LITR 5831 World / Multicultural Literature

Take-home / email

Midterm Assignment 2015

 Email midterm submission window: email attachment of complete midterm to instructor at

between 23 September till midnight Thursday, 1 October

No class meeting 29 September; instructor keeps office hours 4-10pm in Bayou 2529; 281 283 3380;

Model Assignments

Midterm submissions 2013

Midterm Submissions 2011

Midterm Submissions 2009

Midterm submissions 2008

Midterm submissions 2005

(This webpage is the midterm assignment. It will be updated and refined up to 22 September.)

Three parts to Midterm:

  • Web Highlights reviewing at least 3 submissions in seminar's Model Assignments

  • Essay (in 1,2, or 3 parts) describing Colonial & Postcolonial Literature, its attractions and challenges for literary studies and instruction (objectives 1-3)

  • Research proposal

Format: email

  • No regular class meeting on 29 September but classroom available for students who want to write exam in-class; instructor keeps office hours 4-10.

  • Email exams due to by 11:59 Thursday, 1 October. "Submission window" is 23 September-1 October.

  • Submissions are posted (as is) on course webpage by instructor.

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

Weight: 20-30% of final grade

Component Lengths

Web Highlights length: 5-8 paragraphs

Essay length: Write one long essay or 2-3 briefer ones

If 1 essay, 9-12 paragraphs;

if 2 essays, app. 5-6 paragraphs each;

if 3 essays, app. 3-4 paragraphs each.

Research Proposal Length: 2-3 paragraphs

Special Requirements or guidelines:

Title all essay(s) including Web Review.

Spacing: No need to double-space, but OK. All electronic copies converted to single-space for onscreen reading.

Prep time and writing time: Spend at least 3-4 hours writing your exam in its final form, but prepare as much as you like or can. Preparations include review of notes and texts, but also outlining and drafting.

You may personalize your discussion and use the pronoun “I” (not required), but keep returning to shared material. You might organize by describing previous knowledge or experience comparable to or antithetical to seminar subject, then shift to what you're learning and how it relates (or not) to previous literary studies.

Part 1: Web highlights from previous midterms, research posts, and final exams) (5-8 paragraphs?)

Assignment: Review at least 3 submissions on the course webpage’s “Model Assignments” page and write 5-8 paragraphs (total) on what you found and learned.

Purpose: To enhance peer-instruction and potential for seminar to build on earlier seminars' learning.

Requirements & guidelines: At least one Model Assignment must be a midterm from the seminar's previous semesters. You may limit your review to midterms, but research projects, research proposals, final exams, and presentations are available from several semesters. Reviewing research projects may help your proposal.

“Review”: quickly describe what interested or impressed you, where, why, and what you learned or admired, what the student achieved. You may criticize what you found, but not required.

To identify assignments or passages to which you respond, copy and paste brief selections into your web review, or simply refer to them (author, title, semester?) with paraphrases, summaries, and brief quotations. (You'll see both options in models.) Either way, highlight and discuss language in passages as part of your review. Critique what you’re reviewing in terms of what you learn or where the model disappoints.

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

Web highlights from LITR 5439 Utopias 2013; Web highlights from LITR 5431 American Literature: Romanticism 2013; Web highlights from LITR 5431 American Literature: Romanticism 2010 ; Web highlights from LITR 5731 American Immigrant Literature; Web highlights models from LITR 5731 Minority Literature

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 or relations observed 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.


Part 2: Essay(s) assignment

Organization: 1-3 Essay(s) on Objectives 1-3

Using the dialogue model by which the course is organized, write an essay describing your learning experience in the seminar and with its subject, readings, and objectives. Use terms and refer to themes or ideas in Course Objectives. How do you integrate the subjects and readings of this seminar to your previous studies of literature and culture? What advances, detours, or frustrations?

Suggestions appear below, but I'll read what you send me. Course-specific expectations:

A member of the class would recognize what you're discussing as falling within our subject area, and find the surface style and thematic progression readable.

References to leading aspects of objectives 1-3. (You can't cover everything, so don't try, but keep returning to objectives and terms)

Examples drawn from shared texts: Crusoe, Lucy, A Small Place, The Man Who Would be King, poems. (You may also refer briefly to other texts beyond course.)

References to terms, ideas, discussions, issues, and objectives introduced in seminar. (Again you may also refer briefly to terms and ideas from other courses or experiences beyond our seminar.)

Use "dialogue" style between self & othe or intertextuality between texts that talk to each other.

If you're stumped, ask yourself some questions and start building some answers. I'm not looking for this or that particular insight as much as how you respond honestly and constructively to our shared readings and discussions while keeping the objectives (terms and themes) in play.

Cover as much course material as you can explain compellingly and readably (I’ll let you know if you don’t do enough), but you can’t cover everything and aren’t expected to. Much of your own contribution will be selecting, prioritizing, emphasizing, and connecting what matters to you and whatever set of identities you represent. Make it interesting and make it matter, first to yourself but also to your reader (both instructor and future students).

Default Organizations:

If you write one long essay instead of two or three short essays, you may start at any entry point that helps, but consider engaging one of the seminar's three major objectives and involve the other two as you proceed. Don't wait too long to connect to text-examples or dialogues between texts.

If you write two or three shorter essays, you may organize them to focus on selected terms or themes from Objectives 1, 2, or 3, but students sometimes create their own divisions for organizing, which can be OK as long as you refer to terms and themes from required objectives.

Possible Prompts: (These aren't an organization or check-list, only starters)

What did you know and have you learned about colonial and postcolonial literature?

What are the field’s attractions? Intimidations? Methods or styles? Applications? What have you found most interesting and useful?

Your reaction to studying texts in dialogue or intertextually rather than as autonomous texts? > Demonstration with texts to midterm.

Besides putting our texts and concepts in dialogue, put yourself in dialogue with the seminar—self / other, known / unknown, familiar / unfamiliar, America / world

What would you like to learn or achieve, according to what the course offers? (The world's too big to learn it all, so don't hesitate to concentrate on a region or period of colonial / postcolonial history, or with one of the seminar's methods.)

How does this course fit or not into your learning or career concerning classical and multicultural literature? How can you imagine applying it in teaching or research?

If you were already familiar with our subject, sketch your experience and indicate how it's been confirmed or extended.

Objective 3 describes most Americans' unfamiliarity with our topic. Aside from exoticism or difference, what possible advantages or applications may this field of study offer?

Don't feel intimidated. Keep our materials in sight and write what matters to you. I'll read what you write and help however I can.

Exercise for self-starting: ask yourself what you've been thinking about relative to the course and its readings—and why. If parts of the texts or course interest or bother you, that's a sign they matter. What are they telling you, making you question? What can you know or learn about these issues, questions, or topics? Make notes, organize oppositions of values and styles and turn them into dialogues.

Since our course's materials may be unfamiliar, your writing strategy might personalize your essay(s). Share your own literary background, interests, and ambitions, progressing to how this course may or may not match or extend them. A "path of learning" approach may sound mickey-mouse but can be humanizing and constructive.

Required References (somewhere in your midterm, probably midterm essay—part 2)

Several references to "Shooting an Elephant," Robinson Crusoe, A Small Place, Lucy, and The Man Who Would be King. (You may naturally prefer to discuss the postcolonial texts, but don't lose their dialogue with the colonial texts.)

References to colonial-postcolonial history, theory, terms, methods from seminar discussion, website, web reviews, or other websites.

References to handouts or links highlighted in lecture.

Optional: poems by Walcott, Kipling, Wordsworth, or paintings by Gauguin.

Optional: personal references to course, contents, outside texts, knowledge, experience

Obviously you can't cover everything and shouldn't try. The lists above are offered as general expectations, but as long as you're delivering plenty of material, your reader may not pay attention to what you're leaving out.

Part 3: Research proposal

Research Proposal due with midterm between 23 September-1 October (discuss with instructor any time)

Research Proposal Length: 2-3 paragraphs.

Essential contents:

1. Indicate choice between two options--either

  • 2 research posts (each 4+ paragraphs & Works Cited w/ 4+ sources) due 11 October & 15 November (earlier submissiosn OK)


2. Explain choice: extensions of previous interests or knowledge, learning possibilities, reasons for curiosity, applications.

2a. Impressive if you refer to previous Model Assignments that impressed you as models.

3. Indicate possible topics or contents of Research Posts or Project + reasons for interest, previous knowledge, possible texts, authors, themes, cultural or historical issues


Your Research Proposal is provisionalas long as time permits, change your plan by communicating with instructor

You have considerable freedom to develop your research according to your own needs or interests. However, most students entering this course have few preconceptions, topics, or ideas ready.

If you start with a "research post," you could develop that post into a research project, either essay or journal.

Simple advice for topics:

Review syllabus for texts, parts of world, objectives (themes and terms)

Review Model Assignments for previous projects and posts: research projects 2013; research projects 2011; research projects 2009; research posts 2009; research posts 2008; research projects 2001

Research Proposal Feedback

No grade for your Research Proposal, though lack of effort or interest may be noted.

With your midterm I'll return some brief feedback. I almost never say "no" to a plan or proposal, but I may have suggestions for development.

If you choose Research Posts, the first is due 11 October, the second 15 November.

If you choose a Research Project, it is due 15 November.

Grade and response to Posts or Project may arrive with "Final Grade Report" following final exam.


Evaluation standards: As in most Literature courses, quality of reading and writing is the key to judging excellent work from competent work—not just reproducing data but organizing it into a unified, readable, compelling essay that mixes seminar terms and themes with your own interpretations and priorities.

"Unified": Thematic continuity and transitions are essential. Connect parts to form larger ideas. Pause between paragraphs to review what you've written or to preview what comes next. Summarize. Explain. Review and preview.

"Readable": At the graduate level, competence with surface issues like spelling, punctuation, and grammar is taken for granted. An occasional careless error won't kill your grade, given time pressures, but repeated or chronic errors are remarked and factored.

"Compelling": Exams require comprehension and expression of instructional contents, but excellence is achieved by students extending or refreshing what they learn with new examples, insights, and expression.

"mixes seminar terms and themes with your own interpretations and priorities": Your instructor naturally likes to see you valuing and using his terminology and ideas from lecture and syllabus, but mere repetition or coverage is frustrating, so integrate course materials with your intellect, voice, career and aspirations.

Audience: Write so someone in our seminar could recognize your terms and explanations and enjoy your personal contributions and style. Future students may read your essays in our "Model Assignments." Keep the instructor in sight—connect with shared terms and texts, and "write up" in terms of organization and ambition of thought.

Instructor's Reaction & continuing dialogue: A week or two after submission, you'll receive an email from the instructor including your grade report with a midterm grade and a note responding to your effort and accomplishment.

Consider replying to instructor about your midterm note. Graduate students work with faculty somewhere between master-apprentice and colleagues. Discussing your graded work can be a starting point for learning to interact with faculty. If you don't communicate in this way, look for other opportunities before semester ends. Professors can be intimidating and unhip, but they're used to cooperating if you cultivate chances. We're just older versions of yourselves!