Updates and Next Class Assignment

For class on May 9th, read to the end of part I (pg. 199).

Choose one of the following threadlines weaving through Beloved, and keep notes on it in your journal. Come prepared to explain how it continues and unfolds in the story. These threadlines are:

Ghosts as agents/artefacts of the past

Crossroads and liminality (threshold spaces, crossroads, borders, twilight, transition, etc.)

Kinship, weaving kin through story

Rememory—by the way, all students will be expected to explain rememory as they understand it at the end of the book.

Lastly, the final zine is due in a box at my office (Klapper 352) Wednesday the 23rd at 3. This way you can focus on the book and have an extra week to write and assemble your thoughts.

I am collecting journals for the last time on May 9th. 




Class Wednesday 5-2

Read the first 99 pages of Beloved. 

Also, do remember the basic rule of college: students who do not attend classes and do not hand in work do not pass the class. It’s not a college professor’s job to chase students down and convince them to do their part as students.


Today’s class, 4-25

Please remember that we will begin class by attending Patricia Smith’s poetry reading at 6:30.

As I mentioned in class, class will begin in the museum in Klapper Hall. Please arrive at 6:30, if you can. We will end class ten minutes early to accommodate the adjustment.

We will then discuss Ellison’s essay in class as well as your final assignments for the semester.

ENG 152 Spring Break assignment:

  1.  Read this very short excerpt from Walden and get a sense of this canonical American text about living in attunement with the nonhuman world at a time of industrial expansion.
  2. Write an essay (1500-2000 words) that discusses the following two topics:
    1. Discuss Raymond J. Mallie’s footnotes in the 2014 “Complete” edition of Black Elk Speaks. Do these footnotes merely provide historical context, do they assist John G. Neihardt’s purported “sacred obligation to be  true to the old man’s meaning and manner of expression” (xxvii)? Or, does Mallie have his own agenda?
    2. Use details from the main text and its footnotes to explain how Black Elks Speaks can be read as an extensive footnote to Sherman Alexie’s On the Amtrak from Boston to New York City.

Your essay is due by email on April 11 by 9:30pm.  USE MS WORD, provided by Queens College, and save your document with your name. Example: lastname_Essay1.doc.

Also, a note on the Midterm Zine: all students have been granted an extension. Your zine is due at our next meeting, April 18th. 

Have a good break!



Hi Students,

The new syllabus isn’t easy to load, so I’m going to try to paste it here:

Learning Goals

  1. This course follows the argument that there is so much great American literature, even if we merely accept the synecdoche that American literature is written by or for U.S. citizens that we will not be able to survey all of them and have fun conversations about literature and have lives. We are, instead, exploring great works of American literature that give us an opportunity to explore and reflect on the “literaturization” of American experience and national aesthetics.
  2. Capacity to read interpretively in order to attend to imaginative claims on “America,” and over what it means to be a person in several literary genres over different periods of United States literature.
  3. Knowledge of rhetorical conventions (e.g., voice, tone, figures of speech, narration) for thinking about literature in a few genres.
  4. Familiarity with some conventional disciplinary language from literary studies and its use to think about how texts work.
  5. Uses of reading, discussion, informal writing, and out-of-class essay writing as opportunities to discover one’s own interpretive ideas in conversation with the ideas of others.
  6. Produce critical and creative compositions.
  7. Communicate complex ideas to a public audience.
W 1/31 The Invitation: Syllabus and Trickster tale
Homework: Comp book, journal about breathing, read Whitman
W 2/7 Song of Myself and Intro to Leaves of Grass
  Homework: Exquisite Corpse Revision
W 2/14 Emerson, “Nature,” and “Experience.” Share 3 annotations, journal reading reflections.
  Homework: Image collection and comments
W 2/21 Black Elk Speaks. Hand in Comp Books.
  Homework: Continue class exercise in journal.
W 2/28 Black Elk Speaks
  Homework: Images and connections journal entry
W 3/7 Black Elk Speaks
  Homework: Synthesis journal entry
W 3/14 William Carlos Williams  and American Moderns, annotation exercise.
  Homework: poetry exercise, paste in journal.
W 3/21 Class Cancelled: Snow Day
  Homework: Annotations in Howl book.
W 3/28 Howl and Supermarket in California. In-class reading includes “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” some excerpts by William Carlos Williams, and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”
  Homework: flesh out annotations into a page of notes and reflections, following this general model:


“Pg. (#) intriguing. Lots of imagery. There’s a fullness here, like the poet is overwhelming my senses, and it mixes gross and appealing images. Seems ironic that he’s praising both.”


On another page, reflect on an aspect of “Howl” or “Supermarket in California.” Include details and analysis of the text as well as some reflection on how your background knowledge and experience, or lack of it, are brought to bear on what you notice and how you interpret Ginsberg’s poem.



Finish midterm zine and submit in next class.

Complete essay on Black Elk Speaks and submit by April 11th at 9:30pm.


NO CLASS W 4/11 – classes on F sched. Read “Bartleby the Scrivener” in preparation for our next class, held Wednesday April 18th.

Journal entry: in your composition book, draw a portrait of the two central characters in “Bartleby the Scrivener,” and draw an “anatomy” of their character, pointing out two or three of their characteristics. Example.

W 4/18 In class with rhetorical analysis:

Ralph Waldo Ellison, “Living with Music.”

  Homework: TBA
W 4/25 Beloved
  Homework: journal writing.
W 5/2 Beloved. Hand in comp books.
  Homework: Images and reflections
W 5/9 Beloved
W 5/16 Final project zine due by 11:59pm
Final Exams 5/17-5/24  





For Wednesday 3.28

Bring your copy of Howl to class, with the poems Howl” and “Supermarket in California” annotated, and bring your copy of Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” 

Annotations: in order to get credit for this part of your annotation assignment, your annotations should include:

  1. Three things that you have looked up, such as literary references, historical detail, or terms/vocabulary.
  2. Three places where you see a connection between Ginsberg’s poem and Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”
  3. Three personal reactions–interested, surprised, confused, disgusted, curious, etc. Give a little bit of detail about your reaction.
  4. One ambiguity in the text, where you feel uncertain how you should or want to interpret it.