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Dr. Susan Sage Heinzelman, Director 2505 University Avenue, A4900, Burdine Hall 536, Austin Texas 78712 • 512-471-5765

Fall 2006

WGS 301 • Women in America-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
49520 MWF
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
PAR 301

Course Description

This course will explore women's experiences in America from the 1848 Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention to the present from an interdisciplinary perspective. We will pay particular attention to the development of feminist movements and to the ways in which main themes in American history, such as the rhetoric of democracy, military conflict, and the centrality of religion, change when we look at America from the perspective of women. What does the nation's history look like when the experiences of women are put at its center? How do the stories of women alter or disrupt the narrative of American history? What are the intellectual origins, influences, and underpinnings of the American feminist movement? What is its relationship to other movements for social justice and civil rights? How are changes in gender roles reflected in and produced by literature, politics, art, education, labor, and popular culture? These are a few of the questions we will ask throughout the semester. To more fully understand the history and experiences of women in America, discussions of race, ethnicity, class, religion, gender, and sexual orientation will be central to this course. We will learn about women's experiences with and interventions in medicine, science, labor, marriage and family life, the law, politics, popular culture, art, literature, education, and religion. We will trace the struggle for suffrage and womens attempts to carve out spaces for themselves, both literally and figuratively, in the workplace, the school, the community, and the church. In addition to reading primary and secondary historical texts, we will read Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, and Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street. We will also examine representations of women in popular culture from women's magazines to music to movies to television shows such as "Sex and the City." Beyond learning about the history of women in America, students will hone their critical thinking, research, and writing skills. This class fulfills a substantial writing component, and a majority of the assignments will be written. Students will write short response papers to each of the books, rough and final drafts of a research paper, and a final take-home essay exam. Portions of several classes will be devoted to students' presentations of their work and to discussion of college-level academic research, argument development, paper organization, and revision. Students will also become comfortable finding primary sources using on-line collections, such as the Library of Congress's American Memory Project, as well as UT's Harry Ransom Center and The Center for American History. In terms of class format, I will generally lecture for a portion of the class, but most of the class will be spent discussing the readings. In addition, each student will be responsible for at least one class presentation on the woman, event, or organization of her/his choice. To enrich our discussions, I will often bring in music, TV or movie clips, cartoons, or photos that pertain to our reading.

Grading Policy

15%: 2-page response papers X 3 40%: 8-page research paper 25%: Final exam 10%: Class participation 10%: Homework (including quizzes and in-class writing)


Course packet, available for purchase at Speedway Copies in the Dobie Mall Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience, 4th edition (2006) Susan Ware, Modern American Women: A Documentary History, Second Edition (2002)


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