With the new year comes new courses, and that means new syllabi. This semester, I am teaching two courses, an English course and a Lillian E. Smith Studies course. I have taught these course numerous times, and you can find various iterations of the syllabi on my blog. Today, I want to share the syllabus for my English course, which I am entitling “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” for the purpose of this post.

This course arose from a few different places, but it specifically came out of the study travel trip to France that I am planning with a colleague. For that trip, I am teaching a course of African American expatriate writers in France. This would include individuals who spent extended time in France or who lived in France for the remainder of their lives. We can’t look at every expatriate author in this class, but we will read James Baldwin, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Claude McKay, and William Gardner Smith. (I will post the study travel syllabus when I get it worked up.)

The study travel course is unique because most students will take the lower level version of the course, which includes the authors mentioned above. If students have already taken that course or an equivalent, they will take a higher level course. For those students, they will have an extra book to read. They will read the book and present it to the class, discussing the connections between the book and the primary texts for the course. “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” consists of those extra texts.

When I teach a course, I usually include a couple of new texts so that I can expand my own reading. Rarely do I teach a course with texts that I have never read. “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” is an exception because, like the study travel trip, I had not read any of the books before I constructed the class. However, upon reading them over the break, I am excited about the discussions we’ll have in class. Below is the syllabus with a tentative schedule.

Course Description and Objectives:

During the twentieth century and today, individuals look to Western Europe, and specifically France, as a refuge from oppression in their home nations. The ideals of liberté, égalité, fraternité drew many African American writers and artists to France as they sought to escape racism and oppression in the United States. Claude McKay, William Gardner Smith, and John A Williams either expatriated or spent significant amounts of time in France during their careers. While France “accepted” African American writers, its position towards its colonial subjects and refugees from the Middle East was, and is, a different matter entirely. Smith and McKay explore Algerian immigrants in France, and Leïla Slimani explores interracial intimacy between a French woman and a Moroccan man following World War II while Négar Djavadi explores Iranian immigration to France following the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

In this course, we will look at various genres of literature from the bildungsroman and epistolary novel to other genres, all the while exploring and discussing a myriad of questions and themes. Some of these questions will include the following: What effect does memory have on our lives? How do we create stories? How do we construct our own identity? What role does history have in our understanding of ourselves? These are not all of the questions we will think about this semester, but they are some of the broader ones we will explore.

Throughout the course, you will engage with various authors and genres. While you work with the questions presented earlier, the course will help you increase your critical thinking and critical reading skills as you examine both form and theme of literary texts. You will work on various projects over the course of the semester that will increase your knowledge of literary terms and your ability to apply them to a literary research assignment which will help you enhance your writing skills.

Primary Texts:

<ul style="list-style-type:disc">
<li>Djavadi, Négar. <i>Disoriental</i>, 2016.</li>
<li>Gardner Smith, William. <i>The Stone Face</i>, 1963.</li>
<li>McKay, Claude. <i>Romance in Marseilles</i>, ca. 1933.</li>
<li>Silmani, Leïla. <i>In the Country of Others</i>, 2020.</li>
<li>Williams, John A. <i>Clifford's Blues</i>, 1999.</li>

Secondary Texts — I will provide these on Canvas

<ul style="list-style-type:disc">
<li>Feig, Konnilyn. "Dachau: A Perfect Model," 1979.</li>
<li>McKay, Claude. Selections from <i>A Long Way from Home</i>, 1937.
<li>Yerby, Frank. "Salute to the Flag" and "The Land of the Pilgrim's Pride"</li>

Course Requirements and Explanation of Grading

Late Essay Policy:

You have one week after the due date to turn your essay into me. However, you will not receive any comments or marks on the paper. Instead, you will just receive a grade after I read it. Essays will not be accepted more than a week after the due date.

Attendance and In-Class Participation — Although I believe that as adults you should have control over your own education, attendance is vital to your success in this course. Much of your learning and work will take place in class, and you will be involved in discussing the readings in class. To fully comprehend and hopefully appreciate the texts, you should come to class fully prepared. This means you should have read the homework and completed any assignments for class.

You will be held accountable to the following attendance policy: 4 or more unexcused absences will result in a grade of FA (failure due to absences). If you have an excused absence — e.g., university-sponsored trip, doctor’s visit — you must provide verification to the course instructor, in writing, no later than one week after the absence occurs. Tardiness is disruptive and disrespectful to your peers and to the teacher. Every two instances of tardiness (defined as 5 minutes late or more) will be counted as one absence.

Daily attendance is not sufficient to guarantee you a passing participation grade. Any activities taking place during class time contribute to your in-class participation grade. This includes note-taking during lectures, actively participating during discussion, and otherwise participating in class activities.

Assignments — Throughout the semester, we will have both in-class and online assignments. These will include posting topics online, answering questions, or other such activities. There will be small group discussions during classes and other activities that will be part of this grade

Conferences — We will have conferences for each paper. These will be mandatory because they allow us to discuss your essays in a smaller setting, giving us more time to work through your questions.

Essays — The essays will each be between 750–1000 words. They will highlight your engagement with the course material through your use of argument, sources, and critical thinking. For each, you must have a succinct argument and support the argument with examples from both primary and secondary texts.

Final Paper — The final paper will be an extension of the essays and will be 1,500–2,000 words. You will be required to engage with the course material and present a succinct argument with examples from the text(s) and scholarly sources to support your argument.

Mixtape Assignment and Presentation — At the end of the semester, you will construct a five-ten song mixtape for one of the texts we read during the course of the semester. There will be three parts to this assignment. The first is the mixtape itself, which you can construct on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, or a service of your choosing. The second will be a short written part where you discuss why you chose each song, specifically the scene it accompanies and how the song corresponds to the scene. You will also present your mixtape during the final exam period on May 4th.

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