ENGL 347 (Section 001, Schedule #33397)
Virginia Commonwealth University
Spring 2016
TTh 11:00am-12:15pm :: 264 Hibbs
Prof. David Golumbia
Office: 324D Hibbs Hall
Spr 2016 Office Hours: Tues 1:00-3:30pm

Contemporary Literature

This course examines contemporary world literature from about the last thirty years. Our readings will range across genres and include writers from around the world, mostly in English with a few texts in translation. We will explore innovations in aesthetics as well as historical developments that have influenced recent literary production. In particular, our readings will compel us to investigate how ethnicity, nationalism, religion, gender, and economics have impacted the formation of world literature and its bearings on social justice. Authors include: DeLillo, Rankine, Morrison, Natalie Diaz, Elena Ferrante, Valeria Luiselli, Eileen Myles, and others. Evaluation is via course participation and three short papers. There are no exams for this course.


Assignments and Evaluation

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

Course-Specific Policies


  1. Class registration required for attendance
  2. Honor System: upholding academic integrity
  3. Important dates
  4. Mandatory responsibility of faculty members to report incidents of sexual misconduct
  5. Military short-term training or deployment
  6. Student conduct in the classroom
  7. Student email policy
  8. Student financial responsibility
  9. Students representing the university – excused absences
  10. Students with disabilities
  11. VCU Mobile
  12. Withdrawal from classes

Campus emergency information

What to know and do to be prepared for emergencies at VCU:

Class registration required for attendance

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

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:

More information can be found at in the VCU policy library under the Education and Student Life tab.

Important dates

You can view important dates for the semester in the academic calendar.

Mandatory responsibility of faculty members to report incidents of sexual misconduct

It is important for students to know that all faculty members are mandated reporters of any incidents of sexual misconduct/violence (e.g., sexual assault, sexual exploitation and partner or relationship violence). This means that faculty cannot keep information about sexual misconduct/violence confidential if you share that information with them and they must report this information immediately to the university's Title IX Coordinator. In addition, department chairs, deans, and other unit administrators are required to report incidents of sex or gender-based discrimination to the university's Title IX Coordinator.

Confidential reporting sources include staff in Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence at the Wellness Resource Center, University Counseling Services and University Student Health Services. The Policy on Sexual Misconduct/Violence and Sex/Gender Discrimination - Interim, can be found here.

Military short-term training or deployment

If military students receive orders for short-term training or for deployment/mobilization, 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 Student Services at 828-5993 or access the corresponding policies.

Student conduct in the classroom

According to the Faculty Guide to Student Conduct in Instructional Settings, "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 should be turned off while in the classroom. The Student Code of Conduct also prohibits the possession of or carrying of any weapon. For more information see http://register.dls.virginia.gov/details.aspx?id=3436.

Student email policy

Email 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 email on a frequent and consistent basis in order to remain informed of university-related communications. The university recommends checking email daily. Students are responsible for the consequences of not reading, in a timely fashion, university-related communications sent to their official VCU student email 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 email address may include notification of university-related actions, including disciplinary action. Please read the policy in its entirety here.

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. Students are ultimately responsible for any unpaid balance on their account as a result of the University Financial Aid Office or their third party sponsor canceling or reducing their award(s).

Students representing the university – excused absences

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 schedules to their instructors 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.

Students with disabilities

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, require that VCU provide "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 register with the Disability Support Services Office on the Monroe Park Campus (828-2253) or the Division for Academic Success on the MCV campus (828-9782). Please also visit the Disability Support Services website and/or the Division for Academic Success website for additional information.

Once students have completed the DSS registration process, they should schedule a meeting with their instructor (s) and provide their instructor (s) with an official DSS accommodation letter. Accommodation letters will outline the required classroom accommodations. 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.

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.

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 Floyd Avenue (Harris Hall) and/or contact your financial aid counselor regarding the impact on your financial aid.

Week-by-Week Syllabus

Week One. Introduction

Week Two. DeLillo, Mao II

Week Three. Diaz, When My Brother Was an Aztec

Week Four. Luiselli, Faces in the Crowd

Week Five. Ward, Salvage the Bones

Week Six. Classes cancelled.

Week Seven. Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend

Spring Break. Classes cancelled.

Week Eight. Morrison, A Mercy

Week Nine. Selections from Africa39

Week Ten. Taraghi, The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons: Selected Stories

Week Eleven. Herrera, Signs Preceding the End of the World

Week Twelve. Rankine, Citizen

Week Thirteen. Nelson, The Argonauts

Week Fourteen. Myles, Chelsea Girls

Week Fifteen. Selections from Africa39

Last updated March 9, 2016.