LITR 4340 American Immigrant Literature
Midterm1 assignment
1. Essay on immigrant & minority narratives
2. Web highlights 3. Research proposal

Official date: 20 February
Email deadline:
22 February 2018, 11:59pm

(This webpage is the assignment for our course's first midterm, to be updated until 13 February, when paper copies will be distributed.)

Format: Email. Open-book, open-notebook. No class meeting on 20 February but classroom available for students; instructor keeps office hours 1-4.


Email exams due to by 11:59pm Thursday, 22 February. "Submission window" is 20-22 February.

If your exam will be late, no automatic discredit if you communicate.


Email your midterm1 submission to (Most common mistake: students send to “white” rather than “whiteC)

· Attach appropriate file(s) to an email for (Microsoft Word or Rich Text Format works,)

and / or

· Copy and paste contents of your essays into an email message to


Acknowledgement of receipt: Instructor usually replies that he's received your submission within a few hours (unless you send it at an odd time). If you don't see an email confirmation within 24 hours, check if you emailed the right address:


Email problems? A problem or two with email (or computers generally) is normal in a class this size. Don't panic—communicate & we'll work things out.


Spacing: Single-spacing preferred. No need to double-space, but OK if you do. All submissions are converted to single-space for reading onscreen.  


Return of grades, etc.: Approximately 1-2 weeks after submission.

Contents:  3 essays ( Essay 1 & Research Report to continue in midterm2 & final exam, plus Web Highlights.

Part 1. Essay defining immigrant identity, culture, or narrative in comparison and contrast to minority identity, culture, or narratives. (At least 7 paragraphs; references to 6 texts.)

Part 2. Web Highlights reviewing at least three Model Assignments from previous semesters (incl. at least one previous midterm1) (5+ paragraphs)

Part 3. Research Report Topic proposal (for Research Report started on Midterm2 and concluded in final exam) (2 paragraphs.)


Special requirement: All three parts must have titles.

Advice: Draft Part 2 Web Highlights first to acquaint yourself with standards, reinforce your learning, and provide models for organization.


Special notes: Section contents may overlap or repeat materials, but be efficient; cross-reference to economize.


Confer with instructor any time regarding any part of your midterm: Office: Bayou 2529-7; Phone: 281 283 3380; Email:

Part 1. Essay defining immigrant identity, culture, or narrative in comparison and contrast to minority identity, culture, or narratives. (At least 7 paragraphs; references to 6 texts.)

Essay 1 will be revised and extended to longer essays in Midterm2 and Final Exam.


Use terms and themes from Course Objectives, definitions from term-webpages, historical backgrounds (African Americans as Minority or Immigrant?, American Indians as minority) and literary devices or purposes to introduce and develop examples from readings and presentations of our texts so far as minority, immigrant, and / or dominant-culture.


Compare and contrast the immigrant and minority identities and narratives. How do immigrants' and minorities' stories differ, and how do they respond differently to the USA and assimilation? Where do the immigrant and minority stories intersect or separate?


Optional approoach: Describe your learning process. What did you arrive knowing or thinking about American immigrants and minorities? What have you learned about these differing identities and their history from reading immigrant and minority texts and surveying their distinct histories? How have literature and iits various devices helped or enabled this learning process? Provide text-examples from immigrant and minority literature and history.


Refer to Course Objectives, esp. Primary objectives 1 & 2 and parts of Detailed Objectives 1-3.


Primary Objective 1. Evidence of immigrant, minority, or dominant-culture identity, voice, or narrative.


Primary Objective 2. Identification, definition, application, & analysis of literary purposes, devices, or genres.


Define and cite examples of "Model Minority" immigrants and the Dominant culture as convenient. How do immigrant and minority cultures relate differently to the USA's dominant culture, and why? How do "Model Minority" immigrants function as "ideal immigrants?"


Include discussion and definitions of assimilation and resistance, possibly including acculturation / "selective assimilation," and cite examples from course readings. What different attitudes toward assimilation among immigrants and minorities?


As literature, what different appeals do the immigrant and minority narratives make to readers? What different pleasures or purposes do readers find in these distinct stories or profiles? How and why do readers—regardless of their own particular ethnic identity—identify with these stories, or not?


Don't ignore deep-historical backgrounds of immigrants and minorities.


Required: references to Primary Course Objectives 1 & 2 and Detailed Objectives 1-3 + knowledge of course-website definitions for terms, applied to text-examples. (All course objectives and terms open for discussion.)


Optional: personal references: Not required, but you may refer to your own backgrounds, personal knowledge and experiences, and unique interpretations of the materials. Relate to terms, themes, objectives.


Textual requirements: Refer to 6+ texts from course readings—mostly assigned readings but also poems presented in class.

Of the 6 required texts, 2-4 should exemplify the immigrant narrative and 2-4 should exemplify the minority narrative.

Of the 6 texts, at least four should be prose pieces from Imagining America or Immigrant Voices Vol. 2, fiction or nonfiction handouts, or webpage texts. Two texts may be poems presented, or use all prose texts if preferred.

Welcome to refer to quotes or ideas from earlier midterms in Essay, but Web Highlights make this optional.

Also welcome to refer briefly (i.e. not extensively) to outside texts, quotations, etc. These can always help but don't count as a substitute for references to course readings.


  Texts available for essay

Immigrant texts (select, describe, and analyze at least 2)

Immigrant fiction and nonfiction: Anzia Yezierska, excerpt from Bread Givers; Anzia Yezierska, “Soap and Water”; Nicholasa Mohr, “The English Lesson” (IA 21-34); Anchee Min, from The Cooked Seed (IV2 193-215); Sui Sin Far, "In the Land of the Free" (IA 3-11); Gish Jen, “In the American Society” (IA 158-171); Dr. Rose Ihedigbo, from Sandals in the Snow (IV2 149-172); J. Christine Moon, "'What Color would you Like, Ma'am?"'; Le Ly Hayslip, from Child of War, Woman of Peace (IV2 105-125)

Immigrant poetry: Joseph Papaleo, “American Dream: First Report”;

Minority texts (select, describe, and analyze at least 2)

Minority fiction and nonfiction: Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, The African; Toni Cade Bambara, “The Lesson” (IA 145-152); Alice Walker, “Elethia” (IA 307-309; Handsome Lake, How the White Man Came to America; Leslie Marmon Silko, “The Man to Send Rain Clouds” (IA 205-209); Louise Erdrich, "American Horse" (IA 210-220); Mei Mei Evans, “Gussuk” (IA 237-251)

Minority poetry: Patricia Smith, “Blonde White Women” ; Chrystos, “I Have Not Signed a Treaty with the United States Government"

Part 2.  Web Highlights: Review at least 3 student submissions from course website's Model Assignments (incl. at least one previous midterm1) (5+ paragraphs)


Purpose of assignment: To acquaint students with performance standards*, with immigrant and minority definitions, and use of texts as examples. (*All Model Assignments are examples of good work, though in some cases they're more interesting than exemplary. See Evaluation standards below.)


Write Part 2 as an essay with introduction and conclusion, not just a list of 3 items. Unify your learning experience. Compare and contrast the three assignments you review.


Web Highlights essay must have a title.


Requirements & guidelines:


  Review at least one midterm1 essay from 2016 Midterm1 Essays or 2013 Midterm1 Essays.


  Review at least one final research report from 2015 final research reports or 2013 final research reports.


  Your third item may be another midterm1 essay, another final research report, or any other submission on Model Assignments (including previous Web Highlights).


  “Review”: Describe what interested you, why you chose it, and what you learned. You may criticize what you found, but not required.

To identify passages, copy and paste brief selections into your web review or refer to them using names, locations, paraphrases, summaries, and brief quotes. (Both options in models.) Either way, highlight and discuss language used in the passages as part of your commentary.

What did you learn from reviewing model assignments that you didn't learn from in-class instruction?

Requirement: Write your Web Highlights as an essay, not just a list of 3 items.


Note on organization and grading: Some students fulfill assignment by going through 3 assignments individually, one at a time until finished, with few or no connections between the separate models.

Better submissions unify the three reviews into a whole, purposeful essay in which the learning experience of one review connects to the learning experience of another, and your entire learning experience is previewed and summarized in the essay's introduction and conclusion.

Successful submissions sometimes start by identifying a subject of special interest, then choosing Model Assignments that meet this interest.

Part 3.  Write a proposal for your Research Report Topic (to be developed in Midterm2 and completed as part of Final Exam).


Model Assignments of 2016 Research Proposals & 2013 Research Proposals. (Nearly all of these are shorter than what I assign, but obviously some give more to work with.)


Assignment: Write 2 paragraphs of 3-5 sentences identifying your probable topic for a research report. Why did you choose this topic? What do you already know? What do you want to learn? How will you find out?


End your proposal with a question for the instructor.


If you're stuck between 2-3 subjects, describe situation—instructor will help. (Your question may concern your choice.)


You can change your subject, or your subject can evolve as you do research. If your subject changes completely, clear with instructor. If your subject evolves but stays more or less the same, no need to clear with instructor. As part of your research report, you can write about how your subject changed. (That is, how your subject or interests evolved can be part of the learning experience you describe.)


Nature of assignment: Your research report is not a typical literary essay in which you analyze the language, form, or meaning of individual texts. Instead, your topic must concern a factual or historical figure, phenomenon, or movement in literature or culture.


Put another way, your report will find research about a literary or cultural topic and summarize what you learned about your subject of interest. 


Research requirements: Mention at least one research source relevant to your topic that you may use; even better if you report what you've learned from that source so far.


Range of subjects: You have considerable freedom to choose, but anyone reading your proposal should immediately recognize its relevance to a class on immigrant literature and multicultural identity.

Look across the whole semester for possibilities—you're not limited to what we've covered so far.


Warning: The only recurrent mistakes are that some students propose pure minority topics that didn’t have anything to do with immigration or the immigrant narrative. This course doesn’t exclude minority literature, but such a topic is more appropriate for our American Minority Literature course. You can involve m identities and narratives, but they must relate to Immigrant literature or identity in some direct and obvious way.


Possibilities for topics (there are others—these are just to help you start thinking):

Literature of an immigrant group—e. g. Chinese-American, Mexican-American, Turkish-American—the possibilities are innumerable.

History of a particular immigrant group and / or some literary or cultural movements or achievements associated with them.

An immigrant or ethnic group that mixes immigrant and minority traditions, e. g. New-World Immigrants like Haitians, Jamaicans, or other Afro-Caribbeans; Dominicans; Mexican Americans?

A particular immigrant writer, e. g. Gish Jen, Frank McCourt, Sandra Cisneros, Henry Roth, Anzia Yezierska, Richard Rodriguez. (Career review + bibliography of major writings.)

An immigrant-literature-related topic of a more formal literary nature focusing on narrative, language issues, publishing challenges, etc.

Laws or agencies involving immigration

Related issues like refugee status, human trafficking, etc.


The main thing is for you to choose a topic you care about and want to learn about and share.

To get a sense of this report’s possibilities, look at previous models on Model Assignments. No problem if you repeat an assignment—in fact, you may use previous research reports as sources for your own research requirements.


Response to Research Proposal

When your midterm-submission email is received, instructor will directly read your proposal and reply-email a response.


Student does not receive a letter grade for the proposal, only a “yes” or instructions for receiving a yes. Students don't lose credit for problems reaching a topic as long as they are working on it.


  The only way to get in trouble over proposal is by not doing enough, i.e., if you simply don’t offer much to work with, especially after prompts from instructor.


A bad proposal is one sentence starting, “I’m thinking about . . . ” and ending “ . . . something to do with immigration and gender.” Then, “What do you think?” In these cases, a bad grade isn’t recorded, but notes regarding the paper proposal may appear on the Final Grade Report.


In other words, a few students obviously don't think about this topic until the last minute when the midterm is due, then send in a few nearly-empty sentences. Instructor can't act like that's acceptable, but you can recover.


Requirements: at least 2 paragraphs of 3-5 sentences each; at least one research reference.


Instructor welcomes inquiries on possible topics before Midterm1. Email, phone, confer in person.


Future developments:


Midterm2: 4-5 paragraphs describing your research and learning so far on your topic and how it relates to American Immigrant Literature.


Final Exam: 8-10 paragraph report summarizing your research and learning on your topic and how it relates to our course.

Evaluation standards: Readability, competence levels, content coverage and development, and thematic unity.


Readability & surface competence: Your reader must be able to process what you're explaining. Given the pressures of a timed writing exercise, some rough edges are acceptable, but chronic errors or elementary style can hurt.


Content coverage & development: Comprehension of subject, demonstration of learning, use of course resources including instructional webpages + interest & significance: Reproduce course materials accurately but refresh with your own insights, examples, and experiences.


Thematic Unity and Organization: Unify materials along a line of thought that a reader can follow from start to finish. Consult sites on Unity / Continuity / Transition & Transitions.