American Voices

One semester course

Open to 10, 11, 12

Range of difficulty 2-4

1. Rationale

American Voices is a course that includes works by American authors that are often overlooked in the traditional American canon. Students explore current issues and high interest topics through the close analysis of literature. The course includes all genres — novel, poetry, non-fiction, drama, short story and film.

2. Topics and Themes Emphasized

— examining how and why people are marginalized in America

— exploring what happens when protagonists rebel against given racial and cultural identities

— comparing issues related to culture, class, gender, and race

— studying experimental narrative structures in multiple genres: short stories, graphic novels, novels, plays, poems, and film

3. Methods and Sample Assignments

The following list represents several methods that may be used:

— discussion of short stories, graphic novels, novels, plays, poems, and film

— note taking and/or journaling

— reading aloud in class

— individual and group projects and presentations

— art

— music

Types of Assignments:

Writing will be done both in and out of class. Types of writing assignments will include: journal entries, short reaction pieces, informal essays, mini-research papers, creative pieces, and analytical essays.

Reading assignments will vary on a nightly basis, depending primarily on the work being studied. Approximately 20 pages a night will be assigned when short stories and novels are being studied; less when poetry is being studied. Some assignments will be read in class by the instructor and students.

Students my also be asked to do group projects and presentations. They will be expected to do some research on various topics that deal with American culture and history. Students will be expected to present their work in a coherent, intelligent, and entertaining manner.

Sample Assignments:

— How do American values enslave people? Students write an essay comparing and contrasting novels from two different time periods.

— Examine racial self-loathing. Students focus on the imagery, dialogue, and thematic aspects of this topic in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.

— Examine the relationship between Transformation and Place. Students write an essay examining the connection between the Bone’s growth as a character and place in Russell Banks’ The Rule of the Bone.

4. Expectations for Students

We expect students to enter into the reading enthusiastically and with open minds. We also expect students to challenge their own assumptions about culture, class, gender, and race. Reading and writing assignments and other projects will facilitate this process.

5. Reading List and Other Materials

Fiction
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, Heidi Durrow
Ellen Foster, Kaye Gibbons
Room, Emma Donoghue
Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward
Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt
Rule of the Bone, Russell Banks
Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger
The Color of Water, James McBride
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
Maus I and II, Art Spiegelman
Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton

Non-Fiction
The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls
A Hope in the Unseen, Ron Suskind
Zeitoun, Dave Eggers
Nickeled and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich
All Souls, Michael Patrick MacDonald

Short Stories
selections from Different Seasons, Stephen King
excerpts from The Women of Brewster Place, Gloria Naylor

Films
Boy In the Striped Pajamas

Plays
Laramie Project

Poetry
selections from Burning Down the House: Poets from the Nuyorican Poets Cafeselections from a variety of poets, including: Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath

 

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