a problem for you.]

A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Himself.  Boston: Bedford Books, 1993. ISBN 031207531-6
Charles Chesnutt. Tales of Conjure and the Color Line: Ten Stories. New York: Dover Press, n.d. ISBN 0 486 40426 9
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Perennial, 1998  ISBN: 0060931418
Richard Wright. Native Son. New York: Harper, 2005. ISBN 006083756X  or
Lorraine Hansberry. Raisin in the Sun. New York: Vintage, 1994. ISBN: 0679755330
Toni Morrison. The Bluest Eye. New York: Penguin, 2000. ISBN: 0452282195
 Z. Z. Packer. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. New York: Riverhead Books, 2004 ISBN: 1573223786

Instant Access: The Pocket Reference for Writers. Michael L. Keene and Katherine H. Adams. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003. ISBN: 0072819928

If you're trying to cut costs, many texts are also available secondhand through other commercial booksellers. And some rentals may also be available from the Loyola Bookstore.

Course Pre-requisites
Credit for ENGL T-125, ENGL 205, or their equivalents. Sophomore status or permission of the instructor is recommended. Online courses require some maturity and self-discipline; this should probably not be your first college English course.  Contact me if you have any questions about taking an online course.

Course Requirements
Weekly Comments  (35%)
The heart of this course (apart from reading the texts themselves) will be our electronic "discussions": asking and answering each other's questions and sharing our responses. These discussions will be conducted on the "Discussion Board" of  Students will be expected to post a substantive comment  (150-300 words) in response to the text and my introductory remarks by Monday midnight. By the following Thursday midnight, everyone in the class will have commented on or reacted to the responses of least two other people (100-150 words each). [These due dates are tentative and may change to other specific weekdays, but the pattern remains the same.]

Your participation in these weekly discussions, including the timely submission of comments and responses, will be graded contractually (all assignments = A; fewer = B, etc.) and will constitute your "class attendance."

You will be responsible for timely and regular contributions to the discussion group every week. If any lateness or irregularity persists in your submissions, you will be asked to drop the course or receive a failing grade.

Keeping up with these discussions is one of the most challenging parts of an online course, and falling behind is the chief reason for attrition--just remember that "online" isn't the same as "self-paced."

Writing Assignments (25-30%)
The formal writing in this course will be a series of assignments on the works of a specific African-American writer, both those covered in the course and from a supplementary list.  These assignments (two short essays and an annotated bibliography) will be due throughout the semester and will involve various degrees of research.

Final Examination (15-20%)
A comprehensive essay exam. Exemptions will be granted when all course work is submitted on time.