Spring 2009
Race in American Literature and Popular Culture, ENGL 214-01
Tues./Thurs. (S-014), 1:30-2:50pm
Instructor Name: Dr. Karen Gaffney
Office Location: S-347
Mailbox: Somerset, 3rd floor
Email Address: [email protected] (Email is the best way to reach me.)
Office phone: 908-526-1200 ext. 8293
Office hours: Mondays 3-4pm, Tuesdays 3-4pm, Wednesdays 12-1pm, and Thursdays 12-1pm
and by appointment
Website: http://www.raritanval.edu/departments/English/full-time/Gaffney/gaffney.htm
“White trash.” The “model minority.” We throw these words around without examining what
they mean and what they say about race in the U.S. This course examines the social construction
of race in the U.S. through the lens of American literature and popular culture. It focuses on key
moments in American history, from seventeenth-century colonial America to the present, to
explore how racial categories have been created and re-created. Students will analyze the
evolution of these racial categories, like white, black, Asian, Latino, and Native American, while
exploring how racial groups are pitted against each other and how categories like gender, class,
and sexuality intersect with race. Readings from a range of disciplines will provide students with
the historical and social context necessary to analyze cultural texts, like novels, short stories,
advertisements, films, political cartoons, TV shows, songs, and speeches.
Required Texts (all in paperback, most available at the college bookstore, all available used at
amazon.com):
 One Drop of Blood: The American Misadventure of Race, Scott Malcolmson
 Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America, Juan Gonzalez
 Beloved, Toni Morrison
 Freedom Writers Diary, Erin Gruwell
Note about Required Books:
It’s important that you are fully aware of the college’s textbook refund policy and textbook
buyback policy. It seems that many students do not write in their books because they think it will
lower the amount of money they would get for them. The only time writing in a textbook (or
highlighting it) affects the price is if the student is looking for a full refund, and that can only
happen if the student returns the book within five working days of buying the book or if the
student drops the class within the first 10 days of the semester. However, if a student actually
takes the course and wants to return the book at the end of the course, the student couldn't get a
full refund anyway. In that case, the student would participate in a “textbook buyback,” and the
student would get the same amount whether the book was written in or not. The only problem
would be if there was very severe damage to the book.
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Reserve:
Some of the required readings for the course are on reserve in the library. There are a total of 4
books from which you’ll need to copy various chapters, according to the syllabus. These books
cannot leave the library; you need to copy the required sections in the library, do the readings,
and bring your copy of the reading to class. You’ll also need these copies for the Midterm and
Final exam. I decided to do this in order to save students money; course packs were too
expensive. Instead, you’ll need to pay a modest amount for copying the books at the library.
Considering that the 4 required books for the course are all paperbacks available used online, the
overall cost of the books and the readings should be reasonable. I am providing copies of some
shorter required readings to you in class as handouts.
Note: You need to have your RVCC ID with you in order to check out books. Make sure you get
one in Student Activities the first week of class if you don’t already have one.
Books on reserve:
 Black, Edwin. War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a
Master Race. NY: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003.
 Bogle, Donald. Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of
Blacks in American Films. NY: Continuum, 1973.
 Lipsitz, George. The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from
Identity Politics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998.
 Zia, Helen. Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People. NY: Farrar,
Straus and Giroux, 2000.
Other Learning Materials:
 Multiple ways to back up your work on a computer because computer problems are not an
appropriate excuse for handing a paper in late.
 A notebook (any kind) for class notes
 A 3-ring binder for readings distributed as handouts and for copies of readings student
makes in library from books on reserve
 A folder for each of the following (total of 2):
 Syllabus, assignments, and other handouts
 Your Response Portfolio (graded response papers)
“Key Concepts”
 You’ll see that the schedule provides some guidance in terms of important ideas in the
reading. This list only begins to touch upon the main ideas for that week. It is meant only as a
guide, not as an exhaustive list.
Assignments:
 Discussion Questions: For most Tuesdays you have assigned reading (and some Thursdays),
you also have to turn in typed discussion questions related to the reading. You don’t need to
provide any answers, just the questions. The schedule section of the syllabus will clarify
how many discussion questions you need to make; it will usually be 1 per reading, but if
there is only 1 reading, there will be multiple questions for that reading due. The majority of
your questions should have a direct reference to the text. Your questions can either be
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something you’re confused about in the readings that has a factual answer or open-ended
with no single right answer. These questions may be used for discussion, and they will be
collected and graded “pass/fail.”
Response Papers: Every week, there is a response paper due in class, usually either on that
Thursday (turned in during class) or that Friday (emailed to me by midnight). The schedule
states the deadline for that week’s response paper, depending on whether there is new
material on the Thursday. Either way, your response papers should be word-processed, 1-2
pages, double spaced. Your responses should focus on one specific issue. Do not focus just
on summary (although a little bit of summary might help get you going). Instead, analyze a
particular issue that catches your attention. You should incorporate at least one quote from at
least one text into your paper. Focus on proving a point and backing it up with support from
the text. You are welcome to use the first person. Your responses can be informal, but they
should still abide by the standards of college-level academic English. You do not need to
refer to all of the readings for that week in your response paper, although you may focus on
a point that connects multiple readings. Some of your response papers will be during a week
where we primarily focused on a film. You still need to be specific in your analysis of the
film, even if you’re not actually quoting. (Taking notes during class when we watch the
films will be helpful.) Response papers will receive full letter grades of A, B, C, D, and F. A
missed response will count as a 0. Late responses will only be accepted in case of an
emergency. Keep graded responses in your Response Portfolio.
Response Portfolio: You should keep your graded response papers in a folder that becomes
your Response Portfolio. There are a total of 10 response papers due. I will drop the lowest
one and count your best 9. The portfolio will be collected at the end of the semester, and the
grade will be based not only on your individual response paper grades but also on your
improvement. Assuming you handed in the response paper on time, you can revise up to 3 of
the response papers. The revision grade totally replaces the original grade. Also, when you
submit your Response Portfolio, it should include one final extra response where you reflect
on the progression of your response papers. Read through all of your response papers, and
try to be specific in reflecting on what you learned during the semester.
Essay #1: A 5-page paper linking Beloved to some of the historical assigned readings. No
outside research should be done. Details will be provided. This essay can be revised for a
higher grade if it is submitted on time. The revision would be due the last day of class. For
every day an essay is late, its grade will be lowered a full letter grade (exceptions will be
made in the case of an emergency).
Mid-term Exam: You will be able to use your books and other assigned readings for the
exam. More information, including a study guide, will be provided.
Final Exam: You will be able to use your books and other assigned readings for the exam.
More information, including a study guide, will be provided.
Essay #2 and letter: Essay #2 (and its corresponding letter) is a final project that will involve
you selecting a contemporary piece of popular culture (tv show, ad, film, song, music video,
product packaging, etc.) where you analyze the pop culture’s representation of race and
decide whether you think its representation is commendable, offensive (or somewhere in
between). Your essay itself will be a 5-page analysis of that representation, including links
to material read for class. You will also write a letter to someone responsible for the pop
culture (a writer, producer, network executive, etc.) and commend them for this portrayal
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and encourage more such work or explain why you think it’s offensive and ask that work
like that not be supported (or somewhere in between). Details will be provided.
Grading Policy:
 Response Portfolio: 30%
 Essay #1: 10%
 Mid-term exam: 15%
 Final exam: 15%
 Essay #2: 15%
 Class participation, discussion questions, and any other misc. assignments, quizzes, etc.: 15%
Attendance Policy:
 Attendance is required, and it means arriving to class on time, remaining for the duration of
class, being prepared with your textbook(s), and staying awake.
 For every three times you arrive late and/or leave early, an absence will be counted.
 You are allowed up to 2 absences before your final grade is lowered. The College’s policy
states, “A student is entitled, without question, to absences amounting to the equivalent of one
week’s class time.” For every absence after 2, your final grade may be lowered.
 Exceptions to the attendance policy may be made for documented emergencies.
 In accordance with college policy, if you miss 1/5 of the semester (6 classes), then you may
be withdrawn from the course. After Mar. 31, 2009, you cannot withdraw yourself from a
course, and you cannot be administratively withdrawn. Reaching 6 or more absences after the
withdrawal deadline will likely result in failure of the course.
 The college-wide withdrawal and refund schedule is available online if you go to
www.raritanval.edu, click on “Current Students” and then under “Information Access” (bottom
left hand corner), click on “Withdrawals & Refunds.”
Make-up Policy:
 Make-up exams will only be given if you have a documented emergency.
 My website (see address on the top of the first page) serves as a back up for major handouts
distributed in class (particularly the syllabus and other major assignments). These materials are
distributed in class, but if you are absent or lose the handout, you are responsible for getting it
from the website.
 If you are absent when a homework assignment is due, drop it off or email it to me on the
day it’s due so that it is not counted late. Exceptions will be made in the case of an emergency.
 Missed quizzes cannot be made up.
Classroom Etiquette:
Please be respectful. As stated in the Student handbook, the College has a code of Campus
Conduct. It states: “A student who disrupts any College class by engaging in conduct that
renders it difficult or impossible to maintain the learning environment of the class shall be
subject to any of the disciplinary actions noted below. Faculty members have the authority to
take whatever summary actions may be necessary to maintain order and proper conduct in the
classroom and to maintain the effective cooperation of the class in fulfilling the objectives of the
course. Classroom dismissals must be reported in writing to the Dean of Academic and Student
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Services. Sanctions for campus conduct violations are as follows: Sanctions for conduct
violations, either in the classroom or on campus, may result in probation, suspension, or the
imposition of such lesser penalties as are appropriate.” See the RVCC Student Handbook for
more information.
Cell Phone Policy:
 Cell phones, beepers, etc. should be turned off for the duration of class (not just to vibrate,
but with the sound completely off).
 If you are found using your cell phone to talk to someone, listen to someone, listen to your
voicemail, receive text messages, send text messages, check to see if you received a voicemail
or text message, etc. during class, it will count as an absence.
 If you have a personal situation where you need to keep your phone on to receive an
emergency call, let me know at the beginning of class.
Plagiarism Policy:
Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. See the RVCC
Student Handbook (Rules and Regulations section) for details about academic dishonesty.
Use of SparkNotes, Cliff Notes, etc.
I strongly encourage you to avoid using study aides for the two novels. You need to be able to
read and understand the material on your own and through class discussion; that is a crucial part
of the learning process, which includes reading, writing, and discussion. There will be ample
opportunity for you to ask questions about anything you find confusing.
RVCC email:
 Every student automatically receives an RVCC email account through the website the
Lion’s Den. You must access this email account; otherwise, you will miss crucial college
information, like your grades. If I need to reach you, I will email you at your RVCC account, so
please check it frequently. Don’t forget that passwords need to be updated periodically.
 You should have received a G-number as well as information about your password when
you enrolled. If you do not have this information, visit the MIS office at S-112 (near the
elevators in Somerset, on the first floor) as soon as possible.
Academic Support Center:
 The Academic Support Center offers free drop-in tutoring and supports services for most
disciplines offered by RVCC.
 Monday-Thursday: 9:00am-8:30pm; Friday: 9:00am-2:00pm; Saturday: 10:00am-2:00pm
 The Academic Support Center is located on the Lower Level of Somerset, room S020, and
their extension number is 8393. You can find more information about them in your RVCC
Student Handbook and their website at
http://www.raritanval.edu/ResourcesStudent/TutoringServices.htm.
Statement for Students with Learning Disabilities:
If you have a documented learning disability, you may be entitled to accommodations such as
extended time on exams. Please see me confidentially to make arrangements.
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Class preparation and participation:
 Come to every class prepared. Most of your preparation will focus on reading the assigned
material carefully. Taking notes (including annotating the text) as you read will be a big help to
you for in-class discussion of the material, for the exams, and for brainstorming about your
essays. It is essential that you do the assigned reading for the course. If you don’t, you’re not
going to learn nearly as much as you should, you won’t be able to participate effectively in
class discussion, and you won’t be able to help your peers sufficiently in small group exercises
that we will do frequently. Pop quizzes may be given.
 Participate in class. Participation involves paying attention in class, contributing to the
discussion, and listening to your peers. Come to class ready to share your ideas, and don’t be
afraid to ask questions.
Daily schedule:
 The following schedule is a general guideline, and it is subject to change. Small assignments
may be added.
 Please bring the reading with you.
Tues., 
Jan. 20 
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Introduction to the course and each other
Watch first part of Race: The Power of an Illusion in class
Receive handouts (to be read for Thursday’s class)
Thurs., 
Jan 22 
Read for today:
“Chapter 1: How Biology Refutes Our Racial Myths” (Joseph Graves)
(handout)
“‘The Others Are Coming’: Ideology and Otherness in Lost” (Karen
Gaffney) (handout)
Watch rest of Race: The Power of an Illusion in class
Key concepts: the social construction of race; ideology; otherness
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Tues., 
Jan. 27 
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Read for today:
“Chapter 1: The Possessive Investment in Whiteness” (George Lipsitz) (on
reserve, from book with same title)
Start watching Bamboozled in class
Key concepts: role of media in constructing race and shaping ideology;
social construction of whiteness; white privilege
Discussion Questions due (2 on Lipsitz)
Thurs., 
Jan. 29 
Continue discussion of Tuesday’s reading
Finish watching Bamboozled in class
Fri.,
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Jan. 30
Response paper due by midnight (emailed to me) on Bamboozled (make at
least one direct reference to Lipsitz)
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Tues.,
Feb. 3
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Thurs., 
Feb. 5 
Read for today:
Read from One Drop of Blood:
“‘All Things in Aboundance’” (21-38)
“‘Coal Black is Better Than Another Hue’” (160-184)
“‘The Essence of Whiteness’” (277-291)
Read from Harvest of Empire:
Chapter 1: “Conquerors and Victims” (3-26)
Key concepts: emergence of race as a category in 1600s (fairly fluid in early
to mid 1600s then rigid by late 1600s); corresponding “invention” of
whiteness; further development of race in 1700s
Discussion Questions due (1 per chapter on One Drop and 1 on Harvest) (4
in total)
Continue discussion of Tuesday’s readings
Response paper due
Tues.,
Feb.
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*extra credit*
 Attend Robeson lecture, 12-1:20 and write 1-2 page (double-spaced)
informal response to it (due by Fri., Feb. 13); location to be announced
Tues.,
Feb.
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Thurs., 
Feb.
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12
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Tues.,
Feb.
17
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Thurs., 
Feb.
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19
Read for today:
Read from One Drop of Blood:
“‘Welcome, Negro, Welcome’” (66-97)
“‘We Can Be as Separate as the Fingers’” (185-219)
“‘The Freest of All Human Beings’” (292-319)
Read from Harvest of Empire:
Chapter 2: “The Spanish Borderlands and the Making of an Empire”
Key concepts: development of race from late 1700s to 1800s; slavery
worsening in 1800s; Fugitive Slave Act
Discussion Questions due (1 per chapter on One Drop and 1 on Harvest) (4
in total)
Continue discussion of Tuesday’s readings
Response paper due
Bring Beloved to class (no reading from it due yet)
Receive Essay #1 Assignment
Read for today:
Beloved, Part One (1-165)
Discussion questions due (total of 3 on Part One of Beloved)
Continue discussion of Tuesday’s readings
Response paper due (just on Part One of Beloved)
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Tues.,
Feb.
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Thurs., 
Feb.
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26
Tues., 
Mar. 3
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Read for today:
Beloved, Parts Two and Three (169-275) (finish novel)
Discussion questions due (total of 3 on the rest of the novel)
Continue discussion of Tuesday’s readings
Come to class with an idea for Essay #1
Prepare for Midterm Exam (bring all readings assigned so far) and create
exam questions in class
Essay #1 on Beloved due
Thurs.,  Midterm Exam (bring all readings assigned so far)
Mar. 5
Spring Break!
Tues.,
Mar.
17
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Thurs., 
Mar.
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Fri.,
Mar.
20
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Read for today:
Chapter 2: “Evolutions” (9-19) and Chapter 3: “America’s National
Biology” (21-41) (Edwin Black) (reserve, from book War Against the Weak)
“Whose Country Is This?” (Calvin Coolidge, 1921 Good Housekeeping)
(handout)
Key concepts: eugenics; race at the end of the 1800s and beginning of 1900s
Discussion Questions due: 1 per reading (total of 3)
Read for today:
First part of Chapter 2: “Surrogate Slaves to American Dreamers” (21-29)
(Helen Zia) (reserve, in book titled Asian American Dreams) (consider
copying all of Chapter 2 now because you’ll need to read the rest of it for
Apr. 2)
“The Chinese Exclusion Act” (Congress, 1882) (handout)
“In the Land of the Free” (Sui Sin Far) (handout)
Key concepts: Chinese exclusion; “yellow peril”
Discussion Questions due: 1 per reading (total of 3)
Response paper due by midnight (emailed to me) on both Tuesday’s and
Thursday’s readings. You can focus on one more than the other, but you
need to make a connection between them and therefore reference at least one
of the readings from each day.
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Tues.,
Mar.
24
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Read for today:
“Chapter 1: Black Beginnings from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to The Birth of a
Nation” (3-18) (Donald Bogle) (reserve, from book titled Toms, Coons,
Mulattoes, Mammies, & Bucks)
Read “Jim Crow in the Army,” “Adventures in Dining,” “Our GI’s in S.
Pacific Fiercely Resent ‘Uncle Tom’ Roles,” and “Jim Crow in the North”
(handout) (newspaper articles from the time period)
Key concepts: The Birth of a Nation; development of film; race in the early
1900s through 1940s; Jim Crow segregation (in north and the south and in
military in World War II)
Discussion Questions due: 1 per reading (total of 5)
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Continue discussion of Tuesday’s readings
Response paper due
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Read for today:
“Supreme Court, 9-0, Bans Segregation in Schools,” “Justice in Sumner,”
“Violence at Central High,” “President Sends Troops to Little Rock,”
“Letter from Birmingham Jail, “200,000 March for Civil Rights,”
“Birmingham Bomb Kills 4 Negro Girls in Church” (handout) (newspaper
articles from the time period)
Key concepts: Civil Rights movement of 1950s and 1960s; Brown decision;
school desegregation; non-violent protest; voter registration
Discussion Questions due: 1 per reading (total of 7)
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Thurs.,
Mar.
26
Tues.,
Mar.
31
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Thurs., 
Apr. 2 
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Fri.,
Apr. 3
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Read for today:
“S.N.C.C. in Decline After 8 Years in Lead,” “Success Story of One
Minority Group in U.S.,” and “Success Story, Japanese-American Style”
(handout)
rest of Chapter 2: “Surrogate Slaves to American Dreamers” (21-29) (Helen
Zia) (reserve, in book titled Asian American Dreams)
Key concepts: black power movement; Asian Americans as the “model
minority”
Discussion Questions due: 1 per reading (total of 4)
Response paper due by midnight (emailed to me) on both Tuesday’s and
Thursday’s readings. You can focus on one more than the other, but you
need to make a connection between them and therefore reference at least one
of the readings from each day.
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Tues.,
Apr. 7
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Thurs., 
Apr. 9 
Fri.,
Apr.
10
Tues.,
Apr.
14
TBA
Continue discussion of Tuesday’s readings
Finish watching A Day Without a Mexican in class
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Response paper due by midnight (emailed to me) on A Day Without a
Mexican (make at least one direct reference to Harvest readings)
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Read for today:
Freedom Writers Diary (1-191) (Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior Year)
Discussion Questions due : 2 in total based on today’s reading
Thurs., 
Apr.
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16
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Fri.,
Apr.
17
Tues.,
Apr.
21
Thurs.,
Apr.
23
Fri.,
Apr.
24
Tues.,
Apr.
28
Thurs.,
Apr.
30
Read for today:
Read from Harvest of Empire:
Chapter 3: “Banana Republics and Bonds” (58-78), Chapter 5: “Mexicans”
(96-107), Chapter 11: “Immigrants Old and New” (190-205)
Start watching A Day Without a Mexican in class
Key concepts: immigration, Latino identity
Discussion Questions due: 1 per reading (total of 3)
Read for today:
Freedom Writers Diary (finish book, including Epilogue)
Discussion Questions due : 2 in total based on today’s reading
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Response paper due by midnight (emailed to me) on Freedom Writers Diary
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No reading for today (so you can work on Essay #2)
Start watching Crash in class
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Finish watching Crash in class
Discuss final exam
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Response paper due by midnight (emailed to me) on Crash.
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Student presentations of Essay #2
 Student presentations of Essay #2
 Essay #2 due
 Response Portfolio due (see syllabus for instructions about including all of
your graded responses; also see syllabus for revision policy and instructions
about final overall response reflecting on the semester)
 Optional or required revision of Essay #1 due (depending on my comments
on your Essay #1)
Final Exam (bring all assigned reading from the entire course)
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Race in American Literature and Popular Culture