Ghost Literature from Morrison to Nguyen

Course Description

From Hamlet to Turn of the Screw, the ghost has been a consistent part of literatures written in the English language. What appeals about them depends upon who you ask and about which era or movement you inquire. Unlike previous eras, in contemporary times, ghosts are figures that most think are likely not real—even if we are fascinated by their representation in novels, poems, stories, and film. Indeed, we even use ‘ghost’ in our relationship slang, as in “He ghosted me after one date.” This course begins with this observation and asks why? Why do we so love the figure of the ghost? What appeals to authors in their construction of their own stories about the ghost? What sort of metaphorical work does the ghost do in stories or films in contemporary time? While encountering a variety of cultural texts—including films, novels, stories, poems, television miniseries, and paintings—from the 1970s through the present, this course will focus on pieces that contain the ghost in some form to answer some of the above questions. Students will, therefore, be exposed to a variety of genres of cultural production and will learn and employ the literary critical tools as they develop argumentative writing for the course. All students, regardless of major or familiarity with literary texts listed below, are encouraged to join the course. This course fulfills the Gordon rule.

Course Competencies

Competency 1: The student will demonstrate an understanding of literary genres (including, but not limited to, the short story, poetry, and drama) by:

  1. Defining literary terms
  2. Recognizing particular elements of specific genres
  3. Identifying and explaining the aesthetic qualities of assigned material 

Competency 2: The student will interpret selected readings by: 

  1. Identifying and discussing relevant themes
  2. Analyzing and discussing particular conflicts,ideas,and experiences present in the literary works 

Competency 3: The student will demonstrate an appreciation for the importance of literature in culture by: 

  1. Identifying key writers and works of literature from different historical periods
  2. Analyzing different literary movements
  3. Analyzing the literary works societal contexts 

Competency 4: The student will demonstrate proficiency in written communication by: 

  1. Generating, developing, organizing, and presenting ideas effectively
  2. Developing and selecting communication to purpose, audience, and occasion
  3. Recognizing the conventions of Standard American English 

Required Materials:

  • Laptop, tablet, or other electronic device beyond a cell phone for note-taking, writing, and accessing Zoom, Canvas, Google Drive, OneDrive, and MDConnect.
  • Reminder that Miami is subject to intermittent downpours throughout the year. I recommend always carrying an umbrella.
  • Portable storage (flash drive, email, cloud, etc)
  • Access to YouTube and the Internet
  • As far as readings are concerned, there are only a few required purchases (below). All other readings will be linked to the syllabus and/or available on Google Drive/Canvas:
    • Sula by Toni Morrison
    • Track by Louise Erdrich
    • The Norton Introduction to Literature (Shorter 13th ed.) by Kelly J. Mays
    • Walking with Ghosts by Qwo-Li Driskill
    • Films: Candyman (1992), dir. Bernard Rose; Candyman (2021), dir. Nia DaCosta; La Llorona (2019), dir. Jayro Bustamante

Policies and Expectations


Students are required to attend class: Come to the classroom on time and prepared (having done the reading/s or assignment/s), at least attempt all classwork activities, turn in assigned work when due, participate fully in good faith in any peer work, participate in class discussion, focus on the work at hand, and conduct oneself in a manner appropriate to the college classroom.

As our class will be conducted in-person, COVID-19 restrictions will be strictly-enforced. For more information on COVID-19 restrictions and guidance, go to or

Rubric for class participation

5Student is always attentive and contributes relevant insight very often, completing all in-class assignments in a collaborative and receptive manner
4Student is attentive and completes all in-class assignments in a collaborative and receptive manner
3Student is distracted but completes all in-class assignments
2Student is often distracted and off-task, hesitant and unreceptive to collaboration
1Student does not complete in-class assignments
0Student is absent

On Writing and Reading

This class will ask a lot of you in terms of writing and reading. You are likely to do more reading in a quicker time in this course than any other course you have taken before. I will, before class, ask that you respond to several informal prompts on Canvas in the hopes you will at least attempt to do this work. Homework is a small part of your participation grade but will be immensely helpful to you in thinking about the texts we are discussing and formulating a topic for your major assignments. I understand and respect that you have a personal life beyond our classroom. This notwithstanding, I expect you will come to class having at least attempted to do the assigned reading and writing all the way through and having prepared notes, ideas, or questions to discuss with the class.

Revision is a central and integral part of this course and any writing course of merit. In order for your writing to be consistently improving, you must bring it through multiple drafts of revision. Revision, then, is a requirement of this course. You will upload free-write, journaling, even outlines and sketches, to your Google Drive folder. Failure to do so will cast a burden of proof on your having done consistent revision in good faith for each assignment, and this will be reflected in your grades.


Each student is allotted 4 unexcused absences and 3 tardies. Absences beyond this may result in deductions from the student’s final grade. Excessive absences will result in the student failing the course. After a student has been late (tardy) 3 times, each following time the student is late will result in 1/3 an absence. This means once a student has been late to class 6 times, they will receive an absence. Students who acknowledge holy days on the same day(s) we have class will be excused.

In-person attendance is required as scheduled. If at some point in the semester you cannot attend class sessions due to illness, injury, or other approved absence, you should contact the professor and check the syllabus for any work missed. Absences do not excuse any due dates or work missed. Therefore, it is important that starting from the first week of class, you and your colleagues set up points of contact so that, in the case you are absent, they will be able to provide you with discussion notes from lecture.

Electronics Policy and Google Drive vs. Canvas

  • Each student is required to have a tablet, laptop, or similar electronic device in order to take notes, complete and submit in-class writing assignments, access readings or notes for class discussion, and participate in peer review. 
  • We will spend most of our class time working in Google Drive, a cloud-based file sharing system to which each student will have access. Students will be given links via Canvas Navigation Menu to our class folder with readings, as well as the syllabus, assignment sheets, and folders for uploading drafts during peer review.
  • All assignments, including final drafts, Canvas Discussion Board posts, and peer review reflections will be submitted on Canvas. Unless a student has no access to Canvas—in which case he or she should email their assignment to the instructor—failure to upload assignments will result in failure of the assignment. For extensions, email the instructor. It is up to the student to make sure you always have access to your Canvas and the Internet. Inability to access Canvas will not be a sufficient excuse for not turning in assignments on time. 
  • For IT help, MDC’s Office of Information Technology can be reached at Live specialists are available 24/7. 

Legal Disclosures for Class Recordings, Content Sharing: 

  • Students are expressly prohibited from recording any part of this course. Meetings of this course might be recorded by the College. Any recordings will be available to students registered for this class as they are intended to supplement the classroom experience. 
  • Students are expected to follow appropriate College policies and maintain the security of passwords used to access recorded lectures. 
  • Recordings may not be reproduced, shared with those not in the class, or uploaded to other online environments. 
  • If the instructor or a Miami-Dade College office plans any other uses for recordings of class beyond this section, students identifiable in the recordings will be notified to request consent prior to such use. 
  • This instructor is the copyright owner of the courseware; individual recordings of the materials on Canvas and/or of any sessions are not allowed. Such materials cannot be shared outside the classroom environment without express permission.

On Controversy and Alternative Assignments

Every student, no matter their identity, ideology, or ability, is welcome and valued in this class. This class will ask that we all confront political, social, and ideological questions that may be deemed controversial. I encourage you not to shy away from this opportunity to think through these issues. No matter what, no student should ever feel unwelcome or unsafe in this classroom. If you ever find that you are inappropriately uncomfortable or unable to do any assignment, let me know immediately and I can offer an alternative assignment for you to complete.


Miami-Dade College provides professional support to students no matter their gender expression, sexual preferences, sex, race, financial or immigration status. You can make an appointment by going to or going to the campus’s Single Stop Office:


Students with accessibility requirements are provided for by A Comprehensive Center for Exceptional Student Services (ACCESS) and may contact this office in Room 1180, Wolfson Campus, (305) 237-3072 or via email at to make any requests for accessibility. If you have trouble contacting ACCESS, let me know and I will help you. If you have contacted ACCESS and have any requirements of me, please be sure to let me know as soon as possible.

The Reading and Writing Center ( can help you at any stage of the writing process.  Appointments are suggested, but they also accept ‘walk-in’ visits.  If I think it’s necessary, I will ask you to use the Reading and Writing Center on a regular basis. You can learn more about the reading and writing center and all of the workshops and other resources available to you there by going to You can make an appointment on EAB Navigate.

OWL @ Purdue is a great online resource for writing and research techniques. It can be located at

Extra Credit is only available or permitted in this course at the discretion of the professor. I personally do not enjoy the use of extra credit because I believe it is unfair to those who have committed to the work required of this class if others are able to do extra work for credit. Moreover, extra credit requires extra effort and time to which I am unable to commit for reading, annotating, grading, and categorizing within the gradebook. However, in the event that you visit the writing center (see above), I am alerted via email by the center that you attended a meeting with a tutor. In the case that you visit the writing center, you can receive up to and not exceeding five (5) points on that essay assignment.

On Communication

I will make a point to learn each of your names and I expect you will learn to use one another’s name in conversation, as well (“I agree with what ___ said”). This will create a welcoming and meaningful culture for our classroom. If you have a question about the policies or assignments for this class, you may speak to me before, during, or after class, via email, or in office hours. I will make a point to reply to your email within 24-to-48 hours. If you have not received a response from me after two days, you should email me again. Please do not email me to ask questions about an assignment one or two days before it is due as this will not allow due time for me to respond and for you to use this answer in writing your assignment.

Academic Honor Code

As a student of Miami-Dade College, you have agreed to uphold the Student Rights and Responsibilities code of conduct. Violation of this code includes but is not limited to cheating, plagiarism, collusion, or academic dishonesty. The Student’s Rights and Responsibilities Handbook defines each of these violations:

“Academic dishonesty includes the following actions, and those that are similar in nature, with respect to a student’s academic performance.

  1. Cheating on an examination including unauthorized sharing of information
  2. Collaborating with others in work to be submitted, if contrary to the stated rules of the course 
  3. Plagiarizing, taking and claiming as one’s own the ideas, writings, or work of another, without citing the sources 
  4. Submitting, work from another course unless permitted by the instructor”

Any student who violates this clause will fail not only the assignment but the entire course. Each of you has the ability to think through your own unique ideas. If you are thinking of violating this code of conduct because you are overwhelmed or in distress, speak with me and we will come up with a better solution.


If you have a question or concern about an assignment or participation grade, please come and see me during my office hours or talk with me before or after class to arrange a meeting.  Due to federal requirements, MDC faculty are not permitted to discuss grades via email or phone, so we will need to meet in person and in private via Zoom.

Overall Grade Distribution:                                                                               

Attendance & Class Participation: 5%
Throughline short essays: 10%
Midterm: 20%
Close-Reading Assignment: 15%
Podcast episode: 15%
Literary movement presentation: 15%
Final Exam: 20%                          
Total:                      100%

Grading Scale:

A: 90-100
B: 80-89
C: 70-79
D: 60-69
F: 0-59

A – Exemplary  B – Effective       C – Sufficient      D – Unsatisfactory         F – Failure


Podcast Episode (15%)

Assignment Directions: This assignment asks you to write, produce, and record yourself and partner(s) for a small episode (30 mins. max) of our semester-long podcast, the title for which we will brainstorm in the early days of class. You and your partner(s) will sign up for a topic and weeklong commitment to produce 1 episode. You will have three major deadlines for this episode: (1) outline, (2) script, (3) upload-ready episode recording. There are many resources online for writing, producing, and editing your own podcast — I recommend you take advantage of these and other resources like YouTube tutorial videos. In class, the instructor will produce the first ‘introductory’ episode, so you are able to see one method of production from start to finish.

In-Class or Out-of-Class: Out of class

Due Date: Depends upon which week/topic you and your partner(s) sign onto

Requirements: On Monday of the week you have been assigned, you will turn in a rough outline of the episode, which should include any textual information like quotations or research for your topic as well as a plan for discussion between you and your partner(s) – who speaks when and what do they say. By Thursday night at midnight, you should have a rough script for the podcast. Your final recording is due before midnight Sunday night. 

Weekly Throughline Essays (10% total)

Assignment Directions: Each week, you will write a short essay (250-500 words) wherein you will reflect on the readings for that week and what sort of motifs, themes, or devices interest you. As this is a weekly assignment and many of our readings will span multiple weeks, consider what thematic through-lines are being developed in the readings. You might also reflect on any historical information you learn or discover about the text (but be sure to always cite your sources and make sure the focus of your writing remains on the text, not literary history).

In-Class or Out-of-Class: Mostly out-of-class, though some may be begun in-class

Due Date: Before midnight on Sunday nights

Requirements: 500-750 words ea. While quotations will be helpful to make your connections between sources, this must be original work – so most of the writing should be your own words. If you use any information from any source, be sure to properly cite both within the essay and with a Works Cited/Bibliography at the end of the essay. The req. word count does not include this works cited page. [Note: you will not need to turn in a Throughline Essay for the week you are producing a podcast episode or the week you are presenting in class].

Literary Movements Presentation (15%)

Assignment Directions: This project asks that students research and present information on one specific literary movement. Options for which movement to choose will be discussed in class and students may work in pairs or groups (max of 3 people). Slideshows should be submitted at least one week prior to presentation date so the professor may give feedback on the slides and they may be revised prior to the presentation. Included in the presentation’s content should be major aspects of the literary style, how it came to be historically (including inspirations from previous historical events or movements), and who some of the main writers are that are associated with the movement.

In-Class or Out-of-Class: Out of class

Due Date: Slides due 1 week before presentation date, presentation date depends on sign-up

Requirements: Slides should not be crowded with text – instead, students should prepare to speak more than what is written on the slides. The slides function as reminders and major points, not scripts. All information gathered from outside sources should be cited properly on a works cited slide at the end of the slideshow or within the slideshow itself. At least 3 writers should be mentioned as having been associated with the movement and why. If in a pair or group, each student should participate equally. (maximum presentation time 25 mins.)

Midterm Quiz (15%)

At midterms, students should be prepared to take a quiz based on information discussed in class up to this point in the semester – information regarding readings, interpretations of the readings, themes of discussions. Additionally, students will be quizzed on literary devices, genres, and movements presented up to this point in the semester. The quiz will contain a variety of question types, including short answer, multiple choice, and one short essay.

Close-Reading Assignment (15%) 

Assignment Directions: This brief analysis paper will require you to select a passage from a written or visual text we have discussed in class. To be successful, the close-reading must be an argumentative interpretation of the literariness of the text – thematic, or otherwise. Note that this is not a report on what the author is saying or a summary. While it will be important to reference plot points, this assignment is meant to argue what the text is doing. Explain how the writer or director conveys their story or argument. The essay should focus on one central argument, not several unrelated portions of the text.

In-Class or Out-of-Class: Out of class (peer review via Canvas)

Due Date: Draft to be uploaded to Canvas before class time Dec 6; final draft due to Canvas by 11:59 p.m. Dec 11

Requirements: 1100 words minimum (~4.5 pages double-spaced)

Final Exam (20%)

The final exam will contain a variety of questions, including short answer, multiple choice, true/false, and one short essay. The material covered will be based on the competencies for LIT2000 at MDC, which are detailed above. An exam study guide will be available on Canvas one week prior to the exam. Content covered in the exam will include questions related to the readings and discussions from the course, including specific questions about literary devices and major literary movements. Students will also be asked to reflect on their previous assignments, including the close-reading essay, the podcast episode, and the literary movements presentation. When necessary, students should always cite sources of information; however, students will not be required to directly quote from texts.

Course Schedule

Week 1                                    

T 8/23         Review Syllabus

“Ghost Trap / Trampo de espanto” by Gloria Anzaldúa

         Homework: Read “La Prieta” and “El paisano is a bird of good omen” by Gloria Anzaldúa

R 8/25         Gloria Anzaldúa

         Homework: Read “The Presence” and Prietita and the Ghost Woman by Gloria Anzaldúa

{ F 8/26 — Last day to add course or drop course and receive refund } 


Week 2                                    

T 8/30         Gloria Anzaldúa

         Homework: Read Sula by Toni Morrison (pp. )

R 9/1        Sula

         Homework: Read Sula by Toni Morrison (pp. )

Week 3                                    

T 9/6         Sula

         Homework: Read Sula by Toni Morrison (pp. 

R 9/8         Sula

         Homework: Read Sula by Toni Morrison (pp. )

Week 4                                    

T 9/13         Sula
The art of Kenturah Davis

         Homework: Read Sula by Toni Morrison (pp. 

R 9/15         Sula

         Homework: Read Sula by Toni Morrison (pp. -end)

Week 5                                     

T 9/20         Sula

         Homework:  Read “Slaveships”; “lost baby poem”; “sorrow song”; and “far memory” by Lucille Clifton

R 9/22         Presentation 1: American Romanticism (Transcendentalism)

         Homework: Read “Black-Eyed Women” by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Week 6                                    

T 9/27         Nguyen’s story alongside Nothing Ever Dies

         Homework: Read “Of Ghosts and Shadows” by Roxane Gay

R 9/29         Presentation 2: American Gothic
“Of Ghosts and Shadows”

         Homework: Read “Ghosts” by Jaquira Díaz; prepare for Midterm

Week 7                                    

T 10/4        MIDTERM

         Homework: Read Tracks by Louise Erdrich (pp. ) 

R 10/6        Presentation 3: American Realism, Naturalism

         Homework: Read Tracks by Louise Erdrich (pp. )

Week 8                                    

T 10/11         Tracks

         Homework: Read Tracks by Louise Erdrich (pp. )

R 10/13         Presentation 4: American Modernism

         Homework: Read Tracks by Louise Erdrich (pp. )

Week 9                                    

T 10/18        Tracks

         Homework: Read Tracks by Louise Erdrich (pp. )

R 10/20         Presentation 5: Post-Modernism

         Homework: Read Tracks by Louise Erdrich (pp. -end)

Week 10                                    

T 10/25         Tracks

         Homework: Watch La Llorona (2019), dir. Jayro Bustamante – note that this is not The Curse of La Llorona (an English language film) but is a Spanish-language film produced and filmed in Guatemala

R 10/27         La Llorona dir. Jayro Bustamante

         Homework: Rent and watch Candyman (2021), dir. Nia DaCosta and Candyman (1992), dir. Bernard Rose – see Course Documents for links.

{ M 10/30 — Last day to drop course and receive “W” }


Week 11                                    

T 11/1         films & “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker

         Homework: Watch The Ghost Writer (based on the novel by Philip Roth)

R 11/3         The Ghost Writer 

         Homework: Draft Close-Reading Assignment

Week 12                                    

T 11/8         Peer Review Session via Canvas: Complete 1 Peer Review & 1 Revision Reflection

         Homework: Close Reading final draft due to Canvas before 11:59 p.m. Nov 11th, 2022

R 11/10         Rose Red (in class)

         Homework: Read “The Woman Hanging in the Thirteenth Floor Window” by Joy Harjo and “Blue Dementia” by Yusef Kumanyakaa

Week 13                                    

T 11/15         Harjo & Kumanyakaa

         Homework: Read Walking with Ghosts by Qwo-Li Driskill (pp )

R 11/17         Walking with Ghosts

         Homework: Read Walking with Ghosts by Qwo-Li Driskill (pp -end)

Week 14                                    

T 11/22         Walking with Ghosts 

         Homework: Read “Introduction: Bringing Ghosts to Ground” from Phantom Past, Indigenous Presence: Native Ghosts in North American Culture & History

R 11/24         * * No Class: Break * *

         Homework: See above

Week 15                                    

T 11/29         Boyd, Thrush

         Homework: Read “‘We Are Standing in My Ancestor’s Longhouse’: Learning the Language of Spirits and Ghosts” by Colleen E. Boyd

R 12/1         Boyd

         Homework: Read “Haunting Remains: Educating a New American Citizenry at Indian Hill Cemetery” by Sarah Schneider Kavanagh 

Week 16                                    

T 12/6         Kavanagh

         Homework: Read Foreword to Ghostly Matters 2008 edition

R 12/8         Ghostly Matters
Review for final exam

         Homework: Final Exam will be in-person December 15th 11:00am—12:30pm

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