Saturday, May 1, 2010

Propaganda and "Terrorism"

Thanks to my Women's Studies students Christine Bowden, Rebekah Glover, and Rebecca Nesbitt for this link to a 1950s British newsreel film that represents the Kenyan freedom fighters, known as Mau Mau, as terrorists. The reel was produced while Britain held colonial control over Kenya, and the newsreel is clearly intended to drum up anti-Mau Mau support for continued British occupation. Based on our viewing of In the Name of Liberation, what questions come to mind about defining terrorism when you view this newsreel?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sierra Leone Legalizes Free Health Care for Mothers, Infants

This news release from Medicins sans frontieres/Doctors Without Borders details Sierra Leone's new national law, which mandates free health care as of April 27, 2010, to the nation's most vulnerable groups: pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children under the age of five. These groups represent the highest rates of mortality in the nation, and the new law seeks to reduce these numbers by improving access to preventive and urgent medical care that many cannot otherwise afford.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Film: Searching for Angela Shelton, 4/27, Keezell G3, 7pm

To raise awareness for Sexual Abuse Prevention Month, one of our class service project groups will screen the documentary Searching For Angela Shelton. The film's director, Angela Shelton, searched for women who share her name only to find that over half, like herself, have been sexually abused. Soon her journey turns into a vivid and moving commentary on both sexual and child abuse in society today, as Shelton confronts the man who abused her. The film will be shown Tuesday, April 27th, in Keezel Hall room G3 at 7:00pm. I hope you'll attend.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wal-Mart in India

This New York Times article details the discount retailer's push into new markets around the globe, most recently into India. How does this account connect with the cultural effects of globalization we see portrayed in the film Monsoon Wedding? How does the account of Wal-Mart's commissioned Indian farms differ from the IMF-induced Jamaican farming crisis reported in the documentary Life and Debt?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Txt Letters to the Ed in Namibia

The independent newspaper of Namibia, The Namibian, accepts and prints mobile-texted (SMS) letters to the Editor three times a week. The program has been wildly successful in sparking national discussion on a range of topics. Government officials as well as citizens participate in the innovative program. PBS has the story here. How does this freedom of speech connect to class discussions?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Critter Love: Student Documentary on Animal Rights 4/19

Screening: April 19th, 7pm, in Zane-Showker G5

A group of my GENG 239 students have produced a documentary focused on raising awareness for animal needs and welfare, as well as showing JMU students (and others) how they can help pets in the Harrisonburg/Rockingham community. At the screening, the group will collect donations for the Rockingham/Harrisonburg SPCA. Donations can be made in cash, or can include any of the following items:
• Pet food (preferably Purina or Pedigree)
• Pet toys
• Collars or leashes
• Any office supplies (3 ring binders, copy paper, notepads, pens, etc.)
• Any cleaning supplies (trash bags, hand soap, dish soap, various cleansers)

I hope you'll come out and support your classmates and our animal friends.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Backstreet Abortions in Kenya: Few Other Options

Thanks to my Women's Studies student Rachael Capone for bringing this article from to my attention. As we've been talking about the after-effects of colonialism (called neocolonialism) on nations throughout the world, the issue of overworked health care systems and residual colonial-era State policies is one example of very real problems affecting the daily lives of numerous families. How does this news story reflect or connect to our recent literary forays into postcolonial conditions in Latin America (via Pablo Neruda's poetry) and the Caribbean (via the documentary Life and Debt)?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

SMAD Spring Diversity Lecture 4/5, 7pm, 1261 Harrison

"A Space for Hate: The White Power Movement’s Adaptation into Cyberspace." The white power movement is steadily adapting its racist agenda into "user-friendly" cyber formats, ranging from social network websites to information databases. Adam Klein will discuss his research on twenty-six leading white power websites and their use of the Internet. Klein is SMAD Diversity Fellow for the spring 2010. He is a Ph.D. candidate in the Mass Communication & Media Studies program at Howard University. He is the author of numerous research articles and papers and the forthcoming book, A Space for Hate (Litwin Books). The presentation is sponsored by the Office of Diversity, the Honors Program, and the School of Media Arts & Design.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Like Water for Chocolate & Magical Realism

Assignment: By Monday, 3/29, at 5:00 p.m., please post a reply to this blog entry that will serve as your commentary for next week. Your commentary should address the film Like Water for Chocolate, in particular the work it does through novelist Esquival's and director Arau's uses of magical realism. Your commentary must either quote the film or describe a visual element as per the usual commentary assignment. Your commentary may either advance an original idea or respond to one previously posted here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gandhi Center Internship for Fall 2010

The Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence at JMU invites rising Juniors and Seniors (and exceptional rising sophomores) with strong leadership and academic backgrounds to be part of affecting change at the local, regional, and national levels by promoting non-violence understanding, appreciation, and practice. Application materials and details are on the Center's website.

Race, Gender, and Unwanted Touch

Allison Keye's essay on National Public Radio, "Keep Your Hands Off the Hair," is about the frequent and strange compulsion of others to touch her hair. An African American who does not chemically straighten her hair, Keyes seeks to understand and explain the relationship of a 400-years-old racialized history of assumed permission to her recoil. The essay does not discuss the aspect of gender as another assumption of free access to her body, but it surely exists and is germane to our discussions in class. I am particularly reminded of Diego de Landa's detailed description of Mayan women's bathing and beauty rituals in his Account of Things in Yucatan. What connections do you make?

Monday, March 22, 2010

East Meets West conference 3/24-26

March 24, 7:00 p.m., Memorial Hall Auditorium: Concert edition of Puccini's Madame Butterfly by the American Center for Puccini Studies. Free and open to the public.
March 25-26, beginning at 9:00 a.m., Taylor Hall: conference sessions.
Sponsored by the JMU Department of Foreign Languages and Literature.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Women in Government: Liberia

This New York Times article reports on Liberia's president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state in Africa. Six of the twenty-two cabinet posts are held by women. What can we learn from this government's model?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How to Write About Africa: a Parody

Thanks to classmate Meredith Sizemore for sharing Binyavanga Wainaina's parodic essay "How to Write About Africa." The full-text article is available on Granta. How does Wainaina's essay engage with our discussions about shattering cultural lenses before reading literatures that depict cultures or historical periods that differ from the readers'?

Furious Flower Collegiate Poetry Summit 3/18-20

Mark your calendar for the Furious Flower Collegiate Poetry Summit, March 18-20! Explore African American poetry with college students from around the country in workshops, panel discussions, poetry readings, and an open mic night. Sponsored by the Furious Flower Poetry Center and the Center for Multicultural Student Services.


Crafting a Poetic Future: M.F.A. Programs, Publishing, and Fellowships -- 6:30p.m. CISAT NTellos Room 259

Poetry Reading by Claudia Emerson, Virginia Poet Laureate -- 8:00p.m. CISAT NTellos Room 259

Open Mic Night: Bring some poetry to read or slam! Co-sponsored with Word Is Born Poets’ Society -- 9:30p.m. Taylor Down Under

FRIDAY MARCH 19, 2010 Workshops:

“A Community of Spirits: The Familial and Ancestral” Instructed by Kevin Young -- 8:45-10:00a.m. Ntellos Room* Learn how to weave your ancestry into your poetry, and how to relate your family’s pasts to your present experiences. Advanced sign-up required.

“The Rose that Grew From Concrete: The Urban Landscape & the Black Experience” Instructed by Major Jackson -- 10:15-11:30a.m. Ntellos Room* The urban world has been a setting where writers have explored their sense of identity. Learn to do the same in your poetry, using your own familiar landscape. Advanced sign-up required.

“Love Me True: Passion and Poetry” Instructed by Lyrae Van-Clief Stefanon -- 12:30-1:45p.m. Ntellos Room* Explore the language necessary to express feelings that are perceptible to the senses, and rich in ideas and meaning. Advanced sign-up required.

Poets’ Panel -- 2:00p.m. Ntellos Room* Advanced sign-up required.

Virginia Festival of the Book Reading & Reception featuring Nikki Giovanni, Major Jackson, Haki Madhubuti, Lyrae Van-Clief Stefanon and Kevin Young -- 6:00p.m. University of Virginia in Charlottesville** Advanced sign-up required.


The Word on Campus: The College Literary Magazine -- 8:45-9:45a.m. Showker Hall G5

Poetry Readings by Jon Pineda and Quraysh Ali Lansana -- 10:00a.m. Showker Hall G5

*Some events require sign-up in advance due to limited space. To sign up, contact K. Williams at (540)568-2694 or **Transportation and reserved seating for the Virginia Festival of the Book reading is available on a first-come, first-served advanced sign-up basis.

TAKE BACK THE NIGHT 3/23, 6-10pm: The Commons

Take Back the Night is a night dedicated to raising awareness about ending sexual assault and violence against both men and women on college campuses and around the world. The event increases community awareness about sexual assault, serves as a voice for men and women to speak out about their experiences, and empowers each of us to take action.
6pm: Musical and dramatic performances
6:45pm-7:30pm: Dr. Rachel Griffin, Keynote Speaker. The speech is a PASSPORT EVENT.
7:30pm: Speak-out and a candle-lit march around campus.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Words and Pictures" at the Institute for Visual Studies 2/9

The opening is from 11-1, Roop 208. This semester, the IVS studio seminar is “Writing and Illustrating Literature in which student writers and graphic designers are collaborating to create graphic novels, children's books, and other visual narratives. This exhibition is an introduction to the possibilities of these genres and will include original work by Rich Hilliard (School of Art and Art History) and guest artist, graphic novelist Julia Wertz. At noon on 2/10, Wertz will discuss her artistic process in the first IVS spring colloquium. Questions to Daniel Robinson at 568-5656 or

West African Film Series

The series spotlights a variety of social and cultural themes in Sierra Leone, Mali, Bourkina Faso, Liberia, Nigeria, Niger, Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Cameroon. Screenings are on Wednesdays at 7 pm, G44 Burruss Hall, throughout the semester. Faculty and other experts will be on hand to discuss each film. Details and schedules are here. Dr. Aderonke Adesanya will deliver a talk on "Cultural Elements in Nigerian Films" following the April 7th screening. Dr. Adesanya is an art historian at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. The series is sponsored by: Africana Studies; Office of International Programs; Justice Studies; Cross Disciplinary Studies; Office of Diversity; African Student Organization; Center for Multicultural Student Services; and Department of Foreign Languages, Literature and Cultures.

"Lineage: The Margaret Walker Song Cycle" 2/27

Hosted by the Furious Flower Poetry Center and Center for Multicultural Student Services: Saturday, 2/27, 4:00p.m., Festival Highlands Room. "Lineage" combines Walker's poetry, Randy Kline's music, the JMU Chorale, Broadway artist Aurelia Williams, and a photographic montage of African American history.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Asian Studies Symposium, 2/15

History, Politics, and Food Security in Asia -- Festival Highlands Room, 6:30-8:30 pm

“Korean Food, Korean Unification: Cold Noodles vs. Choco Pie” -- Guest Presenter: Mr. John Feffer, Institute of Policy Studies

“How Columbus Transformed Asian Food” -- Dr. Abigail Schweber, Department of History, JMU

“Tainted Milk and Corrupted Bodies in the Wake of China’s Melamine Scandal” -- Dr. Megan Tracy, Department of Anthropology & Sociology, JMU

An Asian food buffet and refreshments will be provided beginning at 6:30 pm. Sponsored by: Asian Studies Minor, Taste of Thai, Saigon Café, Tsunami Sushi, The Oriental Café, and Indian and American Café.

All members of the JMU community are invited. For more information, contact Dr. Jonathan Walker at or 568-1742.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Extra Credit Quiz

I will raise the lowest commentary grade by one (1) letter for the first ten (10) people who answer any of the following questions about Death and the King's Horseman correctly. You can submit answers to all of the questions, but I will only raise one (1) commentary grade per respondent. Submit your answers as "comments" to this post. Answers must quote textual evidence and use proper citations. Here are the questions:

1. What does Olunde mean when he tells Elesin, "I have no father, eater of left-overs"? What is the significance of this line?

2. Who or what stops Elesin from transitioning to the realm of the ancestors at the proper moment? What is the significance to the community of this failure?

3. What is the central conflict of this play?

4. Soyinka goes to great pains to warn would-be producers against a "clash of cultures" interpretation? Why does Soyinka argue that such an interpretation is not only incorrect but impossible?

Please be ready to finish discussion of this play when we next meet, on Friday, 2/12.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Class Schedule Changes Due to Recent University Closings

Revised 2/11, 1:29 p.m.

Please note the following schedule changes to accommodate the recent university closings. I have made these changes to the online version of our course schedule, available on this blog (see the January blog archive).

1. Due: online commentary on Death and the King's Horseman. Please reply to my Death and the King's Horseman post by Friday, 2/12, by 5pm EST.

2. Remove Tlali, "Fud-u-u-a," from syllabus.

3. Move Kid's Stuff Learning Activity final paper due dates to: Monday, 2/15, for the 12:20 class; and to Wednesday, 2/17, for the 9:05 class. I will return drafts to the 9:05 class during our next meeting.

4. No commentary on Wednesday, 2/17.

5. Group Community Service Project proposals are due on Wednesday, 2/24. See the January blog archive for the assignment. I will distribute hard copies of the assignment and take questions during our next class meeting. You should begin thinking now about possible group and project forms.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Death and the King's Horseman: Online Commentaries

Please post your online commentaries for Death and the King's Horseman here. As with your Anowa posts, these commentaries may either initiate or continue an existing discussion thread. All commentaries must otherwise comport to assignment parameters. Please remember to include your full name in your post. I will assign a zero (0) to any post whose writer I can not immediately identify.

I have asked JMU Theatre and English major Robby Bassler to guest-direct a pivotal scene from Soyinka's play in the next meeting of my 12:20 section, in Burruss 36. Robby is an Honors student who extensively researched African theatre and Soyinka's aims for this play in a previous world literature honors course. To those in the 9:05 section, I hope as many of you as can make it will attend the 12:20 class so that you can take part in this exciting drama study.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Anowa Online Commentary

Thank you for your willingness to explore new kinds of oral and written literatures, and particularly for shattering your cultural lenses and being open to the texts' teachings.

In addition to our classroom discussion, we're holding a blog discussion on Ama Ata Aidoo's play Anowa this week. Please post your commentary as a "Comment" to this blog item. Remember: your commentary may either initiate a discussion thread or continue an existing one. Commentaries, whether initiating or continuing threads, must comport to all other assignment parameters. Due date: Friday, 1/29/10, at 5pm EST.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Chemistry & South Africa: 1/22 @ 3:45, ISAT 159

Dr. Brian Augustine from the JMU Department of Chemistry will present a seminar entitled, "A Tale of Two Countries: Science Education in the New South Africa." It is an historical overview of the education system in South Africa coupled with observations of Dr. Augustine's time in South Africa as a Fulbright Scholar teaching in the School of Chemistry at the University of KwaZulu Natal in 2009.

The talk is today, January 22nd, with refreshments served at 3:30 pm and the seminar at 3:45 pm in ISAT Room 159.

The presentation will trace how the apartheid system has relegated a significant majority of the population uneducated, and how this inequity is now being reaped in the university system in South Africa. South Africa is a critical nation on the African continent as it is by far the most economically developed. However, the nation now faces a severe skills shortage directly related to a struggling educational system. The presentation will be appropriate for a general audience, and is open to the public.

The Africa They Never Show You

In light of our discussion of hieroglyphics training as a method of cultural empowerment, I share this short video montage with you, created by Lo Nyambok, of an Africa that defies the stereotype. Thank you, Ebenezer Badger, for bringing this video to my attention! Please feel free to share your comments.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

MLK Lecture in Global Nonviolence, Tuesday, 01/19/10

The Center for Multicultural Student Services and the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence present the first Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture in Global Nonviolence. Please attend the Rev. James Lawson's address, "Nonviolent Action for Civil Rights,” on Tuesday, January 19, at 6:30 pm, in Room 2301, HHS. Admission is free and all are invited.

Rev. Lawson's profile: A counterpart of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., James Lawson was the leading theoretician and tactician of nonviolence in the U.S. Civil Rights movement, and continues today as an advocate for the power of collective nonviolent struggle in furtherance of campaigns for peace, justice, freedom, equality, and human rights. Dr. King called James Lawson "The leading nonviolence theorist in the world."

Rev. Lawson will also speak on Monday, January 18th, 2010, as the keynote for the formal MLK program: Wilson Hall Auditorium
7:00p.m. (Doors Open at 6:30p.m.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Electronic course reserve materials are ready

Please go here (to the JMU libraries page, click on "course reserves," then "e-reserves," and search under either my name or "GENG 239"). The library has informed me that all titles are now online. See you tomorrow!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Course Description

This course will introduce students to key African, Indian, Caribbean, and Latin American oral and written narratives from about 3000 BCE to the present day. While paying special attention to historical specificity, we will consider the ways in which literatures from various sites around the world suggest varied and dynamic relationships among power, violence, gender, race, ethnicity, and identity formation before, during, and since the imperial incursion. In this context, we will consider the specific material conditions necessary to precipitate organized resistance, as well as the various forms resistance may take. The resulting key questions we will keep before us are: in what ways have power and violence shaped contemporary notions of “the world”? What are some potential responses to past injustices? In what ways can we envision ourselves as productive citizens of our world community? Readings and films are from or are set in Algeria, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, Haiti, India, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia (formerly British Malaya), Martinique, Mexico, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Palestine, South Africa, Tanzania, and the United States.

The Class as Learning Community

Class attendance and informed participation in class activities is crucial. This class is a learning community, and a key element in fostering community is member responsibility to both the self and the community. Each class member must assume responsibility for his or her learning and support the learning of others. Assuming responsibility means preparing for class, asking for help, responding to classmates, and respecting differences. These expectations also apply to me as your instructor.

I expect you to arrive on time and stay until each class meeting’s conclusion. Arriving late or leaving early disrupts everyone’s learning. If you do not attend class, you miss a crucial element of the community learning experience that is a key premise of this course and, conversely, the class misses your unique contributions. Whatever the reason for an absence, the missed learning experience is irreplaceable. If you miss class, you are responsible for obtaining notes, handouts, and assignments from classmates and not from me. More than three recorded absences (one week) will lower your final course grade by one letter. More than six recorded absences (two weeks) will lower your final course grade to an F.

The classroom community can best learn if everyone participates. I expect you to attend each class prepared to contribute productively to discussion and other class activities. Preparation is your reflection on the assigned readings. Productive participation includes, but is not limited to: informed responses to discussion questions related to the readings; thoughtfully answering questions posed in class discussions; sharing your unique perspective or knowledge of course material with the class; and posing questions or offering comments that demonstrate your comprehension and reflection on assigned readings.

Course Readings, Films, and Online Resources

Required Texts:
Aidoo, Ama Ata. Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa.
Danticat, Edwidge. Krik? Krak!.
Lahiri, Jhumpa. Unaccustomed Earth.
Márquez, Gabriel García. Collected Stories.
Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman.

Required Photocopied Readings (reserved at Carrier Library; see schedule):
Armah, Ayi Kwei, and A. K. Lam. Selection from Hieroglyphics for Babies.
Chesaina, C. “The Man Who Never Attended Public Gatherings,” and selected Kalenjin proverbs, from Oral Literature of the Kalenjin.
de Landa, Diego. Selection from Relación de las cosas de Yucatán (Account of Things in Yucatán).
Fanon, Frantz. Selection from The Wretched of the Earth.
Kipury, Naomi. “The Girl Who Married a Crow,” “The Greedy Man Who Almost Went Hungry,” “The Sun and the Moon,” and selected Maasai proverbs, from Oral Literature of the Maasai.
Neruda, Pablo. “The Beggars” and “The United Fruit Co.”
Tlali, Miriam. “Fud-u-u-a.”

Recommended Text: The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th edition or later.

Required Films (reserved at Carrier Library; see schedule):
Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate). Dir. Alfonso Arau (DVD #5158).
In the Name of Liberation: Freedom by any Means. Dir. Jon Blair (DVD #957).
Life and Debt. Dir. Stephanie Black (video #7962).
Monsoon Wedding. Dir. Mira Nair (DVD #1893).
Witness to Apartheid. Dir. Sharon Sopher (video #324).

Required Online Resources: Daily access to this course blog for assignments, links, discussion, and announcements.
A JMU email account whose inbox and junk folders you check at least every other day.

Required Writing, Exams, and Evaluation

10%: Class Participation and Written Commentaries: To foster reading comprehension and analytical skills via working together as a group, you will share a written commentary on current course material (film and written texts) at the beginning of our Monday class meetings (unless otherwise noted in the schedule). Each commentary must reference at least one current text or film and provide a quotation and proper citation. I will grade commentaries on relevance to the course, clarity of expression, depth of engagement with the material, and adherence to assignment directions. Examples of in-depth engagement with the material are striving for connections across course texts and attempting to answer your own difficult questions. Each week’s commentary will count as one class participation grade.

30% (2 x 15% each): Learning Activities: During the semester, you will complete two (of four possible) learning activities. You will choose the learning activity that you wish to complete. Each learning activity is listed on the class schedule and must be completed by the listed due date. You may elect to submit a draft of any activity for review and feedback before the final paper is submitted. Optional draft due dates are listed in the syllabus.

40% (2 x 20%): Exams (Mid-term and Final).

20%: Group Community Service Project and Presentation: During the semester, you will form a group with three others to design and carry out a service project on campus and/or in the surrounding community that demonstrates your in-depth understanding of a theme or issue from the course. The project’s purpose is to help students to better understand the artists and the art which we have studied by considering these questions: What social conditions motivate these artists to create? How do they choose their subjects, media, and audiences? How do these artists define “art”? How might the creative lessons learned from these artists inform your own community involvement? Groups will complete the project during the semester. They will then make a presentation to the class at the end of the semester which outlines (and, if applicable, displays) the project’s goals, methodology, outcome, and lessons learned. Projects should above all benefit the community, but projects and presentations must also be creative, well planned, relevant, well researched, and intellectually productive. Your project may engage with an organized service program either at JMU or in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County (see links on course blog for some campus and community examples). More risky, but perhaps more rewarding, the group may elect to design and carry out an original project. Original projects must receive my approval to proceed, but I am happy to consult with students on both original and text-derived projects. Groups must meet with me and present a written project proposal and must receive approval before beginning any collaborative work for credit.

I use JMU’s four-point scale to record and compute grades.

Course Policies

Assignment Format: All written work must be typed, double-spaced, printed legibly in black ink, and follow MLA style. Use The MLA Handbook, 6th edition or later, available in the JMU library and in all local and online bookstores. Do not use online MLA style guides: these are usually incorrect. Unreadable or improperly formatted papers will receive an F.

Due Dates: I do not accept late or emailed work. All work is due in class at the start time. See me before the deadline if you do not understand any assignment or run into any other sort of difficulty. If you will be unable to submit your work at the assigned place or time, make arrangements with me before the deadline to submit it early. Work is submitted when I receive it in-hand, not when it arrives in my mailbox or under my office door.

The JMU Honor Code applies to all work completed in this class. Handing in work constitutes your pledge of academic honesty. Plagiarism will result in failing the course and referral for disciplinary action by the Honor Council and the College of Arts and Letters.

If you have a diagnosed disability, it is your responsibility to notify the Office of Disability Services and me so that we can work together to meet your learning needs.

I encourage all students to access the academic support services available on campus.

Office Hours: Please feel free to drop by or make an appointment to see me.

Inclement Weather: Class meets if the university is open. If I am unable to get to campus, I will notify the class via email and by having a notice posted outside our classroom door.

Course Schedule

This schedule is subject to change according to the needs of the class. You are responsible for all schedule changes announced in class and on this blog. Be prepared to discuss readings on the dates listed. We will view films in class.

M 1/11 Course Introduction: What is (World) Literature?

Oral Narratives and Ancient Writing

W 1/13 Kenya, Tanzania. Maasai and Kalenjin Oral Literature. Kipury. “The Sun and the Moon,” “The Girl Who Married a Crow.”

F 1/15 Kipury. “The Greedy Man Who Almost Went Hungry,” selected proverbs. Chesaina. “The Man Who Never Attended Public Gatherings,” selected proverbs.

M 1/18 Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. No class.

W 1/20 Egypt. Armah and Lam. Hieroglyphics for Babies (complete drawing exercises and read text).

F 1/22 Armah and Lam. Hieroglyphics for Babies (finish).

Representing the Colonial Incursion

M 1/25 Mexico. de Landa.Selection from Relación de las cosas de Yucatán (Account of Things in Yucatán). Due: Commentary.

W 1/27 Ghana. Aidoo. Anowa, pp. 55-81.

F 1/29 Aidoo. Anowa, pp. 82-102. Due: Online commentary to blog by 5pm EST.

M 2/1 Aidoo. Anowa, finish. Due: Learning Activity: Kid’s Stuff? Optional draft.

W 2/3 Nigeria. Soyinka. Death and the King’s Horseman, pp. 3-37.

F 2/5 University closed -- snow day.

M 2/8 University closed -- snow day.

W 2/10 University closed -- snow day.

F 2/12 Soyinka. Death and the King’s Horseman. Due: (12:20 class) Learning Activity: Kid’s Stuff? final paper. Due: Commentary: online blog post by 5pm EST.

M 2/15 Soyinka. Death and the King’s Horseman.

Art and Armed Struggle

W 2/17 Palestine, Malaya, Algeria, South Africa, and Northern Ireland. Film: In the Name of Liberation. Due: (9:05 class) Learning Activity: Kid’s Stuff? final paper.

F 2/19 Film: In the Name of Liberation. Martinique, Algeria. Fanon. Selection from The Wretched of the Earth.

M 2/22 Chile. Neruda. “The United Fruit Co.” and “The Beggars.” Due: Commentary.

W 2/24 South Africa. Film: Witness to Apartheid. Due: Group Community Service Project Proposal.

F 2/26 Film: Witness to Apartheid.

M 3/1 Mid-term Exam.

Postcolonial Literature

W 3/3 Colombia. Magic Realism. Marquez. Collected Stories, “Big Mama’s Funeral.”

F 3/5 Marquez. Collected Stories, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.” Due: Learning Activity: Gender and War optional draft.

M-F 3/8-12 Spring Break. No class.

M 3/15 Marquez. Collected Stories, “The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother.” Due: Commentary.

W 3/17 Marquez. Collected Stories, “The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother.”

F 3/19 Marquez. Collected Stories, “Eyes of a Blue Dog.”

M 3/22 Mexico. Film: Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate). Due: Learning Activity: Gender and War final paper.

W 3/24 Film: Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate). Due: Learning Activity: “Poetry of Revolt” optional draft.

F 3/26 Film: Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate).

M 3/29 Film: Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate). Due: Commentary.

W 3/31 Haiti and Diaspora. Danticat. Krik? Krak! “Children of the Sea.”

F 4/2 Danticat. Krik? Krak! “Caroline’s Wedding.” Due: Learning Activity: “Poetry of Revolt” final paper.

M 4/5 Danticat. Krik? Krak! “The Missing Peace.” Due: Commentary.

W 4/7 Jamaica. Film: Life and Debt.

F 4/9 Film: Life and Debt.

M 4/12 Film: Life and Debt. Due: Commentary.

W 4/14 India and Diaspora. Lahiri. Unaccustomed Earth, “Once in a Lifetime.” Due: Learning Activity: Reading a Region optional draft

F 4/16 Lahiri. Unaccustomed Earth, “Year’s End.”

M 4/19 Film: Monsoon Wedding.

W 4/21 Film: Monsoon Wedding.

F 4/23 Film: Monsoon Wedding. Due: Learning Activity: Reading a Region final paper.

M 4/26 Film: Monsoon Wedding. Due: Commentary.

W 4/28 Lahiri. Unaccustomed Earth, “Going Ashore.”

F 4/30 Final Exam.

W 5/5 Section 1 (9:05 class): 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Group Community Service Project Presentations. Course wrap-up and reflection.

F 5/7 Section 4 (12:20 class): 8:00-10:00 a.m. Group Community Service Project Presentations. Course wrap-up and reflection.

Learning Activity Assignment

These Learning Activities are designed to get you to think more critically about certain key themes from the assigned readings and films as they relate to the larger aims of the course and to the university’s liberal arts charter of fostering a sense of global citizenship in each student. While various learning activities ask you to perform non-writing or non-linear writing tasks, the final paper you submit will ultimately be a short (three- to four-page) essay. You will append any written lists, interview questions, etc., to the end of the formal essay. I will grade Learning Activity essays on evidence of critical thinking that reaches well beyond the realm of class discussion (depth of engagement with the material), relevance to the course, clarity of expression, and adherence to assignment directions. See the course grading criteria handout for further format and content criteria.

Learning Activity Options

Kid’s Stuff? We have learned that oral narratives and hieroglyphics are both art and tools that teach children how to behave and communicate in their respective cultures. We know that these art/tools can also teach adults. If they can teach both children and adults, then what value do they pose to each group? Can you think of any examples of art forms from your own culture of origin that are also artistic and pedagogical (that is, they teach)? Make a list of five or so and briefly summarize or describe each. Do the items on your list teach both children and adults? If so, how? If not, why might this be? What does this experiment suggest to you about the relationship between art and learning?

Gender and War. On Terisa Turner’s website, read the Foreword to Mau Mau Women, which is an interview with Muthoni Likimani; the abstract for “Feminism in the Mau Mau Resurgence;” and the comic “Nakedness and Power.” Consider these in light of the arguments made here in the United States for restricting women’s service in the military. Did such arguments ultimately hold water in Mau Mau-era Kenya? How does the website define “war” by suggesting that Mau Mau women are still actively fighting? If “war” can take on various forms, then what war or wars have U.S. military women fought? Do they fight any wars today? Describe them, if any.

“Poetry of Revolt.” Fanon argues that overthrow of oppressors requires two things: arms and the creation of a national literature, which he calls “poetry of revolt.” Understanding that Fanon did not mean to specify only poems as revolutionary, which other readings or films in this class qualify as poetry of revolt? What makes these examples revolutionary? Can you think of other examples from your other readings outside this class? Does this newly defined “poetry of revolt” genre feature any common themes? What does a “poem” of revolt do? Can/Why/How does it help a people gain independence as powerfully as do guns? What is its usefulness, if any, outside a traditionally-defined revolutionary setting?

Reading a Region. As de Landa demonstrates, early missionaries, imperialists (and, later, colonists) justified their exploitation of natives by creating or reinforcing negative stereotypes about those natives. Many such race- and gender-based stereotypes persist in the former motherlands today in the media, art, and ideology. Choose one of the regions listed in the title of this Learning Activity. Make a list of all the terms or concepts you have come to associate with that region as a result of your accumulated exposure to Western (North American and Western European) media, art, social interaction, etc. Conduct an informal survey of ten people in your residence hall or other organization on their understandings of the same region. What is their initial reaction when you ask them about the region? Do they know that the region in question is a group of many countries rather than just one? How many countries from the region in question can they name? What five words or concepts have they come to associate with this particular region as a result of their accumulated exposure to Western media, art, social interaction, etc.? What, if any, personal or peripheral experience do your interviewees have with this region? Compare your own impressions with those of your interviewees. Do you notice any themes among the impressions you collect? If so, what are they? In what ways, if any, do you think Western media, art, and ideology shapes our/your understandings of this particular region? Are these understandings historically based? Explain. What is the relationship between your social understanding of this region and the one you have gained in this class? What do you conclude based on your research?

Group Community Service Project and Presentation

In the various literatures we are studying from across the world and across historical periods, we see that art has a public purpose. It is generally educational, often political, and sometimes both. If art has a complex purpose, then our study of it must include an examination of artistic motivation. During the semester, each student will form a group with three other classmates to design and carry out a service project in the community. The project should demonstrate the group’s in-depth understanding of the course material and objectives. The project’s focus must arise from the group’s shared interest in a particular theme, issue, text, or film from the course.

Subject Area: Begin with a point or idea that relates to any course reading, class assignment, or discussion that the group would like to explore in a way that was not covered in class. How does the idea or topic relate to a need in any community of which you are a member? How might you translate this interest and identified need into a form of community service through art? What motivates your choices of group formation and for crafting your particular project? How will your project use art and education to achieve its purpose?

Format: Your project may assume one of two forms: (1) design and carry out an original project, or (2) engage with an organized service program either at JMU or in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County. Consider: Does a service option exist in the JMU or surrounding community? (See the service links on this blog for some examples.) If a service does not exist to meet the need you identify, then what service could you design to do so? Because you are free to design your own project, your choice of available project formats is nearly limitless.

Project Purpose: The project is designed to help students to better understand the artists and the art that we have studied by considering these questions: What social conditions motivate these artists to create works to benefit the community? How do they choose their subjects, media, and audiences? How do these artists define “art”? How might the creative lessons you learn from the artists we study—artists whose creations benefit the community—inform your own community involvement?

Timing: All groups must submit a project proposal (see above), and projects must receive my approval to proceed. I am happy to consult during and beyond the proposal stage with groups on both original and university/community-sponsored projects. Please consult with me if you have any doubts or questions regarding an appropriate project topic, scope, or approach. After submission of and approval of a project proposal, the group will complete the project during the semester. The group will make a presentation to the class at the end of the semester in which you will describe (and, if applicable, display) your project. The presentation will outline the project’s goals, methodology, outcome, and lessons learned.

Evaluation: Projects should above all benefit the community, but projects and presentations should be well planned, relevant, well researched, creative, and intellectually productive.

Required Elements

#1: The Proposal (due February 24, 2010): Your project proposal must be typed and include the following elements:
A. The names of all group members
B. The nature of the proposed project: its scope, timeline, research involved, type and amount of work required to complete the project, plan of each group member’s responsibilities toward the project, expected lessons learned
C. Is the project an original creation or does the group plan to join an established service organization? Explain the reasoning behind the group’s choice. If you plan to join an established organization, then you should have already have their approval to participate in their work, and a clear understanding of exactly what each group member will do.
D. The community, as the group defines it, that will benefit from this project
E. The project’s purpose
F. The element from the course from which the project idea derived

#2: The Project (consider these when crafting the group’s proposal): Your project must include the following elements:
A. Educational (and/or political) purpose
B. Artistic format
C. Public benefit: that is, the project must benefit the community. If you organize a showing, reading, or performance, you must invite the rest of the class to attend.
D. Specific audience: who will benefit from your group’s work?
E. Collaboration: this course acknowledges the importance of community. Can you work both as part of a community (group cohesion) and for the community?
F. Each group member must log ten (10) hours or more toward completion of this project.

#3: The Presentation (during our exam meeting; see course schedule): The presentation is your opportunity to report to the class on your project. Your presentation must include the following elements:
A. Presentations will be 10 minutes each
B. Audio-visual (e.g., music, film, art display or creation, overhead slides, etc.)
C. Evidence of research (provide bibliography)
D. An excerpt, summary, or sample of/from your project

Due Date: Your project must be completed in time for you to craft a well-planned presentation on it to deliver during your scheduled presentation time. You will sign up for presentation times after the midterm. There are no make-ups for missed presentation dates or times for any reason.

Weekly Commentary Assignment

All students will share a written commentary on current course material (film and written texts) at the beginning of one class meeting per week.

Purpose: This exercise is designed to foster reading comprehension and analytical skills through your extended reflection on course materials, and through working together as a group. The goal is to advance everyone’s ability to offer productive discussion.

Requirements: Each student will share one typed commentary of no more than one to four sentences in length per week. The commentary must quote from or paraphrase the passage from the reading or film it considers and provide a correct MLA citation for that material. The commentary must identify the reading or film by author and title. Commentaries must be typed, dated, and contain the student author’s name. These may be single-spaced. A commentary may be: a question on current readings/films and evidence of attempting an answer; an answer to a current question the class is currently discussing; or early thinking about an upcoming writing assignment, but thinking that connects to current readings and film.

Here are some examples of possible critical thinking questions to ask yourself. The commentary would seek to answer these:
1. What is a particular strength or weakness of this argument?
2. What is the difference between the points made by two readings/films?
3. How (or why) is this argument or point especially relevant to our course? To the community? In a global context?
4. How could this argument be used in a different context?
5. What are the implications of this particular argument?
6. How does the condition described in the reading affect a different or related kind of group, community, or population?
7. How does this reading connect with what we have already learned?
8. What does this particular point/word/phrase/question mean?
9. Why is this point or argument important?
10. How are these two points/arguments/scenarios similar?
11. What is a counter-argument for this writer’s argument?
12. I agree (or disagree) with this statement: [insert quote] because …. The readings provide ... as evidence to support my claim.
13. What is another way to look at this particular point?

Format: Do not provide a question for your readers to answer. Your aim is not to generate discussion, but to demonstrate that you have been thinking about the readings or films under current consideration.

Evaluation: I will grade commentaries on relevance to the course, clarity of expression, depth of engagement with the material, and adherence to assignment directions. Examples of in-depth engagement with the material are striving for connections across course texts and attempting to answer your own difficult questions. Each week’s commentary will count as one equal fraction of your total class participation/commentary grade. See the course schedule for due dates.

GENG 239 Essay Grading Criteria

Even though your essays will be focused, each should suggest new understandings of entire texts and/or films. To do this, push your thinking to a deeper understanding of each text or film. Take risks. Your conclusion is the place to explain how your narrowly focused thesis has significant consequences for understanding the text(s) and/or film(s) under consideration, each as a whole. Below are the levels of sophistication in written papers, discussions, and other written assignments on Literature and Film:

The A paper analyzes. It demonstrates thoughtful connections, explanations, and the application of course themes, ideas, or theory. This paper offers illuminations and evaluations not specifically provided by authors or the instructor. It grasps the assigned author’s complex ideas but also demonstrates the student author's critical processing of those ideas. This paper is focused and developed with significant conclusions.

The A- paper is focused and fully developed.

A B+ paper is focused, but needs to be developed a bit more.

The B paper demonstrates understanding. It uses central and complex ideas, but is a reiteration of these as presented by an assigned author or the instructor. This paper demonstrates an understanding of the assigned text's key complexities, but does not offer any significant depth of analysis. A B paper is focused, but not fully developed.

In a B- paper, the focus is good but needs to be narrowed a bit more.

A C paper shows recognition of the significant material in a body of ideas but deals with it in a superficial way. While the C paper can discriminate between central and peripheral ideas, its function is more reportage than any real depth of understanding. The C paper may advance an original idea but, because it remains on the surface, is not fully focused.

D and F papers are disoriented. These papers are usually unfocused or, if focused, are irrelevant to the course objectives or discussions. The D paper demonstrates no clear idea of its topic. An F paper may or may not be unclear, but it is always incomplete and/or off-assignment.