Course Syllabus


“What is an American?” queried the French-American writer De Crevecoeur in 1781 as he contemplated the new, emerging nation called the United States of America. In today's trans-national world, that question should be expanded to include the many nations and cultures of all the Americas. We will explore definitions of national and cultural identity by studying a variety of literary texts and films from South America, Middle America and the Caribbean, and North America (including Canada) in relation to topics such as Old and New World encounters, slavery, post-colonialism, literary modernism, and magical realism.


  • Jorge Amado, The War of the Saints (Brazil)
  • Isabel Allende, Of Love and Shadows (Chile)
  • Derek Walcott, Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays (St. Lucia)
  • Juan Rulfo, Pedro Paramo (Mexico)
  • Carlos Fuentes, The Orange Tree (Mexico)--on Library Reserve
  • William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (U.S.)
  • Thomas King, Medicine River (Canada)

Plus online readings: stories by Borges, Cortázar, Fuentes, García Márquez, and others; poetry by Mistral, Neruda, Walcott, Castellanos, Mirikitani, Ondaatje, and others; prose nonfiction by Paz and Anzaldúa. Bringing printed copies to class will facilitate class discussions. (See online Reading Schedule.)

We will also view major films from/about Brazil, the Caribbean, the United States, and Canada.

Grading Policy:

  • 3 essay exams (17% each)
  • 1 shorter paper (17%). Online directions.
  • 1 longer paper (34%). Online directions.

All missing major writing assignments will receive a double "F" grade.

You may e-mail papers to me at, but make sure they are attached as a .doc file.

Late Work Policy

Late papers and essay exams will be graded down one letter grade for each day they are late.

Absence Policy:

Regular attendance is required. Everyone has four pre-excused absences for those difficult times in life that interfere with class attendance, so you do not need to clear absences with me, but it is a good idea to check with me (or a classmate) to make sure an assignment was not changed while you were gone.

Students who miss more than four classes may be dropped from the roster for "excessive absences."

Plagiarism Policy:

I strongly support the policies of the English Department and the University on plagiarism. Undocumented use of someone else's material (including "borrowing" their language or their ideas) will result in an F on the paper or for the course--or worse for the most egregious cases.

See me if you have questions about what is or is not plagiarism. I'm always happy to help students who make a good-faith effort to do things right.

Course Web Pages:

You can quickly access our online syllabus by typing in one of the following addresses:

You can also access my home page (which links to all my web pages) by going to the PSU home page and then typing "English Department Home Page" in the "PSU Search" box. Click on the "Faculty" list and locate my name--which is linked to my home page.


Updated: 12-10-12