Course Information


Welcome to this study of America's major cultural groups who have made this country what it is. We use literature and film for this exciting journey. For the Fall semester in 2019, my colleague Prof. Karen Cox will be co-teaching this class with me. Surely you will enjoy her vast knowledge and passion for teaching and her very caring connection with her students. Please visit her website for information about her.


IDST 14 (American Cultures in Literature and Film)

Regular and Primary Instructor: Abdul Jabbar, Ph.D. Co-instructor: Prof. Karen Cox, Ph.D.

Message phone

Preferred and quicker means of communication is by e-mail, using Canvas e-mail. I answer e-mails within 48 hours during week days. On weekends and during holidays, I monitor my e-mail occasionally and answer only urgent e-mails. When Canvas mail is unavailable, I can be reached at

100% online

This entire course is online, including the quizzes, Midterm Exam, and the Final Exam. City College of San Francisco uses Canvas for online delivery of this course.

Start and end dates

It is a late-start 16-week class. It begins on September 3 and ends with the Final Exam on December 20, 2019.

Course description

To find unity in diversity in the shifting trajectories of American identities and how they interrelate, the course will feature major groups to assess their interactive contributions to the unique American mosaic: Native Americans, European Americans, African Americans, Latin Americans, Asian Americans, American Pacific Islanders, and Americans of Middle Eastern descent. Literary works of nonfiction, fiction, drama, and poetry will be supplemented with selected movies to accomplish this goal.

Graduation requirements that this course meets

This course meets CCSF graduation requirements in the areas of humanities and ethnic studies; it transfers to University of California and California State University systems, qualifies for the IGETC credit, and satisfies the 7-course breadth requirement of University of California, Berkeley's College of Letters and Sciences. This course also counts as one of the elective courses toward completing our new certificate program in Critical Middle East (SWANA) Studies.

Honors credit

You can take this course for a letter grade, for pass/no-pass, or for Honors credit:

Honors Office Phone: 415-239-3376. Office: Cloud 214. E-mail address of the Honors Coordinator, Prof. Sami Kudsi:

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course a student will be able to use literature and film to:

  1. Apply literary and film terminology used in aesthetic evaluation and cultural criticism.
  2. Analyze via film and literature how the concept of the American dream has impacted major cultural groups, focusing on the idea, reality, and potential of the United States of America.
  3. Assess literary and cinematic representations of the colonization, conquest, and expansion of America.
  4. Compare and contrast the experiences of various immigrant groups through literature and film.
  5. Examine patterns of prejudice and ethnic stereotypes in American literature and film, with an emphasis on the theme of "us" versus "them" when defining an American.
  6. Evaluate the intersectionality of race/ethnicity, culture, gender, class, sexual orientation, and looks as interlinking and multiple bases of oppression and privilege, as depicted in American literature and film.
  7. Evaluate important steps and symbols in the national struggle for reconciliation and the embracing of cultural diversity, noting the contributions of various groups as depicted in literature and film.

Course Organization

The course reader covers most of the course content. It is organized around the following seven units:

Unit 1. Introduction to the American Cultural Mosaic (focus on the American dream)

Unit 2. Colonization of America and of American Pacific Islands

Unit 3. Immigrants: Connections and Disconnects

Unit 4. Prejudice and Fences and Racial Stereotypes

Unit 5. Intersecting Identities

Unit 6. Struggle for reconciliation and embracing diversity

Unit 7. What Makes America Great: The American Culture of Resistance to Injustice at Home and Abroad

Required textbooks

1. (Required) The American Cultures Reader. It is available only at Copy Edge on Ocean Avenue in San Francisco for $ 45.

2. (Required) The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. You can purchase this short novel at the City College Bookstore. The cost is under $15 for a new copy. Used copies are available for $10 and below. You may also be able to find this short novel online for free.

3. Recommended, not required: If you have the time and interest, you will find Ronald Takaki's book A Larger Memory enriching.

Anti-Discrimination Policy Information

The San Francisco Community College District is committed to the principles of equal opportunity, and the prevention of discrimination and harassment in any program or activity of the District on the basis of race, color, ancestry, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, gender, gender identity, marital status, domestic partner status, sexual orientation, disability or AIDS/HIV status, medical conditions, or status as Vietnam-era veteran, or on the basis of these perceived characteristics, or based on association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.

Inclusivity Statement

Our students represent a rich diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. City College of San Francisco is committed to providing an atmosphere for learning that respects diversity. To achieve that goal, the following steps are necessary:

  1. share our unique experiences, values and beliefs
  2. give respectable audience to each other’s opinions and communicate in a respectful manner
  3. be open to the views of others as long as they fall within the limits of reasonable and civilized discourse
  4. honor the uniqueness of peers
  5. appreciate the opportunity that we have to learn from each other in this community.

Some specific points of information to make your use of Canvas easy and trouble-free


When you log into the course, on the home page you will see recent announcements link on top. Click on it for my weakly messages. Treat them as my weekly lectures.You should check this link frequently, at least twice a week.


I use Canvas mail to send students urgent messages.


Click on Modules for all of your reading, viewing, writing, and discussion assignments. This class is module-driven. Clicking on "Modules" in the menu (system's navigation) will take you to "Getting started." As you scroll down, you will find links, module by module, to the complete details of your reading and viewing assignments, quizzes, the Midterm grade, Final Exam, your graded and ungraded discussion posts, and your course grade.


Under "Getting started," you are asked you to introduce yourself. Follow the linked instructions to complete that task.

Navigating Canvas and technical support

You will find this information under "Getting started" in "Modules."

Frequently asked questions are answered below.


Following the Department's suggestions and instructional methodology's recommended best practices, at the start of the semester, I am going to open assignments of about three to four weeks at a time. Research suggests that opening the entire list of reading, viewing, writing, and discussion assignments at once confuses and overwhelms students. However, if you wish to have a quick overview of the semester's graded assignments, that information is given at the bottom of the Syllabus page.

Weekly Assignments

In an on-line course, it is crucial to stay abreast of the assignments. Don't let yourself fall too far behind the instructional calendar. Each week's objectives and tasks should be completed in a timely manner, that is, within the week of the assignments. In situations when you are unable to read ALL reading assignments, first read the short stories and poems. Later catch up on what you missed. The quizzes on each of the 7 Units will be based primarily on short stories (fiction) and poems. So enjoy reading them slowly and carefully. You can speed read other assignments, jotting down in a list format only their major points or take only mental notes.

The quality of your completed weekly assignments and notes that you take on them will determine, to a large extent, your Midterm and Final grades.


There will be timed multiple-choice quizzes or graded discussion posts on each of the 7 modules. Those quizzes are meant to see that you have completed your homework in a timely manner.

Posting assignments

There are two kinds of posting assignments. One is under the Students' discussion forum. It is meant to give students an opportunity to exchange views and help one another with course work. The posts on this forum are not graded. However, there is a reward for those who post on this forum regularly with good quality work. In borderline situations, when a student's course grade falls between two grades, the higher of the possible two grades is assigned to actively participating students.

The second kind of posts are graded, asking you to post your reflections on the reading and viewing assignments of your choice. You will also be asked to respond to at least one of your classmates' post in each posting cycle. These postings will be worth 20 points each (15 points for your post and 5 points for your comment on a peer's post).

Midterm grade

Since this late-start class is considered a short-term course, there is no formal Midterm Exam or grade. However, at the semester's midpoint, you are given an opportunity to assess your progress via an unofficial Midterm exercise.

Final Exam and course grade

You will be allowed 3 hours for the Final exam. The Exam questions will be released at 9 a.m. on Friday, December 20 . You will have a 3-hour time limit with the deadline of 11:55 p.m. on the same day.

Keep this date free for the exam. Contact me if it is absolutely impossible for you to take the Final on the assigned date. Make-up exams will be allowed in emergencies.

Requesting a grade of incomplete

If an emergency prevents you from finishing the class on time, you can request a grade of incomplete. If your request is approved, you will have the following semester to complete your work. Your grade of incomplete will then be changed to your actual grade.

How much time you will need to put in per week

Using the prevailing academic standards, you may be spending a minimum of 9 hours per week to complete the assigned work. Students with less than college-level reading and writing proficiency may have to spend more time to keep up with the work load and do well in class. The bonus in online classes is that you save on the commute time.


Adding and dropping classes is the student's responsibility. Please be mindful of the relevant deadlines. Don't count on the instructor to drop you. If you fail to drop before the deadline, you will end up receiving a grade of F. Instructors have no control over such situations.


If you are a student with a disability and would like help accessing your online course materials, please read "An important message from the DSPS for students with disabilities."

Course grade

Your work throughout the semester, including your participation in discussions, will be assessed to determine your grade for the course.

Standard grading key: 91-100% = A; 81-90 = B; 71-80 = C; 61-70 = D