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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 2

Day/Evening: E

Instructor: Dr. Donald Goellnicht


Office: Chester New Hall 225

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 26259

Office Hours: Wednesday 6:00-7:00pm

Course Objectives:

A study of selected texts—primarily novels but also some essays, speeches, and poems--by African American writers of the twentieth century. The texts will be considered within the socio-political historical context of their production and reception, and also within the African American literary tradition that stretches back to the eighteenth century. Close attention will be paid to issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality. 

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912)

            Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

            Richard Wright, Native Son (1940)

            Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

            James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

            Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (1977)

Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)

Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy (1990)

These texts are available at the Campus Store. Any assigned poetry and speeches will be available free online. Several of the novels are also available free online in PDF, if you are inclined to read long texts in electronic form. I will, however, be referring to the texts frequently in class by the page numbers of the printed versions.


Method of Assessment:

Short essay (1000 words max): 20% (due February 11th)

Long essay (2000 words max): 40% (due March 25th)

Final Exam: 40% (to be scheduled in the exam period by the Registrar’s office)

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Other Course Information:

Jan 07              Introduction—Background on African American literature to the Harlem Renaissance (including some poetry)


Jan 14              Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man


Jan 21              African American literary tradition to the 1940s

                        Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God


Jan 28              Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

                        Wright, Native Son


Feb 04             Wright, Native Son


Feb 11             African American literary tradition to the 1960s  (NB Essay dues in class)

                        Ellison, Invisible Man


Feb 18             Mid-term Study Break    


Feb 25             Ellison, Invisible Man


Mar 04            Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

                        Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet” (online)

                        Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream” (online)


Mar 11            African American feminism to the 1980s

                        Morrison, Song of Solomon


Mar 18            Morrison, Song of Solomon


Mar 25            Walker, The Color Purple (NB Essay due in class)


Apr 01            African American literature and postcolonialism

                        Kincaid, Lucy


Apr 08            Contemporary poetry