Junior Writing for Women's Studies Majors
Fall 2001

Women will starve in silence until new stories
are created which confer on them
the power of naming themselves.

(Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar)

Instructor: Amy Wilkins
Office: 626 Thompson
Tel. (H) 534-0502 (before 8 PM)
Office Hours: M 10:10-12:00 and by appt.
Email: wilkins@soc.umass.edu


This course has two related goals for your development as writers: first, to polish your proficiency in a range of writing skills and, second, to enable you to experiment with multiple voices. We will thus engage and undertake a variety of writing styles. We will also rely on the unromantic twinned soul of writing development: frequency and revision. Expect to be constantly writing and rewriting.

To bring substantive coherence to the course, we will focus our coursework on engendered adolescence. Adolescence, I hope, will engage us all as writers because we've all experienced it, because those experiences are frequently emotionally charged, and because they raise a range of feminist issues. Adolescence is important for us as feminists because its association with biological differences (e.g., boys' "out-of-control" hormones) crystalizes and legitimizes gender inequality. It is also important because its assumed universality glosses over significant race and class disparities in the experiences of adolescence, obfuscating those axes of difference. In this class, we will use readings, class discussions, and writing assignments to explore our own experiences of adolescence, the intersection of race, class, and sexuality with these universalized experiences, and contemporary feminist concerns about adolescent girls.


Required books are available at Food for Thought Bookstore in Amherst:


Attendance and Participation
You are expected to attend class, to participate in discussions, and to actively engage your own and your classmates' work. You are also required to attend all scheduled conferences with the instructor. More than three unexcused absences will result in a reduction of your final grade.

Weekly Journal
Each week, you will write (at least) a two page informal response to the reading or set of readings due that week. The journal both provides you with a chance to get your ideas on paper without focusing on the mechanics of writing and forces you to actively engage with the reading material. Each entry should have two parts (roughly a page each):

1. Your reaction as an academic/feminist and as a reader. This part should address the reading(s) as a source or information and as a piece of writing. Consider, for example, the following questions: What were the author's goals? Did s/he meet them? Was the reading valuable? How does it contribute to your body of knowledge about adolescence? What questions does it raise? Were you convinced? Evaluate its use of evidence and support. Evaluate the writing style. Did it engage you? Were you confused at any points?

2. Your personal reaction. Again, consider: How did this material make you feel? What memories/images did it evoke? Did it challenge/complicate/confirm your perspectives on any issues?

You are allowed to skip two weeks in your journal without penalty. Please note that you will be asked to read your entries aloud in class.

Reflection Papers
Smaller, informal assignments will be assigned periodically. It is your responsibility to find out about assignments if you miss a class.

Autobiography: The Self as an Adolescent
Your personal exploration of your own adolescence.

Biography of Another Woman's Adolescence
For this assignment, you will develop and conduct an interview with another woman about her memories of adolescence. The woman you interview must be different from you in some socially significant way (generation, class, or race). If you choose to interview someone who is under eighteen, you must get written consent from her parent or guardian.

Library Research Paper
The final assignment for this course is a library* research paper on a topic of your choice, as long as it is related in some way to the field of women's studies. You are not required to focus on adolescence for this paper. Moreover, it is possible to combine this paper with a research paper from another class. Your proposal for this paper, including a list of possible sources, will be due at mid-semester.

*The internet is not the library!!!

Writing Portfolios
At the end of the semester, you will hand in a portfolio containing your work over the course. The portfolio should contain in-class writing, drafts, peer reviews, and final papers, including your journal.



The class meets MWF and will follow a predictable format:

Because it is difficult for me to predict our pace in advance, the course schedule will evolve throughout the semester. You are responsible for finding out about changes in the schedule if you miss class.

In addition to the required books, we will use a few outside readings. To keep your expenses lower, I did not have an official reading packet made. Instead, I will leave copies of the readings in my mailbox in the Women's Studies office for you to check out and photocopy. Please honor our classroom community by returning the readings as soon as possible.

Reading schedule: