Required Reading

  • Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (Vintage, 2010), ISBN-10: 0307739457
  • Jennine Capó Crucet, Make Your Home Among Strangers (Picador, 2016), ISBN-10: 1250094550
  • Cathy Park Hong, Engine Empire (W. W. Norton & Company, 2012), ISBN-10: 039334648X
  • Colson Whitehead, Underground Railroad (Doubleday, 2016), ISBN-10: 0385542364
  • Tyehimba Jess, Olio (2016), ISBN-10: 1940696208
  • Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers (Scribner, 2013), ISBN-10: 1439142017
  • Various articles, reviews, and other materials available via our course sites

Note: You are required to purchase or otherwise obtain the editions of the texts I have listed above. You can purchase these texts at the campus bookstore, or online (through Amazon, for example) by searching for the ISBN-10 number. No other editions – including electronic/Kindle/Nook editions of these texts – are acceptable UNLESS you are able to prove to me that they have the exact same pagination as the print editions listed above. The primary texts are listed above in the order in which we will read them; the first one we will read is Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

We will refer to the assigned reading every single day in class, and we will often read passages aloud together. Bring the assigned reading with you every day to class.

Required Work

  • Participation: 10%
  • Response Papers (1.5-2 pages each): 15%
  • Close reading paper (1700-2000 words; 5-6 pages): 25%
  • Book review (1500 words): 15%
  • Final Exam (2700-3100 words; 8-9 pages): 35%

Additional details on all course assignments and extra credit opportunities are detailed under the page titled “Assignments and Handouts.”

Ungraded Assignments

Your response papers and book review will all be graded on an extra credit / full credit / half credit / fail basis:

  • Fulfilling all the requirements of the assignment will earn you full credit (full credit);
  • Failing to do so will earn you half credit at best (half credit) or no credit at worst (fail);
  • Going beyond the terms of the assignment in an especially ambitious or creative way can earn you extra credit.

Graded Assignments

Your close reading paper and final exam will be graded. Graded assignments will be given a letter grade and a percentage. 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 = 60-69%

F = below 60%

Graded assignments will follow this general rubric:

C-range: To earn a C, you must clearly restate the meaning of the text(s) under consideration in your own terms. A C close reading paper may volunteer an original argument, but will likely lack sufficient evidence and/or analysis. It will likely rely more on description or observation, and may summarize or speak too generally about texts. C essays are clearly written, but they may display grammatical or organizational weaknesses.

B-range: To earn a B, you must begin to raise important questions about the text(s) under consideration and use these questions to drive your own interpretive agenda. A B close reading paper typically advances an original argument and provides solid evidence and analysis of the text(s). B essays are clear, concise, and free of grammatical errors.

A-range: To earn an A, you must advance an original argument that builds or progresses toward a climax and that makes a persuasive case for its own significance. An A close reading paper does more than comment on the work of others (including what we discuss in class); it forwards, counters, or transforms what others have to say in order to make its own contribution. A essays are clearly written and often eloquent.

D: A D means that you have not written in clear prose or that you have misunderstood the text and/or the assignment (or not fully completed the assignment).

F: An F means that you did not fully or seriously engage the assignment.

Course Participation and Attendance

Our class is small; therefore, it is also vital that you participate fully during class in our discussions. There will be lots of time for everyone to share their ideas, and we will get to know one another well. You will be expected to participate in class every class session, and should come to class prepared to do so. If you often don’t know what to say in class, come to class with a passage from the text or an idea you want to discuss; this ensures you will always have something at the ready to discuss.

Mulligans: I recognize, however, that life often gets in the way of our best intentions. Therefore, everyone is allotted 4 “mulligans” on course participation throughout the semester. If you take a mulligan one day, this means that you are excused from ordinary participation in class discussion. While you should still come to class, and while you can certainly participate during class if you are able to do so meaningfully, taking a mulligan means that you acknowledge that you have not done the assigned reading for the day, and that you are therefore excused from the normal participation expectations. There is no shame in using your 4 mulligans throughout the semester; in fact, the intent of the policy is to encourage honesty, respect, and collegiality. You will, however, still need to complete the assigned reading before the next class in order to stay caught up with the class. If you want to take a mulligan one day, simply announce your intentions at the beginning of class. Barring exceptional circumstances, missing class means you take a mulligan for that day (although, again, you should come to class even if you plan to take a mulligan).

NOTE: Absence from class counts as a mulligan. You are allotted 4 total mulligans throughout the semester. More than 4 mulligans will affect your course grade.

If you already know that you will be absent from class on specific days because of official university activities like sports, music, etc., this is fine – but please let me know as soon as possible.

Late Work

All assignments should be submitted by the date and time indicated in the course calendar. 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 projects 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.

On a personal level, like everyone else, I hate being lied to. You do not need to concoct elaborate stories if requesting an extension on an assignment, or if your work will be late. Simply be honest with me about whatever is going on and we will work it out.

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 our course 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. Finally, you will post your book review on our course site.

We will also use Blackboard to manage course assignments and readings. You will find digital copies of assigned articles (that aren’t online) on our Blackboard site. You will also submit your short close reading paper, your longer close reading paper, and your final exam to Blackboard and receive feedback from me on these assignments via Blackboard. Finally, I will use Blackboard’s Grade Center to record your grades.

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 you upload to Blackboard or submit to our course site 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.


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 (

However, I also feel that banning computers and tablets from class infantilizes the college-level scholar. If you are in class, I trust that you are there to pay attention. 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 – for texting, social media, surfing, calling, etc. – is not allowed because it’s just rude. Any student who uses their phone in class will be asked to turn it off. Repeat offenders will be asked to leave.

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 provides accommodations for you if you need additional resources in the classroom. These may include extra time on exams, note-taking services, and so on. Students who believe they may require accommodations in this course should contact me early in the semester so your learning needs can be appropriately met. I am of course more than happy to work with you to make sure you are successful in this course and to make this course most accessible for you. However, without documentation, I am limited in what I am able to do. Therefore, in order for me to help you most effectively, I need you to be proactive in contacting the Office of Disability Services (ODS) on campus. You can find complete information about ODS here:

Academic Integrity

The principle of academic integrity is taken very seriously and violations, especially 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. 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 respect.