LITR 5731: Seminar in American Multicultural Literature

midterm assignment, fall 2007

Take-home midterm exam (due 27 September):

Describe and analyze one or more literary and/or cultural aspects of the minority experience as represented by our readings in African American Literature.  You must refer to at least two of the slave narratives, to Song of Solomon, and to at least one of the poems presented in class. You may also refer briefly to relevant texts from beyond this seminar’s assigned readings.

            In concept, this midterm stands somewhere between an out-of-class paper and a take-home exam.  As with a paper, you are expected to show originality and critical insight in developing your topic, but as with an exam you are expected to demonstrate familiarity with the course's assigned readings and some of its main themes. In terms of the midterm’s topic, as with a paper you are free to choose the aspect or aspects of the minority experience that your midterm will investigate, and you are encouraged to develop your own insights in relation to it. However, as with an exam your topic should also be related to the course’s main themes, and your development of your insights should acknowledge relevant contents from lecture or discussion.

            For examples of student topics, review the previous midterm submissions on the “Model Assignments” sub-page of the course webpage. In past offerings of this course, the best midterms "controlled" the essay and made it interesting by focusing on a specific element the texts have in common, e. g., language or literacy development; status of women; defining moments in a character's career; sexuality; violence; relations to parent or authority figures; presence of the dominant culture, etc.

            Above all, write a unified essay with a strong central thesis that successfully relates the various texts.  Don't discuss these texts in isolation from each other, but show how they relate to make a larger point.

            You may treat one or two texts in more detail than the others.  Though you should concentrate on the texts mentioned above, feel free to refer to other texts, including the poems presented by students.

            The length for the midterm exam is from seven to 10 typed or printed-out pages.

            Email submissions are expected on or before class on 27 September. If your paper is late, come to class anyway and turn it in as soon as you can afterward.

One additional requirement: Your midterm should make reference to at least one previous student midterm. If this turns out to be unwieldy, explain the situation in a note accompanying your midterm. The chief purpose of this stipulation is to assure that you review previous midterm submissions.

Differences from previous midterms: Previous offerings of the Minority seminar featured a third book in the African American section, the novel Push by Sapphire. For various reasons, this semester has omitted that assignment—but you’ll see plenty of references to it on the Model Assignments.