Required Reading

Note: You are required to purchase or otherwise obtain the print versions of the editions I have listed above; no other editions of these texts are acceptable. You can purchase these texts at the campus bookstore, or online (via Amazon, for example) by searching for the ISBN number. I have also linked to the correct edition for each text on Amazon above. The texts are listed above in the order in which we will read them; the first one we will read is Díaz’s Oscar Wao.

Required Viewing

  • Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romero (1968)
    • We will hold a class screening of this film; it’s also available through Course Reserves at the library and for streaming via Amazon Prime and Nuray Pictures.
  • Pumzi, dir. Wanuri Kahiu (2010)
    • Available on YouTube

Required Work

The graded work for ENGL 210H will take several forms: (1) reading; (2) paper 1; (3) paper 2; and (4) a final exam. You must complete both papers and the final exam to pass the class.

(1) Reading: Much of the work of this class depends on your completion of the assigned reading. I will assess the reading you have done through the level and quality of your participation in class and in office hours, and through your reading journal, which you will hand in at the end of each unit. Half of your reading grade, in other words, will come from your participation in class and in office hours, and half from your reading journal.

(2) Paper 1: You will write two close reading papers in this class. We will discuss what “close reading” means in some detail as we work on these assignments. Your first paper will be 4-5 double-spaced pages long (1400-1800 words). You will have the opportunity to revise this paper for a potentially higher grade if you choose.

(3) Paper 2: Your second close reading paper will be 5-6 double-spaced pages long (1800-2200 words). You will not be able to revise this paper.

(4) Final Exam: Our final exam will be held during our course’s final exam time period. We will work as a class to develop the questions for the final exam prior to the exam.


The grade breakdown is as follows:

  • Reading: 15%
  • Paper 1: 20%
  • Paper 2: 30%
  • Final Exam: 35%

Every assignment except for your reading journal will be given a letter grade and a percentage (your reading journal will be graded on completion). The grading scale is as follows:

A+ = 98-100%

A = 93-97%

A- = 90-92%

B+ = 88-89%

B = 83-87%

B- = 80-82%

C+ = 78-79%

C = 73-77%

C- = 70-72%

D+ = 68-69%

D = 60-67%

F = below 60%

Here’s what these letter grades generally mean:

A: Indicates outstanding work that is comprehensive and original. Analysis is nuanced and brings together class readings, discussions, and original insights. Writing is lucid, insightful, and well organized. A clear logical, conceptual, and/or thematic frame exists, and the writer engages consistently with complexity and demonstrates complexity of thought.

B: The work is clear and accurate, and involves engagement with class readings and discussions. There is significant analysis and explanation of concepts. While the writer demonstrates clarity of thought, their arguments and/or analysis are less original or complex. The logical, conceptual, and/or thematic framing of a piece of writing is less clear.

C: The work relies more on description or observation and lacks sufficient analysis. It does not provide specific examples, choosing instead to summarize or to speak very generally about texts. The writing is not as clearly organized. Arguments and analysis remain under-developed. The writer does not demonstrate a clear understanding of the assignment, although the writing may be polished and/or accurate.

D: The work is incomplete and unorganized. It lacks adequate analysis and relies on sketchy or very general summaries. It demonstrates a poor understanding of the assignment.

Course Digital Infrastructure

We will make use of two different online systems in this course: a course site, and a Blackboard site.

We will use this Wordpress site to manage course information and our schedule. You will find an online version of our course calendar there (including the most up-to-date version of reading assignments and due dates), as well as a copy of our course syllabus. You will also find all course assignment sheets there. If you are gone on a day when I introduce an assignment, you should get a copy of the assignment from the course site.

We will also use Blackboard to manage course assignments and readings. You will find digital copies of all assigned readings (that aren’t print and required for you to purchase) on our Blackboard site. You will also submit your two papers to Blackboard and receive feedback from me on these assignments via Blackboard. Finally, I will use Blackboard’s Grade Center to record your grades, including how many reading journal entries you have missed.

Late Work

All assignments should be submitted through Blackboard by the date and time indicated in the course calendar (except for reading journals, which will be submitted in hard copy in class). Unless you make prior arrangements with me at least 24 hours in advance of an assignment’s due date, late assignments will be penalized a full letter grade for each day that they are late, and I will not accept assignments that are more than 4 days late. Unless prior arrangements have been made, late final exams will not be accepted at all.

If you find that you need an extension on a particular assignment, please contact me as soon as possible to arrange an alternative due date (again, you must contact me at least 24 hours before the assignment is due, but the sooner the better). Assignment extensions will not be granted retroactively.

Late reading journals or journal entries will not be accepted, and you cannot make up missed reading journal entries.

Technological Failures are Not Emergencies

Technological failures and mishaps – file corruption, computer crashes, wifi connection problems, uploading the wrong file to Blackboard – are predictable facts of twenty-first century life. They happen all of the time and are thus NOT emergencies. For this course, for all of your courses, for your career, for the rest of your life on this earth, you need to develop strategies that take such failures into account. Start your work early, save it often, and save backup copies of important documents off-site on an external hard drive or in the cloud using services like Dropbox and Google Drive. Technological failure or mishap – including uploading the wrong file to Blackboard – is not an excuse for late or unfinished work.

Please note that I will grade whatever file you upload to Blackboard for grading. If that file is obviously the wrong file, or otherwise incomplete or corrupted in some way, your assignment will be counted as late. If you fail to turn in your assignment after 4 days, you will receive a 0 on that assignment, as per the late work policy. It is your responsibility to turn in the correct version of your assignment for grading.


I generally do not distinguish between “excused” and “unexcused” absences. Doing so puts me in a position I don’t want to be in; you are all adults, and I trust you to manage your own time. If you miss class, I assume you have a good reason for doing so. You may miss four class meetings – that’s two full weeks of class – without penalty. You don’t have to tell me about why you miss these classes, even if you have official reasons for doing so; they are yours to miss as needed, for whatever reason. Missing these four classes will not affect your grade in any way. Missing more than four classes, however, will lower your total grade for the course by at least a letter grade. More than six absences will result in course failure. There is no way to make up absences from class. Use your absences wisely, or not at all, and save them for when you need them (i.e., when you are sick, when you are traveling, etc).

If you already know that you will be absent for more than 4 class periods because of official university activities like sports, music, etc., please let me know as soon as possible.

Reading and Reading Journal

This class requires that you complete the assigned reading every day. Much of this reading is challenging, and you may find it difficult, “weird,” or even boring. You may feel confused or frustrated as you are completing it. This is normal. I nevertheless expect that you will complete each day’s reading assignment and come to class ready to discuss it. This includes bringing the assigned reading with you to class every day. We will refer to the reading every single day in class, and I will often ask you to read a passage or passages aloud or to yourself during class. I reserve the right to dismiss you from class if you clearly have not done the reading previous to class, or if you don’t bring the day’s reading assignment with you to class.

I also expect you to bring your reading journal with you to class every day, as you will often be asked to discuss it during class. There will be random spot checks of your reading journal throughout the semester to make sure you are keeping up with it; at the beginning of the semester, we will check your reading journals at the start of every class. I also reserve the right to dismiss you from class if you don’t bring your journal with you.


All students are required to check their official UM email accounts regularly. I will send course information and announcements through email. I endeavor to respond to all emails that you send me within 24 hours during the week and within 48 hours over the weekend, but please do not send me urgent emails regarding your assignments the night before they are due and expect a reply.

If you have questions on course material, assignments, or policies, the best thing to do is to come to my office hours – or make an appointment if you can’t make my office hours – and talk to me in person. In fact, the best thing to do in almost any situation that affects your class work is simply to come and talk to me about it. I am happy to answer simple questions about the course via email, but I will insist that more involved questions and conversations be done in person. I am also happy to read and discuss advance drafts of your assignments with you in person, but I will not read and comment on drafts of assignments via email before they are due.

Digital Devices

This course embraces the digital world – how could we not? – but it also recognizes that digital tools and environments complicate personal interactions. Studies have shown that students who use laptops in class often receive lower grades than those who don’t. Even more worrisome are studies that show laptop users distract students around them (for example, see On a more positive note, studies also suggest that taking notes by hand increases both your understanding and your retention of course material (

For these reasons I ask, if you must use a computer or tablet in class, to use it for classroom purposes only. Any student who uses their laptop or tablet during class for purposes other than those related to what’s happening in class at the moment will be asked to turn it off, and will be responsible for starting the next day’s class discussion. Repeat offenders will be asked to leave.

Using your phone in class is not allowed. Any student who uses their phone in class for any purpose will be asked to turn it off, and will be responsible for starting the next day’s class discussion. Repeat offenders will be asked to leave.

You should bring something to write on and with to class with you every day. There will be many times when I will ask that we turn off or put away all screens to focus our attention on something else, and I will often ask you to physically write things down during class.

Inclusive Learning

I am committed to the principle of inclusive learning. This means that our classroom, our online spaces, our practices, and our interactions will be inclusive. No person shall, on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran status, or national origin, be subjected to discrimination or harassment (including all forms of sexual harassment and sexual violence). For more on the University’s non-discrimination/anti-harassment policy, see For information about how to report discrimination or harassment, see For more information about how to report sexual harassment or violence, see

UM works to provide accommodations for you if you need additional resources in the classroom. These may include extra time on exams, note-taking services, and so on. If you need these resources or wish to consult a staff member about the available services, you should work with the Office of Disability Services (ODS) on campus. You are responsible for requesting accommodations through ODS. You can find complete information about ODS here:

Academic Integrity

The principle of academic integrity is taken very seriously and violations, including but not limited to plagiarism, are treated gravely. In terms of this course, academic integrity means that when you are responsible for a task, you – and no one else – will perform that task. When you rely on someone else’s work in performing an aspect of that work, you will give full credit in the proper, accepted form. Turning in work for this class that you have not done yourself, or that you have previously completed for other courses is a violation of academic integrity. Cheating on an exam is also a violation of academic integrity. The University of Miami’s honor code can be found here: Ignorance of what constitutes academic dishonesty is not an acceptable excuse for academic dishonesty. Violations of academic integrity constitute grounds for failure of the course, and they will be reported immediately.

Another aspect of academic integrity is the free play of ideas. We all enter this classroom with preexisting political, ethical, philosophical, and intellectual commitments. Vigorous discussion and debate are encouraged in this course, with the firm expectation that all aspects of the class will be conducted with civility and respect.