Assignments

Class Meeting Times: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 10am-11:50am
Location: Salazar 2019
Office: Stevenson 3016G
Telephone: 707.664.4177
Fax: 707.664.2363
E-mail:
suzanne.toczyski@sonoma.edu
Office Hours: Mondays, 10am-noon,
Tuesdays, 3-4 & by appt.

Reading

Reading Quizzes

Paper Options

PAPER A will be due on either THURSDAY, February 20 (for (f(for those students presenting on February 11 or 13) or THURSDAY, February 13 (for (f(for those students presenting on February 18 or 20) and will explore the notion of family as it is developed in one or both of the first two novels we have read during the beginning of this course:  Jacques Roumain’s Masters of the Dew and Joseph Zobel’s Black Shack Alley.

In each of these novels, various ideas about what constitutes “family” are foregrounded by the authors.  These ideas may or may not conform to your idea of a family, traditional or otherwise.  Indeed, the definition of family in the United States is complex and multivalent; family is a contested term in contemporary American society.  The word has been related to certain value systems (e.g. “conservative values”) or to specific lifestyles (e.g. a “non-traditional family” as part of an “alternative lifestyle”).  It is impacted by cultural expectations; families have been judged as intact or not intact, nuclear or non-nuclear, based on pre-established criteria.  Family may be defined by biology (to whom were you born?) or proximity (with whom do you live?).  It may be related to spiritual bonds or to blood.  In short, it’s not an easy word to get one’s head around.

In this paper, I would like you to attempt to develop a workable personal definition of the idea of family, both as evidenced by textual examples and in a short anecdote from your own experience.  Think about what epitomizes a given novelist’s formulation of family in his novel; think also about how your idea of family has been shaped by episodes from your own life.  Come up with a definition of what you think family is, and then support your argument for this definition with specific reference to an incident or incidents in at least one of the two texts named above.  You may include one (and only one) brief anecdote from your own experience of family if the story in question is somehow related to your argument for a particular definition; however, you must put this personal anecdote in context with the textual examples you use to support your argument for the definition of family you have devised.  (Note: Please do not cite a dictionary or web or wikipedia definition of family -- or pop music, or a Hallmark card, or any other "cool" definition you find elsewhere! You should come up with a definition of your OWN.)

Please note that I expect you to reach for a level of reflection that goes well beyond simple narration of plot line or personal experience.  It’s not simply a question of retelling the stories we’ve read, or of telling your own story, but of using those stories as a springboard for nuanced reflection and a thought-provoking argument.  I also expect a high level of formal, academic language. If you are not sure what this implies, reread the description of this paper; it is written in fairly formal academic language.

As far as audience, please write as if your reader is one of your peers who is not familiar with the novels we have read (e.g. a graduating junior or senior at SSU who has never taken this class).

Please write at least 4 entire pages and no more than 6 entire pages and type your paper (double-spaced, Times 12-point font, with 1-inch margins.)

Any use of outside sources (including texts we read in class, or class notes!) requires that you cite appropriately. Even using another person's ideas requires citation! So, take careful note of where you gain your outside information and make sure you have a well-developed bibliography!

GRADING CRITERIA FOR PAPER A

I will use the following criteria to assign a grade to your first paper in this course. Each grade level is described in terms of its positive features. The base grade is for content, organization, and syntax. I will subtract step(s) from the grade for difficulties with punctuation, mechanics, and spelling.

The C paper meets the basic requirements of the assignment. In addition:

The B paper meets C criteria, sustains a central focus, and develops a convincing academic response to the reading. In addition:

The B+, A- and A papers display the characteristics of B & C papers, and in addition have one (B+), two (A-) or three (A) of the strengths listed below. (There are numbers without descriptors so that I can describe strengths I haven't anticipated and give credit for them.)

NOTE: Late work will not be accepted; please consult the course calendar regularly for due dates and other important information. Please note that any instance of plagiarism (defined as the use of another's words or ideas without adequate citation or acknowledgement) will result in a grade of "F" for the class.

PAPER B will be due immediately after spring break on TUESDAY, MARCH 25 (for everyone who chooses to write this option), and will explore the notion of truth as it is developed in one (and only one!) of the third or fourth novels we have read during this course:  Maryse Condé’s Crossing the Mangrove or Patrick Chamoiseau’s Solibo Magnificent.

Both Solibo Magnificent and Crossing the Mangrove begin with a death that comes to be construed as a murder; in a way, they both develop into mysteries or detective/crime  stories.  Consequently characters in each of the two novels spend considerable time in pursuit of truth, of the truth or a truth, depending on one’s perspective. 

If you choose this paper option, you will reflect upon the notion of truth as it is developed in either Solibo or Mangrove (but not both!).  In the cross-cultural context of this course (Caribbean / American), the idea of truth (or truths) might be mediated by power dynamics, by cultural caste systems, by physical location, by subjective interpretation, or by any number of other factors.  Please use the following questions as a springboard for your analysis of the place and determinability of truth in Caribbean society as presented in one of the novels we have read.  (Note:  you need not attempt to answer every question; rather, the questions should simply give you food for thought.)

In a paper of no fewer than four (entire) and no more than six pages, you will attempt to address the question of why it is so important in Chamoiseau’s novel for the various character s to know how and why Solibo died?  and/or similarly, why, in Condé’s novel, so many characters are involved or interested in François Sancher’s death?  In either case, is this need universal?  And if so, why do we as human beings need to know “the truth”? (Note: Please do not cite a dictionary or web or wikipedia definition of truth! You should come up with a definition of your own.)

Please note that I expect you to reach for a level of reflection that goes well beyond simple narration of plot line or personal experience.  It’s not simply a question of retelling the stories we’ve read, but of using those stories as a springboard for nuanced reflection and a thought-provoking argument.  I also expect a high level of formal, academic language. If you are not sure what this implies, reread the description of this paper; it is written in fairly formal academic language. 

As far as audience, please write as if your reader is a peer who is not familiar with the novels we have read (e.g. a graduating junior or senior at SSU who has never taken this class).

Any use of outside sources (including texts we read in class, or class notes!) requires that you cite appropriately. Even using another person's ideas requires citation! So, take careful note of where you gain your outside information and make sure you have a well-developed bibliography!

Please write at least 4 entire pages and no more than 6 entire pages and type your paper (double-spaced, Times 12-point font, with 1-inch margins.)

GRADING CRITERIA FOR PAPER B

I will use the following criteria to assign a grade to your second paper in this course. Each grade level is described in terms of its positive features. The base grade is for content, organization, and syntax. I will subtract step(s) from the grade for difficulties with punctuation, mechanics, and spelling.

The C paper meets the basic requirements of the assignment. In addition:

The B paper meets C criteria, sustains a central focus, and develops a convincing academic response to the reading. In addition:

The B+, A- and A papers display the characteristics of B & C papers, and in addition have one (B+), two (A-) or three (A) of the strengths listed below. (There are numbers without descriptors so that I can describe strengths I haven't anticipated and give credit for them.)

NOTE: Late work will not be accepted; please consult the course calendar regularly for due dates and other important information. Please note that any instance of plagiarism (defined as the use of another's words or ideas without adequate citation or acknowledgement) will result in a grade of "F" for the class.

PAPER C will be due either on THURSDAY, April 24 (for students presenting on April 29 or May 1) or on THURSDAY, May 1 (for students presenting on April 22 or 24) Students may pick one of two prompts, one (option 1) based on Lilas Desquiron's Reflections of Loko-Miwa, and the other (option 2) on Gisèle Pineau's Macadam Dreams. These options are described in detail below:

Option 1: REFLECTIONS OF LOKO-MIWA

Much of Haitian literature is imbued with a keen sense of the role of the vodou or vodun belief system in the everyday lives of Haitian people. Lilas Desquiron's book Reflections of Loko Miwa explores the place of vodou in the individual lives of her characters, situating it within the historical, social, religious, and political framework of twentieth-century Haiti.

Your task in this paper will be to engage critically and intellectually with the belief system of vodou and its concomitant Catholic elements, as it is developed in the novel and through our discussions in class, and to situate yourself in relation to it. In order to do this, you will need to begin with an examination of your own belief system. (For the purposes of this assignment, I will consider atheism and agnosticism to be "belief systems.")

Imagine, therefore, that you have been invited by one of your professors to participate with him/her in a six-month-long study of Haitian culture. (Imagine also, for the purposes of this paper, that the socio-political situation in Haiti is stable enough to allow for such a trip in relative security.) During the course of this study, you would be required to live with a Haitian family and participate in every aspect of daily life, including, when called upon, rituals associated with vodou traditions. You would be asked to keep a journal of your experiences and to participate in regular conversations with your professor and other student assistants in order to come to a better understanding of the culture in which you are immersing yourself. The ultimate goal of the project is to publish an account of the trip that will allow American readers an in-depth understanding of Haitian cultural traditions.

Based on your own belief system and your understanding of Haitian traditions, you must now decide whether or not you can be an effective participant in this study. Your decision should be based solely on your ability to engage with the culture and not on financial, personal, or other concerns. (Imagine that everything else is equal, and only your own feelings about the project will determine whether you go or not.) Whatever your decision, your final paper must demonstrate your intellectual engagement with the course content. You should respond to this assignment with a critical yet respectful voice, so that your reader understands clearly your reasons for your decision.

Your decision is YES. If you decide that you will participate, your assignment is as follows: Write a formal statement of purpose addressed to your parents/ partner/ significant other that addresses her/his/their concerns about your undertaking. Recall that the average American's knowledge of Haiti and its traditions is largely limited to stories of boat people in the news and B-level voodoo flicks. You must therefore help your reader to come to a reasonably well-developed understanding of the cultural practices in which you have accepted to participate. You should also compare and contrast this belief system to your own, and situate yourself in relation to it. You should explain why you believe you would be a particularly effective participant in this study.

Your decision is NO. If you decide that you will not participate, your assignment is as follows: Write a formal statement addressed to your professor explaining your reasons for this decision. Your letter should first make your own understanding of the project and all that it entails very clear to your professor. That is, you should make the professor understand first of all that you are well-acquainted with the kinds of rituals and practices you might need to engage in during the project, and the reasons for the existence of these practices in Haitian culture. You should then situate these practices in relation to your own belief system and explain why your own set of beliefs would not allow you to be an effective participant in this study.

Please write at least 4 entire pages and no more than 6 entire pages and type your paper (double-spaced, Times 12-point font, with 1-inch margins.) I also expect a high level of formal, academic language. If you are not sure what this implies, reread the description of this paper; it is written in fairly formal academic language.

Any use of outside sources (including texts we read in class, or class notes!) requires that you cite appropriately. Even using another person's ideas requires citation! So, take careful note of where you gain your outside information and make sure you have a well-developed bibliography! This is the paper for which I regularly have plagiarism issues. Please, please, take care to cite your sources!

GRADING CRITERIA FOR OPTION 1

I will use the following criteria to assign a grade to your paper. Each grade level is described in terms of its positive features. The base grade is for content, organization, and syntax. I will subtract step(s) from the grade for difficulties with punctuation, mechanics, and spelling.

The C paper meets the basic requirements of the assignment. In addition:

The B paper meets C criteria, sustains a central focus, and develops a convincing academic response to the reading. In addition:

The B+, A- and A papers display the characteristics of B & C papers, and in addition have one (B+), two (A-) or three (A) of the strengths listed below. (There are numbers without descriptors so that I can describe strengths I haven't anticipated and give credit for them.)

NOTE: Late work will not be accepted; please consult the course calendar regularly for due dates and other important information. Please note that any instance of plagiarism (defined as the use of another's words or ideas without adequate citation or acknowledgement) will result in a grade of "F" for the class.

Option 2 : MACADAM DREAMS

This option will doubtless appeal most to students who prefer to write more "traditional" literary, theme-based papers (example: English majors). If you choose this option, you will choose a trope or theme developed at length in Gisèle Pineau's Macadam Dreams, and write a four- to six-page analysis of this topic. Topics might include represenation of men in the text; or the figure of the cyclone; or speech and silence; representations of sexuality in the novel; memory and memory loss; the search for identity; the desire for progeny; etc. Pick a topic that interests you. It does not have to be any of the topics listed above. I encourage you to design your own topic.  If you do so, talk to me about it before you launch into writing or researching.

You must have a guiding idea that will lead you through your exploration of the topic (and that is clearly presented in your introduction). Once you have identified your subject and explored the novel once more with this idea in mind, looking for illustrations and evidence, you must articulate a thesis statement and have a specific approach in mind.  In order to help you develop an argument, formulate your topic in the form of questions, to which you will seek to find answers.  So as to illustrate your argument, search the text for relevant passages that highlight the relevance of your topic. Clearly articulate the reasons why these passages seem to you to be crucial for the interpretation and understanding of the whole work.  Take note of possible intersections between your chosen topic and others important themes at work in the text.

Any use of outside sources (including texts we read in class, or class notes!) requires that you cite appropriately. Even using another person's ideas requires citation! So, take careful note of where you gain your outside information and make sure you have a well-developed bibliography!

Please write at least 4 entire pages and no more than 6 entire pages and type your paper (double-spaced, Times 12-point font, with 1-inch margins.) I also expect a high level of formal, academic language. If you are not sure what this implies, reread the description of this paper; it is written in fairly formal academic language.

GRADING CRITERIA FOR OPTION 2

I will use the following criteria to assign a grade to your paper. Each grade level is described in terms of its positive features. The base grade is for content, organization, and syntax. I will subtract step(s) from the grade for difficulties with punctuation, mechanics, and spelling.

The C paper meets the basic requirements of the assignment. In addition:

The B paper meets C criteria, sustains a central focus, and develops a convincing academic response to the reading. In addition:

The B+, A- and A papers display the characteristics of B & C papers, and in addition have one (B+), two (A-) or three (A) of the strengths listed below. (There are numbers without descriptors so that I can describe strengths I haven't anticipated and give credit for them.)

NOTE: Late work will not be accepted; please consult the course calendar regularly for due dates and other important information. Please note that any instance of plagiarism (defined as the use of another's words or ideas without adequate citation or acknowledgement) will result in a grade of "F" for the class.

Oral Presentations

Optional Final Exam