English 3413 -- African American Literature


Professor Alan Bourassa
Office: Edmund Casey Hall (ECH) 121
e-mail: bourassa@stu.ca
WF 9-10:20 a.m.

African-American Literature is not to be seen as a separate branch of American Literature, but is in many ways the most "American" of all literatures. It is a commonplace observation in American Studies that American culture is mulatto. There is no absolutely "white" American culture, just as there is no absolutely "black" American culture. In this course we will see how some of the most important work - novels, poems, essays, stories - of African-American literature deals with the most "American" of questions: freedom, values, family, moral decisions, religion. But we will also see how the questions of race, slavery, culture that have defined the African-American experience have shaped America as a whole.

Reading List

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas - Frederick Douglas
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
Beloved - Toni Morrison
Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin
Poetry - Wheatley, Knight, Dove (Class Handouts)
Essay: "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" - Langston Hughes (Class handout)
Essay: "Soul on Ice" and "To All Black Women from All Black Men" - Eldridge Cleaver (Class Handout)


WEEK 1 Sept. 7-9 Introduction
WEEK 2 Sept. 12-16 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas - Frederick Douglas

WEEK 3 Sept 19-23 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas - Frederick Douglas
WEEK 4 Sept. 26-30 Poetry - (Class Handouts)
WEEK 5 Oct. 3-7 "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain"
Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin
WEEK 6 10-14 Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin
Monday Oct 10 - No Classes Thanksgiving
WEEK 7 Oct. 17-21 Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
WEEK 8 Oct. 24-28 Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
Paper 1 Due
WEEK 9 Oct. 31-Nov. 4 Poetry - (Class Handouts)
"Soul on Ice" and "To All Black Women from All Black Men"
WEEK 10 Nov. 7-11 Beloved - Toni Morrison
Friday Nov. 11 - No Classes Remembrance Day
WEEK 11 Nov. 14-18 Beloved - Toni Morrison
WEEK 12 Nov. 21-25 Poetry - (Class Handouts)
Paper 2 Due
WEEK 13 Nov. 28-Dec. 2 Conclusion

Assignments and Evaluation

Your participation grade will include not only attendance and participation in class, but also in class assignments and participation in group work.

The papers are due at the beginning of class on the dates specified (always the FIRST class of the week in which the paper is due. If the first class is a Monday, the paper will be due Monday. If there is a holiday then it would be due the first class of the week e.g. Wednesday). Late papers will be marked down one grade per day (i.e. one day late brings a B+ down to a B). If you have to hand a paper in late you must tell me BEFORE the paper is due and we can negotiate. There are certain good reasons for not handing in a paper: family problems, illness, going out of town for school. There are certain reasons that won't fly: hangovers, assignments for other classes, fatigue, just feeling like it. Just be reasonable about handing in your assignments and I will be reasonable if something unforeseen comes up.
You will be allowed four unexcused absences during the semester. After that your final grade will be dropped one mark per extra absence (so three extra unexcused absences drops you from B to C). Again, an unforeseen crisis will excuse the absence. But if you miss several classes, even with a legitimate reason, it will certainly reflect on your work and therefore your grade.

Important Note: Always keep extra copies of your papers, on floppy disk, and make an extra hard copy of each assignment. I will be dealing with hundreds of assignments this semester. One or two are bound to get misplaced, so don't put yourself in an awkward position. Always have a backup.

The Secret to the Participation Grade: 10% of your total grade is for participation. This 10% is, in effect, a gift. It is very easy to get an A in participation: just participate. Speak in every class. Make me remember you. If you participate a lot, I will remember. If, at the end of the semester, when I am giving you your participation grade, I remember that you spoke in almost every class, and that you did in-class assignments enthusiastically, you will be on your way to a strong grade in participation. If I remember you speaking a fair amount, you will get a B-range grade. If you just sat quietly -- even if you showed up for all the classes -- I would give a C or lower. Just talk, ask questions, make comments, give an opinion, argue, come for extra help and you will get a good grade in participation. Simple as that. Take advantage of the boost this policy can give to your grade.


(4) Quizzes 20%
Paper 1 20%
Paper 2 30%
Research assignment 10%
Portfolio 10%
Participation 10%