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English 309, Women Writers

Spring 2018 will include the following texts (in addition to feminist theory, as below):

  1. Great Short Stories by American Women Writers (as below; Cisneros, Hurston, Glaspell, Silko, etc.)
  2. Louisa May Alcott, Behind a Mask
  3. Emily Dickinson, selected poems (Blackboard)
  4. Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, short stories: "The Long Arm," "Old Woman Magoun" (Blackboard)
  5. Nella Larsen, Passing
  6. Zitkala-Sa, selected autobiographical writings (Blackboard)
  7. Mourning Dove (Christine Quintasket), Cogewea
  8. Edith Wharton, Summer and Ethan Frome
  9. Alison Bechdel, Fun Home
  10. Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

Spring 2013
Dr. Campbell

Note: The information on this page applies only to this particular section of the course and is valid only through the end of May 2013. This syllabus is not a binding document and may not contain the latest information. For information on the course, go to the course space in Angel. English 309/WMST 309, Women Writers, will be taught entirely online through Angel. Here is a list of books:

Required Texts

Author Title Publisher Edition ISBN 13
Wharton, Edith Summer and Ethan Frome Penguin    
Ward Great Short Stories by American Women Writers Dover 1996 978-0486287768
Alcott, Louisa May Behind a Mask      
Mourning Dove Cogewea      
Atwood Alias Grace Anchor 1997 978-0385490443
Bechdel Fun Home      
Larsen Passing      


Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism Norton 2007 978-0393927900 (out of print; recommended)

Course Description

Welcome to English 309/Women Studies 309, a course that asks you to become increasingly aware of the ways in which women's writing has been produced and consumed within many different situations, or contexts, in their lives. In this course, you will earn three semester credit hours and develop solid analytical reading, writing, and revising skills by completing the assigned readings, the short response papers, the research proposal and research paper, and the discussion posts.  Please start by reading this syllabus carefully to familiarize yourself with the nature of the course and what we intend for it, and you, to accomplish.

This course provides upper-division students with practice in critical reading, analysis, and all stages of the writing process. Our basic assumption is that you already have some strong academic reading and writing skills and now want to learn more about textual communication. Thus, you'll write a variety of both informal and formal documents, each of which is designed to enhance your practical and theoretical understanding of the relationship of women's writing to the rest of the world. We'll read from a variety of conventional genres, including critical theory, fiction, poetry, and memoir, focusing on critical analysis of the various kinds of writings done by women, of diverse definitions of the work of feminisms, and of the ways in which writers can work to end historical silence and invisibility.

Course Goals

This course is designed to help you develop the following:

  • an appreciation for diverse styles and forms used by women writers in various genres.
  • an understanding of the uses of writing in forming community for women.
  • an awareness of the social and historical forces that have affected women's lives and their writing during various eras.
  • critical self-reflection and self-assessment skills through writing by engaging in the writing process, including prewriting, drafting, and revising.
  • an increasing awareness of the importance of writing as a social action.
  • awareness of the importance of working toward a critical consciousness that allows for the dialectical process of rethinking and redefining notions and assumptions through reading and writing.

Course Work

This course is designed to enable you to meet the course goals listed above through a combination of reading assignments, writing assignments (papers), and discussion postings.

As in a face-to-face classroom, you'll need to set aside time in your weekly schedule to complete the assigned readings, post to the discussion board, and write your papers. Because the information in this course is cumulative and discussion is an integral and valued part of it, this is not a self-paced class in which you can complete the assignments for several units all at once. The weekly deadlines are listed in the Course Schedule.

Allow plenty of time for posting your replies to the discussion board and uploading your papers to the drop box. If you wait until the last minute, a computer failure or internet outage could delay the transmission of your assignment, which would then be considered late. 

Reading Assignments

The reading assignments for this course are listed under Lessons. They have been divided into six thematic units, with 1-3 lessons per unit. As you'll see by clicking on the Lessons link, each lesson includes reading assignments from the textbooks that you've purchased for the course as well as a "Context and Questions" page. Suggested questions for the discussion board, possible topics for response papers, and brief lectures will be posted on the "Context and Questions" pages.  The "Context and Questions" page link on the Lessons pages will be made available at the beginning of each unit.

In addition, several lessons have "For Further Study" links at the bottom of the page, and the "Contexts and Questions" pages will have embedded links as well. All the required course materials can be found in your books or in the Angel course space, but these optional links have information that may be helpful or interesting to you.

Writing Assignments

Over the course of this semester, you'll write the following:

  • 11 discussion posts and additional responses,
  • three response papers,
  • one proposal for your research paper,
  • and one research paper.

All submitted assignment files should follow the naming format as follows: last name, first initial, course number, assignment name. For example, if Julie McCarthy submitted her first response paper it would be saved as McCarthyJ_309_ResponsePaper1.doc

Submitting papers Students must submit all papers through the Assignments Dropbox (on the navigation bar at left) by the due dates and times listed on the Course Schedule. All due dates are based on Pacific Standard Time (and when appropriate Pacific Daylight Time). For more information about submitting assignments, click on the "How to Submit Assignments" link on the Course Information page link on the navigation bar.

Formatting papers  Papers should be typed and double-spaced with 11-12 point fonts and 1" margins.  They must be saved using either Word format (.doc or .docx),  rich text format (.rtf), or .pdf format, which are commonly available under the "Save As" function of all word-processing programs. Papers using any other format cannot be read and will not receive credit. For more information, see the "Paper Formatting Guidelines" link under Lessons.

I will be writing comments in the document and returning it to you as a .pdf file. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to read .pdf files, and this program is probably already installed on your computer.  If you do not already have Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free program, visit the "Angel Help Resources: Getting Started for Students"page to download it.

  • Response Papers:

    Response papers are meant to be a way for students to explore an aspect of the assigned reading that they found to be of interest. The papers should include critical analysis of some portion of the text.

    RequirementsStudents are responsible for writing three short response papers (750-1,000 words, or about 2 1/2 to 3 typed, double-spaced pages). There are six units in the course, but students only need to submit a response paper for three of them; the choice of the three units for which response papers will be written is up to the individual student.

    TopicsYou are encouraged to write response papers on topics of your own choosing, but you will also find some suggestions for topics on the "Questions for Discussion and Response Papers" page listed under Lessons and the "Context and Questions" page for each unit.

    Two papers cannot be written based on readings in the same unit. For example, a student cannot choose to write two of the three separate response papers onPassing AND "Sweat" because both works of fiction are from Unit 4. Of course, comparing two works of fiction or poetry from the same unit within the context of a single response paper would be acceptable.

    Due Dates. Response papers are due at the end of each unit, as shown on the schedule.

    GradingResponse papers will be graded on the quality of the argument and the critical depth with which students engaged the text. The short response papers do not require the use of outside sources, but students are expected to take them seriously and posit an argument, make an observation, or attempt to answer a question that the novel raised for them as they read. Good sentence structure and attention to mechanical features such as capitalization and punctuation are important, as is supporting a strong thesis.

    Optional Fourth Response Paper, with Lowest Response Paper Grade Dropped. Although you are only required to write response papers on three out of the six units, you have the option to write an additional response paper on another unit, for a total of four response papers.  If you do this, only the top three grades will be counted when calculating your grade, and the lowest response paper grade would be dropped.

    Important: you do not have to write four papers. Three response papers is still the required number. However, this option gives you a chance to write another paper so that your lowest grade will not count in the grade calculations. You can decide to write this fourth paper for any one of the six units (after all of your required three response papers have been graded, for example) and don't need to let me know of your plans ahead of time.  

  • Research Paper Topic:

    Students must submit a brief (200-300 word) description of the topic they’ll be examining in their Research Paper (see below). This assignment must include a thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s main points.

  • Research Paper:

    In order to demonstrate the degree to which students will have interacted with women’s writing throughout the semester, as their final project students are required to submit a research paper. For more information on the Research Paper, click on the Research Paper Guidelines link under Lessons.

Discussion Postings

In order to demonstrate participation as well as to contribute to the climate of intellectual exchange, students are expected to post on the discussion boards for each segment of reading assigned. The discussion board provides a less formal means for you to discuss the work we'll be reading than the response papers and research paper.

Requirements. During most of the weeks of this course, you are responsible for one original posting of 200-300 words and two responses of 100-150 words each to others' postings. These are the minimum word requirements and number of postings; you are welcome to write longer posts or to post more frequently if you feel so inclined. For information about using the Discussion Board, go to Course Information and click on "How to Use the Discussion Board."

TopicsAlthough you're welcome to post on topics of your own choosing, you will also find some general suggestions for topics on the "Questions for Discussion and Response Papers" page listed under Lessons in the navigation bar at left. Specific questions will be available in the "Contexts and Questions" page for each unit, which will contain the lecture material for the course.

Discussion topics from these sources will be posted in the forum for that lesson shortly before we begin each week's discussion.

As the general questions suggest, the discussion board is a space in which you can write speculative, reaction-based, and imaginative posts as well as analytical ones.

Due DatesYour original posting of 200-300 words must be posted by 5 p.m. on the Tuesday of the week it is due. You'll then read the postings of other class members and respond to any two of their posts by 5 p.m. on Friday of that week. The due dates for original posts and response posts are listed in the Course Schedule. Posts and responses will only be counted during the week when they are due; anything added to the week's discussion after that time (Friday by 11:55 p.m.) will not be graded.

Grading. Discussion posts and responses are graded holistically (by their overall quality and style) each week and will not typically receive comments on grammar or content. However, please use proper spelling, capitalization, and so on for your discussion posts.

Although I will be reading all the posts and responses, I will not reply on the board to each post but will respond to selected posts from different students each week. For more information, please read carefully the section called "What Makes a Good Discussion Post?" on the Course Information page. 

The writing assignment deadlines and reading assignments for this course will remain the same once the semester has started. Information may be added to the "For Further Study" sections of the course, however.

Other Help Available

There is some extra help available for this course. I encourage you to contact me via email to ask questions or make comments at any stage of your writing process. In addition, please consider using the eTutoring resource located on the Course Information page, available through the menu on the left. For many writers, it’s useful to talk about ideas even before writing, so don’t forget to ask family members, colleagues, or friends to listen and discuss your ideas with you.

Reasonable accommodations are available for students who have a documented disability. Please read the Disability Accommodations statement below and  notify me before you submit your first Response Paper if you have specific needs.

I encourage you to use these excellent resources—and to suggest others to your instructor as you discover things that work well for you—in order to make your experience in English 309 / Women's Studies 309 a positive and rewarding one. Remember that you are part of a community of scholars committed to learning. I hope that you will find this class to be a place of growth, where you can further your understanding of yourself; your own reading, writing, and thinking processes; and ultimately, your place within the larger communities of which you are a part.

Instructor Interaction

Discussion Board: You should check the "Announcements from Instructor" section of the Discussion Board when you log in to Angel, since I will be using that space for general class announcements. Also, if you have a question that you think others in the class might also have, please use the "Questions for Instructor" section of the Discussion Board so that I can write a response for everyone.

Email: As mentioned above, the best way to reach me is through the course site or by sending me an email at campbelld@wsu.edu. Please make sure to include your full name in the email and ENGL 309/WMST 309 in the subject line. If you send me an email Monday through Friday, I should be back in touch with you within 24 hours. Mail sent over the weekend will receive a response on Monday.

IM, Voice, or Video Chat: You can also contact me by Skype (dmcampbellwsu), Google instant messaging, or Google audio chat (dmcampbellwsu@gmail.com) any time you see me logged in. We can talk by video or audio chat depending on your preference. If you don't see me logged in but would like to talk with me, email me to let me know.

Phone: If you want to talk to me by phone but don't have Skype or a gmail account, email me with your number and I'll call you back. If you'd like additional contact information, here's my home pageinformation page, and English Department Faculty Page.

Late Work Policy

The late work policy for this course is as follows:

  • Late papers (response papers, research paper topic, and research paper) are penalized at the rate of one letter grade per class day late. Since our "class days" for this course are Tuesdays and Fridays by 5 p.m. (the discussion post days), a paper that was due at 9:00 p.m. on a Sunday would be considered one class day late if handed in by the following Tuesday and two class days late if handed in by the following Friday. For example, a response paper that would have received an "A" if handed in on the Sunday night due date would receive a "B" if handed in by the following Tuesday, a "C" if handed in by the following Friday, and so forth.
  • Because you are free to choose which response papers you'll write and thus should be able to schedule your writing ahead of time,  late submission should not be a problem.
  • Late discussion posts count as a 0. However, even if you miss the deadline for the original discussion post on Tuesday, you'll receive partial credit for responding to others' posts by Friday.


Course Work Points Percent of Final Grade
Response Papers
(3 @ 100 pts each)
300 35%
Research Paper Topic 25 3%
Research Paper 250 30%
Discussion Board Postings
(11 @ 25 pts each)
275 32%
TOTALS 850 100%

Your final grade for the course is then determined as follows:

Final Grade Total Points Percent of
Final Grade
Final Grade Total Points Percent of
Final Grade
A 799-850 94-100% C 638-654 74-76%
A– 765-798 90-93% C– 595-637 70-73%
B+ 740-764 87-89% D+ 544-594 65-69%
B 714-739 84-86% D 510-543 60-64%
B– 680-713 80-83% F 509 & Below 59% & below
C+ 655-679 77-79%  

Grading Criteria

These are the general grading criteria for this course. Response papers and the research paper are held to higher standards of analysis, good style, and grammatically correct sentences than the discussion posts. You can find a more specific version of the grading criteria here:http://public.wsu.edu/~campbelld/grading.html.

I will use abbreviations as references to grammatical principles on your corrected papers. The abbreviations and accompanying explanations are available on the "Key to Comments" document here: http://www.wsu.edu/~campbelld/keyto.htm. You may want to download and print out the .pdf version of this document for easy reference.

  • A / Excellent
    Shows that the writer has treated the subject matter in an original manner and has developed the thesis thoroughly and with insight, using a clear organizational plan. This essay develops its argument with incisive, in-depth analysis and supporting evidence from the text. Although outstanding and pleasurable to read, this essay is not necessarily completely flawless; it is, however, virtually free of grammatical or spelling errors. The writer demonstrates a clear understanding of her or his audience and conveys a strong individual voice. 

  • B / Good
    Includes a clear focus that is supported by evidence; it also demonstrates correct sentence construction for the most part. Ideas may be good but perhaps not as insightful or well developed as those in the "A" essay. The organization is easy to follow. The essay has a good sense of individual voice and awareness of audience expectations.  

  • C / Proficient
    Exhibits logical organization and a focus, but often does not provide clear evidence to support the thesis. It may demonstrate little sentence variety or careful word choice. Instead of revealing fresh and insightful ideas, the writer of this paper responds to the assignment in an adequate but highly predictable or superficial way, such as summarizing the plot of the work or stating obvious points, without developing analytical or descriptive ideas. 

  • D / Deficient
    Usually demonstrates one or more of the following: it lacks adequate organization, offers insufficient or irrelevant support for its argument, lacks focus, or shows no audience awareness. In addition, a deficient essay often contains many errors in sentence construction, punctuation, word choice, and spelling, such as confusing the spelling of women (plural) with woman (singular). 

  • F / Unacceptable 
    Usually difficult, frustrating, or confusing to read. This paper typically contains neither focus nor support for generalizations. It generally contains numerous errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  A paper will receive an "F" if it is plagiarized in whole or in part.

Academic Honesty Policy 

Please review the WSU Policy on Academic Integrity listed below. For this course, the following specific guidelines apply: 

Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of someone else's words or ideas. This definition includes not only deliberately handing in someone else's work as your or handing in a previously written paper but also failing to cite your sources, including Web pages and Internet sources. 

  • For a first offense, any paper plagiarized in whole or in part will receive an "F" (0 points), and the incident must be reported to the WSU Office of Student Conduct. You will not be allowed to rewrite the plagiarized paper for a better grade.
  • Penalties for a second offense can range from failing the course to suspension from the university.

For further information on our University grading policy, consult the WSU Academic Regulations. Look under Section 90, “Grades and Grade Points.”

Incomplete Grade Policy

Incompletes are granted only with permission of the instructor and are subject to the following guidelines:

  1. Students must request an incomplete in writing or by e-mail from the instructor well before the end of the semester. Last minute requests will not be considered unless extraordinary circumstances arise at that time.
  2. The request must be signed and dated by the student (or identified by student's e-mail address), and must explain the reasons behind the request for the incomplete.
  3. If extraordinary circumstances (e.g., family emergency, serious illness) are involved and are documented to the instructor’s satisfaction, the professor/ instructor retains the discretion to grant an incomplete even if the minimum conditions outlined in item 2 above are not met.

If an incomplete is granted, the standard WSU policy applies with this exception: ALL work must be completed within the time frame specified by the instructor. Otherwise, an automatic grade of "F," or failing, will be entered on the student’s transcript.

Tentative Course Schedule

For course work due dates, please view the Course Schedule. Expand the Content folder in the Map menu on the left by clicking the plus sign (+), then selectCourse Schedule.

For further information on our University grading policy, consult the WSU Academic Regulations. Look under Section 90, “Grades and Grade Points.”

Tentative schedule

  Date Reading Writing Discussion Post Responses
1   Introduction   1/13



Unit 1, Lesson 1: Women on Writing

From Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism:

George Eliot, Silly Novels by Lady Novelists, pp. 85-92
Alice Walker, "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens," pp. 212-219
Joanna Russ, "What Can a Heroine Do?" pp. 200-211
Margaret Atwood, from Paradoxes and Dilemmas,  pp. 220-22
Virginia Woolf, from A Room of One's Own, pp. 128-136.

Short story: Lorrie Moore, "How to Become a Writer"
Joan Acocella, "Turning the Page" The New Yorker, Oct. 15, 2012: http://ntserver1.wsulibs.wsu.edu:2082/scripts/wsuall.pl?url=http://ntserver1.wsulibs.wsu.edu:2069/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=82680305&site=ehost-live



3 1/21-1/25

Unit 1, Lesson 2: Writing Women's Lives: Fiction, Memoir, & Essay

From Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism:

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "Why I Wrote 'The Yellow Wall-Paper,'” p.119

[may change] Harriet Jacobs, from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Chapters 1 and 2 http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/jacobs/jacobs.html 
Tillie Olsen, "I Stand Here Ironing," http://alexanderbecquer.com/IStandHereIroning.aspx 

From Great Short Stories:

"The Yellow Wall-Paper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman, pp. 73-88.

  1/25 1/28

Unit 1, Lesson 3: Feminist Theories

From Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism:

Susan Gubar, Introduction, pp. 293-99.
Annette Kolodny, "Dancing through the Minefield," pp. 473-492.
Elaine Showalter, from Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness, pp. 527-544.
Judith Fetterley, from The Resisting Reader,  pp. 443-47.
Barbara Christian, "The Race for Theory," pp. 620-629.
Terry Castle, from The Apparitional Lesbian, pp. 575-772.
Unit 1 Paper due 2/6, 9 p.m. 2/1 2/4
5 & 6


Unit 2, Lesson 4: Self-Expression

Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience

From Great Short Stories

Alcott, Louisa May Alcott,  "Transcendental Wild Oats," pp. 35-49.

From Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism

Nina Baym, from "Melodramas of Beset Manhood: How Theories of American Fiction Exclude Women Authors," pp. 503-513.
Jane P. Tompkins, from Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Politics of Literary History, pp. 514-526.
  2/15 2/18

Unit 2, Lesson 5: 19th-Century Poetry and Short Stories

Reading Assignments:

From Great Short Stories:

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman,“A New England Nun,”  pp. 61-72
Kate Chopin,“The Storm,”  pp. 89-94
Susan Glaspell,“A Jury of Her Peers,” pp. 153-173

Emily Dickinson Poems [may change]

From Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism

Emily Dickinson, "Letters to T. W. Higginson," pp. 95-98.
Chapter on Emily Dickinson, pp. 918-933

Unit 2 Response paper due

2/27, 9 p.m.

2/22 2/25


Unit 3: Study of an Author: Edith Wharton

Wharton, The House of Mirth

Contextual essays from The House of Mirth

From Great Short Stories: Wharton, "The Angel at the Grave," pp. 95-110.

Unit 3 Response paper due

3/13, 9 p.m.

3/11 3/13
    Spring Break      

Unit 4, Lesson 7: Women Writers of Color

Passing by Nella Larsen

From Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism

Ann duCille, from Blue Notes on Black Sexuality: Sex and the Texts of the Twenties and Thirties, pp. 957-962
Judith Butler, from Passing, Queering: Nella Larsen's Psychoanalytic Challenge, pp. 963-971.
  3/22 3/25

Unit 4, Lesson 8: Short Stories

From Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism:

bell hooks, "Postmodern Blackness," pp. 701-708.
Gloria Anzaldua, from Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, pp. 247-257
Toni Morrison, from Unspeakable things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature, pp. 267-277.

Sandra Cisneros, "Woman Hollering Creek" eReserve (Note: to access eReserves and for the password, read How to Access eReserves on the Course Information page.) 

Leslie Marmon Silko, "Lullaby"

From Great Short Stories by American Women Writers

Alice Dunbar-Nelson, "The Stones of the Village," pp. 130-152.
Zora Neale Hurston, "Sweat," pp. 182-193.

Response Paper due 4/3 by 9 p.m. 3/29 4/1
12 & 13


Unit 5, Lesson 9: The Struggle for Selfhood
Atwood, Alias Grace

Response Paper 4/17
Research Paper Topic
4/12 4/15
14 & 15


Unit 6, Lesson 10: Contemporary Lives and Global Consciousness
Satrapi, The Complete Persepolis

Chang, Inheritance

From Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism:

Gayatri Spivak, from A Critique of Postcolonial Reason,  pp. 799-809.
Shirley Geok-lin Lim, from Complications of Feminist and Ethnic Literary Theories in Asian American Literature, pp. 810-24
Reponse Paper 5/1 4/26 4/29
16   Finals Week Research Paper 5/4, 9 p.m.