Laney College

ENGL 30B Modern American Literature

ENGL 30B Modern American Literature


Below is info from Spring 2019’s MODERN American Lit class. Have a look, if you like!


Some more great American authors

Fiction writers:
Nathaniel Hawthorne Young Goodman Browne
Richard Wright Native Son, Black Boy
William Faulkner A Rose for Emily, The Sound and the Fury
James Baldwin
William H. Burroughs Junkie, Naked Lunch
John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath
JD Salinger Franny and Zooey, The Catcher in the Rye
Don DeLillo White Noise, Underworld
Toni Morrison The Bluest Eye, Son of Solomon, Beloved
Amy Tan Mother Tongue
Sandra Cisneros The House on Mango Street
Michael Cunningham The Hours
Mitch Albom Tuesdays with Morrie
Walter Mosley 47
Sherman Alexie Smoke Signals
George Saunders
David Foster Wallace Infinite Jest
Edgar Allen Poe
Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass
HD (Hilda Doolittle)
John Ashberry
Frank O’Hara
Kenneth Koch
Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)
Allen Ginsberg
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Charles Bukowski
Diane Di Prima
Gary Soto
James Galvin
Li-Young Lee
James Tate
Jane Miller
Youssef Komunyaka
Marie Howe
Lucille Clifton
Mary Oliver
Tony Hoagland
Dean Young
Mark Strand
Stephen Dobbyns
Mos Def
Kevin Young

Tennessee Williams
Eugene O’Neill

Thursday, May 23, 10am – 12pm: This is our final exam time-block.

***There is no class meeting on Tuesday the 21st.

This is also a day when all previous work will be returned, and estimates (at least!) of course grades will be available.

*Some biographical info on Ernest Hemingway:


For Thursday, May 16:

Presentation of a poet, plus…

a ‘fly-over’ of some great poetry that we haven’t yet considered!


For Tuesday, May 14:

Please read these poems by ee cummings, and then, if you feel like it, check out more of his poems, and then…

Write a literature response to one of the poems you read. — Please read this one out loud! — cummings’ poem is the first of the three on this page: “ponder darling these busted statues…” I do not support the crass comments of the blogger, or his ‘typos’! –Cdub


For Thursday, May 9: Please read the short-story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut at this link:

The story runs for the first 5 pages, and on page 6, there is a list of questions. Please write out BRIEF answers (1 or 2 sentences each) to questions 4, 6, 7 & 9.

At this link, you can read while listening to the story:

ALSO: Please take this BRIEF survey about how textbook costs affect your studies/academic success:


For Tuesday, May 7:

Please write a one-page max response to T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, focusing on how your understanding of the poem is influenced by thinking about the time it was written — 1920, just after World War I, and during a time of increasing psychological consciousness and social unrest/activism:

Here is a link to Eliot reading his poem — good to listen while you read:

— My apologies for the late posting! –This assignment can be submitted Thursday the 9th if necessary!  — Cdub


For Thursday, May 2:

Please write a half-page or so about Hills Like White Elephants: What meaning do you find in this story, considering it was written in 1927 by a man who hung around in Europe for several years between World Wars I & II?

And if you’re curious, check out some of the poems by Edwin Rolphe:


For Tuesday, April 30: Please read the following stories:

Ernest Hemingway: Hills Like White Elephants

Jack London: To Build a Fire


For Thursday, April 25th:

Poetry presentations will proceed. -Plus…

Please write a response to A Raisin in the Sun, in which you

  • explain the resolution of the family’s conflict,
  • discuss your appraisal of Walter Lee’s ultimate decision.  –Is it consistent with some of his earlier speeches and actions?
  • quote from Act III to highlight someone’s speech that you see as a ‘difference-maker’ that drives the play to its resolution and conclusion.

Consider this response a DRAFT that you might be revising and re-submitting next week.


For Tuesday, April 23: –Class cancelled due to instructor illness. 

Please read through the end of A Raisin in the Sun:

Act II starts on page 78 of the .pdf — Ctrl+ or the plus signs on the screen will enlarge the print!


For Thursday, April 18th:

Tuesday’s assignment is hereby re-issued! — Be sure to take some notes as you read!

If you want to hear or watch the film while you read, here’s a link:


For Tuesday, April 16:

Please read through Act I of  A Raisin in the Sun:

*For future viewing — but feel free to check it out:


For Thursday, April 11 or Tuesday, April 16:

Please decide on an American poet who published between 1900 and 1950.

Put together a semi-formal presentation of 3 – 5 poems, and a little bit of biographical information and/or historical criticism of your poet’s work. is a great place to search!


For Thursday, March 28th:

Please read the following poems, and choose ONE to write a paragraph or so (one page MAX!) about WHY YOU DIG IT. –You can bend this assignment towards one of the literature response options if you wish.

Inara: – Check this out! Jessie Fauset is a great poet.


Eric: — I really liked this poem because it hits on the core problems in war. The loss of life of friends, the sounds of war explosions and such. I do like this part when it speaks of “the holy glimmers of goodbyes in the eyes.” It just speaks volumes in terms of the raw emotion and the physical sight of someone dying in front of you, their soul leaving their body.
Richard: – Of all the poems I looked through, I think I like this one the most.  The poem is titled: “The Horrid Voice of Science” by Vachel Lindsay.  According to the website it was published in 1919.

Tomas: Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

Glenyss: – “O Me! O Life!” happens to hold a special place in my heart, it was a poem one of my favorite teachers shared with us– I even used the last two lines for my senior quote in high school.
If you didn’t send a poem link yet, please do! is a great place to search!



Before this weekend, please search for some early 1900’s poetry, and when you find a good one, send me the link!

Here are some poets to check out — at a web-based portal that has a lot of great stuff:


For Tuesday, March 19: Please read the Mary Oliver Poetry Handbook sections distributed in class., focusing on the second section, “Free Verse: Verse That is Free.”

Also be sure you’ve read through the end of Sonny’s Blues. The response is due today!


For Thursday, March 14: Please complete your reading of Sonny’s Blues. If you don’t have time to complete the writing assignment, you can bring it next week, but reading the story is crucial!


For Tuesday, March 12:

PLEASE REMEMBER: DUE TO THE SCHEDULED FIRE-ALARM, WE WILL MEET AT KEFA, the cafe across from the BART parking lot at 77-8th Street!

Okay, one more GREAT short-story before we get more heavily poetic: Please read Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin:

A literature response will be due on Thursday the 14th — but feel free to wait until we’ve discussed the story.


For Thursday, March 7th:

Please write a literary response to The Displaced Person, using one of the seven options.


Tuesday, March 5th:

Please read two more stories from Flannery O’Connor’s book, including the title story, A Good Man is Hard to Find.

You can choose the other story by the title — a few that I recommend are Good Country People, A Circle in the Fire, and The Artificial N*****. 

— As you read each story, make a list of some of the features that make one of the key characters ‘come to life’ — What gestures, actions, decisions, statements (dialogue), or other people’s treatment of this character ‘add up’ to build the character? — What is/are defining moments for her/him?


For Thursday, Feb. 28:

Please identify a crucial paragraph (or multi-paragraph section) in the story The Displaced Person that highlights some key characteristics of at least one character. –What moment in the story stands out in your reading memory as a defining moment for one of the characters? In class, we’ll use these highlights to structure a ‘walk-through’ of the story.

OPTIONAL: Try out another story by O’Connor from the collection A Good Man is Hard to Find. The other stories in this collection are all MUCH shorter than The Displaced Person! — Warning: The title story is a bit ‘Tarantino-esque’. The contents page is on page 4 of the .pdf.


For Tuesday, Feb. 26:

*Extra-Credit option: Go to one of the OEA/OUSD strike rallies or picket lines, and talk with one or more teachers about what they have been facing in terms of working conditions, the strike vote, and now the work stoppage. Write a brief summary of what they share with you, and consider whether it corresponds to “Waiting for Lefty.”

*This reading assignment will take some time, likely 90-120 minutes if you read at the speed of speech.

Please read Flannery O’Connor’s story The Displaced Person at the following link, and feel for a ‘standout’ character. Make some notes about the details that ‘add up’ to construct one of the characters who is interesting to you — What does the character say, or do, or (for a POV character) think that provides evidence of your understanding of who s/he is? –We will do some work with these notes in class, and they may provide the basis for a formal essay.

–and, if you wish, watch this film version featuring a very young Samuel L. Jackson:


Thursday, Feb. 21:

Please write a BRIEF (half-page?) response to The Flowers, giving your understanding of what the last line of the story means for Myop. — You might also tap into how the story’s  meaning is constructed — which I think partly involves the author’s RESTRAINT, i.e. what Walker DOESN’T SAY.

For Tuesday, Feb. 19:

Please read Alice Walker’s story “The Flowers” — distributed in class, and available here:

This story involves SYMBOLISM: Objects (usually) that are actually present in the world of the story, but which also signify other, important, usually abstract meanings. As or after you read, think about what some of the ‘physical stuff’ described in the story represents. –You might also consider whether it’s a smooth, natural kind of symbolism, or if it’s forced/overwrought, or cliched/played-out.

Also, consider the character Myop’s name. What does it mean? And how does it lend to your interpretation of the story?


Thursday, Feb. 14:

  • Please write a Literature Response to the story “Sweat”, using one of the options 1 – 7 on this document: Literature Responses 2019


For Tuesday, Feb. 12:

&/or watch it on YouTube:

  • IF YOU HAVE TIME, Please read this essay by Selena Voelker:
The Power Of Art And The Fear Of Labor:
Seattle’s Production Of Waiting For Lefty In 1936

Readability hint: Use “CTRL+” to zoom in on most webpages


Laney Part-Time Job Fair 

Thursday, Feb. 7 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. @ the Quad
Bring your resume and learn about job opportunities for students on campus.
For more information contact Laney Employment Services at 510-464-3352. Flyer.


For Thursday, Feb. 7:

Please read the story “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston, and — in a notebook — make a few notes of moments that have the most impact on you as a reader — including where you might have questions or confusion:

“Sweat” — Zora Neale Hurston

— online copy

“Sweat” — Zora Neale Hurston

— Word doc.

In class: using a two-column framework: What specific parts of the text show you who the character/s is/are?


For Tuesday, Feb. 5: 

  • Please write a Literature Response to one of the Kate Chopin stories we’ve read, using one of the options 1 – 7 on this document: Literature Responses 2019
  • And please read the Gary Soto story Looking For Work (.doc file) — making note of the framework concepts we’ve hit so far this semester:

the catalyzing event

Who is the narrator?

Who is the main or point-of-view character?

What conflict/s drive/s the story? –Does the conflict fit the classical framework of person vs. other(s), person vs. self, or person vs. external forces?

Do you perceive a high-point of conflict – a climactic moment?

What is the story’s resolution — including its degree of resolution?


For Thursday, Jan. 31:

Please read The Storm & The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin:


For Tuesday, Jan. 29:

Please read A Pair of Silk Stockings by Kate Chopin — and annotate (via underlining, highlighting, margin notes, etc) passages that you find especially meaningful, or that make you wonder or question.

You might want to draw a little ‘conflict mountain’ diagram, mapping out the catalyzing event/moment, some of the conflict points/’rising action’, the climax (highest point of conflict), and ‘falling action’/’resolution’.

Think about Mrs. Sommers’ decisions, and whether you agree with the choices she makes.

Think too about the economic class situation she is in, and what the story makes you consider about her life and her morality — and YOURS!



This website will serve the English 30B class taught by me — Chris Weidenbach (Cdub) — at Laney College in Spring 2019.

The site is being constructed and will be ready for prime-time by the first day of classes.

The class will focus on reading, thinking about, discussing, and writing about some of the excellent works of Modern American Literature, i.e. poetry, fiction and drama (plays) written between 1920(ish) and today.  My goal as an instructor is to spare students the pain (perhaps injury?) of reading anything that isn’t somehow fresh, relevant, vital and inspirational. A lot of dull, non-juicy literature has been published over the years, and we will NOT be reading it!

We will consider some published criticism and historical context for some of what we read, but our main focus will be on the literary texts themselves — i.e., not what the writers were TRYING to say, but what their work DOES say.

Students will drive discussion by expressing their opinions of works along with their personal standards for literary/artistic quality: What STUDENTS like, and why, and what they learn from various texts, and how those texts offer insight to other people — these are the questions I will be asking students to consider and discuss and write about. –I’m also planning to offer some creative alternatives to critique/response assignments, so students who want to write poetry or short-stories or short plays can look forward to those opportunities!

Our game-plan will require the acquisition of NO TEXTBOOKS! –We will build a substantial part of the reading list together, and most readings will be distributed in print, although some will be posted as online links, and students will need to access them and read them on-screen or make their own print copies.

Feel free to explore what is posted below, but please note that all information below the assignment for Jan. 24th is from a PREVIOUS semester!

I look forward to meeting with students on Jan. 22nd!


Spring 2019 Syllabus:


Assignment for Thursday, Jan. 24th:

Please email the instructor prior to class, and tell him about at least one piece of literature (poem, short-story, novel, or play of any length) you have enjoyed reading, what you DO enjoy reading, and/or what you HOPE we will read during this semester — and just a LITTLE bit about WHY.

If you can find one, please include a LINK to a poem, short-story or play published online! (Just paste the web address/URL into your message, or use a ‘share’ feature on your spy-gadget!)

Please make sure your name is either part of your email address, or is included somewhere in the subject line or message!

Cdub’s email:

Below here is info from a PREVIOUS SEMESTER!

For Thursday, Dec. 15th:

Finals week class meeting: 10am – Noon.

Please come and retrieve your essay on Virgin Soul and/or any other coursework not yet returned.

If you’ve been given an extension to submit any assignments, then this is the deadline to do it!


Thurs. Dec. 8th:

The essay on Virgin Soul is due, due, due!


For Tuesday, Dec. 6th:

Please read the following poems:

Poet: Maya Angelou
Title: Caged Bird
Poet: Emily Dickenson
Title: Hope is the thing with feathers
Poet: Langston Hughes
Title: Theme for English B
Poet: e.e. cummigs
Title: Spring is like a perhaps hand
Four poems by Robert Frost:
Also, check out a few poems by these two GIANTS of American Poetry:


For Thursday, Dec. 1st:

Essay drafts or final copies are due — Here is a .pdf of some advice about quotations:


Here is an MLA citation for the novel, which you can copy and paste at the end of your essay, on the same page as your last paragraph if space allows — if there is not enough space, please move the citation to its own page:

Work Cited

Juanita, Judy. Virgin Soul. Viking Press. New York, NY. 2013. Novel.


For Tuesday, Nov. 29th: A typed draft of the formal essay is due.



For Tuesday, Nov. 22nd: 

  1. The goal is to complete your reading of the novel by this date.
  2. In class, we will do some sharing about important themes and sub-topics that we have traced through the novel.

For Tuesday, Nov. 15th:

1. Keep reading! –We want to get through Geniece’s Junior year by Tues the 15th or Thurs the 17th.

2. Please use this two-column-annotation-template to make note of some important “highlight” moments in the story. Shoot for maybe seven (7) such important moments in the book up through p. 233. –Please submit a print copy of this on Tuesday, either typed or handwritten.


For Tuesday, Nov. 8th:

Please read through Chapter 25 of Virgin Soul. –If you are behind, CATCH UP! –We can’t really work with this novel if we don’t all get ‘on the same page’!!!

Keep making notes and looking for important ‘highlightable’ moments. –Specific strategies are listed under Oct. 27th below.

In class, we will do an overview of the novel so far, using students’ highlight moments for our road-map.


For Thursday, Nov. 3:

Please read through Chapter 20 of Virgin Soul.


Tuesday, Nov. 1:

PLEASE NOTE: Instead of meeting as usual this coming Tuesday, Nov. 1, we’ve been invited to a panel discussion on Racial Justice with community members including a campus police officer. The class meets in the Art Center, room #112, from 10 – 11:50am. –If you can attend starting at 10 o’clock, please do!

1. Keep pushing ahead with Virgin Soul. –Let’s read through Chapter 20 for THURSDAY. –Suggestion: Read through Ch. 15 or so by Tuesday, just to stay on track.

2. Look for — and highlight and/or make notes about — aspects of Geniece’s experience that you can relate to, in addition to noting important moments in the story, and recurring subjects/thematic ideas.


Thursday, Oct. 27th:

  1. Please read through Chapter 10 of Virgin Soul. –If you need a copy, please email C-Dub, or come by my office on Wednesday — #550 in the Tower building.
  2. As you read, please keep one page of a notebook free for a list of characters, and brief notes about them–referenced with page numbers when appropriate.
  3. Also look for thematic ideas in the novel — big-picture ideas the story seems to be concerned with — and block off a few pages in your notebook to note specific pages where these ideas are most pronounced.

–So far, people have identified women’s liberation/feminism, sexual experimentation, Black Power organizations, and a general Questioning of Authorities. We will work on a list of concepts that we will continue to track throughout the novel. –This is where reading together is more powerful than reading individually!

4. Also feel free to use Post-It notes to write down what you’re thinking at important moments, and stick them right into your copy of the book. –Please don’t write or highlight on the actual pages of the book, unless it’s a copy you purchase.

If time allows, check out these segments from Democracy Now!


For Tuesday, Oct. 25th:

  1. Please read the first 5 chapters (they are short!) of Judy Juanita’s book Virgin Soul. –If you need a copy, please email C-Dub, or come by my office on Monday.
  2. If you haven’t yet read the first three chapters of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, then please DO!

–We will be deciding which novel to read in its entirety.


Friday, October 21st: Another Extra-Credit opportunity: 

Dr. Joy DeGruy in the Laney Theater, 10am – Noon. –Just GO!


For Thursday the 20th: 

Please read through the first three chapters of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

For this book to have a chance, YOU GOTTA READ AT THE SPEED OF SPEECH! (Am I shouting?)

If you wish, you can try this audio-book link — but the reader’s delivery is somewhat dull:

We will be deciding whether we like the first three chapters enough to push on through with this book.


Wednesday, October 19th, 1-3pm & 3-5pm:

Extra-Credit opportunity:  Teach-In on the context of relevant issues (housing security/gentrification, police violence & community oversight of police, and tax-based funding of public education) that are on the ballot this November:


Assignment for Tuesday, October 18th:

Please read the following five poems by Maya Angelou:

Phenomenal Woman /48985

Still I Rise

Caged Bird

Harlem Hopscotch


In class, we will also look at this list of poetic characteristics:

poetry-characteristics-terminology (pdf)




Monday, October 17th:

Extra-Credit opportunity:  Excellent tragic musical-comedy theater production:“Freedomland” by the S.F. Mime Troupe

Time & Place: Music at 6:30, showtime 7pm at the Laney Theater (Odell Johnson Performing Arts Center)

Cost: $5 donation for students  –$20 donation for the general public


For Thursday, Oct. 13th:

If you have not already submitted responses to Acts I and II of A Raisin in the Sun, please do! –This is the deadline for those two assignments.

In class, we will look at some scenes from Act III, and some poetry from the same era.


For Tuesday, Oct. 11th:

READ: Please read through Act II of A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, which begins on page 65 of the .pdf. 

THINK & WRITE: Like with Act I, look for an important passage of dialogue between characters, roughly 20-30 lines long, and write a half page or so about why that section gets your attention, and/or what strong meaning it conveys to you.

  1. Start with a framing statement: In Act II, Mama tells Walter that she has gone ahead with putting a down-payment on a new house for the Younger family:
  2. Then present the section of the script you selected. –If you wish, you can copy a section of the script from the .pdf into Word. –You might need to save/download the .pdf first.
  3. Then type or handwrite your comments below the script passage.

In class, we will keep pushing with the modern film version of the play.

*–If you missed the opportunity to write the homework assignment for Act I, please catch up by doing it for Tuesday the 11th. Same shape as described above, but with a section of the script from Act I.


For Thursday, Oct. 6th:

If you haven’t already submitted this…

READ: Please read through Act I of A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, which begins on page 65 of the .pdf. (Act I runs from pp. 65-91.) –Please note: The .pdf starts with a DIFFERENT play, Death of a Salesman, which we will NOT be reading.

THINK & WRITE: Look for an important passage of dialogue between characters, and write a few notes about why that section gets your attention, and/or what strong meaning it conveys to you.

If you wish, you can copy a section of the script from the .pdf into Word, then type or handwrite your comments below.

In class, we will keep pushing with the modern film version of the play.

And if time allows…

Please read this fairly brief article about the history of housing discrimination in the U.S., which is a key factor in Lorraine Hansberry’s play:

–I also STRONGLY SUGGEST that you listen to the podcast that the article is excerpted from by clicking on the blue-and-white “play” button in the upper-left corner of the webpage. –The historian, Richard Rothstein, is a bad-ass truth-teller, daring to tell the truth about a very painful reality. –This 39-minute radio segment is the most comprehensive, clearly stated summary of housing discrimination that I’ve ever read or heard.



For Tuesday, Oct. 4:

READ: Please read through Act I of A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, which begins on page 65 of the .pdf. (Act I runs from pp. 65-91.) –Please note: The .pdf starts with a DIFFERENT play, Death of a Salesman, which we will NOT be reading.

THINK & WRITE: Look for an important passage of dialogue between characters, and write a few notes about why that section gets your attention, and/or what strong meaning it conveys to you.

If you wish, you can copy a section of the script from the .pdf into Word, then type or handwrite your comments below.

In class, we will keep pushing with the modern film version of the play.


Thursday, Sept. 29th: We will begin watching a film version of A Raisin in the Sun.


For Tuesday, Sept. 27:

A real writing assignment!

  1. Choose a section of around 20-30 lines in Waiting for Lefty that stands out as particularly important or revealing about what the characters are facing and feeling.

2. Highlight this section on your print copy, or quote it in a typed document, and

3. Write about 1/2 page (one page max!) explaining why the section you choose is important, or what it means, or what it makes you wonder about.


For Thursday, Sept. 22:

Please be sure you have read through Clifford Odets’ play Waiting for Lefty

As you read, look for scenes or partial scenes where the characters are speaking and otherwise portraying perspectives that you find sympathetic, or relevant to your life today. –Just make a note of this in your notebook.


For Tuesday, Sept. 20:

Please read Clifford Odets’ play Waiting for Lefty

&/or watch it on YouTube:


For Thursday, Sept. 15:

Please read this essay by Selena Voelker:
The Power Of Art And The Fear Of Labor:
Seattle’s Production Of Waiting For Lefty In 1936

Readability hint: Use “CTRL+” to zoom in on most webpages


For Tuesday, Sept. 13:

Please read Ernest Hemingway’s story A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

And write in your own notebook what you see as the Conflict(s), Climax, and Resolution of the story.

Who is in conflict with whom — and/or what?

What is the ‘high point’ or most intense moment of conflict?

How is the conflict resolved? –And how well resolved is it?

(Students will be asked to share their work with C-Dub and with each other in class )


Thursday, Sept. 8:

WARNING: The assigned story makes frequent use of “adult language”, a.k.a. cuss words. If you find this language offensive, the instructor apologizes, but asks you to read it anyway, and think about why the writer chose to use such words.

Please read David Sedaris’ You Can’t Kill the Rooster

Suggestion: Read the above link for Sadaris while listening to this recorded reading:


For Tuesday, Sept. 6, please read “Sweethearts” by Richard Ford, and write a half-page, informal response saying some of what you think about the story, why you like it or not, asking questions, etc. –Please don’t summarize the story; just get right into your response!

–If you’d rather do some writing about “A Pair of Silk Stockings”, feel free — or write about both and earn an extra homework credit!


For Labor Day Weekend:

If you want to take a plunge into great poetic language and artistic endeavor, check out one or more of the following theatrical performances:

FREE:  Schooled by the San Francisco Mime Troupe:

FREE:  A Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare:

Pay-What-You-Can Sept 1-6: Caught at the Shotgun Players theater:

FREE Sept. 3-4-5: Twelfth Night — acoustic rock musical:

$20: Collective Acts: A Black Arts Theater Festival in downtown Oakland:


Assignment for Thursday, Sept. 1:

Please read A Pair of Silk Stockings by Kate Chopin (pronounced “show-pan”)

and by Tuesday, Sept. 6, please read “Sweethearts” by Richard Ford

–and write a paragraph or so about each story, telling what, if anything, you like about it. –Informal, typed or handwritten, as you wish.

BONUS/Extra-Credit Opportunity: Here is a link to the Black Arts Theatre Festival running through Sunday in downtown Oakland:

–If you check out one or more of these shows, it will be worth extra course credit.


For Tuesday, August 30th:

On the website hosting Salvation, choose one more story in the “Model Short Story” column; read it; and write a few sentences about why our class ought to read that story, or why not. –Any of these stories are fair game, but please also try to determine whether the writer is “American” or not.

–Feel free to read more than one, but the main purpose for now is to nominate a few of these stories, and rule others out, as well as thinking about our literary tastes and standards.



ENGL 30B syllabus–fALL 2016

Dear Fall 2016 Students,


This page supports the Modern American Literature course (English 30B/230B) for Fall 2016. It will be updated soon and regularly–at least once a week–to list upcoming assignments, give information about opportunities related to the course, and provide links and files for required reading/listening/viewing.

There are NO TEXTBOOKS required for purchase for this class. –Our reading list will be built from online resources, print materials distributed in class, and perhaps a few texts that will be placed on reserve in the Laney College Library. Digital text and other information make it possible to share information at low or no cost to students, so why not take advantage of this shared access, and get a little more savvy about doing so along the way?!

We will be engaged with some of the greatest works of word-powered art the world has been blessed with, and I strive to facilitate this engagement in a very genuine, human, and critical manner. –However familiar you are with the “greatest hits” of American literature, you can be sure that you will be introduced to some new voices and works (mainly poems, short-stories and plays), learn about new frameworks for thinking and writing about literature, and find through our class’ joint critical engagement a wide, thorough, fresh array of perspectives on life and the written word.

I look forward to meeting you, and working with you this semester!

My contact info is on my ‘home page’, which you can get to by clicking on my name at the top of this page, or the top of the ‘directory’ on the upper-left-hand side. –The other links are for other classes I’m teaching, classes from previous semesters, and other pages connected to the courses–such as the Extra Credit Opportunities page. I encourage you to check out any and all pages, links and files posted on this site!




Assignment for Thursday, August 25th:

Please read (or re-read) the poem and story linked below:

Salvation by Langston Hughes

Ponder, darling, these busted statues by ee cummings

–Then, for next Tuesday, on the website hosting Salvation, choose one more story in “Model Short Story” column; read it; and write a few sentences about why our class ought to read that story, or why not. –Any of these stories are fair game, but please also try to determine whether the writer is “American” or not.


Below this line is information from last fall.


Reading and Writing Assignments, Fall 2015

For Thursday, Dec. 17th: 10am-Noon

Please come to our classroom at 10am–not 10:30. –We probably won’t meet all the way until Noon, especially if a good number of folks come at 10:00.

*Please return your copy of Virgin Soul, if you haven’t already.

Conclusive assignment: Please choose TWO of our class’ shared texts that you appreciate and notice are connected in some way, and write a 2- or 3-pager, informal but cogent, explaining the connection and your reasons for appreciating these two literary works.

–A maximum of ONE Kate Chopin story may be included.


Thursday, Dec. 10th:

We’ll be discussing the resolutions of the two plays.

For Tuesday, Dec. 8:

Please read through to the end of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller — &/or A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, which begins on page 65 of the same .pdf.

Full Play on Video


For Thursday, Dec. 3:

Please read Act I of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller — &/OR Act I of A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, which begins on page 65 of the .pdf. (–It would be a good idea to download and save a copy of the .pdf, at least for the next two weeks. The host might take it down!)

Be prepared to say which play you are planning to choose to read over the weekend, for Tuesday the 8th. –And be prepared to have your choice influenced by others’ suggestions!

–a short reading quiz will begin our class.


For Tuesday, Dec. 1: We zoom up to the truly modern era!

Please read Puppy by George Saunders:

— and briefly identify in writing what you see as the story’s conflict, climax, and resolution. –Please note that this story is a bit challenging


For Tuesday, Nov. 24th:

We will catch up with some stories we have barely talked about. Please review the stories by Kate Chopin (A Pair of Silk Stockings, The Story of an Hour, and The Storm), as well as Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut.

Here’s an audio-play of Harrison Bergeron:

And here’s the YouTube link to a film of O’Connor’s The Displaced Person:


Thursday, Nov. 19th:

Read through the end of Sonny’s Blues , if you haven’t already, and make note of some of the memorable passages or highlights that you would like our class to read and maybe discuss on Thursday.

Also, if you haven’t already done any of the characterization annotation–as suggested under the 17th–you can do so for this day.

For Tuesday, Nov. 17th: 

Please read the story Sonny’s Blues — by James Baldwin — and be ready for a quiz at the beginning of class.

This story will take a couple of hours to read, so feel free to read it in a couple of sessions. And, of course, annotate as ye see fit! Our focus will be on the two main characters: Sonny and his brother, the narrator. What evidence in the text informs you about who the main characters are? This is a good time to use a two-column system tracking evidence in one column, and the significance of each piece of evidence in the other column. –This system will keep your evidence tied to your interpretive inferences.

Evidence Significance
Narr. says he hated the guy he saw in the schoolyard (124), but gives him $5 when the guy asks (126). The narrator feels two ways at the same time: repulsed by the ‘hustler’, but responsible for helping him.


For Thursday, Nov. 12th:

Please read To Build a Fire by Jack London, and make note of plot points that show increasing conflict. –Then plot these out on a diagram showing the arc of conflict rising to a climax, then ‘dropping’ to a resolution.

For Tuesday, Nov. 10th:

Please read the three short-stories distributed in class: Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants, and Kate Chopin’s The Storm and The Story of an Hour.


Do a little online searching and reading* about these authors, and write a one-paragraph response to each story, considering some of what you learn about them as you develop your own ideas.

Let’s see what we can find and share with one another about the legacy and critical appraisal of these writers.

  • Please keep track of your sources, including authors, dates, titles and places of publication.


For Thursday, Nov. 5th:

Please read the amazing short-story The Displaced Person by Flannery O’Connor.

–It’s a lengthy story, which will require at least two or three hours of reading time. DON’T RUSH IT!

–As you read, ANNOTATE: Look for highlights, insights into characters. Pay attention to how the characters are built: The way they speak, the way they look, the actions they take, the decisions they make.

A quick reading quiz will begin our class.

Tuesday, Nov. 3rd:

(assignment adjusted to Thurs. 5th)


For Tuesday, Oct. 27th:

Keep browsing in the Modernism section of–or, if you wish, dig into some other poems written between 1900 and 1930;

Pick out one or two “crafty” poems — ones that use quite a bit of the “tool-kit” of poetry, poetic devices like similemetaphor and rhyme. <–Those links will take you to explanations and examples.

  • Make a print copy of at least ONE crafty poem, and annotate it by labeling whatever poetic devices you notice in the poem. –Feel free to use highlighters, markers, underlining, etc. We will be looking at these in class, as well as some more recent poems.

See also alliteration, assonance, and onomatopoeia.

Here is an extensive glossary of poetic terms, arranged alphabetically:

  • Also, we will continue with our presentations of poetry from the Modernist section of Please see Tues., Oct. 20 for details and links. If you haven’t yet shown us your selected poem, please be ready to do so on the 27th!


For Thursday, Oct. 22:

We will continue with our presentations of poetry from the Modernist section of Please see Tues., Oct. 20 for details and links. 

For Tuesday, Oct. 20:

— and then…

  • Read the collection of poems by one of the poets born in the 1800’s mentioned in the article and/or listed on their Modernism rosters:

Modernism poets, page 1

Modernism poets, page 2

For example: ee cummings  — Be sure to click below the ‘featured poems’ on “Browse all # poems”

  • Be ready to show us at least one of ‘your’ poet’s poems in class Tuesday or Thursday, and tell us a bit about the poet, and why you dig her/his work.


For Thursday, Oct. 15th:

Please push on through the end of The House on Mango Street, annotating and tracking significant moments, Esperanza’s character-development, and your sense of conflict(s) increasing, climaxing, and being resolved.

Please write a one-page review of the book as you see it: Do you like it? Why? What do you like about it? What do you not like about it? –Feel free to respond to other people’s ideas, including published book reviews or online readers’ comments. –Your review should be typed, 1.5- or double-spaced, and roughly one page in length.

For Tuesday, Oct. 13th:

  • Keep reading! — Read on through the chapter titled “A Smart Cookie”, page 91 in the book, 99 in the .pdf. Http://Www.Nlcphs.Org/SummerReadings/Freshmen/HouseOnMango.Pdf   –As you read, make notes of places where you see Esperanza’s character developing and/or changing, as well as where you see conflict(s) increasing or being resolved. We will look at some of these moments in class, guided by small groups.
  • The “My Name” writing assignment can be submitted today or Thursday the 15th. Reading is the main goal. (See Oct. 8th for the ‘recipe’.)



–That link will take you to the schedule.

If you go to one of the readings or events, and write up a brief review of the experience, and maybe tell us about it in class, you can earn course credit!

For Thursday, Oct. 8th:

  • Keep reading! –Be sure to read through the first ten chapters, up to and including “Louie, His Cousin & His Other Cousin”. Http://Www.Nlcphs.Org/SummerReadings/Freshmen/HouseOnMango.Pdf
  • Try writing something modeled after Cisneros’ My Name. You can bring your piece in handwritten or typed form, and you don’t need to hand it in; just be ready to share it with a partner or small group.

Here is a ‘template’ Cisneros’ piece offers for our own piece of writing:

  1. what my name means
  2. where my name comes from–my ‘namesake’
  3. a little history about my namesake or the source of my name
  4. questioning/wondering about what my namesake’s life was like
  5. what others think of my name; how others pronounce it; comparison with someone else’s name
  6. some possible ways I might re-name myself


For Tuesday, Oct. 6th:

Please read the first FIVE chapters of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros:


Thursday, Oct. 1st:

We will be joined by Virgin Soul author Judy Juanita!

To help celebrate, C-Dub will bring pastry from the worker-owned Taste of Denmark!


For Tuesday, Sept. 29th:

Please push through to the end of Virgin Soul. The story’s getting intense, and the Senior year section will be easy/exciting. –Give yourself time to take it all in! The author will be joining us soon!

Bonus history reading anyone??? If you have time, check out Howard Zinn’s chapter on the Black Power and Civil Rights movement in the ’60’s and ’70’s. The Chapter title comes from a well-known poem by Langston Hughes:


Thursday, Sept. 24th:

Please read through Chapter 44 of Virgin Soul.

In class, we’ll keep going with Berkeley in the ’60’s and/or some other video about the 1960’s liberation movement.


For Tuesday, Sept. 22nd:

Please read through Chapter 34 of Virgin Soul.

We are going strong! Keep crankin’!


Thursday, Sept. 17th:

Please be sure you’ve read through the “Sophomore year” section (Chapters 9-) of Virgin Soul. If you complete the reading, you might want to review the chapters with the following in mind:

As you read, look for highlights — important moments, funny or poignant moments, or moments that you find confusing or hard to comprehend or interpret. Mark them using post-it notes or little slips of paper, or write some notes in a notebook, including page numbers to mark locations in the text.

You might also find it helpful to build a chapter-by-chapter summary.

Context: If you have a few extra minutes, check out these connected texts:

“Booker T. and W.E.B.” by Dudley Randall

“Whitey On The Moon” by Gil Scott-Heron

Video segment from Berkeley in the Sixties


For Tuesday, Sept. 15th: 

Please read through the “Sophomore year” section (Chapters 9-) of Virgin Soul. 

We will start class with a reading quiz, which will be no problem for anyone who has read attentively.

–Reminder: This is literature, not a newspaper or website or textbook, so do yourself a favor: READ AT THE SPEED OF SPEECH!

–And please take some kind of notes/annotation as you read. These can be written in a notebook using page numbers for ‘location’, or maybe on post-it notes stuck right into the book. (Please don’t write in your copy of the book unless you plan to purchase it from the author for ten dollars!) You might make note of great moments, witty dialogue, confusing moments, etc.


For Tuesday, Sept. 8:

Please read through Chapter 9 of Virgin Soul! –And please take some kind of notes/annotation as you read. These can be written in a notebook using page numbers for ‘location’, or maybe on post-it notes stuck right into the book. (Please don’t write in your copy of the book unless you plan to purchase it from the author for ten dollars!)

You might make note of great moments, witty dialogue, confusing moments, etc. We will talk about annotation when we meet on Tuesday. For now, do it your way!

* If you didn’t get a copy of the novel in class on the 3rd, please email me and I’ll try to find a way to get you one before Tuesday!


Labor Day Weekend:


FREEDOMLAND! by the S.F. Mime Troupe

Seeing this show will not be required, but it is HIGHLY recommended–especially the closing performances over Labor Day weekend in Golden Gate Park and Dolores Park in S.F.

Peacock Meadow in Golden Gate Park


For THURSDAY, Sept. 3: Get ready for Virgin Soul!

Please read Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut.


Tuesday, Sept. 1:

Please read these three fairly short stories, and consider writing down a few notes about what you think about as you read:

A Pair of Silk Stockings by Kate Chopin

Salvation by Langston Hughes

David Sedaris’ You Can’t Kill the Rooster

Suggestion: Read the above link for Sadaris while listening to this recorded reading:



Here is a list of some of the texts we will be reading and critiquing together during the Fall 2015 semester:


Stories (fiction)

A Pair of Silk Stockings by Kate Chopin

Salvation by Langston Hughes

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

To Build a Fire by Jack London

Sonny’s Blues — by James Baldwin

The Displaced Person by Flannery O’Connor

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Joyce Carol Oates’ Where are You Going? Where Have You Been?

David Sedaris’ You Can’t Kill the Rooster

Suggestion: Read the above link for Sadaris while listening to this recorded reading:

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut (–you will need to click on the “Page 2” link to get the second half of the story)

Puppy by George Saunders:



Metaphors and The Mirror by Sylvia Plath: 


FYI: OWL pages on fiction terms and concepts:

This ‘handout’ from the UNC Writing Center may be helpful:


American Literature Timeline