Multiethnic American Women’s Literature Syllabus


American Multiethnic Women Novelists

Of the Late Twentieth Century

 “I wish critics would judge me as an author, not as a woman” (Charlotte Bronte, 1850).

Catalogue Description:  English 450 focuses specifically on late-twentieth-century novels by women of various ethnic American backgrounds. The goal is to examine canonical and noncanonical literature through the perspectives provided by feminist, ethnic, and postmodern theories.

Required Books.  (Make sure to bring the required texts to class each day; without them in front of you, it’s difficult to discuss the literature):

1)       Jasmine, by Bharati Mukherjee

2)      The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri

3)      Dessa Rose, by Sherley Anne Williams

4)      Stigmata, by Phyllis Alesia Perry

5)      Beloved, by Toni Morrison

6)      Dreaming in Cuban, by Cristina García

7)      Gulf Dreams, by Emma Pérez

8)      Dawn, by Octavia Butler

9)      Short course packet of theoretical works

Course Objectives

  • To explore the rich and diverse literature of contemporary, multiethnic American women
  • To enhance written and spoken communication skills
  • To use literature to explore and understand women’s experience in modern-day America
  • Your own goal(s): __________________________________________________________

Course RequirementsAll requirements must be completed in order to pass this course:

1)       Attendance and Participation:  You are expected to be present and on time for each class meeting, having carefully read the appropriate texts and completed the assigned work, and you must actively participate in our discussions and other class activities. This grade includes in-class activities, writings, pop quizzes, and other in-class work, in addition to attendance.  I will also take note of your participation, and it will be factored into your grade.  More than 3 absences can affect your final grade.

2)      Online Reading Responses:  You will respond to our readings online throughout the semester. We will go over the specific guidelines in class. Generally, we will post three times a week, with each response being 100-300 words in length. You should be ready to share in class what you and your group discussed online. Also, make sure to keep posting actively, since your group members depend on your responses.

3)      Exams:  Four comprehensive exams fall after each unit of the semester, covering all material so far, including literary terminology, theoretical concepts, and open-ended responses.

4)      Team-Teaching:  Once during the semester, your discussion group will team-teach a poem, short story, or essay on the syllabus. You will offer an analysis of the literature and will use teaching methods of your choice: lecture, discussion, handouts, visual aids, etc. We will discuss the specific criteria in more detail in class. Length: 20-30 minutes.

 Assignment Values

Attendance and participation:  10%

Online reading responses:  20%

Team-teaching:  10%

Exam 1:  15%

Exam 2:  15%

Exam 3:  15%

Final exam:  15%

Total:  100%

To find your grade at any point, multiply your current points in each category by its weighted percentage.  90-100% = A, 80-89.9% = B, 70-79.9% = C, 60-69.9% = D, Below 60% = F

Course Schedule

“America is given over to a damned mob of scribbling women” (Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1854).


Date What to read
Week 1

1:  Coming to America in the Twentieth Century

M Introduction to course
W Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine
F Jasmine, continued
Week 2
M   No class Labor Day
W Jasmine, continued
F Theory:  Lisa Lowe, from Immigrant Acts (CP)*
Week 3
M Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake
W Namesake, continued
F Namesake, continued
Week 4
M Namesake, continued
W Review for exam
F Exam 1
Week 5

2:  Connecting to the Past:  Neo-Slave Narratives

M Sherley Anne Williams, Dessa Rose
W Dessa Rose, continued
F Dessa Rose, continued
Week 6  
M Theory:  Henry Louis Gates, Jr., from The Signifying Monkey (CP)
W Phyllis Alesia Perry, Stigmata
F Stigmata, continued
Week 7
M Stigmata, continued
W Stigmata, continued
F Theory:  Toni Morrison, from Playing in the Dark (CP)
Week 8
M Toni Morrison, Beloved
W Beloved, continued
F Beloved, continued
Week 9
M Beloved, continued
W Review for exam
F Exam 2
Week 10

3:  Life in the Borderlands

M Theory:  Gloria Anzaldúa, from Borderlands (CP)
W Borderlands, continued
F Cristina García, Dreaming in Cuban
Week 11


M Dreaming in Cuban, continued
W Dreaming in Cuban, continued
F Dreaming in Cuban, continued
Week 12
M Emma Pérez, Gulf Dreams
W Gulf Dreams, continued
F Gulf Dreams, continued
Week 13
M Gulf Dreams, continued
W Review for exam
F Exam 3
Week 14

4:  Looking Toward the Future

M Theory:  Donna Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” (CP)
W No class
F No class
Week 15


M Octavia Butler, Dawn
W Dawn, continued
F Dawn, continued
Week 16  
M Dawn, continued, and review for final
W Final exam

 * CP indicates readings from the theory course packet

Note:  Course assignments and policies are subject to change at the discretion of the instructor if such changes are deemed necessary to benefit the class.  Such changes, if needed, will be distributed in writing to the class.