Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Bluest Eye: Group Project PowerPoint Presentation Guidelines

Novelist, essayist, professor, and literary critic Toni Morrison (b. 1931)
Final Project: Group PowerPoint Presentation (20 points)

The members of each group are expected to agree on one of the major themes of Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye, and explore that theme. The major theme should be considered as the central, controlling idea of your piece—again, if you find that other themes of significance are surfacing and converging with your major theme as you develop your project, please note them. 

You may also interweave some of the other relevant thematic discussions from our semester (the focus on the alien/outcast/outsider in literature and popular culture) into this group presentation.

Sample themes: aesthetics (beauty), alienation, childhood, class distinctions, colorism/color consciousness, community, corporeality, difference, equa lity, ethics/morality,  family, femininity, hypocrisy, identity, individuality, innocence, intellectualism, interracialism,literacy, loneliness, masculinity, monstrousness, morality, poverty, race relations, racism, rebellion, religion, responsibility, segregation, separatism, sexism, sexual exploitation, sexuality, violence. Some of these themes overlap—your thesis should reflect your theme in a clear, well-articulated manner.

You are encouraged to use video, film, photographs, text (including quotes from the text), and other documents to create a PowerPoint presentation of your work (maximum15 minutes in length). 

You must include a slide listing the “Credits,” i.e., the specific contribution made by each group member. In addition, you must create a Works Cited Page as the final slide of your presentation, using MLA-style. Refer to the MLA Style Guide on the course blog for MLA-style compliance. At our final class meeting, the group members will present their projects.  I encourage you to be as imaginative as possible with these presentations. 

Below is a list of the criteria for your PowerPoint, adapted from a rubric adapted from a former colleague.

Final Project Rubric for PowerPoint Presentation Photo-documentaries and Essay

The following categories provide a clear list of the elements that are expected in each group’s project, regardless of its form and purpose.  Use these criteria as a tool that will enable you, as the designer, to produce persuasive communication by means of innovation, creativity, and polished reflection.  Each of the categories is worth 5 points, for a total of 20 points of the final grade.

GROUP NAME_____________________________________

 Thesis and Purpose:                                                                               Points___

How clear is your thesis?  Is the topic compelling and relevant not only to your own interests but to an issue of larger significance?  How well do the images (photos, film, or other visuals) illustrate both the thesis and its related ideas in a cogent manner?

Composition:                                                                                         Points___

Does the project follow a logical flow of thought?  Do these ideas transition well and are they well-supported by both visual and interpretive qualities?  Is the project free of grammatical errors and does it show familiarity with simple, compound, and complex sentence structures?  Can it be used as a model for other students in the future? 

Technical Image and Quality/Audio Recording and Editing:                       Points___

How well have you operated your camera, produced high-quality digital files, or created high quality images?  This also includes how well you utilized the basic elements of photography, including lighting and composition, to make or choose the most interesting photographs possible.  Do the photographs demonstrate a variety of images and perspectives?  Do they seem to illustrate or create a pattern of thought?  How well have you recorded (or integrated) sound, including ambient sound and interviews, and how will have you edited the packaged product if sound is not provided?  How does the overall final project look, including captions, titles, transitions, audio, and image?

Caption Information and Presentation:                                                       Points___

Is there a clear integration of the visual and written composition of the final project?  How well have you complemented your images with written text?  How does the written text (approximately 350 – 500 words) act to amplify and enhance the quality of the project as a whole?  Are original insights supported by relevant research in your written text or is it merely expository? 


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Reflection Paper #4: Iterations of "Blackness"

 It's necessary to constantly remind ourselves that we are not an abomination. 
--Marlon Riggs
Franklin, from "Peanuts"

There's a phrase that many of you may have heard: "Race is a social construct," meaning, race is not biological--indeed, science has determined that true human variation (statistically speaking) is virtually non-existent--skin pigmentation is simply a matter of the amount of melanin one possesses. Racial difference is socially constructed--society determines it and creates categories/classifications called "race." We have seen, in many of our texts (as well as in many of the photos I have posted), individuals categorized as "black" but who, in terms of phenotype, are racially indeterminate. Why, then, do we persist in our use of phenotype to judge "blackness" in all its variations? Why do we add to that discussions of intellectual capability and moral rectitude? 

When Barack Obama was running for president back in 2008, there was a discourse (among many blacks) about whether he was "black enough" to be representative of African American struggle in this country, given his background as the child of a Kenyan father and white American mother. In addition, there was a focus on "class" distinctions, social mobility, elitism, and skin color. What did all this mean?

We say that race is "socially constructed...meaningless...we are the world.."and all that jazz--but the truth is, society does not live out the ethos of racial "blindness." Color prejudice persists, racism persists, and injustice persists. When I put your words on the blackboard the other day, what emerged was a medley of ideas of what constituted blackness. I want you to reflect on the meaning of "blackness" as you define it, but incorporating into your response one or two of the texts we have read during the course of the semester, including the Riggs film, Black Is...Black Ain't. 

Valerie, from "Josie and the Pussycats"
You may want to ponder the blackboard words as you consider this. As scholars, we are on a continual search for “meaning”—how do you interpret the meaning of blackness as delineated by the authors/speakers you have read/heard? How do those meanings converge with your own definitions? Is blackness a cultural identity? Can "blackness" be defined at all? 

I would like for you to have these reflection papers ready for me by Tuesday, 4/5. 

All best, 

Prof. Williams


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Screening for 3/29 and 3/31: Marlon Riggs's "Black Is...Black Ain't"

Marlon Riggs, 1957-1994
This Tuesday and Thursday, we will be continuing our discussion of Morrison's The Bluest Eye. In addition, we will view Marlon Riggs's 1994 documentary Black Is...Black Ain't, in two parts--Part One on Tuesday, and Part Two on Thursday. The first half of class will be devoted to the novel, and the second half to the film. Please come prepared to discuss, watch, listen, and take notes. I will also return your Passing literary analysis essays. 
Below is a poem by black lesbian feminist poet and scholar Audre Lorde (1934-1992). Here is a link to more information on Lorde, her life, and her work: Voices From the Gap: Audre Lorde 

Audre Lorde, 1994-1992

is the total black, being spoken
from the earth's inside.
There are many kinds of open
how a diamond comes into a knot of flame
how sound comes into a word, coloured
by who pays what for speaking.

Some words are open like a diamond
on glass windows
singing out within the crash of sun
Then there are words like stapled wagers
in a perforated book—buy and sign and tear apart—
and come whatever will all chances
the stub remains
an ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.
Some words live in my throat
breeding like adders. Other know sun
seeking like gypsies over my tongue
to explode through my lips
like young sparrows bursting from shell.
Some words
bedevil me

Love is word, another kind of open.
As the diamond comes into a knot of flame
I am Black because I come from the earth's inside
Now take my word for jewel in the open light.
                                                           --Audre Lorde

Here is a link to a literary analysis of the poem: On Audre Lorde's "Coal"

All best, 
Prof. Williams

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Passing, Hollywood-Style!

What follows are two scenes from the film adaptations of novelist Fannie Hurst's Imitation of Life (clip misspells "imitation"). The first version, made in 1934, stars African American performers Louise Beavers (Delilah) and the luminous Fredi Washington (Peola) as the mother and daughter, respectively. The second adaptation, filmed in 1959, features Juanita Moore (Delilah) as the long-suffering mother, and Susan Kohner (Sarah Jane) as her daughter. Interestingly, Susan Kohner is a white actress passing as a black woman passing as a white woman in this version.

Imitation of Life, 1934. Delilah (Louise Beavers) and Peola (Fredi Washington).

 Imitation of Life, 1959. Annie (Juanita Moore) and Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner).

Monday, February 28, 2011

Guidelines for English 238 Final Research Paper

Ralph Waldo Ellison (1914-1994), novelist, essayist, and literary critic. Author of Invisible Man, Juneteenth, and Three Days Before the Shooting, and the essay collections Shadow and Act and Going to the Territory.

ASSIGNMENT: You will write a final essay of 6-8 pages, allowing you the luxury of extended thought and discussion of a dominant theme in one of the semester’s readings or on one of the major works we have read (Ex: The Heroic Slave, Our Nig, Passing, The Bluest Eye). This essay will be written utilizing Modern Language Association guidelines. We will have a brief “brainstorming” session on Thursday, 3/24 to assist you in developing a topic and focus for your final paper.

THIS PAPER IS DUE ON THURSDAY, 4/21, at 10:00 pm. 
Any paper submitted after this date will result in a loss of 5 points per day overdue (ex: submitted by Friday, 4/22 for a possible maximum of 25 pts; submitted by Monday, 4/25 for a possible maximum of 20 pts). NO papers will be accepted after Monday, 4/25/11.

Sample themes: abolitionism, accommodationism, adventure, aesthetics, alienation, childhood, class distinctions, colorism/color consciousness, community, corporeality, education, equality, family, femininity, feminism, freedom, gender roles, hypocrisy, individuality, integration, intellectualism, interracialism, law, literacy, masculinity, morality, passing, poverty, race relations, racism, radicalism, rebellion, religion, repatriation, responsibility, revolution, science, segregation, separatism, sexism, sexual exploitation, sexuality, slavery, stereotyping, violence. Some of these themes overlap—your thesis should reflect your theme in a clear, well-articulated manner.

The paper will follow MLA guidelines in matters of form (see MLA in-text citation style below—for complete MLA style, click at left on course blog), and it will contain a Works Cited Page, in-text citations to those sources, and a complete outline. 

If you wish to (not mandatory), you may turn in a typed draft of the research paper by Thursday, 4/14 for a quick review. This will be quickly scanned during class for structure and documentation and returned to you. You must use a total of ten (10) in-text citations from at least five (5) sources, in any combination, for your essay.

For this final research paper, YOU MAY NOT USE the following as sources, as they are NOT considered scholarly works: SparkNotes, CliffsNotes, ClassicNotes, Enotes, GradeSaver, or any other student guides.

A Wikipedia entry may NOT be used as a source—however, if the “Source” section of a Wikipedia entry contains a scholarly work (a journal article or academic book) that you want to quote from in your paper, you are free to retrieve the work from the library (hard copy or from a database) and incorporate it into your paper.

(see Student Checklist for Papers). 



ABSTRACT: Students must present a one paragraph abstract of approximately 75-100 words summarizing the paper and how he or she plans to proceed, detailing the following: Why you chose it; what is important about it; what you intend to examine; what library resources you intend to use to complete the assignment. Due Tuesday, 4/5

BIBLIOGRAPHY: You must present a Bibliography of sources (books, journal articles, newspaper articles, media sources, Internet sources) that you think you be using for your research paper. The page will consist of no fewer than five (5) outside sources. At least three (3) of the sources must come from scholarly books or articles on the main topic. Internet sources can comprise no more than two (2) of the sources. 
Due Tuesday, 4/5

OUTLINE: An outline is required as part of the grade for the research paper. This outline must directly correspond to the research paper. 
Due Tuesday, 4/5

DUE DATE for Research Paper (with final Works Cited page): Thursday, 4/21.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Frances E.W. Harper: Woman of the 19th Century

Hi, class,

This week, we will be commemorating the centennial of Frances E. W. Harper's death (February 22, 1911) and celebrating her life during Tuesday's class meeting, as well as finishing our discussion of Harriet E. Wilson's Our Nig. I will be bringing in either cupcakes or cake for our celebration!*

On Tuesday, 2/22, you will be writing your second literary analysis essay, which will focus on Our Nig. I will provide you with a reflection on Our Nig, asking you to keep in mind our discussion of Harper's short story, "The Two Offers" and our discussion of Emersonian self-reliance (I will provide a quote from Emerson for you to use as a framework for your essay). 

Please bring your notes on Our Nig as well as "The Two Offers" to Tuesday's class so that you can respond thoughtfully and comprehensively. Links to these readings are on the blog post from February 2, so if you need to annotate fresh copies, please do so.

On Thursday, February 24, we will be looking at the Lincoln readings ("Gettysburg Address" and "Second Inaugural Address") as well as the two post-Civil War Harper speeches ("We Are All Bound Up Together" and "The Great Problem to be Solved") as we move into the Reconstruction Era and consider how the preoccupations of African-Americans moved from strategies for the abolition of slavery to strategies for becoming full participants in American society.

Links to these four readings are also on the February 2 blog post below, so make sure you have them by Thursday's class, along with highlighted passages of significance. 

In the coming weeks, we will continue our look at how black intellectuals (radicals and moderates) advanced the critical conversation about black equality as they identified and negotiated strategies for black progress in the midst of the ongoing struggle for acknowledgment of black humanity. 

If you have time, I would like you to look at a few of the speeches listed below--obviously, we will not be able to discuss them all in-depth, but you should certainly be aware of these major 19th century contributors to black intellectual thought--you will see certain "resonances" in some of our own 20th and 21st century rhetoric:

Frederick Douglass, "The Composite Nation" (1869)
Ferdinand Barnett, "Race Unity" (1879)
Frederick Douglass, "On Woman Suffrage" (1888)
Ida B. Wells, "This Awful Slaughter" (1909)

Finally, we will begin our reading of Nella Larsen's Passing the week after next (March 1) as we move into literary modernism and the emergence of Larsen as a major "black" writer of the era known today as the "Harlem Renaissance." 

All best,

Prof. Williams 

*I will find a way for us to manage this without eating in class--lol!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Harriet Wilson's "Our Nig"

African American girl, full-length portrait, seated on stool, facing slightly right. Photo by Thomas E. Askew. From Types of American Negroes, compiled and prepared by W.E.B. Du Bois, v. 1, no. 59. Part of the Paris Exposition of 1900.

Our next novel is Harriet E. Wilson's Our Nig. This autobiographical novel, the first by an African American woman (pub. in 1859) melds the two most popular literary genres of the 19th century: the slave narrative and the sentimental novel. I would like you to consider how this novel fits in with the other works we have read this semester (esp. Douglass, Harper, some of the speeches), or other works you may have read outside of this class (written during the same era), and to think about the following questions:

  • How does this novel compare with other works--what are the similarities, and what are the differences? 
  • What is significant about the prefatory note that precedes the beginning of the story? 
  • What major themes emerge in this novel? 
  • What is Harriet Wilson's motive for writing Our Nig that sets her apart from her (white women) contemporaries?
  • How do you "read" race, gender, and class in Our Nig?
I would like you to think about these questions as you read. I would like for us to start on this novel over the weekend. Therefore, I ask you to please read up to Chapter Three (3), and make some notes on passages of significance to you!
All best,
Prof. Williams

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Frances E.W. Harper's "Undisputed Dignity"

"Only the BLACK WOMAN can say 'when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing for special patronage, then and there, the whole Negro race enters with me.'"--Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South, 1892 
Frances E. W. Harper (1825-1911)
Hi, class,

Next week, we will be taking a look at a couple of other pieces by Frances E.W. Harper, whose poems we looked at during the first week of class (links to the poems at bottom). Her short story, "The Two Offers," is regarded as the first short story published by an African American (in 1859). I have decided to use Harper, who lived across the span of the long nineteenth century, as our bridge from the antebellum era to the beginnings of 20th century black modernity.

I will give you a handout of "The Colored People in America" (listed on the syllabus) and have also given you links to three of her most important speeches ("Liberty for Slaves," "We Are All Bound Up Together," and "The Great Problem to be Solved"). I am also giving you Lincoln's "2nd Inaugural Address" and "Gettysburg Address."

Please read "The Two Offers" and "Liberty for Slaves" over the weekend and be ready to comment on a section that you find of particular significance--pay attention to diction, language, tone, and theme. What is significant about each piece? What do you notice about the rhetorical style? 

We will look at the post-Civil War (after 1865) Harper speeches, as well as the Lincoln, after we read/discuss/analyze Harriet Wilson's Our Nig (in about 3 weeks). I just wanted you to have access to them as soon as possible.  

Short Story:

"The Two Offers" (1859)


Frances E.W. Harper, "We Are All Bound Up Together" (1866)

Frances E.W. Harper, "The Great Problem to be Solved" (1875)

Other Harper poems:
Ancillary reading:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Frederick Douglass: Man of the 19th Century

Earliest known image of Douglass, ca. 1840
Hi, class,
Below (and at right) are some images of Frederick Douglass. He was in his late 20s when he published his famous narrative, and in his 30s when he wrote The Heroic Slave.

This link will take you to the Douglass papers, which are part of the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress. The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress .

After navigating to the site, click on "Browse by Series" to be taken to a huge repository of Douglass's speeches, diaries, family correspondence, financial papers, and a host of other exciting materials!

Also, here are links to other Douglass pieces you should take a look at--they come from Major Speeches on The Black Past website (at left), but it's just as easy for me to post them here. 

Take a look at "Men of Color, To Arms!"--written at the height of the Civil War--those of you who have seen the film Glory will probably find Douglass's article evocative. "The Composite Nation" iterates Douglass's commitment to all immigrant groups becoming part of the American fabric--here, he focuses on Chinese immigration. We will take a look at "On Woman Suffrage" (Douglass was an early and outspoken feminist!) as we begin to examine (through additional writings of Frances E.W. Harper and maybe a few others) how black women articulated their place within the 19th century women's movement. Just click on these links:

All best,

Prof. Williams

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Welcome, English 238/002 students!

Isaac and Rosa, Emancipated Slave Children, From the Free Schools of Louisiana, December, 1863. Photo by Kimball.

Good afternoon, students and welcome to our class blog! I will post links, handouts, video clips, and readings here. You, in turn, will respond in the "Comments" section. I look forward to an engaging semester with you as we consider the wide range of African American aesthetic responses to life in the United States.  
All best,

Prof. Williams