WOST 396W, Fall 2003
Writing for Women's Studies Majors

Bartlett 125
MWF 10:10 -11:00
Instructor: Kate Dionne
Office: 577-1141 (M 8am-3pm, WF 8am-10am)
Home: 582-0751 (9am to 7pm only, please)
cmdionne @ english.umass.edu
Office hours M 11:30-12:30, W 2:00-3:00 and by appt

Course philosophy:
I want this course to help prepare you for further writing in the world. Therefore, we'll work on skills that I believe cross disciplines and jobs, skills that transfer well to multiple writing situations. That means I'd like everyone to leave this class able to size up a writing situation, decode the requirements, and choose to meet or not meet each of those requirements. I want you to be able to find, use, and evaluate resources, techniques, and feedback that can help you with your writing. To do this effectively, I want you to direct and contribute to the content of this course.
And, while this isn't a course requirement, I hope you leave this course feeling that this semester was productive for you (and if possible enjoyable). I will do my best to help make that happen. I ask you to work with me and with the rest of the class to make this course useful to you.
I also want you to have the space to explore and reflect upon how feminism and writing intersect. Our senses of ourselves, our worldviews, our sense of audience, and our sense of what writing is and what it is for: all of these are powerfully intertwined with feminist issues. Writing is both a tool of expression and a tool of communication; both functions are worth exploring as a topic of feminist inquiry.
We will do a fair amount of reading in this course. The reading mainly consists of two types, which I will call here public and local. First, we will read short publicly available pieces of writing, looking at them from the perspective of writers. We will investigate what decisions the writer has made, what choices were available to her, and what expectations/conventions were in play in the genre(s) she used. We will talk extensively about audience, about how whom we write to and who we write as affects the writing itself and its reception. This can be very different from the reading you are asked to do in other classes. While I hope that the content of the readings is interesting, our discussion and analysis will not focus on the content of the ideas in the readings, but the production, presentation, and consumption of that writing. These public readings will include short essays, website articles, magazines, poetry, and academic and professional journals. We will use these as examples, ways to see what other writers have done before us and to learn from what they have done.
Second, we will read "local" pieces: pieces written by people in the class. Here we will again look at the choices the writer has available to her, the expectations/conventions of the genre(s), and the effects of those choices. You will be giving feedback to others in the class one-on-one, in small groups, online, and in full-class discussions. We will work as a group to devise guidelines to make this feedback process as productive and generative as possible for you, as writers and as readers.
We will also do a lot of writing. This writing will vary, from short unrevised pieces (some of them done in-class) to longer pieces revised over several drafts. We will work on writing for both feminist and non-feminist audiences, on writing focusing on feminist issues and on writing that focuses on progressive issues but not primarily on gender. You will do work on a wide range of writing, from some that is kept completely private to writing that goes out to an audience beyond this class, from writing used for classes or for work to writing used to express, to discover, to persuade, to explain or enlighten.
I also want this class to be a space where you can explore issues and questions you have about writing, as well as forms of writing you find useful, compelling, and interesting. Within the context of what the university, the Women's Studies department, and I have as hopes for this class, I believe it is crucial for us to discuss and incorporate as much as possible what you hope for this class.

Class goals:
Generally speaking, and in no particular order, you need to be able to:

Required resources:
This course has a WebCT component. We'll talk more about this in class. For now, you should know that you MUST have an OIT account at UMass in order to access this portion of the class and fulfill some assignments. As we will be using WebCT extensively after next week, if you don't already have an OIT account, you should go to OIT in Lederle to get one as soon as possible.
You will need to access the WebCT course through a supported browser. OIT says:
Supported Browsers: WebCT 3.8

Netscape 4.76, 6.2.1, 6.2.2, and 6.2.3 (PC & Mac)
Internet Explorer 5.0 to 6.0, except 5.5 Service Pack 1 (PC)
Internet Explorer 5.0 and 5.1 (Mac OS 9.x)
Internet Explorer 5.1 (Mac OS 10.1)
AOL 7.0 (PC & Mac)

(Office of InformationTechnologies, University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Instructor Resources Technical Specifications. 3 September 2003. )

Assignments and assessment:
This class has several components:

Hold on to all your work so that you can hand in a portfolio of your work (both from this class and any from outside this class that you believe demonstrates your writing prowess) at the end of the semester.
The following are low-stakes assignments. You will not be given letter grades; you either get the credit for having done them or you don't. We will work on starting these in class, often collaboratively.
  1. Feminist writing auto-ethnography, early drafts
  2. Resume and cover letter
  3. WebCT writing and discussion postings

    The following are medium stakes projects: they will be given points based on criteria I give to you.

  4. Writer's notebook and reading journal, with progress reports and updates
  5. Genre conventions for each project; some of these will be done collaboratively. You should know that you must do these well to get all of the points for the other assignments.
  6. Resource listings and annotated bibliography
  7. Feminist writing auto-ethnography, final draft, and portfolio reflection

The following are high-stakes assignments and will be graded, in accordance with lists of genre conventions (characteristics the writing should have) that we generate together. The content of these is entirely up to you.
    1. A weekly draft, generating several short projects, generally about 4-6 pages each.
    These will come from several categories:

In addition, there are feedback components for the class. We will spend time evaluating what is working and not working for you in the peer feedback portion of the class, and make adjustments as possible to make this as productive for you as readers and as writers as we can. Some peer feedback will be done collaboratively, some individually.

I'll give you a more detailed assessment (grading) policy Monday 9-8.

Administrative details:
Class time is designed not to include "busy work." It is my hope that, because you as students are generating much of the class content, the class time will be helpful to you. In addition, because this class is run as a workshop/presentation class, your presence is needed for class to work. Attendance is therefore mandatory both at class meetings and at conferences. You can miss a week of class time; during those absences you are responsible for making arrangements with me to get that week's work done. After you miss a week of class time, your grade will be affected.
If you have extraordinary circumstances (severe illness, etc., etc.) please let me know sooner rather than later. (See below in the "Accommodations" section as well.) If you have circumstances that you know will interfere with your ability to be in class, please come and speak with me immediately so that we can figure out if this is the class for you.
If there is anything I need to know to help this class work for you, please let me know as soon as possible. For example, please tell me:
if you have a learning disability that we should be accommodating
if you're in a school activity which requires you to miss class time and which university policy makes exceptions for (such as athletics)

Due-dates, extensions, late papers, etc., etc.:
I believe absolutely in keeping track of all your many responsibilities and noticing when you foresee a week that seems impossible. In those cases, I believe in granting limited extensions, provided that you ask for them well in advance. In other words, if three weeks ahead of time, you tell me that you have two major tests the week we have a big project due in this class, we can usually negotiate an extension of that project due-date for you in this class. However, I am correspondingly strict with due-dates when you haven't planned ahead. You can negotiate with me on these (subject to constraints of the class). You can also hand in one high stakes assignment OR two low/medium stakes assignments one class period late without having arranged an extension; after that your grade will be reduced.
Contacting me:
You can call me at 577-1141 or come by Goodell 608 during my office hours (M 11:30 - 12:30, W 2:00 - 3:00). Or you can email me at: cmdionne@english.umass.edu or through WebCT (more on that later in the class). Please, no attachments and no viruses. (So don't email me to say: "my computer is down due to a virus and so can I have an extension?")
You can come by during my office hours with or without an appointment.

Attached is the schedule of the semester's work. Drafts will be due on Wednesdays unless I tell you otherwise in class. Often we'll finish discussing a unit in class one week, and the final draft of a unit will be due Wednesday the next week.

    1) Definitions of feminist writing (Weeks 1 and 2)

    2) Academic writing, both public and local (Weeks 3, 4, and 5)
    1. Samples of "local" academic writing (aka: stuff you've had to write for other classes)
    2. Conventions and strategies for doing such writing
    3. Questions to revisit
    4. Samples of academic journals, conferences, and so on
    5. Analysis of types of writing available in these forums, and conventions for those genres (each small group will devise one genre category and work on those conventions)
    6. Gate-keeping, sign-posting, credibility, and those annoying source and citation formats (aka: how to get them to think you're one of them or at least someone worth listening to--as of course you are)
      • CONVENTIONS: done collaboratively week 3
      • DRAFT: Proposal for academic paper, due Friday week 3
      • DRAFT: academic paper #1 and #2, due Wednesdays weeks 4 and 5
      • Annotated bibliography: academic writing samples, guidelines, and assignments
      • Journal and reading: academic writing samples, guidelines, and assignments; analysis of your own past academic writing experience

    3) Non-fiction public writing for "real people," including community service and activist writing (weeks 5 and 6)
    1. Samples of feminists writing in the world outside the academy (including zines, not-for-profit organizational writing, websites, and newspapers)
    2. Analysis of types of writing available in these forums, and conventions for those genres (each small group will devise one genre category and work on those conventions)
    3. Non-academic sign-posting, gate-keeping, and figuring out what counts as evidence
      • CONVENTIONS: done collaboratively week 5
      • DRAFT: "real people" draft #1 and #2, due week 6 and 7
      • Annotated bibliography: writing samples and guidelines
      • journal and reading: writing samples and guidelines, analysis of audience issues in academic versus non-academic audience

    4) Informal writing (weeks 7 and 8)
    1. Speeches, letters, emails and web postings from a feminist perspective
    2. Samples of local and public informal writing
    3. Writing for a non-feminist audience
    4. Thinking about audience and tone "on-the-fly"
    5. Differences between writing to be read and writing to be read out loud
      • CONVENTIONS: done collaboratively week 7
      • DRAFT: "informal writing" exercises #1 and #2, done week 7 and 8
      • Annotated bibliography: writing samples (provided by class)
      • Journal and reading: writing samples and guidelines, analysis of audience reactions to feminist informal writing (risks and rewards)

    5) Cultural review/analysis (weeks 8, 9 and 10)
    1. Samples of cultural reviews and analysis
    2. High versus low culture
    3. Methodology and ethical representation (aka "how do you know if you've 'done justice to a text?")
      • CONVENTIONS: done collaboratively week 8
      • DRAFT: "cultural review/analysis" drafts #1 and #2, done week 9 and 10
      • Annotated bibliography: writing samples and guidelines
      • Journal and reading: writing samples and guidelines, analysis of adapting text analysis from academic to non-academic settings

    6) Previews of the future: professorial and graduate student writing issues (week 10)

    7) Connecting to other progressive audiences: (week 11)

    8) Ethical implication of writing research/representation (week 12)
    1. Samples of profiles, interviews, case studies
    2. Analysis of purposes and elements of research representation
    3. Conducting an interview/observation
    4. Sign-posting, sources, and citations
    5. Discussion of ethical representation
      • CONVENTIONS: "field-specific" research/representation done in groups outside class week 12
      • DRAFT: "revision" draft #1, done week 12
      • Annotated bibliography: research samples, guidelines, and resources
      • Journal and reading: research samples and guidelines; analysis of issues in representation, and analysis of field-specific research and representation issues

    9) Crossing boundaries (week 13/14)
    1. Violating conventions
    2. Writing from outside the feminist center

    10) Writing that blends/mixes/implodes genres (week 13/14)

    11) "Creative" writing
    1. samples of "creative" writing
    2. exploring how it differs from and how it overlaps with "non-creative" writing (both to readers and to writers)
    3. thinking about language, character, story, and image
    4. connecting back to the elements of writing for reading out loud
      • CONVENTIONS: done in groups outside class week 13
      • DRAFT: "genre-specific open choice" drafts #1 and #2, done week 13 and 14
      • Annotated bibliography: genre-specific resources
      • Journal and reading: analysis of issues in writing that breaks rules
    12) Portfolio reflection (week 15)
    1. Samples of your own work
    2. Analysis of your own work
    3. Looking back at your issues/questions: any new answers? Any new questions?
    4. Looking forward to your writing tasks ahead