English 132: GSLC on-line

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English 132: Gender, Sexuality, Literature and Culture
Julie Burrell

Chatroom Office Hours: Monday 10-11 AM & Wednesday 9-10 PM, unless otherwise specified
Contact: email me through our course site or umail address.

Welcome to English 132! I am excited to meet you all and begin our semester’s exploration of literature together. This syllabus will act as your guide through this semester, so please read it thoroughly and refer to it frequently.

In this course, we will examine what it means to “be a man” and “act like a lady.” Specifically, we’ll use literature to look at how femininity and masculinity are created from the outside in. That is, we’ll be reading texts about how and why the traditional male/female gender categories don’t always fit and how this binary is explored in a small sample of American and British literary and dramatic texts. Our texts place those usually on the margins of gender—transgendered, transsexual, and intersexed people—in the center. We’ll use these novels and plays to explore how gender is created through external signposts like clothes (pants, dresses), but also through more subtle ways. We’ll also examine how sexuality, including, but not limited to gay and lesbian identities, intersects with notions of gender.

Some of the questions that will guide our semester’s exploration are: How is gender created by actions in everyday performance? How do our texts reflect underlying societal assumptions about gender? How are notions of gender subverted, revised, or transformed in the books we’re reading? How does queerness and sexuality come into questions of gender? How does race complicate thinking about gender? How does gender intersect with our authors’ formal strategies? How do the authors’ cultural contexts shape the books’ content? And lots more questions that we will all contribute.

You must have the following six books before the course begins. They are available from Amherst Books, via their website (www.amherstbooks.com), phone (413.256.1547 or 800.503.5865), or in person if you’re in the area. Please note that there are many sections of this course, all with different textbooks, so be sure to specify our class.

You may also place an order through a website, such as Amazon or half.com. You can of course get these at a bookstore closer to your house, but they may not have many or most in stock (Middlesex will likely be at your local Barnes & Noble.) Please order the exact edition I specify so we can follow along the same page numbers and I can look up your citations (below are Amazon links to the editions you should get). Be sure to order them with enough time to receive them. This course moves quickly, and it will be easy to get behind in work and reading. We will read Middlesex first, followed by I Am My Own Wife and M. Butterfly.

Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin
New York: Delta Trade, 1956.

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides.
Edition: New York: Picador, 2002.

Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg
Edition: Alyson Books, 2004

M. Butterfly, David Henry Hwang
New York, Plume: 1986.

Orlando, Virginia Woolf
Harvest Books/Harcourt 1973

I Am My Own Wife: A Play, Doug Wright
Faber & Faber, 2004.

I will require that you write your papers in a consistent, particular style. If you are used to one style (e.g., if you’re a Psychology major who uses APA style), you may use that. If you do not have one particular style that you use frequently, I ask that you become familiar with and consistently employ MLA style. If you do not already have a reference guide (I recommend either The Penguin Handbook; or the small and inexpensive Diana Hacker’s A Pocket Style Manual), become familiar with Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL): <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/>.

You will have two due assignments due each week: one on each Monday and Thursday by 10 p.m. (with the exception of Week One, in which your first due date is a Tuesday). Sometimes these will be written assignments, sometimes these will be discussions. Each week, I will write detailed instructions about your assignment, however, you’ll find a general overview below. I may implement quizzes if necessary.

Discussion Board Posts. For each book, you will post at least one thought-provoking, original discussion question. Please cite and quote when necessary. You will also be required to respond in a substantive, thoughtful way to at least two other questions.

Written Assignments. You will have two papers in this class. One will be a one- to two- page response paper due in Week Three. The second is a five-page paper on one novel or play we have read, due at the end of the semester. You will receive assignment sheets with more detail, including specific due dates.

Attendance. Since this is an online course, the standard attendance requirements are a bit different. You are expected to check into our course site every day to see if there are any new emails or Discussion Board posts. Even if I don’t post any announcements or send an email for a long stretch of time, I will still expect that you are logging in every day. This means you will need consistent, reliable access to a computer connected to the Internet. As we all know, computers can sometimes be unreliable (at the most inconvenient times!), so as a plan B, I suggest that you explore computer access nearby, such as in a local library. I understand that summer is a busy time for everyone, so if you know you’re going away for a long weekend, please let me know in advance, so we can work alternate submission dates. (If you plan on being away from a computer for an extended period of time, however, you should contact me now, as this course might not be an appropriate fit at this time.)

Participation. As with all literature courses, this class requires everyone’s lively participation, to take place on our Discussion Board. You may also be required to meet with me in online office hours for one-on-one conferences, as well as full class discussions in a real time chat at a commonly convenient time.

Late Work. I do not accept late work of any kind, including Discussion Board posts. If you need to turn in an assignment late, make sure you discuss it with me—that is, I need to acknowledge the receipt of your email and we need to work out an alternate due date or time together—BEFORE the assignment is due. Contacting me after the assignment is due is too late.

In addition to my office hours above, I am happy to schedule an appointment to meet with you in our course chat room or, if you’re in the Amherst area, in person. The best way to reach me is via Blackboard email. Since I ask that you allow up to 48 hours for a response, be sure to plan in advance.

Online courses are very convenient—that might be why you’re here. Since they don’t require your physical presence in a classroom, however, the work they entail may also be easier to let fall by the wayside than an onsite class. Time management is an extremely important part of taking an online course. If you’ve taken one before, I welcome your tips and suggestions about how you manage your time. Please also read the following site for some differences between onsite classrooms and online ones: <http://www.elearners.com/resources/elearning-faq6.asp>.

As you will note, your role as a student may change in an online course. You will be required to be much more active in your learning than you might have been before. Since I can’t see if you look like you need more time to answer a question in a discussion or if I’m not being clear, you will need to ask me for extra time or for clarification. I am happy to answer any question at all, and you can ask me an unlimited number of questions. That’s what I’m here for! I also encourage you to post questions to our Discussion Board, since many people will likely have the same one.

A reminder: SAVE and BACK UP EVERYTHING! I don’t expect problems, but sometimes computers and software, including our Blackboard site, will fail to work. I expect that you back up everything, either on remote disk space (such as UDrive), and CD-ROM, or on a thumb drive (these can be purchased inexpensively). You should also save course materials you download, such as this syllabus and assignment sheets, in case you find yourself writing a paper and can’t access our site because OIT is doing maintenance on it. Since you will be typing discussion questions and responses, I recommend that you first do so in a Word document that you can save frequently, in case your Web browser closes in the middle of a brilliant sentence.

In essence, academic honesty means that you use your own words and ideas and that you properly cite others’ words and ideas. For examples of what academic dishonesty is, see <http://www.umass.edu/dean_students/code_conduct/acad_honest.htm#B>. This course will follow the University’s guidelines for suspected cases of dishonesty, which can be found at <http://www.umass.edu/dean_students/code_conduct/acad_honest.htm>. I reserve the right to submit your papers to online databases, such as Turnitin, at any time.

I take academic honesty seriously. Please read the following site to assist you in avoiding plagiarism: <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/01/>. I don’t anticipate that any of you will knowingly steal the words of another writer, but you also want to be careful of unintentional plagiarism. You should cite the author every time you quote, paraphrase, or summarize. I realize that MLA and other styles can be a bit complicated, so please ask me if you have any questions at all about citations and plagiarism. Seriously—any questions, even if it’s as small as “Where does this period go in the works cited page?” or as large as “In paragraph three, I use an idea I got from Hwang’s afterward in M. Butterfly. Do I need to cite this idea that I got from him?” It’s always better to ask now!

Some students plagiarize because they feel like they are crunched for time or don’t have an idea for their paper. I can’t stress enough that it is always preferable to turn in your own paper late and risk perhaps hurting your grade than to risk getting an “F,” and possibly worse, because of plagiarism. If you’re stressed or rushed or staring at a blank Word document and ideas aren’t materializing, EMAIL ME! and we will work together to find ideas. You are not expected to generate ideas in a vacuum, with no outside help or discussion. That’s what I’m here for!

Sometimes issues of gender and sexuality can stir emotions. And certainly, emotional responses are part of the reason we read literature. I welcome heated discussion and challenging thoughts, including supported disagreement. I do, however, expect that we will all be respectful of everyone’s opinions, ideas, words, and contributions. I expect you to communicate in a professional manner, whether through the discussion boards or through email. When you email me or any of your classmates, be aware that is a professional communication. Just like in the workplace, you should use salutations, be clear, specific, and check your grammar and spelling. You should close with an appropriate closing, such as a thank you.

Participation (including regular attendance, classroom community, & quizzes): 15%
First Paper: 15%
Final Paper: 40%
Weekly Assignments (including Discussions): 30%

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