What are we required to read?

You are responsible for obtaining a copy of :

  • Harriet Jacobs, Lydia Diamond
  • Sassafrass, Cypress, & Indigo, Ntozake Shange
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs
  • Black Performance Theory, Eds. Thomas DeFrantz & Anita Gonzalez

All other readings will either be circulated via email as a pdf or posted as a link on the class site (on the syllabus page). Please note:

  • If you have problems accessing the readings, let me know ASAP.
  • While I provide links for many of the readings/clips/etc. on the syllabus page, many of these readings are readily accessible (for free) on line. So if a link’s not working, be proactive. After you email me, try locating the material on your own. With the citation information (i.e. the title and author), you should be able to find the material in the BC catalog if not through a simple Google search.  This proactive course will inevitably be more expedient than waiting for my email response. 

Some Suggested, but not Required, Texts:

  •  Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performance of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910, Daphne Brooks
  • Babylon Girls : Black Women Performers and the Shaping of the Modern

When Should I finish the Readings?

  • Be ready to discuss the readings before class.
    • You should come to class ready to discuss the readings for that day. Ready to discuss entails not only finishing the assigned text but taking time to reflect on that text. You might jot down some thought about: what startled you; what moved you; what confused you (and why?) in the text; OR ideas about how this text connects to other texts on the syllabus; to ideas and concepts in the class discussion; or to relevant background, texts, concepts, issues etc. that you’ve encountered outside this class AND/OR any questions you may have. You might even go back and reread/re-watch/re-listen an earlier portion of the text. Note: It’s particularly important to take time to reflect and review for the texts on the syllabus that, being shorter, do not afford the duration for steady, unfolding processing that longer texts afford. Also Note: If you are assigned to post on the particular text, you will need to finish well before the class in order to compose and publish your post at least 36 hours before the class (See Post Assignments).
  • Using the Syllabus Page
    • You can find the schedule of assigned readings on the syllabus page. The three column chart on the syllabus page lists the specific readings in the middle column. Often the titles in this column are hyperlinked either directly to the text or in the case of the “packets” to a post that contains all the relevant links.
    • Please note that readings appear on the syllabus aside the class date(s) on which we will discuss the reading. SO: If “The Greatness of X” article is listed in the 9/3 row, you should have not only completed the reading before that Thursday class on September, 3rd, you should also come ready to discuss it.
    • Unless indicated otherwise, I expect you to have completed the entirety of the text listed on the syllabus by the first date it appears on the syllabus. SO: Even if the syllabus indicates that our discussion of Harriet Jacobs’s narrative is scheduled over four class sessions, you should plan to have completed the entirety of the narrative before the first of those class days dedicated to that text.
  • Tips
    • Review the whole reading schedule at the beginning of the semester. Doing so will help you have a general sense of what points in the semester might involve more novel reading and what points might require reading articles and listening to music.
    • Schedule reminders: Use your smart phone, Google Calendars, or an old-fashion paper planner to mark when assignments are due (i.e. when you’re expected to publish your posts). You can also schedule reminders encouraging yourself to start reading the next week’s reading earlier because you anticipate that week’s reading taking you longer or because you have a big project due in another class that week.
    • Read ahead. Remember there is no rule against reading ahead of schedule. You have the most knowledge about your schedule, commitments, and the time you need to reserve for your various academic, health, familial, and social needs.

Pop Quizzes

I reserve the right to administer pop quizzes on the reading. Any such quiz will be straightforward multiple choice, true or false, or fill in the blank questions that should be quickly answered if you’ve completed the reading. Pop quizzes effect your participation grade.

How Long Should I Spend on Readings?

How long you should spend on the readings will depend on the type of reading assigned; how many readings assigned; as well as what kind of reader you are and/or other relevant factors in your life (e.g. how much sleep you’re getting). Nevertheless, if you’re trying to determine how much time to dedicate to the readings, make sure you consider:

  • The Standard Workload Expectations per College Course Credit
    • In general at the college level, students should expect to do 2 – 3 hours of outside-class work per week for every 1 credit hour you receive for a course. Meaning, if you’re receiving 3 credits for this class, you should expect to do 6 – 9 hours of outside class work every week for this course. (Now you can see why it’s important to not overload your courses!) The weekly readings should not take you 9 hours a week to do. Some of that 6 – 9 hours should be spent writing and/or reading blog posts, preparing for upcoming papers and projects, reviewing feedback, etc.
  • The Professor’s Specific Expectations for this Course
    • In a typical English course, I assign the equivalent of a medium length book a week. In this course, I have assigned even less readings. In general, I anticipate the readings requiring less than half of your 6-9 hours of outside class work time. Most weeks I anticipate you spending (on average) somewhere between 3-5 hours of reading per week.
  • Your Individual Reading Needs
    • Of course, everyone is different. For my own part, I’m a fairly slow reader. I need 1.5x and some times even double the amount of time the average reader needs. I am a good reader, but I’m not a fast one, so I have to plan ahead. If you need help working with your skill sets and learning style, contact the professor immediately to help you establish a workable plan. In general it’s better to contact the professor before you’re actually falling behind, but if you are behind, don’t get further behind. Let me know.
  • The Length of the Reading(s)
    • A lot of the readings for this course are quite short in length, and many of you will find you can finish them in an hour or less. However the point of doing the readings isn’t just to say you’ve done the readings. I assign short readings, particularly this semester, in order that you can spend time processing and engaging the reading, which will often mean looking up terms and references you don’t know, writing out questions, drawing connections between other texts, and rereading some or all of the texts again. I assign shorter readings so that some of your 3-4.5 hours of reading time can go towards this active reading work.
  • Dense Readings
    • Not all writing can be read at the same speed. Some writing might be denser or include more unfamiliar references which will require you to slow down. For many students, narrative texts (stories) read more quickly than poetry even if a group of poems are much shorter than one narrative text. Similarly many students find the secondary texts of theory and scholarly criticism denser and/or replete with new vocabulary and concepts that significantly slow their reading pace. When possible I will try to flag texts that you may find dense in order to help you plan ahead.
  • Non-Literary “Readings”
    • While I use the term “readings,” not all of the texts for this course are literary or printed texts. “Readings” may include visual art, film and/or tv clips, audio recordings, music videos, etc. While you may be tempted to listen to audio tracks quickly on the way to class or to watch the youtube clips in rapid succession and move on to another assignment, know that I expect you to watch and listen as actively as I expect you to read. Use the below suggestions as a general base line of the minimal amount of time you should dedicate to non print texts.
      • Audio and/or video clips under five minutes: Watch 4x’s over 2 sessions
      • Video clips between 10-15 minutes: Watch/listen 3x’s over 2 sessions
      • Video clips between 15-30 minutes: Watch/listen 2x’s + identify a smaller clip (under 3 minutes) to watch at least 4 more times.
      • Video clips longer than 30 minutes: Watch/listen 1x + identify 2 – 3 smaller clips to watch at least 2 more times.

What’s Active Reading? 

I have no doubt that you know how to read. You may even be a very fast reader. However a lot of the reading we do in our live is a passive type of reading. We read to receive the necessary content and move one. In this class your reading should be active and not passive. Active reading means that you are both receiving and processing as well as engaging, questioning, challenging, adding etc. to what you’re reading. Active reading takes work, but it is important, and I believe, rewarding.

Active Reading Tips: Mark your readings up with questions, comments, and ideas. Identify the central argument, intended audience, organizing structure, and if you can the primary method of analysis. Track recurring themes, questions, references. Look up definitions to words you do not know.  Google references (i.e. names, places, events, etc.) with which you are unfamiliar.  Circle key passages you wish to discuss in class.