Teaching 1 (Graduate Syllabus)

(Below is my most recent syllabus at the graduate level; please pardon the altered formatting; please contact me if you would like a copy of any other course syllabi)




Course Section:                          01

Meeting Time and Place:          TR 12:40- 1:55 HSS 114

Credit Hours:                              03

Instructor:                                   Rudyard Alcocer, Ph.D.


Office Hours: T 11:30am-12:30pm, Th 2pm-3pm, & by appt.

Office: McClung Tower 616, telephone: 865-974-6996 (no message service)

Email (usually better method of contact than phone): ralcocer@utk.edu

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Identity Formations (Personal, Cultural, Regional) in the French- and Spanish-Speaking Caribbean

This course surveys the most important contributions in Caribbean cultural theory by considering landmark writings from both Spanish-speaking and French-speaking areas of the region, while not ignoring the Anglophone regions. We will ask (and seek answers to) questions like the following: What is the Caribbean? Is the region characterized more by homogeneity or diversity? Is it primarily a geographical space? An idea? How have formulations of Caribbean identity evolved over time? How do literature and other cultural production from the region register these formulations of identity? What are the other crucial intellectual questions facing the region?

Repeatability: May be repeated with consent of department. Please see yor appropriate program guidelines for details

VALUE PROPOSITION: This course will expose students – in an organized and accessible manner – to several of the most important trends in literary studies, both in terms of Latin American & Caribbean cultures as well as broader theoretical concepts. Through the course, students a) will become more knowledgeable and conversant in these trends, b) deepen their knowledge of Latin America & the Caribbean, and c) become more self-reflective and sophisticated students of literature, culture, literary & cultural theory, etc.

STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES: Students, as shown in their writing assignments and in their contributions to class discussion, will master the intricacies of the subject matter. Furthermore, they are expected (in their final project) to produce a coherent, well-researched and documented essay relevant to the topics of the course.

LEARNING ENVIRONMENT: I encourage you to be vocal but also mindful of what others say. With literature, sometimes there are no right answers, but rather varying degrees of passion, eloquence, and insight with regard to what we read. Please come to class having read assigned materials and ready to share your insights and to listen to those of others. You will notice that the readings are of varying lengths and apparent complexity. It is both your job and mine to give all the readings our full and undivided attention. The same holds true for class discussion and presentations, and for written work (which may often consist of short essays, but which should not be taken lightly on account of their brevity). The final essay involves a bibliography and research.

Student’s Responsibility Instructor’s Responsibility
  • Be prepared for all classes
  • Be prepared for all classes
  • Be respectful of others
  • Be respectful of the students
  • Actively contribute to the learning activities in class
  • Create and facilitate meaningful learning activities
  • Abide by the UT Honor Code
  • Evaluate all fairly and equally

TEXTS/MATERIALS/RESOURCES FOR THE COURSE: Several pdfs will be made available to students. Students should, however, purchase the following texts in either the English version or the French/Spanish original if applicable/available:

Sidney Mintz                            Three Ancient Colonies, 2012

Jacques Roumain                      Gouverneurs de la rosée / Masters of the Dew, 1944

Alejo Carpentier                      El reino de este mundo / The Kingdom of this World, 1949

Évelyne Trouillot                    Rosalie l’Infame / The Infamous Rosalie, 2013

Mayra Montero                                   Tú, la oscuridad / In the Palm of Darkness, 1995


The Birth of Caribbean Civilisation: A Century of Ideas about Culture and Identity, Nation and Society. Compiled and Edited by O. Nigel Bolland, 2004.

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers

Additional resources for students:

(Schedule of classes)

requirements, and major guides)

INFORMATION LITERACY/TECHNOLOGICAL RESOURCES: The course has a Blackboard site on which I will post announcements and basic materials such as grades and absences to date. I will announce any additional use of Blackboard. Please use my UT email address rather than Blackboard or any other electronic/social media for correspondence.


Requirements/Assessment: All assignments are due on the dates indicated below.  Reading assignments must be completed before coming to class.  Homework, preparation, and class participation are part of the final grade.  Every student is responsible for all the assignments indicated in the syllabus even when he/she is not present in class. All assignments must be completed by the date indicated on the syllabus or announced by the professor (note: informal writing assignments will seldom be announced prior to a given day’s class session). There will be no make-ups unless the student presents official documentation of some extraordinary circumstance and the professor accepts it as a legitimate excuse. You have three days to contact the professor and make suitable arrangements. The professor is under no obligation to accept any late work that is not accompanied by a legitimate, official, verifiable excuse. Formal essays and other homework assignments are collected at the beginning of the class session unless otherwise announced. If you are absent or late, it is your responsibility to remain up to date on assignments and the direction of the course.

You must save all your work: keep spare copies of all electronic work, and keep work that is returned to you.

Note: this course uses the plus/minus grading system. Plus/minus Equivalencies:

A = 93-100, A –  =  90-92, B +  = 87-89, B  = 83-86, B –  = 80-82, C +  = 77-79, C  = 73-76, C –  = 70-72, D+  = 67-69, D = 63-66, D- = 60-62, F  = 0-59


(NOTE: English is the lingua franca of the course. That stated, students may write in English … or … in French or Spanish, based on their type of enrollment in the course. When, however, texts are made available in their original French or Spanish, students will be expected to read in accordance with the language of their enrollment).

-Essays (5) 60% (essays 1-4 are worth 10% each, and essay 5 20%; the fifth (i.e., the last) essay (aka the final project) involves a preliminary abstract/proposal, a peer workshop, a meeting with the professor (optional at the 500 level, mandatory at the 600 level); the final essay is also accompanied by an oral presentation and an abstract, each with their own grade value (see “Abstract” and “Oral presentation 2” below). The first four essays will be short (approx. 2-4 pages each). The final essay, for students enrolled at the 500 level, will be 8-10 pages, minimum 2500 words, with a minimum of 7 works cited. For students enrolled at the 600 level, the essay will be article length: 12-15 pages, minimum 3750 words, with a minimum of 10 works cited; the works cited must have been published by scholarly presses or have appeared in peer-reviewed journals. Students should make every effort to cite recent publications.

-Abstract for final essay (5%). 200-300 words.

-Short writing assignments (5%): There will be 2 unannounced in-class short writing assignments based on the readings for that day. These assignments/quizzes are usually given at the beginning of class and are used to assess students’ progress and diligence with their reading, as well as to stimulate thinking on relevant topics. They may not be made up without a valid, verifiable excuse.

-Oral presentation 1 (10%): 10-minute report on text and/or author not on primary reading list, followed by Q & A (please see instructor to arrange date)

-Oral presentation 2 (5%): 5-minute description of final essay, followed by Q & A (please see instructor to arrange date)

-Response to reading (5%): On separate occasions throughout the semester, each student will bring to the class a type-written response of no more than half a page to the reading for the day; the student will also supply sufficient photocopies for all in the class. This response can consist of questions, criticisms, opinions, etc. The response has two purposes: to show that the presenting student has thought carefully and perceptively on the reading, and to stimulate general discussion. (please see instructor to arrange date)

-Active class participation (10%)

 Attendance: You are expected to attend every class session. You are responsible for all material covered whether or not you attend class. A tardiness exceeding 10 minutes will be counted as an absence. If you arrive prior to 10 minutes after the start time but after I have checked the roll, you will incur a half absence. The same time scheme and corresponding penalties apply to early departures from class. In the case of an ongoing problem (such as a personal crisis or illness), students should consider withdrawing from this course and take it when circumstances improve. Students are allowed two unexcused absences without impact on the final grade (although in-class writing assignments may not be made up without an official excuse; in addition, assignments submitted late must be accompanied by an official excuse so as not to incur penalty). Each additional unexcused absence beyond the second will incur an automatic 5 point reduction in the final course grade. Please see me if you foresee any issues with the attendance policy.

Participation: Students who receive full participation credit arrive to class on time, and contribute actively and pro-actively to class conversations, indicating quite clearly that they have read the materials thoroughly and have thought about them carefully; they work cooperatively and respectfully with their peers, while using the target language of the course (Spanish). Students who receive low participation scores are any combination of the following: chronically a) silent, b) absent, c) late, d) disruptive, e) often resort to English, e) eat, f) sleep, g) engage in irrelevant, personal conversations. Cell phone use, text messaging, blackberries, etc. are not allowed in class. You may use laptops and other technology as long as you do so clearly and unequivocally for the purposes of the class. Please see me if you have a medical condition that requires you to eat during class. NOTE: Class participation is graded on a strict and competitive 0-10 scale; 5 = mediocre, average class participation.

-Your sending an email to my email address does not constitute my agreement with and/or acceptance of its contents (for instance, emails of this sort: “Dear Prof. Alcocer, I will be traveling to my aunt’s funeral next month and will need to submit the essay on Friday instead of Wednesday. Thank you…”).

-Extra credit opportunities, if there are any, will be announced by the instructor.

COURSE FEEDBACK: At any time I welcome any and all your comments on the course. Please feel free to send me your comments electronically, although I much prefer conversations during my office hours or by appt. At the end of the term you will be asked by the university to provide an official assessment of the course and the quality of my instruction. Please make every effort to respond thoroughly to this request: your feedback is good for me and for the university!


-UNIVERSITY CIVILITY STATEMENT (from the University Provost’s Campus Syllabus)“Civility is genuine respect and regard for others: politeness, consideration, tact, good manners, graciousness, cordiality, affability, amiability and courteousness. Civility enhances academic freedom and integrity, and is a prerequisite to the free exchange of ideas and knowledge in the learning community. Our community consists of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and campus visitors. Community members affect each other’s well-being and have a shared interest in creating and sustaining an environment where all community members and their points of view are valued and respected. Affirming the value of each member of the university community, the campus asks that all its members adhere to the principles of civility and community adopted by the campus: http://civility.utk.edu/.”

-Academic Integrity. According to the University Provost’s campus syllabus, “An essential feature of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is a commitment to maintaining an atmosphere of intellectual integrity and academic honesty. As a student of the university, I pledge that I will neither knowingly give nor receive any inappropriate assistance in academic work, thus affirming my own personal commitment to honor and integrity.”

-Plagiarism is presenting another person’s work or ideas as one’s own. Be particularly careful with online sources, as these have been problematic with some students. If in doubt about whether an activity constitutes plagiarism, please ask me before you submit your work for assessment. Cases of cheating are handled within the policies of the College of Arts and Sciences and in accordance with the University Statement on Students Rights.

STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES POLICY: Any student who feels he or she may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) at 865-974-6087 in 2227 Dunford Hall to document their eligibility for services. ODS will work with students and faculty to coordinate reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities.”

THE INSTRUCTOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO REVISE, ALTER AND/OR AMEND THIS SYLLABUS, AS NECESSARY. STUDENTS WILL BE NOTIFIED IN CLASS AND/OR BY EMAIL OF ANY SUCH REVISIONS, ALTERATIONS AND/OR AMENDMENTS. Please check your UT email account on a regular basis or activate a forwarding mechanism to your preferred account. In the event of an absence, it is the student’s responsibility to gather information on any material she/he may have missed.


Jan 8:             Course Introduction

Jan 13:           Mintz, Three Ancient Colonies, Chapters 1-2

Jan 15:           Mintz, Three Ancient Colonies, Chapter 3

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Jan 20:           Mintz, Three Ancient Colonies, Chapters 4-5, Essay 1 due

Jan 22:           Amerindians (Heuman), Las Casas

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Jan 27:           Moreau de St. Méry

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Jan 29:           Martí

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on Alexander von Humboldt’s1826 study on Cuba:_______________

[Special Announcement: Jan 30, 4:30pm, Calhoun’s on the River, Graduate Workshop on Publishing).

Feb 3:                        Pedreira

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on Palés Matos (Puerto Rican poet):___________________________

Feb 5:            Roumain

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on Nicolás Guillén (Cuban poet):_____________________________

Feb 10:          Roumain

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on Jean Price-Mars (Haitian intellectual):_________________________

Feb 12:          Roumain

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on Aimé Césaire (Martinican poet):_____________________

Feb 17:          Roumain

Essay 2 due 

Feb 19:          Carpentier prologue

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on Fernando Ortiz (Cuban anthropologist):_______________________

Feb 25:          Carpentier

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on Frantz Fanon (Martinican psychologist):_______________________

Feb 27:          Carpentier, film

NOTE: Please plan on visiting my office during the month of March to discuss your final project; this meeting will last approximately fifteen minutes. A sign-up sheet will be made available.

Mar 3:           Carpentier & Natalie Léger

Essay 3 due

Mar 5:           tba

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on Fidel Castro (Cuban leader):________________________________

[Special Announcement: Mar 6, 4:30pm, Calhoun’s on the River, Graduate Workshop on Careers Beyond Academia).

Mar 10:         tba

Mar 12:         Depestre (including “Hello & Goodbye to Negritude)

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on García Espinosa’s “For an Imperfect Cinema”:__________________

Mar 17 & 19:                        Spring Break

Mar 24:         Trouillot, Essay 4 due

Mar 26:         JL González

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on Fernández Retamar “Caliban”:_________________________

Mar 31:         Glissant

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

[Special Announcement: The UT Caribbean Studies Research Group welcomes presentations by students on their research during their 4pm meeting on April 1; please see the instructor for details)

Apr 2:            Benítez Rojo

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic: __________________________

Apr 7:                        Montero

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on Edwige Danticat ______________________

Apr 9:           Montero, Peer workshop on final project

Apr 14:          Montero

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on Brathwaite’s “tidalectics”[*]

Apr 16:          Montero

Student Response to reading: _________________________________

Oral Presentation on Éloge de la créolité: _________________________________

Apr 21:          Oral Presentation 2

Apr 23:          Final Class, Oral Presentation 2

Final Project due in my office no later than the end of the course final exam hour:

12:15pm, Wednesday April 29

YOUR ROLE IN IMPROVING TEACHING AND LEARNING THROUGH COURSE ASSESSMENT: At UT, it is our collective responsibility to improve the state of teaching and learning. During the semester, you may be requested to assess aspects of this course either during class or at the completion of the class. You are encouraged to respond to these various forms of assessment as a means of continuing to improve the quality of the UT learning experience.





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