ENG 290 (an introduction to women's literature course)*
*Follow the history of this course on Twitter at the hashtag #difficultwomenf18
"Difficult Women" in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century American Literature
In a 2017 interview in The Chicago Review of Books, Amy Brady asked Roxane Gay why she titled her newly-released short story collection Difficult Women. “As I considered the women in this collection, I realized they would be termed “difficult” because that’s a catch-all term for women who don’t shut up and look pretty,” she said. “The women in my stories are messy and complicated. They face difficult situations and make difficult choices. Difficult Women felt like the perfect title to hold the spirit of these stories.”
“Difficult women” is, in fact, an apt description of many of the female characters who populate the landscape of American literature. In this course, we’ll examine literary representations of “difficult women” in 20th-century literature produced by women whose intersectional identities make this categorization particularly fraught. From Nella Larsen’s adrift outsider Helga Crane to Toni Morrison’s independent, unconventional Sula and beyond, together we’ll consider what it means to be a “difficult women,” and we’ll examine novelistic representations of “difficult women,” the historical and cultural patterns that helped to shape those representations, and we’ll consider how those representations evolved – and didn’t – over the course of the century. We’ll supplement our reading of these novels with several shorter prose readings, including excerpts from Gay’s short story collection, as well as with research into the impact of Jim Crow laws, the eugenics movement, the removal of Native American children to federal institutions, and other structures and systems that marginalized people of color in America in the 20th century and women of color in particular.
This course explores short stories and novels to introduce students to the ways in which we read and write about literature, particularly how we form convincing arguments based on those texts. This course is writing intensive, which means that a significant portion of class time will be devoted to the writing process. In addition to regular class participation, students will be evaluated on formal writing assignments, informal responses, and quizzes.
Quicksand, Nella Larsen (1928)
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
Sula, Toni Morrison (1973)
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
Gardens in the Dunes, Leslie Marmon Silko (1999)
Difficult Women, Roxane Gay (2017)
“And It Can Never Be Too Dark or Too Bright” by Leesa Cross Smith
“A Husband Should Be Eaten And Not Heard” by Megan Giddings
“The Future Looks Good” by Lesley Nneka Arimah
“Elementary” by Monet Patrice Thomas
“A Woman of Color Walks Down a Path” by Emi Benn
“Mary When You Follow Her” by Carmen Maria Machado
“The Awakening” by Crystal Wilkinson
ENG 230 (an introductory literature course)
Treachery, Traps, and Tricksters: Clandestine Narratives from the Antebellum Era to the Electronic Age
A loved one disappears without a trace. A close friend reveals something so terrible that you realize they are not at all who they say they are. A darkened house is supposedly empty, and yet, you distinctly hear footsteps in the hallway. It is into these tense, terrifying, and secretive scenarios that the authors of America’s clandestine narratives transport us, and the trap doors and trick mirrors in these texts prove them to be far more complex than they first appear. This course asks students to examine literary representations of the clandestine narrative from before the Civil War to the early twenty-first century. Together, the class will look closely at how the use of structure, secrecy, and narrative suspense evolves from the height of American romanticism to the demise of postmodernism. In addition, students will explore how the authors of these texts articulate and relate the cultural concerns over difference, deceit, autonomy and fear that pervaded the nation during this period.
This course explores short stories and novels to introduce students to the ways in which we read and write about literature, particularly how we form convincing arguments based on those texts. This course is writing intensive, which means that a significant portion of class time will be devoted to the writing process. In addition to regular class participation, students will be evaluated on formal writing assignments and on informal responses.
The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1851)
The Turn of the Screw, Henry James (1898)
Of One Blood, Pauline Hopkins (1903)
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith (1955)
In the Lake of the Woods, Tim O’Brien (1994)
House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski (2000)
“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe (1850)
“The Man Who Lived Underground” by Richard Wright (1942)
Film: Get Out (2016)
WRD 110 (a first-year composition and rhetoric course)
Composition and Communication I
WRD 110 (Composition and Communication I) is a course in speaking and writing emphasizing critical inquiry and research. Our concept of research will go far beyond an ordinary (and frankly, boring) concept of looking up information and plugging it into essays. Research is a creative, complex and exciting process. You will engage in reflective thinking and analysis, conduct primary research in the community and secondary research using library resources, and learn how to write and speak effectively as we answer questions focusing on our place in different communities and in evolving places in our lives. A significant component of the class will be learning to use visuals and online resources to enhance writing and oral presentations. Over the course of the semester, you can expect to work independently, with a partner, or with a small group of classmates to investigate, share findings, and compose presentations of their research, as well as to practice and evaluate interpersonal and team dynamics in action.
In this course, we will be investigating communities of difference. During our investigation, we will consider several questions: how do we define difference? What is the place of difference in our community? How does our community treat those who are different from the “norm”? What does it mean to be different? What makes each of us different? Throughout the course, I will encourage you to explore your unique place, and the unique place of others, in the broader community and take a stance on issues of public concern—that is, to begin to view yourself as an engaged citizen.
WRD 111 (a first-year composition and rhetoric course)
Composition and Communication II
WRD 111 (Composition and Communication II) is the second of two general education courses focused on integrated oral, written, and visual communication skill development emphasizing critical inquiry and research. In this course, students will explore issues of public concern using rhetorical analysis, use ethnographic skills engage in deliberation over those issues, and ultimately propose solutions based on well-developed arguments. Students will sharpen their ability to conduct research; compose and communicate in written, oral, and visual modalities; and work effectively in groups. The focus will be on investigating the concepts of cultural and community identity using ethnographic practices as well as engaging ethical and critical concerns. By expanding our view of culture and community we will come to recognize and investigate one issue this community faces.
Students will be grouped in teams, each of which will explore a different local community space or “scene” and determine the discourses and practices related to those community members. For the first two-thirds of the class, students will decide on their team focus and conduct significant primary and secondary research on the issue. In the last third of the class, teams will develop Public Service Announcement (PSA) Campaigns that will include a various artifacts to bring attention to the issue and solutions that the team has decided. These campaigns will be digital projects that communicate well-argued solutions to audiences beyond the classroom. The end goal is to research a problem or controversy uncovered through research of people and spaces, after having identified a community scene.
Full teaching history and assignment examples available upon request.