English 346--Ethnic American Literature--Fall 1999



Section 06 [engl346-06]: MW 2:10-4:00 in 22-315

Instructor: Steven Marx



Office hours: MTWR 4:10-5:00

FOB 25E, 756-2411


This course centers around five books by writers who have been classified as "Ethnic": Jewish-American, African-American, Asian-American, Latino-American and Native-American. Each book has been celebrated as a literary work and as a window into and out its subculture.

  • Goodbye Columbus by Phillip Roth
  • Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  • Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros
  • The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

Two weeks of class will be devoted to each book and ethnicity. Class activities will include lecture, discussion, film clips, songs, and student group and individual presentations.

Assignments in this course ask students to read actively, to reflect on their own experience in light of their reading, and to create essays and projects as fruit of their reading and reflection.

Fall 1999 Schedule





Work due



Course Introduction

"Why Care"

Introduction to Roth

Film excerpt: "Schindler's List"*




Phillip Roth and Jewish

American Experience

Discuss title story

Film excerpt: "Goodbye Columbus"*

Goodbye Columbus 1-136

browse Roth webpage

check out Claire Bloom interview

check reading notes




Discuss "Epstein"

Goodbye Columbus 201-231

check reading notes




Discuss "Conversion of the Jews" and "Defender of the Faith"

Goodbye Columbus 137-159;159-201




Discuss "Eli, the Fanatic"

Student presentations

Student responses to presentations

Goodbye Columbus 247-298

United States Holocaust Museum Education Website browse

check reading notes

some possible topics



James Baldwin and

African American Experience

Introduction to Baldwin

Discuss "The Seventh Day"

reading notes

Assignment #1

Go Tell it on the Mountain


browse Baldwin webpage 1 and 2




Discuss "Florence's Prayer"

Film excerpt: "Roots"--beginning of volume 6 *

lecture notes

Go Tell it on the Mountain;





Discuss "Gabriel's Prayer" and "Elizabeth's Prayer"

lecture notes

midterm study guide

Billie Holiday songs

Go Tell it on the Mountain





Discuss "The Threshing Floor"

possible topics for Assignment#2

Student presentations

Student responses to presentations

Go Tell it on the Mountain


browse Speak to My Heart [Communities of Faith and Contemporary African-American Life]



Sandra Cisneros and Latino-American Experience

Midterm exam

Introduction to Cisneros

Discuss "My Lucy Friend"

Assignment #2

Woman Hollering Creek 1-23

browse Cisneros Webpage




Discuss "One Holy Night"

Film excerpt: "My Family"*

Woman Hollering Creek 25-40




Discuss "There was a man..."

Woman Hollering Creek 41-114




Discuss "There was a man..."

Possible topics for #3

Student presentations

Student responses to presentations

Woman Hollering Creek 114-65



Maxine Hong Kingston and

Asian-American Experience

Introduction to Hong-Kingston

Video interview

Discuss "No-name woman"

lecture notes

Assignment #3

The Woman Warrior 1-16

browse Hong-Kingston Webpage

check reading notes




Discuss "White Tigers"

Film excerpts: "Mulan"*

The Woman Warrior 17-55




Discuss "Shaman" and "At the Western Palace"

Film excerpts: "The Joy Luck Club"*

lecture notes

The Woman Warrior 55-111; 111-161





Discuss "A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe"

lecture notes

Possible topics for #4

Student presentations

Responses to presentation 4

The Woman Warrior 161-209



Leslie Marmon Silko and Native Amercan Experience

Introduction to Silko

Discuss Ceremony 1-38

Assignment #4

Ceremony 1-38

browse Silko web page



No class






Discuss Ceremony 38-223

Possible topics for #5

Ceremony 38-223

Check Lecture and Reading Notes




Discuss Ceremony 224-262

Student presentations

Responses to presentation 5


Ceremony 224-262

Check out "Priesthoods and Power: Some Thoughts on Diablo Canyon" by Steven Marx





Assignment #5



Final exam 1:10-3:00 p.m.



*All films listed are available on reserve in the Learning Resources Center of Kennedy Library.

Students will produce one assignment for each work read. Three of these assignments are critical papers--each between 250 and 1000 words formatted on a single page. Topics are up to students. Some sample approaches include: the language of a particular passage; a character or a relationship and how they change; the relation between sections of a book or books; a comparison between parts of a book and a film; research on the historical context of a section of a book; an argument with a character or the author over a clearly defined issue raised in the book. [See "A Paradigm for Literary Analysis" and "Dr. Marx's Special Formula" ]

One assignment is a two page autobiographical essay connecting a passage or incident in one of the books to specific experiences of the student. Another assignment is a creative project in any medium--writing, music, food, visual arts, dance, web page, etc.--inspired by the book or its subject matter. Students select which work to link to each assignment.

At the end of the first week, students sign up for a date to present one of their assignments--critical paper, autobiographical essay or creative project--to the class. Those who sign up for the same date will work together to integrate their various presentations into a well planned variety show.

The total of five assignments counts for 60% of the final grade. A midterm and a final exam each provide GWR credit and count 20% of the grade. Late assignments are penalized one full grade for each class session's delay unless a postponement is granted by the instructor in advance. Occasional unannounced quizzes will insure that readings are completed on time. Each failed pop quiz lowers grade by one half letter.

Four unexcused absences lower the grade by one half letter; seven unexcused absences result in no credit. Three unexcused latenesses count for one absence. Certified medical absences are not counted in these totals and are the only reason for makeup exams or quizzes.

Deliberate plagiarism or other forms of cheating result in a failing grade and referral to the dean. Students are responsible for understanding the definition of plagiarism. Please consult the instructor if the page on Documentation and Plagiarism doesn't make it clear.