ENGL 499 (Section 001, Schedule #27923)
Virginia Commonwealth University
Fall 2013
TR 3:30-4:45 :: Hibbs 331
Prof. David Golumbia
Office: 324D Hibbs Hall
Fall 2013 Office Hours: Tues 1:00-3:30pm

Vernaculars, Media, and Literature

This class explores the role of so-called nonstandard or vernacular languages in contemporary worldwide texts and media, largely from the US and locations outside the US where English is one of the spoken languages. Vernaculars include languages and "dialects" that are widespread in culture but usually not taught in schools. Examples of vernaculars that we will touch on include African-American English, Appalachian English, Hawaiian "Creole" English, Haitian Creole, Taglish, and others. In many cases, these practices, while full and complete languages in every diagnostic and linguistic sense, remain the target of intense cultural prejudice. We will explore commonalities and differences in the presentation of these linguistic practices across several genres and places, using the fault lines between languages as a way to see in to the stakes of other cultural and political divisions. Short theoretical readings by Labov, Ngugi, Achebe, Milroy and others; novels and short fiction by writers such as R. Zamora Linmark, Harriet Arnow, Junot Diaz, and Ken Saro-wiwa; a graphic novel; and television and films including The Wire,Trainspotting, and Boyz n the Hood. This class is conducted primarily through vigorous student discussion that reflects thorough preparation before class sessions. Requirements include two short papers, a brief in-class presentation, and a final research paper.

Books to Purchase (available at bookstore, but you are encouraged to acquire used copies of these editions)

  1. Dohra Ahmad, ed., Rotten English: A Literary Anthology (edited collection, 2007)
  2. Harriette Simpson Arnow, The Collected Short Stories of Harriette Simpson Arnow (Short Stories, US, 2005)
  3. Leela Corman, Unterzakhn (Graphic Novel, US, 2012)
  4. R. Zamora Linmark, Rolling the R's (Experimental Novel, Philippines/US, 1997)
  5. Ken Saro-Wiwa, Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English (Novel, Nigeria, 1995)

Films and TV Programs (on reserve at Cabell Media Center)

  1. John Singleton (dir.), Boyz n the Hood (US, 1991)
  2. David Simon (prod.), The Wire (US, 2002-08)
  3. Danny Boyle (dir.), Trainspotting (UK, 1996)

Assignments and Evaluation

Evaluation will be based on written exercises and course participation as follows:

Course-Specific Policies


E-mail Policy
Electronic mail or "e-mail" is considered an official method for communication at VCU because it delivers information in a convenient, timely, cost effective and environmentally aware manner. Students are expected to check their official VCU e-mail on a frequent and consistent basis in order to remain informed of university-related communications. The university recommends checking e-mail daily. Students are responsible for the consequences of not reading, in a timely fashion, university-related communications sent to their official VCU student e-mail account. This policy ensures that all students have access to this important form of communication. It ensures students can be reached through a standardized channel by faculty and other staff of the university as needed. Mail sent to the VCU e-mail address may include notification of university-related actions, including disciplinary action. Please read the policy in its entirety: http://www.ts.vcu.edu/kb/3407.html

VCU Honor System: Upholding Academic Integrity
The VCU Honor System policy describes the responsibilities of students, faculty and administration in upholding academic integrity, while at the same time respecting the rights of individuals to the due process offered by administrative hearings and appeals. According to this policy, "Members of the academic community are required to conduct themselves in accordance with the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity." In addition, "All members of the VCU community are presumed to have an understanding of the VCU Honor System and are required to:

The Honor System in its entirety can be reviewed on the Web at http://www.assurance.vcu.edu/Policy%20Library/VCU%20Honor%20System.pdf. More information can also be found on the Division of Student Affairs website at http://www.students.vcu.edu/studentconduct/students/student_honor_system.html.

Student Conduct in the Classroom
According to the Faculty Guide to Student Conduct in Instructional Settings (http://www.assurance.vcu.edu/Policy%20Library/Faculty%20Guide%20to%20Student%20Conduct%20in%20Instructional%20Settings.pdf), "The university is a community of learners. Students, as well as faculty, have a responsibility for creating and maintaining an environment that supports effective instruction. In order for faculty members (including graduate teaching assistants) to provide and students to receive effective instruction in classrooms, laboratories, studios, online courses, and other learning areas, the university expects students to conduct themselves in an orderly and cooperative manner." Among other things, cell phones and beepers should be turned off while in the classroom. Also, the university Rules and Procedures prohibit anyone from having "in his possession any firearm, other weapon, or explosive, regardless of whether a license to possess the same has been issued, without the written authorization of the President of the university..." For more information, visit the VCU Insider online at https://docs.google.com/a/vcu.edu/file/d/0B7z3ZniSHWXVU1ZmcFpIQ1J2UXM/edit?pli=1.

Students with Disabilities
SECTION 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended require that VCU provides "academic adjustments " or "reasonable accommodations" to any student who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.  To receive accommodations, students must request them by contacting the Disability Support Services Office on the Monroe Park Campus (828-2253) or the Division for Academic Success on the MCV campus (828-9782). More information is available at the Disability Support Services webpage: http://www.students.vcu.edu/dss/ or the Division for Academic Success webpage at www.specialservices.vcu.edu/disabilityss.

Any student who has a disability that requires an academic accommodation should schedule a meeting with the instructor at the student’s earliest convenience. Additionally, if coursework requires the student to work in a lab environment, the student should advise the instructor or a department chairperson of any concerns that the student may have regarding safety issues related to a disability. Students should follow this procedure for all courses in the academic semester.

Statement on Military Short-Term Training or Deployment
If military students receive orders for short-term training or deployment, they should inform and present their orders to Military Student Services and to their professor(s). For further information on policies and procedures contact Military Services at 828-5993 or access the corresponding policies at http://www.pubapps.vcu.edu/bulletins/about/?Default.aspx?uid=10096&iid=30704.

Excused Absences for Students Representing the University
Students who represent the university (athletes and others) do not choose their schedules. Student athletes are required to attend games and/or meets. All student athletes should provide their schedule to the instructor at the beginning of the semester. The Intercollegiate Athletic Council strongly encourages faculty to treat missed classes or exams (because of a scheduling conflict) as excused absences and urges faculty to work with the students to make up the work or exam.

Campus Emergency information
What to Know and Do to Be Prepared for Emergencies at VCU:

Important Dates
Important dates for the Fall 2013 semester are available at: http://academiccalendars.vcu.edu/ac_fullViewAll.asp?term=Fall+2013

VCU Mobile
The VCU Mobile application is a valuable tool to get the latest VCU information on the go. The application contains helpful information including the VCU directory, events, course schedules, campus maps, athletics and general VCU news, emergency information, library resources, Blackboard and more. To download the application on your smart phone or for more information, please visit http://m.vcu.edu.

Class Registration Required for Attendance
Students may attend only those classes for which they have registered. Faculty may not add students to class rosters. Therefore, if students are attending a class for which they have not registered, they must stop attending.

Withdrawal from Classes
Before withdrawing from classes, students should consult their instructor as well as other appropriate university offices.  Withdrawing from classes may negatively impact a student’s financial aid award and his or her semester charges. To discuss financial aid and the student bill, visit the Student Services Center at 1015 Harris Hall or contact a financial aid counselor at http://www.enrollment.vcu.edu/finaid/contact.html

Student Financial Responsibility
Students assume the responsibility of full payment of tuition and fees generated from their registration and all charges for housing and dining services, and other applicable miscellaneous charges.

Week-by-Week Syllabus

Week One. Introduction

Week Two. Critical Reading

Week Three. Critical Reading

Week Four. Poetry

Week Five. Short Fiction

Week Six. Rolling the R's

Week Seven. "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao"

Week Eight. Unterzakhn

Week Nine. Student Presentations I

Week Ten. Student Presentations II

Week Eleven. Boyz N the Hood

Week Twelve. Harriet Arnow Short Stories

Week Thirteen. Sozaboy

Week Fourteen. The Wire

Week Fifteen. Student Presentations III

Week Sixteen. Trainspotting

Final paper due in my English Dept mailbox (Hibbs Hall), or via email, by 3:50pm, Tuesday, Dec 17, 2013, per the registrar's exam schedule. There is no other final exam for the course.

Last updated November 13, 2013.