Fall 2012
WGS 180.001
MTR 9:25-10:40 Groover 112

Mary Ann Drake, Ph. D.
Phone: Office (301-5616) Home (477-4399) e-mail drake_ma@mercer.edu
Home Page: http://faculty.mercer.edu/drake_ma/
Office Hours:
Calendar of Events     Policies and Grades         Link to Blackboard


Ibsen                A Doll House ISBN:0-451-52406-3
Hurston            Their Eyes Are Watching God ISBN:0-06-091650-8
Nawal El Saadawi Woman at Point Zero ISBN:978-1-84277-873-9
Anderson         A Recognition of Being  ISBN: 1-894549-12-0

Other readings as assigned. 

COURSE DESCRIPTION: In Ibsens novel, A Doll House, when Nora is told that above all else, she is a wife and mother, Nora replies: That I no longer believe. I believe before all else I am a human being.   What is our human nature? How do we separate into two forms? What does it mean to be a woman or a man in our culture and world? What variations are there? What is the nature, construction, and role of parenting, that is mothering and fathering? Do we need marriage? What if women don’t want children? Who should work and where? Can we distribute economic worth with equity? How do we raise our children? Are men really more aggressive and women more moral?  Who should control our bodies? Who controls conversations? Is silence passive or active? What have we learned historically? Who has shaped our thinking? Are we our own ideas or does the media play with our psyches? How would we behave and think differently in another culture? How is our thinking and behavior different in this culture if we come from a race or class different from our own?  

Can we answer all these questions? No! We can, however, begin the journey and this class is a beginning. It is a survey course designed to wet your appetite, to encourage you to quest further, to provide you with a foundation for further learning, and to give you some tools for critically viewing yourself, your gender, and the cultural constructions of race, class and gender beliefs and behaviors. We will read broadly to expose you to historical, cultural, fictional, and non-fictional works; to open little port holes in a variety of directions that will hopefully tug at you for further inquiry.  

The purpose of the course is the quest.: an interdisciplinary quest to examine the biological, social/psychological, and historical events, theories, beliefs, and customs which have shaped definitions of sex and gender. Explorations will be about how and why we live our lives as "women and men”. The implication of gender as a cultural construction will be broadened with historical and cross-cultural examples along with the personal experiences of our service learning, as we focus on contemporary issues.  

The major goal of the class is to assist you in learning to critically examine cultural assumptions about gender, race, and class, and to identify and critique these gender assumptions in theories and research of various disciplines which inform our thinking. To assist you in achieving these goals, we have a service-learning project.

Specific goals are: To provide a demanding intellectual experience for students.

To recognize the ways in which race, gender, sexuality, class, and other aspects of identity intersect in shaping experience and theory-making.

To appreciate the ways in which different disciplines contribute to the understanding of gendered selves.

To analyze ones own experience as a gendered individual and recognize some contexts and processes which have framed one’s own development.

To effectively and critically use a variety of writing styles for critical thinking, analysis, and persuasive communication.

To learn about womens contributions to knowledge.  


Attendance includes participation: To  participate means not only being in attendance in class and in your community setting, but also providing thoughtful, and informed input as your part of the classroom discussion.

You are expected to be logged on to the Mercer e-mail system, our private Facebook group, and the Mercer Blackboard system for out of class communication, grading updates, calendar changes, and syllabus information.  

Leading Discussion: In pairs or individually, depending on class enrollment, students will take turns leading class discussion on readings, films, and activities.

Group Presentations: Each student will be responsible for his/her portion of two group projects and class presentations.

Papers: There will be three papers, four to five pages in length, redrafted and developed to articulate a particular theme. The due dates are noted on the calendar.

An important task for many Mercer classes is to teach you to read and engage with texts actively and responsibly. Students are to keep a small three-ring binder to use as a portfolio of all their written work, including dailies, journals, in class writings, revisions, etc. I am not usually picky about minor details, but I do mean a small three-ring binder. In this way, you have the option to type your reflection work and place it in the journal, or write in your binder directly. We will have intermittent revision sessions and students need to have access to their prior, graded work.

This assignment provides a place to record your daily work with texts, while also giving you a chance to create a lasting record of your thoughts as you move through the course.  It also allows you to literally “do” something with your reading, so that it goes beyond “busy work” or a mere requirement and becomes instead a resource for both your required participation in class discussions and for your more formal writing assignments, as your initial response to texts and ideas from class discussion feed directly into the papers you will write for the course.

Borrowed, with permission, from Dr. Denasi. The journal/portfolio is also the place where you should take notes during class discussion.  Please note that this is a requirement of the course. 

To summarize, the following kinds of material should be recorded in your Composition Book on a regular (class by class) basis:

a) Ideas drawn from your thorough annotation of EACH of the texts assigned for that day.  This information may be in the form of an outline or bullet points but should be detailed and concrete and must include a citation in the text for each point (page numbers for prose, line numbers for poems, and act, scene, and line numbers for drama) so that you can locate specific passages during discussion.

b) Two questions to share during seminar discussion.  Please Note: these should NOT be informational questions, such as: “what color was the lady’s dress?”  Instead, your questions should focus on larger issues raised in the text, especially issues that seem related to identity or the self, such as: “how do the clothes the characters wear affect their sense of self?” or, “why should a woman’s clothes be more important in composing her self than a man’s?”   

c) Detailed notes taken during class discussion.  It is not necessary to write down every word that is said during the discussion, but you should listen and speak with your Composition Book open and a pen in your hand.  As ideas emerge in the conversation that strike you as important and potentially useful, you should record them in as much detail as possible.  At the top of EACH page of notes, be sure to record the date and the title of the text(s) under discussion.  Entries that are not dated, with complete information on the title of the texts will not be counted when the Composition Book is graded.

***** Students must have their journals during every class period inside or outside of the classroom. No journal means a zero for the day.


Final: Your final is a digital story highlighting one of your passionate "ah hahs" from this class as it relates to you. The digital story process will be thoroughly explained in class and supported with a lab in the media center. Script writing and story circles are part of the process of developing digital stories. For additional information go to Blackboard or to this webpage: DS Instructions.

Grades Per Activity:
Attendance and Participation, including
leading discussions                          20%
Average of two group projects:        20                         
Average of three papers                    30
Completed Digital Story                   10
Journal                                              20

90-100 = A                                    77-79 = C+         
87-89 = B+                                    70-76 = C
80-86 = B                                      60-69 = D

You are responsible for the Policies and Grading section of the syllabus. See link above or use the link in webct.

Unusual circumstances may necessitate a change in the syllabus and/or calendar.