English 2220, Section 100:

Literatures and Cultures of the United States

Spring 2019

Time/Day: 2:00 pm-3:40 pm. M/W

Room: Brown Hall, Room 3045

Final Exam: April 25, 12:30-2:30 p.m.

Instructor: Mr. Luke McCarthy

Email: lucas.j.mccarthy@wmich.edu

Website: http://lucasjmccarthy.com

Office: Sprau Tower, Room 712

Office Hours: Wednesdays from 4:00-5:00 pm

More office hours are available upon request. Please do not hesitate to email me if you want to arrange a time to meet!

Course Overview

Given the heated divisions in the U.S. today (as demonstrated recently by the Ferguson, Charlottesville, and Standing Rock protests), what keeps the country united? This course will focus closely on the challenges, problems, and opportunities of pluralism in American society by examining the literature (and the other artistic achievements and cultural artifacts) of the diverse cultural groups comprising the United States. Students will begin by reading Elizabeth Acevedo’s Poet X while considering the cultural issues animating debate in American society today. As a class, students will begin formulating the essential questions that will guide our investigation for the rest of the semester. Next, students will examine the significance of “home” and the relation of one’s family, heritage, and language to one’s home. Then, students will consider how diverse cultural groups can all see America as home, yet still feel “alien” to each other. What happens when individuals attempt to cross the “fences” keeping us apart? Students will then consider two sets of ideals: those of the “American Dream” and those of the heritage received from one’s cultural background. How can those ideals be reconciled? Students will finish the semester by considering how America’s legal and political system has attempted to address the challenges and opportunities of a pluralistic society. Students will primarily read selections from the Norton anthology New Worlds of Literature: Writings from America’s Many Cultures, supplemented with recent work from authors like Adrienne Su and Paul Martinez Pompa. Students will also reflect on the challenges of pluralism while reading a number of political and legal texts, such as the U.S. Bill of Rights, the Supreme Court’s opinions in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka and in Obergefell v. Hodges, selections from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, selections from John Rawls’s Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, and other works considering the role of Congress and the Supreme Court in a pluralist society. The assignments will include online discussion posts and responses, a reading journal, class participation, a midterm in-class essay exam, and a final in-class essay exam.

Course Requirements

Your final grade in the course will be calculated from the following weighted components:

  • Online Discussion Posts: 20%
  • Reading Journal: 10%
  • Midterm Exam: 25%
  • Final Exam: 25%
  • Class Participation: 20%

Required Course Materials:

  • Elizabeth Acevedo, Poet X (Hardcover; ISBN-13: 9780062662804; ISBN-10: 0062662805).
  • New Worlds of Literature: Writings from America’s Many Cultures (Second Edition; Norton, 1994) (ISBN-13: 9780393963540; ISBN-10: 0393963543)
  • $5 copy fee card, available for purchase at the bookstore.


engl 2220 spring 2019 syllabus