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ENGL 213 A: Modern and Postmodern Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm
* *
Close up of Laura Chrisman
Laura Chrisman

Syllabus Description:

Professor Laura Chrisman

Spring 2021

Online office hours: Thursdays 4-5pm, by prior appointment only (email or canvas message me in advance to schedule an appointment). Zoom ID:  948 2900 7886. I can also schedule appointments outside of the Thursday slot.

English 213A: Modern and Postmodern Literature: Colonialism and Its Aftermath

T/Th 10.30am-12.20pm
(This evaluation link is only for the course listed above.  It can only be accessed by students enrolled in the course.)

Colonialism has shaped modern lives across the globe. So has the struggle against and beyond it. This course explores literary responses to these experiences. It centers on the diverse perspectives of African women, in literature produced from mid-20th century decolonization through to the 21st century, when globalization ushered in new patterns of migration along with new forms of social and regional inequality.  The class focuses on selected short literary works, a novel, and a play. Some of the questions running across the class are: how do gender, spirituality, natural environment, and economic inequality inform the experiences of domination and resistance? How is national identity defined--and redefined—in the process of decolonization?  What is the impact of migration on postcolonial racial and national identity?

As this course fulfills the W requirement, students will engage in intensive writing activities. You are expected to keep up with the readings and come to class ready to participate in discussion.

Class will be synchronous. It may involve a range of educational methods including small group discussion, peer review, discussion posts, large group discussion, and instructor lecture.

Required texts:

Danai Gurira, The Convert (Oberon, 2017)

NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names  (Back Bay Books, 2014)

Please acquire your own hard copies of these texts from the University Bookstore.  You will be expected to make notes in the book’s margins.

Other required materials are short literary texts that will be available as pdfs on the class Canvas website.

Course Objectives.

  1. Students are able to critically explore the materials covered in the course.
  2. Students are able to perform competent close readings of literary texts.
  3. Students develop an awareness of literature’s ability to mediate social, political and historical issues.
  4. Students strengthen their skills in writing academic prose.

Assessed activities of the course, and their percentage share of the final grade:

Participation: 30% of final grade. Assessed participation component consists of a portfolio, to be submitted by Tuesday, May 18, 11.59pm. Contents of portfolio: three previously written discussion posts (chosen from the required 4 posts on The Convert; Zimbabwe videos; Skinned; Fanon and Vera); one discussion response (chosen from your two responses to the Zimbabwe video posts of people in your small group); your text-merge writing; one 300-500 word review of these five writings, that explores: 1) what you learned about the primary materials in the process of writing these short pieces; 2) what strike you as significant areas of overlap and difference in the literary texts that your selected pieces address; 3) in what ways, if any, your understandings of the African continent, African colonialism and its aftermath, have changed since you wrote your 'You/Africa' discussion post in week 1 of class. List word count at end. 

One mid term paper of 1,200 words minimum, on The Convert  or on two poems chosen from class uploaded poems by Noemia de Sousa, Maria Manuela Margarido, Gcina Mhlophe, Amelia Veiga: 30% of final grade. Papers must list word count at the end of the paper, and adhere to MLA formatting. There is no penalty for writing more than 1,200 words. There is however a penalty for writing fewer than 1,200 words.

For synchronous students, there are currently two options for the final assessed writing component of the class, worth 40% of the course grade.

The first option is for students taking Joan Fiset's track. This includes a portfolio of short creative and reflective writings related to your exploration of We Need New Names, developed through the class and small discussion groups.  These may include Cluster; Text-Merge;  Vignette; 'Bantu' poem; 'Swampy Cree' naming poem; narrative;  metacognitive reflection on your writing and thinking processes. Some examples and descriptions of these activities are in the documents listed under 'Writing Materials', below. 

The other option is for students taking Professor Chrisman's track. This consists of four TIPS letters, of 400 words minimum each. TIPS is an acronym for Thing, Idea, Person (may be a non-human, sentient being, such as an animal or tree), Self. Each TIP letter should engage with an element of We Need New Names. The 'Thing' letter is written by you to a 'Thing', defined as any inanimate object that makes an appearance in the novel. The 'Idea' letter is written to what you identify as an idea contained in the novel (through a character, a scene, a dialogue, a descriptive passage, the novel itself as a complete entity, etc).  The 'Person' to whom you address the letter can be any  sentient being that makes an appearance in the novel. The Self letter needs to explore some aspect of yourself in relation to the novel; you might converse with an emotion that you felt while reading the novel, for instance, or a perception that underwent some change as you read or reread the novel, and so on. 

Both options have a deadline of June 7, by 11.59pm.


For asynchronous students, the final project is a 1,800 word analytic essay on We Need New Names, worth 40% of the final grade, due June 7, by 11.59pm. Students are responsible for devising their essay’s title and topic. The topic must fall within the concerns of the course. You need for me to approve it before you start writing; email me with your proposed title, and an 100-word description of your topic, by May 27. The grading criteria are to be found in the grading rubric document linked here.  Please see the syllabus section on Writing Assignments for further info on formatting, etc. Grading rubric for English 213 final 1,800 word analytic paper assignment, for asynchronous students.docx sample 4.0 final paper for W class -1.docx  

Final grading for this course adheres to the University grading system: see the end of the syllabus for an outline.

Writing Materials (used in specific classes and also across the course):

Text Merge Metacognitive Questions-4.docx  

English 213 Exploring W.pptx 

Some Clarification UW English 213 (1).pptx

 Habits of Mind-1.docx  

Speculative Starters & Fishbowl-1.pptx 

Speculative Starters.docx  

The American Scholar, Poetry in the Abstract, by Christopher Cokinos.pdf

Cluster _ Vignette English 213 (1).pptx  


Provisional Schedule.

Week 1 (March 29, Apr 1).

Tues: Intro

Homework: non-assessed Discussion Board post,  on ‘You/Africa’. To be posted by 5pm on Weds, March 30, to Canvas Discussion Board.

Approximately 2 paragraphs (I'd like more than one, but try to keep it under 4) 

The goal of this quarter's first discussion board post is to collectively create a 'story' of Africa for the class by reflecting in writing on our engagements with and experiences of Africa, Africans, and the representations of the continent and its people to which we have been exposed. 

There is not set form or style for this assignment, and it can literally be whatever you want it to be. However, I do want to say a few things in advance. 

  1. I recommend pre-writing for a few minutes before you dig into your main post. The idea here is to brainstorm. Think of these questions as you do so:

What ideas or opinions of Africa do you currently hold? Where do you think you have received those ideas? Have you ever questioned them? Have you ever been to Africa or spent any time with Africans? If so, have these experiences changed any of your previously held opinions or beliefs. 

  1. When you write, don't worry about how you sound. Just try to be honest and fair. You don't need to blame yourself if your image of Africa is the popular one most of us consume via news or entertainment media, what Chimamanda Adichie calls the single story of Africa-as-catastrophe. Assume that everyone's views are tentative and in formation. Instead, talk about the images that come to mind, where you remember receiving them, even about specific works of literature or film or news media and how those presented the continent to you (and possibly even why). If you are from Africa originally, or if your parents are from Africa, please feel free to share your own experience of the continent or of Western perceptions of it. However, I'd also be interested in hearing about your relationship, if you have one, with other regions of Africa: what do you know about other parts of Africa?  

Thurs: Binyavanga Wainaina,  “How to Write About Africa”.

Wainaina on How to Write about Africa(1).doc  Read it carefully, before class. Choose a passage from it to which you had a strong reaction, and come to class prepared to discuss and explore that passage. You will need to be able to direct people to the particular page  and paragraph(s) for the passage.


Week 2 (Apr 6, Apr 8)

Tues: Key Concepts: Colonialism. Extracts from colonial administrators, scholars and creative writers.


English 213 reading pointers for Key Concepts Colonialism.docx  

Then read:  

Historical overview: Robert Bates, History of Africa Through Western Eyes:

History of Africa through western eyes(1)(1) (1).docx  

Anti-colonial Theory readings:

Aime Cesaire, extracts from Discourse on Colonialism:  Cesaire Discourse on Colonialism (1).pdf  

Frantz Fanon, pp.4-9 and pp. 14-15 of 'On Violence': Fanon On Violence, highlighted (1)-1.pdf  

Colonial Discourse readings:

Joseph Chamberlain, from 'The True Conception of Empire' (1897): Chamberlain on the Civilizing Mission (1).docx  

Cecil Rhodes, 'Confession of Faith' (1877): Cecil Rhodes(1)(1).docx  

Poetry Readings: 

Gcina Mhlophe, 'Sometimes When It Rains'  plus Bio for Mhlophe:

Gcina Mhlophe, 'Sometimes When It Rains' (poem).docx

Gcina Mhlophe, bio.pdf 

Watch her perform the poem:

Maria Manuela Margarido, 'You Who Occupy Our Land' plus Bio for Margarido: Maria Manuela Margarido, You Who Occupy Our Land (poem).pdf 

Maria Manuela Margarido, bio.pdf  

Writing practice: Text-Merging: Text Merging & Examples.docx 

Map of the Caribbean, showing Martinique [the map doesn't include all of the Caribbean nations]:


Thurs: Key Concepts:  Anti-colonial resistance. Extracts from scholars, activists and creative writers.

Fanon, 'On Violence' reading, continued.


Week 3 (Apr 13, Apr 15). Contexts for Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.

Watching pointers and discussion post prompt: Contexts for Rhodesia. and Zimbabwe, watching pointers and discussion post prompts.docx  

Tues: Juniors and Seniors: follow the instructions in your designated Small Group, for film watching, posting and replying. 

Freshmen and Sophomores: in-class writing exercises


Thurs: Juniors and Seniors: in-class writing exercises

Freshmen and Sophomores:  follow the instructions in your designated Small Group, for film watching, posting and replying. 


Week 4 (Apr 20, Apr 22)

Reading Pointers and Week 4 discussion prompt for The Convert(1).docx 

English 213 Mid-term paper prompts, spring 2021-1.docx

English 213 Short Paper Assignment Rubric(1)-1.docx    

sample short Houseboy Essay(1)-1.docx  

Tech Rehearsal of scene from The Convert:

Tues: Danai Gurira, The Convert.

Thurs: Danai Gurira, The Convert.

additional poems (optional, for pleasure reading and/or for mid-term paper):

Noemia de Sousa, Poem to Maria Irene, in admiration, plus bio.pdf  

Maria Manuela Margarido, Landscape poem and Roca poem, plus bio.pdf

Amelia Veiga, Wind of Liberty poem and bio.pdf    


Week 5 (Apr 27, Apr 29)

Tues: The Convert.

Speculative Starters & Fishbowl.pptx  

Thurs: Writing, peer reviewing for mid term paper.


Week 6 (May 4, May 6)

Mid Term paper due, Monday, midnight.

Tues: Key Concepts: African feminisms. Extracts from scholars and activists.

Ogundipe-Leslie, Stiwanism, highlighted.pdf

Women in Postcolonial Africa.pdf

Amina Mama, African Feminist Thought article.pdf

For African Gender relations, May 4, 2021.docx 

In-class Writing prompt: Write about an occasion when you experienced, or witnessed, gender inequality or discrimination or differentiation.


for Thursday: Reading Pointers and Preparation for Arimah's Skinned and Okorafor's 'Spider the Artist'.docx 

Thurs: short stories: Lesley Nneka Arimah, 'Skinned'; Nnedi Okorafor, 'Spider the Artist'.

Lesley Nneka Arimah, Skinned.pdf 

Speculative Starters handout: Speculative Starters-1.docx  

In-class Writing prompt: write about a time when you felt that you were put in the spotlight, or put in the dark.


Discussion post on Skinned, due Friday May 7, by 11.59pm, posted to class discussion board:

After a second read (at least) of the story, please post 300 words or more. Your post should address one of the reading pointers. While you should build upon your initial thoughts on reading the story, the post should move beyond those thoughts, to develop an insight, or question regarding the text. You should quote at least once, from the text, and analyse the quotation. State the word count at the end of your post Link: Discussion post on Arimah's Skinned, due Friday May 7, by 11.59pm. 


Week 7 (May 11, May 13)

Discussion Post on Yvonne Vera short story "Independence Day" and Fanon, 'Trials and Tribulations", due Mon, May 10, 11.59pm Discussion post on Yvonne Vera's "Independence Day" and Fanon's "Trials and Tribulations", due Mon May 10, 11.59pm 

Reading Pointers and Discussion post prompt for Neo-colonial readings (Fanon): Reading pointers and discussion post prompt for Neo-colonialism readings, English 213.docx  

Tues: Key Concepts: Neo-colonialism. Extracts from scholars and activists.

Fanon, Trials and Tribulations, highlighted (1).pdf 

Neo-Colonialism & Imperialism from Postcolonial Studies The Key Concepts(1).pdf

Nkrumah on Neo-Colonialism(2).doc 

Short story: Yvonne Vera, 'Independence Day'

Yvonne Vera, Independence Day (1).pdf 

In-class Writing Prompt: Write about a color that you remember, plus a flower.


Thurs:  short story: Nnedi Okorafor, 'The Popular Mechanic'.

Nnedi Okorafor, The Popular Mechanic (1)(1).pdf

Nnedi Okorafor, Spider the Artist (1).pdf 

In-class writing prompt: Write about a time when you felt taken advantage of.


Week 8 (May 18, May 20)

Tues: We Need New Names

Text Merge Metacognitive Questions-5.docx  

In-class writing prompt: May 18. Three more weeks.

Thurs: We Need New Names

In-class writing prompt: The story of your name.

Cluster _ Vignette English 213 (1)-1.pptx  


Week 9 (May 25, May 27)

Tues: We Need New Names

Thurs: We Need New Names


Week 10 (June 1, June 3)

Tues: We Need New Names

Thurs: We Need New Names


Details of course discussion and assessed writing submissions:


This includes productive writing/reading (when live, speaking and listening): the sharing of ideas, questions, issues arising from the prescribed reading; constructive engagement with the ideas of others; making connections with topics and ideas arising from previous weeks; showing initiative in non-prescribed secondary research which you share. 

In order to participate effectively in discussions, you must have thoroughly prepared the class readings. In preparing the readings please note down the page numbers of particular passages, sentences which you then direct the class's attention to: the more specific your references are, the more productive the discussion can be.

Posted discussions are opportunities for you to track your reading process and work through thoughts, reactions, and questions in informal, low-stakes writing. Your posts should be coherent and proofread, but you don’t need to have a fully formed thesis. In fact, you may find that you raise more questions than you answer. You’ll also find that your classmates’ ideas and interpretations can serve as catalysts for your own analysis later in our formal writing assignments.

Writing Assignments: Mid term papers should be in 12 point, double spaced, each page numbered, 1 inch margins all round, Times New Roman. They should follow MLA formatting and list the word count at the end. You are responsible for proof-reading. Here is a link to the MLA guidelines:

There is a sample MLA paper at the bottom of this syllabus.

Mid-term papers should display textual and conceptual engagement, argument, and original insight.

For my criteria for grading papers, please consult the grading rubrics linked in the syllabus above. Please read the sample papers and the advice on writing English papers, too:

Some advice for writing papers in English courses-4.docx  

The Purdue Online Writing Lab is a useful resource on the mechanics of writing: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

See in particular the sections on ‘Mechanics’, ‘Grammar’, ‘Punctuation’.


Missing class: missing required discussion posts and meetings will make it hard to succeed in this course and may negatively affect your grade.  If you miss a class, you might contact a student in the class to ask them to tell you what you missed. I do not provide absent students with summaries of what they have missed.

Late Policy: You are expected to complete and hand in all assignments on schedule.  No late assignments will be accepted without prior explanation.

Instructor Communication Rules of Conduct: Please address me by my title and last name: Professor Chrisman. E-mailed or Canvas-sent questions will generally be addressed within 72 hours (excluding weekends and holidays).

Do not e-mail me questions that are answered explicitly in the syllabus or on the Canvas site. I will delete these without replying…

Office Hours:  This is a time where you and I can meet outside class to discuss assignments, questions about the reading, concerns about expectations, etc.  If my scheduled hours are inaccessible to you, please email me to make appointments for another time. 

Zero Tolerance Policy: Respect for difference of all kinds is vital to creating a safe, supportive and stimulating classroom community. This class takes a zero tolerance policy toward words or actions that insult, demean, or belittle any individual or group of persons based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference, ability, economic class, national origin, language, or age. Academic freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of discourse DO NOT protect racism or other acts of harassment and hate. Violations of this Zero Tolerance Policy may result in removal from the classroom and actions governed by the student code of conduct will be taken.

Academic Honesty: It is essential that you properly cite other people’s ideas and language in your writing. In your assignments for this course, I encourage you to cite extensively from the wide array of texts you are in dialogue with; however, you must do so properly. Summarizing someone else’s work and not citing them is considered plagiarism and has significant consequences for your career at the UW.  It may result in the failure of an assignment, the failure of the course, or expulsion from the university.  Don’t plagiarize.

 University of Washington Resources 

Accommodation: Please let me know if you need accommodation of any sort. The UW Disability Services Office (DSO) can assist you and/or you can come directly to me.  I’m very willing to take suggestions specific to this class to meet your needs.   The DSO can be contacted at, and Phone (206) 543-6450

Odegaard Writing Center (from group website): This is the place to come and chat with peer tutors and librarians, to grow as a writer in the context of whatever project is foremost in your mind. We can't magically "fix" papers for you (it wouldn't help you long-term if we could), but we can ask all kinds of smart questions and talk with you in order to help you with: Understanding your assignment — What’s expected of you? What's going on in this writing situation? Researching — Where can you find appropriate academic resources for your paper? How can you identify useful and credible sources?  Brainstorming — What directions might your writing take? Outlining — How might you shape or organize your ideas? Drafting — How can you develop your ideas and connect your thoughts coherently? Revising — How can you re-see and reconsider your large and small scale writing choices to make the writing more effective?

The Odegaard Writing Center is open to all members of the UW community. or more information or to set up an appointment, visit:

ELL/MLL English Language Learning Resources (from group website):

English Language Learner students can participate in the Odegaard Writing and Research Center “Targeted Learning Communities” (TLC). You can team up with other English language learners from your class and be partnered with an OWRC tutor, who will meet with your group once a week for an hour at a time you choose together.  The goals of these weekly meetings are to help you take control of your learning, connect with classmates, practice good study habits, and get the most out of your class. We can help you with things like: *reading difficult course texts *participating in class discussions and activities *understanding assignments *brainstorming and developing ideas that fit each new writing situation *writing successful rough drafts *seeking out feedback and revising your papers *working collaboratively with the teacher and your classmates *knowing what other resources and support services are available to you

Campus Safety (from UW website): Preventing violence is everyone's responsibility. If you're concerned, tell someone. Always call 911 if you or others may be in danger. Call 206-685-SAFE (7233) to report non-urgent threats of violence and for referrals to UW counseling and/or safety resources. TTY or VP callers, please call through your preferred relay service.    Don't walk alone. Campus safety guards can walk with you on campus after dark. Call Husky NightWalk 206-685-WALK (9255).

    Stay connected in an emergency with UW Alert. Register your mobile number to receive instant notification of campus emergencies via text and voice messaging. Sign up online at (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. For more information visit the SafeCampus website at (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..

 Q Center (from group website): The University of Washington Q Center builds and facilitates queer (gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirit, trans, intersex, questioning, same-gender-loving, allies) academic and social community through education, advocacy, and support services to achieve a socially-just campus in which all people are valued. For more information, visit (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

 FIUTS (from group website): Foundation for International Understanding through Students: "FIUTS is an independent non-profit organization which provides cross-cultural leadership and social programming for UW's international and globally minded domestic students. FIUTS is local connections and global community!" FIUTS also offers a free international lunch on the last Wednesday of every month. Consult FIUTS' web site for a detailed calendar of events and links to many resources (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.



Your name

Professor Chrisman

English 213

Today’s Date

                                                             MLA Papers: Cite-Seeing in Seattle


            Doubtless you will think me weird for this, but one of my favorite things to do is write MLA-style short papers.  MLA feels comfortable to me in a way that other citation style guides never did—in my mind, the other styles are a bit like tuxedos: stiff and uncomfortable and only in the most special of situations.  MLA is more like a comfortable pair of sweats you can plop in front of the TV and eat Cheerios© in.

            Creating an MLA-styled paper is simple.  Begin by setting your margins as a strict 1” length all around your paper.  Next, set your paragraph spacing at double-spaced, and—on the left margin, type in your name, the name of your instructor, the class the paper is intended for, and the date. Make sure that all of this is double spaced.  After the date comes the title of your paper, centered in the middle of the page; I enjoy writing papers with semicolons in the title, but that’s hardly a requirement. Place a page number in the header of your document in the following format: your last name, followed by the page number.  If your computer is savvy enough to manage it, suppress this header on your first page—it’s redundant because your name is already on the left side of your paper.  After that, type your paper, making sure that you “document your source by indicating what you borrowed” (Gibaldi 142) through proper citation.  When your paper has ended, go to the next page and title it “Works Cited”—again, make sure the title is justified in the center of the page.   Then list the sources you cited in your paper, making sure that the list is alphabetized by the first name in the citation.  Remember—citing responsibly shows your academic authority!


            At times, you may want to separate your paper into different sections.  It is a simple enough procedure to do so—simply place the title of the section preceding your discussion, making sure that it is left-justified and formatted in plain type.  Make sure, though, that all the information under the title relates to the specific section: you don’t want to confuse your reader with misleading section titles.


            Many students stress over the proper way to treat quotations in MLA formatting.  For quotes less than four lines long, place the quotation marks around the quote itself, followed by the reference, in parentheses, followed by whatever punctuation is appropriate for the situation.  For example, in a paper about grammar you could quote that “[t]he use of commas cannot be learned by rule” (Truss 82), waiting till after all the information was shared to include the punctuation.  For longer quotes, however, you will want to block in this manner:

For a block quote, drop down a line and type out your quote.  Do not include quotation marks—the mere fact that you are formatting a block quote indicates to your reader that what is contained in the block quote is a quote.  Once the quote is finished, place the appropriate punctuation at the end of the passage (usually a period) and then include the citation information inside of the parentheses. (Chrisman)

Remember, it is generally considered bad form to leave a block quote—or any quote, for that matter—at the end of a paragraph.  Provide your reader with some clarifying analysis of your quote.

            Following these simple rules will help your papers seem polished and professional.  Adherence to MLA format will greatly enhance your ability to communicate academically.


Works Cited

Gibaldi, Joseph.  MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. NY: Modern Language Association of America, 2003.

Truss, Lynne.  Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.  NY: Gotham Books, 2003.


UW Standard Grading System

Numerical grades may be considered equivalent to letter grades as follows:


























Lowest passing grade.



Academic failure.
No credit earned.



Catalog Description: 
Introduces twentieth-century literature and contemporary literature, focusing on representative works that illustrate literary and intellectual developments since 1900.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
February 2, 2021 - 11:00pm