ENG 340:  Multicultural American Literature                                                     Fall 2015

Instructor:  Jake Jakaitis Classroom:  Root Hall A-274
Office:  Root Hall A209 Meeting Time:  Tu Th 12:30-1:45
Office Phone:  237-3269

Office Hours: 11-12 Tu & Th; 2:00-3:00 F; & by appt.

E-mailjake.jakaitis@indstate.edu Web Page: http://isu.indstate.edu/jakaitis/ 


 Multicultural American Literature addresses cultural diversity through the reading and discussion of writings by Chicano/a, Native American, Asian American, and African-American authors.  Content varies from semester to semester, so we do not cover each of these groups every semester.  Assigned readings include poetry, drama, short fiction, novels, autobiographical essays, and aesthetic and political manifestos. Treating these artifacts as cultural texts exposes students to the similarities and differences (that is, to the cultural diversity) of the aesthetic, political, and social values and experiences of writers belonging to various ethnic and racial groups. Multicultural American Literature is a Foundational Studies course, satisfying the Global Perspectives and Cultural Diversity requirement. It also earns elective credit in African and African-American Studies and Women’s Studies Programs.  The course is required for English teaching majors, while English liberal arts majors earn credit for the diversity requirement in the major. 


  • To provide an introduction to the breadth and quality of the literature produced by various cultural groups who have contributed to American history and culture and to encourage an appreciation of their contributions.
  • To present strategies for engaging this literature within its own historical and cultural contexts and for gauging its aesthetic, cultural, political and social dimensions.
  • To foreground and examine issues of race, gender, class, sexuality and nationality as they arise in these works, to consider the roles played by these issues in the establishing of our national identity, and to promote comparative analysis of the literary works and their cultural and historical contexts.
  • To encourage critical sophistication and lifelong readership of different literary genres (i.e. poetry, fiction, drama, essays).

Butler, Octavia E.  Kindred.  (1979) Boston:  Beacon Press, 2004.  ISBN:  0-8070-8369-0
Lahiri, Jhumpa.  The Namesake.  (2003) New York:  Houghton Mifflin, 2004.  ISBN:  0-618-73396-5
Miller, Arthur. Focus. (1945) New York: Penguin, 2001. ISBN: 9-780142-000427
Ozeki, Ruth. My Year of Meats. (1998) New York: Penguin, 1998. ISBN: 0-14-028046-4
Professor's Pack [Available at Big Picture Printing, Northwest Corner of Spruce and 13th Streets. Telephone:  812-235-0202.]
          Do not call Big Picture or go there until I announce that the Prof Pack is ready.

Because of the course's multiple emphases described above under the heading, "Course Description," the reading and class preparation load in English 340 will be rather intense at times.  While we will often read only a short work [story or novella] for a single class meeting, in some weeks, we will be covering a complete novel of 300 or more pages.  You will be expected to read carefully, take notes, and come to class prepared to write short answer responses to quiz questions about the assigned reading.  Study questions to focus your reading will appear as links in the on-line syllabus in advance of the assignment due dates.  It is your responsibility to check our web syllabus regularly, for I will sometimes withhold posting of study questions for later assignments so that I can tailor the questions to address issues and concerns raised in class discussion of previously covered works.  The study questions and quizzes will sustain the expectation that you have carefully read and thought about the assigned readings and that you are prepared to participate in meaningful discussion and interpretive analysis of the assigned literary works.  Familiarity with the literature will, of course, prepare you for interpretive analysis and discussion in quizzes, in the mid-term examination, in assigned papers, and in the final examination.  You are responsible for all of the assigned readings, even aspects of them not discussed in class

1.  Attendance and Participation (10%)
Attendance (5%):  Full attendance is expected.  Because we will open some class sessions with a quiz, punctuality is crucial to your success.  If you arrive late, it will be impossible to give you additional time to complete the assignment and since the class discussion following each quiz will rely on students’ responses to the quizzes, completing the work after class is not an acceptable option.  If you accumulate 6 unexcused absences, you will fail this course.  Of course, all absences, excused or unexcused, affect your grade because each absence causes you to miss class discussion and reduces your chances to score well on exams. If you have an excused absence for medical or other University approved reasons, it is your responsibility to make up missed work by appointment with me before the next class meeting. 

Participation:  Much of our time will be spent discussing the assigned readings.  Exemplary performance in these activities will demonstrate that you are effectively preparing and thinking about the material and will significantly increase your participation score.  After each class meeting, I will assign participation points to students who actively comment on the readings and promote meaningful discussion related to the specified goals of the course. At semester's end, I will assign you a letter grade for participation based on your accumulated point total. It is in your best interest to take notes and come to class prepared to ask questions or provoke discussion.  These practices will also prepare you to perform well on the short essays and the final project.  Conferences are not required but are encouraged. If you wish to meet with me but cannot attend my office hours, please arrange a conference with me at a more convenient time.  If you do intend to meet with me during one of my office hours, it is best to let me know that you are coming so that I can reserve the time for you.  A semester goes by rather quickly; please see me immediately if you begin having difficulty with any of the course materials. 
Professional Courtesy:  You will be expected to behave professionally in this college classroom.  Turn off cell phones before entering the room.  From the moment that you enter the classroom, you should be focused on the materials and assignments in this course.  Reading of newspapers or other material not directly related to work in this course will not be allowed in the classroom--neither before class has started, nor during our formal class session.   If you are interested in reading newspapers or other materials unrelated to this course as you wait for class to begin, do so outside the classroom. Students who behave rudely, or who have to be asked to put down newspapers or other reading materials will lose participation points.  Under extreme circumstances, such students will be removed from the classroom or dropped from this course.  Laptops may be used for note taking and for review of course materials posted in our on-line syllabus or for searches during class to support our discussions.  However, this privilege will be revoked for anyone using a laptop for e-mail, instant messaging, or any purpose not directly related to the ongoing class discussion.  If laptop use appears to become a problem, I reserve the right to demand that an individual immediately turn the display toward me for inspection.  Any student viewing material irrelevant to this course will be removed from the class.
The ISU Code of Student Conduct can be found at https://www.indstate.edu/student-conduct

2.   Quizzes (10%)
Class meetings will often open with a quiz.  These short examinations will either ask you to respond briefly to a few factual or multiple choice questions accessed through Blackboard [usually 10] about the assigned reading, or require short essay responses that analyze and interpret assigned readings.  To access the timed Blackboard quizzes, you will need to bring a laptop [preferred] or smart phone to class. The short essay responses must begin with topic sentences that directly answer the question and then supply specific story details to support the topic.  Simply quickly reading the assigned stories will not prepare you to score well on these quizzes.  Instead, you must actively consider study questions, literary techniques, plot structures and conflicts, thematic concerns, or the relation of the assigned reading to material presented in lectures and discussions of previously assigned works.  Missed quizzes cannot be made up unless you have a medical or family emergency, or ISU program excuse. Scoring Charts: 3 Point  4 Point  5 Point  20 Point

3.  Essays (30%)
You will write two 4-5 page [1,200-1,500 word], typed analytical papers: one on Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake and one on Octavia Butler's Kindred.  Essay topics will be distributed in advance of our discussions of the novels.  The papers will be double-spaced, with one-inch margins on all four sides of the page.  Use Times New Roman or Cambria 12 font size.  The due dates are specified in the following schedule of readings and assignments. Essays will be submitted by e-mail attachment and will be returned in the same manner.  Specific instructions for essay submissions will appear in the essay assignments. Each essay will count 15%.

Plagiarism: Submitting source-based material as if it were your own without documentation is considered plagiarism. When you “borrow” ideas or language from a published author or website without attribution and without quotation marks, or submit writing by others [including other students] as if it were your own, you are plagiarizing. At the very least, plagiarism will result in a grade of “0” on an assignment; presenting long passages of another’s writing without identifying the author and using quotation marks, or submitting an entire paper purchased on-line will result in failure in the course and a report sent to Student Judicial Programs.

4.  Mid-Term Examination (25%)
During week eight, you will write a mid-term examination including both short answer questions about concepts, terms, and assigned works discussed in class and a slightly longer essay response asking you to compare and contrast two characters or stories.  This examination will cover the shorter readings as well as the broad issues in multicultural American literature discussed over the first seven weeks of the semester.  On Thursday, October 1, part of our class meeting will be devoted to mid-term review; it is crucial that you attend this class meeting.

5.  Final Examination (25%)
You will complete a take-home final examination involving essay questions about Arthur Miller’s Focus and Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats.  You will submit your two essay responses at our final examination class meeting on Tuesday, December 8, at 1:00 p.m. in Root Hall A-108. Attendance at that meeting is mandatory.

6.  Extra Credit
I award extra credit points for written discussions and analyses that you submit after attending any event on or off campus that addresses issues in multicultural American literature. Extra credit opportunities will be announced over the course of the semester; some of these will involve reading additional stories or novels or discussing a film adaptation of a literary work.  Over the course of the semester, you may submit a maximum of 5 extra credit assignments and earn a maximum of up to 50 extra credit points [equal to 5% of the course grade] for attending events or doing additional reading and film watching, and writing 3 page, double-spaced, typed analyses that directly relate your experience to multicultural themes and issues raised in this course.  You must directly relate your experience to texts assigned and discussed in the course. Typically, each extra credit submission can earn a maximum of 10 points.  Occasionally, however, a longer assignment will be designated as offering up to 20 points and will count as two submissions.  Submissions will be evaluated and partial credit will be awarded based on the quality of the work.  I will announce upcoming events in class and invite all of you to do the same.  Extra credit will be available only for events approved in advance by me.  No extra credit assignments will be accepted after Thursday, November 19. The idea is to demonstrate your commitment to the study of multicultural issues over the course of the semester; I will not accept a flurry of extra credit submissions near the end of the semester from a student who is trying to compensate for poor performance in the class, nor will I ever accept more than one submission from a single student in any single week of the semester. Extra Credit Possibilities.


The following percentages are tentative guidelines and are subject to change based, for example, on the number of quizzes actually given during the semester.  I reserve the right to alter assignments and percentage values as the semester progresses.  If changes become necessary, I will inform the class in advance and post all changes on this site. All major assignments [Papers, Mid-Term, and Final Examination] must be submitted if you are to pass the class:

Mid-Term Examination
Final Examination

 We will work on a 1,000-point system.  In accord with the University’s new grading policy, which includes minus grades, the following scale will be used:  920 points or higher = A; 900 = A-; 850 = B+; 820 = B; 800 = B-; 750 = C+; 720 = C; 700 = C-; 650 = D+; 620 = D; 600 = D-; less than 600 = F.
****Retain this policy statement and all graded assignments until you receive your final grade. You will have little chance for grade review unless you are able to re-submit your graded work.****
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: For information about the Foundational Studies Program--specifically the "Sycamore Standard," academic freedom, and the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities--consult the Foundational Studies website: http://www.indstate.edu/fs


ENG 340/AFRI 340:  Multicultural American Literature                           Fall 2014 Syllabus

[Reading assignments in the Professor’s Pack are preceded by the designation PP.  The page numbers listed identify the original source pagination to provide an idea of the actual length of each reading assignment.  The notation, SQ, refers to assigned Study Questions available on-line.  This is a tentative reading schedule.  It is your responsibility to attend class and to keep track of any changes in the schedule.] Please check the website syllabus regularly, I will frequently update with additional links and supporting information on texts and authors.


WEEK ONE:  Course Introduction

 8-20    (Th)     Course Introduction
                        Discuss WEB DuBois, "The Concept of Race," [Handout] SQ
                        DuBois Resources  DuBois Biography

WEEK TWO: What is an American?

 8-27    (Tu)     "The Forethought" and "Of Our Spiritual Strivings" from DuBois's
                         Souls of Black Folks at WEB DuBois' site.
                        "Introduction" to A Different Mirror by Ronald Takaki [Handout: 1-17] SQ
                        "Wiltshire Bus" by Hisaye Yamamoto [PP: 34-38] SQ
                        Takaki Interview

 8-29    (Th)     “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker  [PP: 2126-2133] SQ
                        "When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine" by Jhumpa Lahiri [PP: 23-42] SQ
                        Bangladesh History & Maps  ESSAY ASSIGNMENT

WEEK THREE:  First Generation American Identity

 9-1      (Tu)     The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri:  Chs. 1-4:  1-96 SQ [Chs. 1-2] SQ [Chs. 3-4]

 9-3      (Th)     Continue The Namesake:  Chs. 5-6:  97-158 SQ [Chs. 5-7]

WEEK FOUR:  First Generation American Identity

 9-8      (Tu)     Continue The Namesake:  Chs. 7-9:  159-245 SQ [Chs. 8-9]

 9-10    (Th)     Finish The Namesake:  Chs. 10-12:  246-291 SQ [Chs. 10-12]

WEEK FIVE:  History and Identity

 9-15    (Tu)     "Tears of Autumn" by Yoshiko Uchida [PP:  202-209] SQ
                        Angel Island Picture Brides
                        "Seventeen Syllables" by Hisaye Yamamoto [PP: 8-19] SQ  Yamamoto Obituary
                        Hiroshige Prints: Irises   Rapids  Waves  Notes on Japanese Immigration      

 9-17    (Th)     Excerpts from And Justice for All: Mary Tsukamoto, Emi Somekawa, & Tom Watanabe [PP: 3-15; 146-151; 95-99] SQ
                        Senator Matsui Video; Relocation Camps
                        "The Legend of Miss Sasagawara" by Yamamoto [PP: 20-33] SQ

9-19  (Sat)      Essay #1 Due (No Later than 11:59 p.m.)

WEEK SIX:  Legend, Gender, Identity

 9-22    (Tu)     La Llorona Website
                        "Woman Hollering Creek" by Sandra Cisneros [PP: 596-605] SQ
                        "La Llorona, Malinche, and Guadalupe" [PP: 1328-32]I Throw Punches for My Race
                        Prepare for "Yellow Woman" Stories


 9-24    (Th)     Yellow Women Stories:  Cochiti and Laguna Pueblo [PP:  210-218]
                        “Yellow Woman” by Leslie Marmon Silko [PP: 219-228] SQ

WEEK SEVEN:  Legend, Gender, Identity

 9-29    (Tu)     Joy Harjo Interview and Poems [PP: 159-172] SQ
                        Mary TallMountain Interview and Poems [PP: 403-412]

 10-1    (Th)     "American Horse" by Louise Erdrich [PP: 31-44] SQRed Tomahawk

    MID-TERM REVIEW     Stories in Assigned Order

WEEK EIGHT: Mid-Term Examination

10-7     (Tu)     MID-TERM EXAMINATION

 10-8    (Th)     "The Lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara [PP: 69-75] SQ
                        Kindred by Octavia Butler ["Prologue," "The River": 9-17]
                        Alex Haley's Roots & Butler's Motives in Writing Kindred


WEEK NINE: Slavery and Identity

 10-13  (Tu)     Continue Kindred ["The Fire": 18-51]SQ

 10-15  (Th)     Continue Kindred ["The Fall": 52-107] SQ

WEEK TEN: What Makes One a Slave?

 10-20  (Tu)     Continue Kindred ["The Fight": 108-188 SQ]

 10-22  (Th)     Finish Kindred ["The Storm": 189-239 SQ, "The Rope" & "Epilogue" 240-265]SQ
                        Reader's Guide: 265-284

WEEK ELEVEN: Race and Class Identity

 10-27  (Tu)     "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin [PP:  46-68]

 10-29  (Th)     Begin My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki [Prologue –Ch. 3:1-47] SQ

WEEK TWELVE: Media, Culture, Identity

 11-3    (Tu)     Continue My Year of Meats [Chs. 4-6: 49-143]

 11-5    (Th)     Continue My Year of Meats [Chs. 7-9: 144-241]   Night of Broken Glass

 11-6    (F)      ESSAY #2 DUE [No later than 11:59 p.m.]

WEEK THIRTEEN: Media, Culture, Identity

11-10   (Tu)     Finish My Year of Meats [Ch 10-Epilogue: 243-361]

11-12   (Th)      Focus by Arthur Miller [Introduction: v-x & Chs. 1-7: 1-57]

WEEK FOURTEEN:  Chinese American Identity

11-17 (Tu)        Focus by Arthur Miller [Chs. 8-15: 57-151]

11-21 (Th)       NO CLASS




WEEK SIXTEEN:  Final Things

 12-1    (Tu)   Focus by Arthur Miller [Chs. 16-17: 151-217] QUIZ

12-3    (Th)     A Moving Day" by Susan Nunes [PP:  130-137] SQ QUIZ
                        FINAL EXAMINATION REVIEW



Our Examination is Tuesday, December 8 @ 1:00 p.m. in RO A-274

[Attendance at the final examination period is mandatory.]