LITR 5831 World / Multicultural Literature:
Tragedy & Africa

Midterm Assignment 2016

(This webpage is the midterm assignment, to be updated and refined up to 15 February.)

Email midterm submission window: email attachment of complete midterm to instructor at by weekend of 26-28 February

No class meeting 22 February; instructor keeps office hours 4-10pm in Bayou 2529; 281 283 3380;

Welcome to communicate with instructor prior to submission regarding understanding of assignment, provisional drafts, etc.

Three parts to Midterm:

Format: email

  • No regular class meeting on 22 February but classroom available for students who want to work on exam in-class; instructor keeps office hours 4-10.

  • Email exams due to by 11:59 Thursday, 25 February. "Submission window" is 16 February-28 February.

  • 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: 4-6 paragraphs

Essay length: 7-10 paragraphs;

Research Plan 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 and final exams) (4-6 paragraphs?)

Assignment: Review at least 2 submissions from the course webpage’s “Model Assignments” page and write 4-6 paragraphs (total) on what you found and learned.

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

“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 from other courses below.) 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 5831 Colonial-Postcolonial 2015; Web highlights from LITR 5439 Utopias 2015; Web highlights from LITR 5431 American Literature: Romanticism 2013; Web highlights from LITR 5731 American Immigrant Literature

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

Better submissions unify the 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

Essay length: 7-10 paragraphs;

Midterm assignment: Referring to our course texts so far (Oresteia, Death and the King's Horseman + critical readings, Poetics, Birth of Tragedy, and maybe Bacchae), describe, organize, and unify your learning experience with Tragedy and Africa, assessing the potential value of the course materials. How may Tragedy and Africa meet, with what results? What do we learn about the nature of Western literature from classical tragedy and about Africa as a precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial state from its tragic literature?

Refer briefly to other texts, courses, or experiences, or ideas of your own, but keep refocusing on our texts, objectives, handouts, and discussions—the common ground where the class meets.

Cover as much course material as you can explain compellingly and readably, 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 or values you promote. Make it interesting!

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 of genre, then what learned.

Possible themes or emphases:

Where may the two traditions of Classical Greek Tragedy and modern African literature meet and diverge? What do we gain or lose by reading thems separately or together?

What do we gain as readers by bringing two such distinct literary traditions into dialogue?

How does our seminar topic topic test or challenge a student of literary studies? What values does it affirm, challenge, or extend? How does our subject matter challenge typical preparation  for literary studies and offer new possibilities, however difficult or disorienting? What do we learn (positively or negatively) about literary studies from these possibilities?

Part 3: Research plan

Research Proposal due with midterm between 16 February-25 February (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 21-26 March & 12- 16 April (earlier submissiosn OK)


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

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 from related courses for previous projects, posts, or research topics: LITR 4370 Tragedy Model Assignments; LITR 5831 Colonial-Postcolonial Model Assignments

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 21-26 March, the second 12- 16 April.

If you choose a Research Project, it is due 12- 16 April.

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!