Dr. Alex E. Blazer Course Site Assignments Description
Materials Assignments Policies Schedule


Invisible Men and Women Warriors: Coming of Age Fiction

English 335: Literature of American Minorities, Fall 2006,

Section B: Wednesday 6:00-8:50PM, 122 Lake Huron Hall

Section C: Thursday 7:00-9:50PM, 134 Meijer Campus


Professor: Alex E. Blazer Office Hours: MW 2:00-2:50PM, W 4:30-5:30PM
Office and Mailbox: 123 Lake Huron Hall Office Phone: 331-3373
Email: blazera@gvsu.edu English Department: 240 Lake Huron Hall
Web: http://faculty.gvsu.edu/blazera/ English Department Phone: 331-3405


Course Description


I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood—movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.

—Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man


English 335 is an American minorities literature course. For this section, we will focus on twentieth-century memoir, coming of age stories, and bildungsroman (novels of spiritual and intellectual development) written by African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Latinos. One prime question will guide our reading: How are the characters' psychological worldviews transformed by their experiences in the complex cultural matrix of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, region, and politics? We will begin in the South in the 1930s with a boy who was almost a man (Wright, "The Man Who Was Almost a Man") and a woman searching for her voice (Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God). Then we journey North to Harlem in the 1940s to examine a family's spiritual development (Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain) and a man's descent underground (Ellison, Invisible Man). Next comes Michigan in the 1960s: a lackadaisical man comes to terms with his heritage (Morrison, Song of Solomon). Jump to Spanish Harlem where a dark-skinned Puerto Rican battles not only other races but his own family, including himself (Thomas, Down These Mean Streets). Childhood innocence meets harsh reality in Latino Chicago (Cisneros, The House on Mango Street). Next comes a Chinese-American woman's memoir describing her battle with the ghosts of her immigrant parent's cultural heritage (Kingston, The Woman Warrior). We conclude the course with a quick-witted teenager growing up in New York in the late 1960s (Jen, Mona in the Promised Land). Be prepared for much class discussion and in class group work. Assignments include a group presentation, an exam, a short paper, and a research paper. I want you to do well in this class. I will guide class discussion, present concepts and modes of analysis, and assess assignments. I expect you to read and study the material, attend and participate in class regularly, turn assignments in on time, and approach assignments with intellectual curiosity, educational investment, and academic honesty. Note that this course's prerequisite is completion of the freshman writing requirement. This couse fulfills the U.S. Diversity requirement and is part of the Perspectives from the Outside Theme.


Course Materials



Baldwin,Go Tell It on the Mountain

Cisneros, The House of Mango Street

Ellison, Invisible Man

Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Jen, Mona in the Promised Land

Kingston, The Woman Warrior

Morrison, Song of Solomon

Thomas, Down These Mean Streets

course packet (online)


Assignments and Grade Distribution


group presentation, 10%

Groups of 3-5 will write a two page preliminary analysis of the work that elucidates core conflicts and developments, an annotated bibliography summarizing scholarly criticism of the work, and discussion and debate questions. They will also deliver this material in a class presentation.

exam, 30%

The in-class essay exam will will ask you to make connections and distinctions among authors and texts.

short paper, 25%

In 5-6 pages, your MLA styled short paper will analyze a topic or text more closely and deeply than we had time to cover in class.

research paper, 35%

In 6-8 pages and using 3-5 works of scholarly criticism, your MLA styled research paper will analyze a topic or text more closely and deeply than we had time to cover in class.


Course Policies


Class Preparation and Participation

I expect you to come to class having read, annotated, and reviewed the assigned reading. Moreover, you should prepare at least two comments and two questions. We're going to be working with challenging works of literature; therefore, we'll all benefit from sharing our ideas and questions. If I feel that you're not participating because you're not keeping up with the reading, I will give a pop quiz.

Office Hours and Professor Email

I encourage you to stop by my office hours to discuss any aspect of the course, literature, or life. I will typically come to the Holland campus around 6:30PM; however, you should email me at least a day before to set up a definite appointment. I'm happy to answer minor questions such as due dates over email, but I prefer face-to-face conversations for more substantive topics like papers and exams. Please use email etiquette.

Blackboard and Student Email

We will be using Blackboard for assignments and Netmail for class communication. It is your responsibility to update your passwords so you can use Blackboard and check your email for possible course related messages. I suggest that you forward your university email to your private email account (or vice versa) and review both my Blackboard Basics and IT's Blackboard Help.


There will be a one letter final grade deduction for every absence beyond two days. Therefore, missing three class periods will result in a one letter final grade deduction and missing six classes will result in automatic failure of the course. I do not excuse any class missed beyond the two days, even if you are ill or participating in extracurricular activities. Therefore, I suggest you use your two days both cautiously and wisely; and make sure you sign the attendance sheets. Habitual tardies or consistently leaving class early will be treated as absences.

MLA Style

Formal assignments should adhere to the Modern Language Association (MLA) style. Formal papers and take-home exams require MLA style while in-class exams, discussion board responses, informal writing, and peer review may be informally formatted. One-third of a letter grade will be deducted from a formal paper or take-home exam for problems in each of the following three categories: 1) header, heading, and title, 2) margins, font, and line-spacing, and 3) quotation and citation format. Before you turn in a formal paper, make sure your work follows MLA style by using the checklist on the MLA style handout.

Late Assignments

There will be a one letter assignment grade deduction per day (not class period) for any assignment that is turned in late. I sparingly give short extensions if you request one for a valid need; however you must make the request at least one day before the assignment is due. I will inform you via email if I cannot open an electronically submitted assignment; however, your assignment will be considered late until you submit it in a file I can open. I neither read nor grade assignments that are turned in more than five days late for whatever reason, be it extension or computer error. Failing to submit (or resubmit) an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade within five days (not class periods) of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course. Failing to submit (or resubmit) a final exam or final paper within two days of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course.


Do not do it. Section 223.01 of the Student Code states: "Any ideas or material taken from another source for either written or oral presentation must be fully acknowledged. Offering the work of someone else as one's own is plagiarism. The language or ideas taken from another may range from isolated formulas, sentences, or paragraphs to entire articles copied from books, periodicals, speeches or the writings of other students. The offering of materials assembled or collected by others in the form of projects or collections without acknowledgment also is considered plagiarism. Any student who fails to give credit in written or oral work for the ideas or materials that have been taken from another is guilty of plagiarism." As a general rule, I fail plagiarized assignments, and so plagiarists usually fail the course as well.

Failure of the Course

There are three ways to fail the course: 1) failing to regularly attend class, 2) plagiarizing, 3) failing an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade, be it from poor quality, lateness of submission, or a combination of poor quality and lateness.


The deadline for withdrawing from a class is Friday, October 20 at 5:00PM through one of the Student Assistance Centers.

Disabilities Support Center

If there is any student in this class who has special needs because of a learning, physical, or other ability, please contact the Disabilities Support Services (DSS) Program in the Advising Resources and Special Programs Unit at 331-3588.

Center for Writing

The Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors provides appointment, walk-in, and instant messenger assistance for planning, drafting, revising, and editing papers.


Course Schedule


Before reading each story, read a literary biography from the Literature Resource Center.

This schedule is subject to change, so listen in class and check online for possible revisions.


Section B
Section C


Week 1
W, 8-30
Th, 8-31

Wright, "The Man Who Was Almost a Man" (online)

Week 2
W, 9-6
Th, 9-7

Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1-195)

Literary Research Methods

Week 3
W, 9-13
Th, 9-14

Hurston, concluded

Hurston criticism (online)

In Class Activity: Practice Annotation

Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1-263)

Week 4
W, 9-20
Th, 9-21

Baldwin, concluded

Ellison, Invisible Man (1-295)

Week 5
W, 9-27
Th, 9-28

Ellison, concluded (296-581)

Morrison, Song of Solomon (1-216)

Week 6

W, 10-4
Th, 10-5

Morrison, concluded (216-337)

In Class Activity: Groupwork

Bambara, "The Hammer Man" (online)

Roberts, Writing Examinations on Literature (online)

Exam Review

Week 7
W, 10-11
Th, 10-12


Week 8
W, 10-18
Th, 10-19

Film Screening: Real Women Have Curves (dialogue script)

Short Paper Prompt

Week 9
W, 10-25
Th, 10-26

Rodriguez, "Aria" (online)

Thomas, Down These Mean Streets (1-192)

MLA Style

Week 10
W, 11-1
Th, 11-2

Thomas, concluded (193-337)

Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (1-52)

In Class Activity: Developing a Thesis

Week 11
W, 11-8
Th, 11-9

Cisneros, concluded (53-109)

Villa, "Untitled Story" (online)

Vang, "Ms. Pac-Man Ruined My Life" (online)

Short Paper Due

Week 12
W, 11-15
Th, 11-16

Kingston, The Woman Warrior (1-209)

Research Paper Prompt

Literary Research Methods

Week 13
W, 11-22
Th, 11-23
No Class: Thanksgiving Recess
Week 14
W, 11-29
Th, 11-30

Kingston, concluded

Jen, Mona in the Promised Land (1-165)

Week 15
W, 12-6
Th, 12-7
Jen, concluded (166-304)
W, 12-13
Th, 12-14
Research Paper Due