American Literature II

ENG2201 Spring 2023

Week 9: Literary Modernism, the Harlem Renaissance, and Freshwater

Hi Students:

Midterm Grades (Pass/Borderline) are available on “check grade” to the right of the site.

This week I want to get you started on a new assignment.  I have decided that rather than assign a final, longish essay, I will assign a few mid-sized ones to finish off the semester.

Assignment #1 asks again that you review two sites on the Poetry Foundation website:

1) Literary Modernism and 2) “Harlem Renaissance”

STEP ONE: Read “Literary Modernism,” then scroll down. Choose one of the listed poets.  Read the poet’s biography, then choose one of his or her poems for discussion.

STEP TWO: Write a 3 paragraph response to the poet and poem

Paragraph #1: Summarize key points from the poet’s biography (be sure to use the biography from this site)

Paragraph #2: Connect a biographical detail to the main theme of the poem (or connect the poet or poem to a point addressed in the essay on modernism).

Paragraph#3: Discuss what you find “modern,” interesting, or unusual about the poem.  Include your favorite line(s) that demonstrate this.

STEP THREE: Do this again for a poet from the “Harlem Renaissance”

STEP FOUR: By Wed,, April 13, upload this assignment to our googledrive link: HERE

To upload a file from your computer press “new” (on upper left corner) and then “upload file”

Due Date: Wed. April 13

I also want to introduce you to our guest author (Akwaeke Emezi) for the “Literary Arts Festival” on Thursday, April 27, 4-6 pm (in our new theatre on 285 Jay Street), which I hope you can attend. For more information.

For this week, please watch an interview of Emezi by Trevor Noah on the Daily Show.

Interview on the Daily Show (2022)

Here is her biography:  Akwaeke Emezi 

Once you come back from Spring Break, we will begin to discuss the first three chapters of Emezi’s Freshwater. We will end the semester reading and discussing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Here is a link to the opening chapters of Freshwater: HERE

Content Warning: After chapter 3, the novel covers some difficult material relating to self-harm and sexual assault.  We will not be reading the full novel together but I encourage you to do so if you find the novel as captivating as I do. It is a brilliant, beautiful work but, again, covers difficult material.

As always, please email me regarding any questions or concerns.

Week 8: War, Identity, Art: The Birth of Literary Modernism


Thank you for your varied and insightful comments on Sui Sin Far, Emma Lazarus, and ZitKala Sa, powerful voices asking America to treat ALL of its citizens fairly.

How we treat those outside our borders and the consequences of our actions and attitudes is our concern for this week.

Let’s first turn to the topic of American and Global Imperialism, which played a part in two major military conflicts, the Spanish-American War and then World War I. These wars significantly affected both the content, style, and aims of art and literature of the 20th century.

The Spanish-American War (or “Splendid Little War”) took place first in Cuba in 1898, when American troops “rescued” Cubans from their Spanish oppressors (“Cuba Libre!”). The war was short and Americans won not only Cuba, but Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. The Filipinos, however, soon wanted to be free of American rule and fought fervently (albeit unsuccessfully) against our troops in a war (1899-1902) that cost more American casualties than the Vietnam War.

While the “Yellow Press” pushed pro-war propaganda (watch HERE), several American authors resisted the war.

Stephen Crane, author of the famed Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage, wrote this magnificent (highly ironic) anti-war poem:

War is Kind

Mark Twain, author of the anti-racist Huckleberry Finn, turned his attention to the feelings and thoughts of those America sought to “civilize” via conquest.

“To a Person Sitting in Darkness”

The brilliant African American author W.E.B. Dubois, in varied writings, warned of the ill effects of global imperialism on Africa. Watch the first 15 minutes of this fascinating lecture on his important work, entitled: “The Wounded World: W.E.B. Dubois and World War I”

The Spanish-American War was followed by the horrors of World War I (really a war amongst major European nations–and America–for the conquest of territories around the globe).  The most famous anti-war novel of all time is All Quiet on the Western Front, recently made into a film.

Watch clip HERE

As this clip shows, World War I shattered “everything.”  It brought attention to mankind’s power to destroy and the continued inequality across the Globe.

While many questioned the purpose of such a bloodbath, in “If We Must Die,” Jamaican American Claude Mckay asks why African American soldiers who fought in World War I (in segregated units) now had to come home to face racism here.

Art and Literature too was “shattered” leading to a new movement called Literary Modernism.  It also led to a celebration that the war was over leading to “The Jazz Age” (or “Roaring 1920s) and the NYC-based “Harlem Renaissance.”

This week I ask you to review this material (find a poet/writer you might wish to discuss for next week’s post). 

Next week, I will also introduce our LAF author (Akwaeke Emezi) and place her novel alongside the ideas I’m introducing here.

REMINDER: In April, we will be reading Freshwater by Emezi.

Here is her biography:  Akwaeke Emezi .

To obtain a copy of this book, please fill out the following form so that a copy can be mailed to your address (on the form you can also arrange to pick the book up in my office in Namm 503). 

Book Mailing Request Form for Online Students

Emezi will be our featured speaker at this year’s Literary Arts Festival on April 27, 2023 (in our new theatre), which I hope you can attend.

The Festival includes the 2023 Literary Arts Festival Writing Competition, which is now open for submissions!  Students may submit their work on the City Tech Literary Arts Festival OpenLab website:

All creative work is welcome and must be submitted by March 20, 2023.

Week 6: The Immigrant and Native American Experience, 1880-1910 Post Due: Wed 3/15

Reminder: The deadline for the 2023 Literary Arts Festival Writing Competition is March 20! All creative work is welcome! 

To submit work, students should visit the City Tech Literary Arts Festival OpenLab Website:


This week, I want to introduce a topic familiar to all Americans (the immigrant experience) and a less familiar one: the treatment of Native Americans at the turn of the 2oth century.

Enshrined on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor is one of the world’s most famous poems: “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus. 

The New Colossus (1882)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The poem is a sonnet by a gifted poet of Jewish descent.  In it, memorable metaphors, similes, and images are used (“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame” and the “air-bridged harbor” for example). Unlike the Colossus of Rhodes (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), America has a statue that does not celebrate military conquest but welcomes all—even the “the homeless”—to its “teeming” shores (Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”)

Read the biography of Emma Lazarus: HERE

Yet, even getting enough funding for erecting this statue (a gift from the French) was a challenge. The US government was unwilling to pay for the statue’s pedestal, so a campaign was started by the New York World newspaper, which raised the money, one penny at a time, from the contributions of everyday people. The reluctance to fund the statue on Ellis Island revealed a divided country at the time over whether or not to be an open asylum to the world.

To become an American citizen up until the 1920s (with one exception – see below), no papers were needed. Arriving at Ellis Island, newcomers just had to pass a health exam and were then ferried over to Manhattan (many would stay and live on the Lower East side).  If you haven’t been, be sure to one day visit the Tenement House Museum that explores this history.

During the 1880s and 90s, there was also a reaction to open immigration polices. In 1882, the US government enacted our first law regulating (preventing really) immigration from certain countries.  Most notorious was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  Read about this law: HERE.

This law infuriated many including the gifted author Sui Sin Far. In response to this unfair law, she wrote the story “In the Land of the Free”

As this story shows, Far sought to challenge social and political discrimination against Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans. Her goal in writing was to encourage mutual understanding and respect between the Anglo and Asian communities.

Although she was born Edith Maud Eaton and spoke only English, Edith adopted the name Sui Sin Far to emphasize her Chinese heritage. The Chinese name translates as “fragrant water flower” and signifies “dignity and indestructible love for family and homeland.”

Another compelling read is the short autobiography “School Days of an Indian Girl” by Zitkala-Sa  (1876-1938). Zitkala-Sa’s story tells the story of how a young Native American girl was forced to attend an “American” school, so that she would become fully assimilated, losing her Native American heritage in the process.  It is a story both heart-breaking and filled with courage.

The works by Emma Lazarus, Sui Sin Far, and Zitkala-Sa speak to the challenges of living in “the land of the free” when one’s own culture and origins are not fully respected.

For this week’s post, I ask that you comment on ONE of these THREE OPTIONS:

  1. On a poem by Emma Lazarus (chose a poem other than the “New Colossus” and connect the poem to her bio HERE)
  2. On “In the Land of the Free”  by Sui Sin Far
  3. School Days of an Indian Girl”, the brief, moving autobiography of Zitkala-Sa.

Discuss a theme, the artistry, or a part of the work that is most meaningful to you. FEEL FREE TO FOLLOW UP ON A PREVIOUS STUDENT’S POINT BUT AVOID REPEATING SIMILAR IDEAS.

Week 5: The Fight (in literature) for Women’s Rights, 1880-1910 Post Assignment: Due: Mon., March 6

PLEASE NOTE: In April, we will be reading Freshwater by author Akwaeke Emezi.

Here is her biography:  Akwaeke Emezi .

To obtain a copy of this book, please fill out the following form so that a copy can be mailed to your address (on the form you can also arrange to pick the book up in my office in Namm 503). 

Book Mailing Request Form for Online Students

Emezi will be our featured speaker at this year’s Literary Arts Festival on April 27, 2023 (in our new theatre), which I hope you can attend.

The Festival includes the 2023 Literary Arts Festival Writing Competition, which is now open for submissions!  Students may submit their work on the City Tech Literary Arts Festival OpenLab website:

All creative work is welcome and must be submitted by March 20, 2023.



Thank you for your insightful readings of the poetry Paul Laurence Dunbar and his wife Alice. 

As you noted, the Dunbars lived challenging personal lives in a society that mistreated African Americans. This situation was particularly hard for those that strove to make a living as artists.

We will continue these themes when we encounter the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and again in Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi  (please be sure to get your copy of the book!).

This week, I want to focus on the fight for women’s rights that also took place in the 1880s and 1890s. 

Two giant figures in this societal battle were the writers Kate Chopin and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Please watch their biographies below:

Kate Chopin

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Below are one short and one longish story written by each.

By Gilman:

“If I Were a Man”

“The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892)

By Chopin

“Story of an Hour” (1894) (respond to one of the highlighted notations)

“The Storm” (1898)

Post Assignment (Due: Monday, March 6)

Choose one story to discuss in terms of the elements of literature:

Review: Elements of Fiction


Here are some of the elements you can focus on, in simpler terms:

Genre: discuss your story as a “realistic” or “realist”  text

Theme: How does the story convey the lack of rights and confinement of women in the 19th century?

Imagery:  Choose a carefully described scene from one of the stories. What is the larger meaning of the imagery?

Characterization: What are the defining traits of the main (or minor) characters – especially interesting in “If I Were a Man.”

Plot (the storyline):  Is  the story unusual in some way? Is there a surprise ending?

Use of irony: Discuss how the reader understands something a character doesn’t.

Symbolism (something that stands for something else): Consider, for example, the color yellow, the storm, a man’s pockets, crawling, a bedroom with locked windows, etc.

Setting: Consider the significance of the time, the place (room), the location of a story, the weather.

Use of Language: Consider the aesthetics of the story– use of comparisons (metaphors and similes), carefully chosen words.

Week 4: The Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Dunbar

PLEASE NOTE: In April, we will be reading Freshwater by author and journalist, Akwaeke Emezi.

Here is her biography:  Akwaeke Emezi .

To obtain a copy of this book, please fill out the following form so that a copy can be mailed to your address (on the form you can also arrange to pick the book up in my office in Namm 503). 

Book Mailing Request Form for Online Students

Emezi will be our featured speaker at this year’s Literary Arts Festival on April 27, 2023 (in our new theatre), which I hope you can attend.

The Festival includes the 2023 Literary Arts Festival Writing Competition, which is now open for submissions!  Students may submit their work on the City Tech Literary Arts Festival OpenLab website:

All creative work is welcome and must be submitted by March 20, 2023.


POST DUE: Thursday, FEB. 23

Hi Students:

Thank you for your incisive discussions of the first half of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.  As you made clear, this work is resoundingly “realist” that tells the hard story of a young boy, grappling (as Linnette and Ceci tell us) with his conscience.  He wants to do the right thing (be civilized, learn manners, and get an education) but something keeps gnawing at him.  He feels, as John writes, imprisoned both by the abuse of his father and the immorality of the household he lives in.  Aunt Polly and Aunt Sally are owners of Jim, an enslaved man.  Like Huck, Jim, by chapter 8, will also make his escape.

At the moral center of this work is the decision Huck makes when he finds Jim hiding in the woods just like him. As Aisha writes, “Huck faces a difficult decision to break the law and violate his moral code, but he ultimately chooses to do the right thing and take a risk to help his friend.”

Mark Twain, as a realist writer, wanted to confront one of the central issues of the post-Civil War Era (or The Reconstruction Era, 1865-1900). The Reconstruction amendments, as you recall, were supposed to provide equality for ALL Americans – but the reverse seemed to have taken place.

One of the loudest voices to speak up against the new Jim Crow (anti-black) laws in the South and on-going racism in the North was the African American author and professor, W.E.B Dubois.  In his highly regarded essay, “The Spiritual Strivings of the Negro People,” published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1897, Dubois writes about how “it feels to be perceived as a problem” and the resulting “double-consciousness” this causes.

Watch this video based on his essay HERE.    Here is the full essay.

Just yesterday, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Professor at Harvard, wrote a similarly inspired essay in the New York Times about the controversy on teaching African American history in schools, and why it’s so important to fully learn about the many, many powerful voices and varied works (and opinions) by African American writers, artists, and leaders in the last 175 years.

Read: “Who’s Afraid of African American History”

Another contemporary powerhouse who is speaking out on this topic is Columbia Law Professor Kimberly Crenshaw, one of the originators of Critical Race Theory. She also coined the important word “intersectionality” (a term which is also now facing criticism).

Read: “Changes to AP African American Studies a Shame”

As she explains in the article, “intersectionality” is a way of understanding humans from many vantage points, not just as stereotyped, uniform entities.  We especially need to “expand our understanding of Black reality to include the way patriarchy, homophobia, and class shapes our reality,  so we can better transform it [and make] connections with other movements and other people.” 

In light of the brilliant insights of Du Bois, Gates, and Crenshaw, this week let’s explore two more exceptional African American poets and authors: Paul Laurence Dunbar and his equally gifted wife, Alice.

Paul Dunbar’s two most famous poems are “We Wear the Mask” (about African American double-consciousness) and “Sympathy” (about what it feels like to be imprisoned in your own country), both written in the 1890s. As you read each poem, consider the symbolic meaning of “wearing a mask” and/or being a “bird in a cage.”  Think about how Dunbar’s rich language (and artistic use of rhythm and rhyme) conveys his deep feelings as well as the connection of these poems to points raised by Dubois and Gates.

Next, read the biographies of  Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Moore Dunbar.

Scroll down and choose one poem (either by Paul or Alice) to discuss.  CHOOSE A POEM ANOTHER STUDENT HAS NOT CHOSEN, OR ADD ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY TO ANOTHER STUDENT’S POST. Try to also make a connection to their biography or to a point made by DuBois, Gates, and/or Crenshaw.

I look forward to your explication and discussion of the poem you choose.

POST DUE: Thursday, Feb. 23.

Week 3: Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (post due: Wed. Feb. 15)

Parents of Tyre Nichols at President Biden’s State of the Union Address

Watch: President Joe Biden calls for police reform and pays homage to the parents of Tyre Nichols in his State of Union Address

Watch: My Video Lecture on Mark Twain (including post instructions)

View: Illustrations for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)

Read: Chapters 1-8 (pages 1-56) of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain


Post: By Wed., Feb 15, post a response to a scene (or key lines) from Huckleberry Finn. Be sure to read prior student comments before posting your own (avoid repeating points but feel free to enlarge on points raised). 

The Reconstruction Era and Its Legacy

Hi Students:

Thank you for your well-written and informative self-introductions. It’s clear we have a class of diverse talents, experiences, majors, and pet lovers. I expect that we will learn a great deal more about each other and our course topics as the semester progresses.

I want to begin this week’s lesson acknowledging that there is a “war” in the United States right now over basic human rights and the teaching of factual American history and culture.  The death of Mr. Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, who had been brutally beaten and pepper sprayed by police officers after a traffic stop on Jan. 7 is one example of this.

Another example is the attack in Florida on the proper teaching of African American Studies, causing the College Board to pare down its A.P. Curriculum.

It’s sad to note that in some ways this country is where it was just after the Civil War. During the period of Reconstruction (1865-1879), the South – even though it lost the war – tried to cling to anti-black policies and maintain separation and segregation (and inequality) of the races.

In order to better understand the history and literature of this period, I ask that you review the following.  These readings/viewings will help to provide context for next week’s reading (the opening chapters of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn) and the racial issues our nation continues to confront.


Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (1863)

13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments (The Reconstruction Amendments)

“New York Protests Over Death of Tyre Nichols Continue”

Featuring a statement by Timothy Hunter (City Tech graduate 2020 and Founder of Strategy for Black Lives)


Reconstruction: The 15th Amendment and African American Men in Congress

 “1619 Project”

Critical Race Theory (Pass It On) by City Tech Student Arnold Ludd

Post: By Tuesday, Feb. 7, post a one paragraph response to one (or more) of the above readings/viewings.  You may focus on what you learned (that you did not know before), what you found interesting and/or moving, what you found disturbing, etc.


Welcome Students

Welcome to City Tech and English 2201: American Literature II.

This is an asynchronous class that only meets virtually.

I will post video lectures and assignments each Tuesday. You are required to complete your post assignments by the following Monday (end of the day is fine).

I hold weekly office hours on Zoom (on Tuesdays 4-5 pm). Attending office hours is optional (i.e. not required)


Meeting ID: 865 5198 4150
Passcode: 343521

Office Hours Begin on Tuesday, Jan. 31

I can regularly be reached at:

Professor Mark Noonan


Here are your duties DUE by Friday (Sept. 2nd):

  1. Watch my Course Introduction Video
  2.  Sign up for your OpenLab account with your name and a profile photo.  Log in, then join our course.  If you need  help,  contact the OpenLab Community Team

Look around our course site to familiarize yourself

Introduce yourself.  To write a new post, click the + sign at the top of the page. (It’s a small icon next to the class title and message box icon at the very top of the page). Fill in the subject heading with your name, then add your info and photo below.  After your work is complete, scroll down and check off Class Introductions under Categories (right side of page), then click Publish.

  • Paragraph 1: Include how you would like to be addressed, your pronouns, and any other info you’d like to share. This could include where you are from, where you reside now, your academic interests or major, any hobbies or NYC activities you enjoy, how you feel about beginning college. Feel free to be creative!
  • Paragraph 2:  Include a photo of something (place, space, person, pet, object, etc ) meaningful to you, and tell us about it.  You can paste the photo into the body of your message, or Add Media  to upload it to your post.
  • Before next class, check back to read your classmates’ responses and reply to a few. Getting to know each other, we start building our community.

In a separate email (, please let me know if you have any issues with technology and/or working space that may affect your ability to complete your coursework. Go to this site if you are in need of a loaner laptop or chromebook or MyFi (portable WiFi):

Week 6

The narrative sheds light on what it was like for Native American students compelled to attend boarding schools run by the government in the late 19th and early 20th century. The courage and tenacity of Native People who struggled to preserve their cultural identity in the face of racial tactics is also highlighted. In the Story Zitkala-experiences Sa’s as a young girl attending a Native American children’s boarding school are described in the article. She explains how her family was separated from her and she was made to go to school where she was not allowed to use her native tongue or engage in her cultural customs. Zitkala-Sa found it difficult to adjust to the demanding regulations and harsh punishments at school. She was required to wear a uniform, cut her hair short, and was frequently reprimanded for using her native language or defying school regulations. She was forced to do things that she did not wanted to do. 




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