Narratives & Counter-Narratives


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Fall 2006
WSS 282Z (15574)
Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays 1:15-2:35 pm
Place: LE-G41- Teaching Resource Center in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (Tuesdays) and Digital Workshop #2 (Thursdays), both on the ground floor of Science Library.

Instructor: Janell Hobson
Office: Social Science 344
Office Hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays 2:45-4:05 pm and by appointment
Contact Info. [email protected] | Phone: 442-5575

Course Description:
This interdisciplinary course examines feminist and other subversive responses to "master narratives" that silence or prompt alternative narratives addressing concerns from marginal perspectives. We will explore different narrative genres - essays, films, novels, graphic novels, theater, music, art, memorials, etc. - and determine the effectiveness of producing counter-hegemonic expressions to challenge viewpoints from the mainstream or status quo and to advance social justice for women and other under-represented groups. Students will also create their own counter-narratives as a final project while assessing these issues. [Return]

This course fulfills the writing intensive general education requirement in that students will be able to:

  • produce coherent texts within common college-level written forms;
  • demonstrate the ability to revise and improve such texts;
  • research a topic, develop an argument, and organize supporting details.

It also serves as an introduction to the concentration in "Arts, Writing, and Activism" for the revised Women's Studies major. This course parallels Women's Studies departmental goals and learning objectives in that students will:

  • learn to dismantle the intersecting ideologies of classism, racism, sexism, etc.
  • conceptualize feminist social justice beyond gender equity and towards community and human dignity.
  • participate in the teaching process as active learners, peer educators, and public scholars;
  • integrate scholarship in the classroom with community and political activism. [Return]

Course Requirements:

Required Texts (available at the Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza):
Boal, Augusto. Theatre of the Oppressed. NY: Theatre Communications Group, 1985.
Childs, John Brown, ed. Hurricane Katrina: Response and Responsibilities. San Francisco: New Pacific Press, 2005.
Morrison, Toni. Paradise. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis . NY: Random House, 2003.
Winterson, Jeanette. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. London: Vintage, 1985.
Woolf , Virginia . A Room of One's Own. NY: Harvest Books, 1989, 1929.
Zitka-la Sa. American Indian Stories. Lincoln: Bison Books, 2003, 1921.

Additional readings are available on WebCT.

Class Participation (20 points)

  • Discussions: You are expected to contribute regularly to class discussions, to listen effectively to lectures and to others, and to bring reading materials to class. Due to the contents of this course, sensitivity and respect for all are a must. It is important to establish respect and trust with your fellow classmates, especially when engaging in peer evaluation of each other's written work. If you fail to contribute to discussions in class, then the highest number of points you can receive for class participation will be 10 points.
  • WebCT: You are expected to post on a regular basis to our WebCT discussion board. An important theme of this class is engaging with new media and the writing opportunities presented online. You will need to post questions and comments regarding assignments and to take turns each week introducing a discussion topic on our discussion forum.
  • Attendance: This will officially be taken immediately after the drop/add period. You are allowed 3 unexcused absences; however, if you go over this number, you stand to lose 5 points for each additional absence from your final grade. Two bonus points toward your final grade for perfect attendance!! Perfect attendance means that you have never missed a single class (whether this is excused or not – including for illnesses and emergencies), nor have you ever arrived late nor left early for any reason. If you attend every single session, from the beginning of class time to the end, and if you are respectful in class and contribute to discussions, then and only then will you receive bonus points for perfect attendance.

Reader's Log (or Blog) (30 points):
You will be expected to keep a reader's log or create a blog that catalogues your responses to reading assignments. Your responses may be reflective or creative (e.g. responding to readings through poetry or fictive narrative, such as adding a vignette written from the perspective of a marginal character, writing an epilogue or prelude, etc.) If you create a reader's blog, then please submit the URL. An entry in your log/blog is expected on the following dates, for a total of 10 entries: 9/12, 9/19, 9/26, 10/3, 10/10, 10/19, 10/26, 10/31, 11/14, and 11/28. Each entry should be 500-750 words (or 2-3 pages, typed and double-spaced). For your responses, provide a critical assessment of the reading(s): This is not your opinion, such as whether or not you “liked” or “disliked” the text; rather, this is your own critical evaluation of the author's assertions about a specific issue. 6 or more check+ = 30 points, 6 or more checks = 20, 6 or more check- = 15. If you miss 5 of these assignments, the highest grade you can earn will be 10 points.

Collaborative Digital Project (20 points):
As a class, we will collaborate on an interactive website (see Projects link) documenting original hypertext poems. You will be expected to compose an original poem (your own choice of style – free verse, blank verse, rhyme, sonnet, series of haiku, lyric, etc.) in response to the Women's Studies student e-journal, transcending silence..., which has as its theme for the next issue (Spring 2007) "Gender, Place, and Space." Drawing also on themes explored in this course – public space vs. cyberspace, the word vs. the visual or the aural – we will create an interactive website that will support our individual works and present them in a way that creates a larger, collaborative class narrative. We will participate in a web design workshop to acquire skills in new media and technology, designed to enhance our writing (free tutorials on other digital media are offered at the IMC in the basement of the main library: 1 point/workshop that you attend this semester). Extra credit points: an additional 2 points for performing poem at the “Spread the Word” open mike event at Ritazza Cafe (held first and third Wednesdays, 8 pm ). Your poem is due in class on Thursday, October 5. Your digital poem is due on CD or disk by Tuesday, October 10.

Counter-Narrative Final Project (30 points):
You will be expected to produce a larger counter-narrative by expanding on your poem/digital poem through an exploration of themes explored in class or through the development of a response to a particular text studied in class. You will then adapt it for possible submission to the Women's Studies student e-journal, transcending silence… Your counter-narrative may include a research paper (10-15 pages, typed and double-spaced) or a creative project (machinima, independent media – Podcast audio, creative website, public art, PSA video, music/poetry video, etc. – short story, epic poem, play/screenplay, memoir, photo-essay, sculpture, musical composition, film short, game/videogame, children's or young adult fiction, epistolary work, manifesto, dance/performance,* etc.). Creative projects must include a written introduction (4-6 pages, typed and double-spaced). You will also be expected to follow the journal's submission guidelines. To prepare for this project, please submit a proposal (1-3 pages, typed and double-spaced) describing your intentions, research questions, and approaches. Include also an annotated bibliography of at least 1 primary source (archived materials, literature, cultural artifact, or interviews – for the latter, see Human Subjects policies of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) on how to obtain approval for such research) and 2 secondary sources (academic journal article, book, or book chapter) guiding your research topic. If you plan on applying to the IRB for approval to do Human Subjects research, then please do so by September 15.

This proposal is due in class on Tuesday, October 17. You will also be expected to develop an abstract of 200 words that describes the main theme of your project, due Thursday, October 26. You can earn extra points if you choose to submit your abstract to the annual Women's Studies student conference (2 points); if accepted into the conference, you can earn an additional 3 points for presenting your work. (Email [email protected] by October 27, 2006). The conference will be held November 30-December 1, 2006. First drafts of your project are due Tuesday, November 7. A second draft will be due Tuesday, November 21; this draft will be peer-reviewed by a classmate. We will spend the final week of class going over your projects (the final draft due in class on Tuesday, December 12). [Return]

*Performance as Counter-Narrative Project:
In lieu of an e-journal submission, students may audition for and work on a performance this semester, to premier at the annual Women's Studies student conference the evening of Thursday, November 30, 6:00 pm. The performance (arranged by your instructor) will include reading and performing poetry, interspersed with musical and dance performances. You may audition to perform one of three parts, or you may work backstage (on directing, sound/music, choreography, costuming, etc.). Work toward this performance will begin in October. You will also give a dress rehearsal before our class on Tuesday, November 21. Since you won't be required to submit different drafts of a written project, you will instead be expected to rehearse outside of class in preparation for this performance and to also submit a 4-6 page response/reflection (typed and double-spaced) about creating performance as a feminist counter-narrative, due in class on Tuesday, December 12. [Return to Counter-Narrative Project]

Expectations, Course Format, and Policies:

  • This course will be structured primarily around discussions and occasional lectures.
  • Please come to class with reading materials; you are expected to have read them prior to class, so be prepared to discuss them.
  • Films and videos will be screened on the dates listed in the schedule; you have the option of viewing these ahead of time but it is not required.
  • Due to the contents of this course, sensitivity and respect for all are a must. If you engage in disruptive behavior (i.e., delivering insults, using vulgar expressions, doing work or having conversations not related to this class, not turning off cell phones, beepers and pagers, or walking out in a way that disrupts class) then 3 such incidences = 1 unexcused absence. (Please see Attendance Policy)
  • Whenever you have concerns over a grade assigned, please contact me at least 24 hours after receipt of your grade. Please only send emails to schedule an appointment, not to discuss concerns with the course.
  • Late assignments will result in 5 points deducted from your grade for each day late; no extensions will be granted with the exception of documented emergencies. In addition, plagiarism (see tutorial ) is a violation of university policy; any errors in citations and use of work that is not your own will result in a failing grade for assignments.
  • All assignments turned in must also be posted on webCT to foster a community of shared learning. [Return]

Grades ( Letter Equivalents of Earned Points):
A = 100-93
A- = 92-90
B+ = 89-86
B = 85-83
B- = 82-80
C+ = 79-76
C = 75-73
C- = 72-70
D = 69-65
E = Below 65 [Return]

Course Schedule


Sept. 5
Course overview and introduction.
Audio/Video Showcase: Musical Counter-Narratives.

Sept. 7
Slide Show: Visual Counter-Narratives.


 Sept. 12
A Room of One's Own.
(Online Critical Introduction to Virginia Woolf's text).
Essay: (1) Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference.

Sept. 14
Essay: (2) Dis Place: The Space Between.
Poem: Poem About My Rights.

Sept. 19
Essays: (3) “Graffiti Taught Me Everything I Know about Space”; (4) Judy Baca: Our People are the Internal Exiles.

Sept. 21
Film segment: Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision (Freida Lee Mock, 1994).


Sept. 26
Hurricane Katrina: Response and Responsibilities.

Sept. 28
Writing Workshop: Poetry.

Oct. 3
. (Author's Reflections.)

Oct. 5
Web Design Workshop.
Due: Poem.

Oct. 10
Discussion of Green Campus Project (see Contest).
Due: Digital Poem.

Oct. 12
Film: The Language You Cry In (Alvaro Toepke and Angel Serrano, 1998).
Essay: (5) Grandma's Story.
Audio on WebCT: Zap Mama, Adventures in Afropea.


Oct. 17
Film: Latcho Drom (Tony Gatlif, 1993).
Due: Annotated Bibliography.

Oct. 19

Oct. 24
holiday – no class.

Oct. 26
American Indian Stories.
(Resources on Zitkala-Sa.)
Due: Abstract describing Green Campus Project.


Oct. 31
(“Ruby” – “Consolata”). A Reader's Guide.

Nov. 2
continued (“Lone” – “Save-Marie”, epilogue).

Nov. 7
Discussion/Composition: Green Campus Project.
Due: First Draft of Green Campus Proposal.

Nov. 9
Green Campus Competition focus continued.

Nov. 14
Theatre of the Oppressed. (chapters 1-3).

Nov. 16
continued (chapters 4-5).

Nov. 21
Discussion/Composition: Green Campus Project.
Due: Revised Proposal of Green Campus Project (submit by Dec. 1).

Nov. 23
holiday – no class.

Nov. 28
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
(“Genesis” – “Joshua”). A Reader's Guide.

Nov. 30
continued (“Judges” – “Ruth”).


Dec. 5
Film: Jesus of Montreal (Denys Arcand, 1989).

Dec. 7
Audio on WebCT: Peter Gabriel, Passion.
Due: Assignment Checklist/Self-Evaluation.

Dec. 12
Due: Reflection (4-6 pages, typed and double-spaced) on Contest.