BSC Home Page

English Studies at Birmingham-Southern

My Home Page

My Fall Courses

My Interim Project

My Spring Courses

Curriculum Vitae

Selected Papers and Poems

Stowe Landscape Gardens Web Site

EH 220 (1-Y)
Literature and the Social Experience:
Gender, Race, and Class
Spring 2005
MWF 8:20-9:20
Humanities Center 319


Literature and Gender, Wiegman and Glasberg, eds.
Four Major Plays, Ibsen
The Everyday Writer, Lunsford

Course Goals

As part of the College's First Year Foundations program, this course seeks to emphasize not only the habits of mind required for literary study but also the place of literary study in a liberal arts education, the connections between literary study and other academic disciplines, and the relationships between theory and practice and between art and life. Upon completion of this course you will have a clear sense of how to read and write about literary texts, of what it means to be a member of an intellectual community, and of how that community relates to and serves the wider community.

Course Objectives

  • Learn to identify your own personal and cultural biases and determine how they affect your reading and writing
  • Learn to identify the structural elements of fiction, poetry and drama (i.e. plot, characterization, setting, symbol, metaphor, irony, point of view) and how writers use them to emphasize a social message
  • Learn to draw connections between lived experience and literary constructs, noting particular points at which art draws on life but differs from it (and, perhaps, how life draws on art but differs from it)
  • Learn to argue a point, in both oral and written form, based on evidence from a literary text

Service Learning

As a way of connecting the created worlds of literature with the world we live in, and as a way of connecting our scholarly community with the larger community of Birmingham, this course has a service-learning component. This out-of-class component consists of 15 contact hours of community service and subsequent written reflection on how that service relates to the literary texts you are reading and discussing. You will keep a journal of your reflections that will serve as the basis for your third paper. Please follow this link to an extended description of your journal. Your service-learning activities must begin by mid-February and be completed by the first week of May. You must sign a release form or, if you are underage, your parent must sign. Forms may be found on the Web by following this link. Choose the form for First-year Foundations courses. A series of service options appears below:

Option 1: Tutoring and Recreation -- Dream Garden
Monday - Friday 3:30 - 5:30 p.m. Volunteers tutor students at the House of Restoration in West End. This is an onging commitment to individual students, so attendance must be consistent.
Dream Garden staff contact: Pashion Lewis -- 323-9811

Option 2: Tutoring and Recreation -- Urban Kidz
Monday - Friday 3:00 - 6:00 p.m. Volunteers tutor students at Urban Ministry. This is an ongoing commitment to individual students, so attendance must be consistent. BSC student coordinator: Carrie Reamey (
Urban MInistry staff contact: Amanda Bowen -- 781-0517 or

Option 3: First Light Women's Shelter
Wednesday Nights. Volunteers take food, serve food, spend time with women in shelter, play cards and games, spend the night. Early visits will be for dinner and part of the evening (6:30 - 8:30). Later visits will be overnight (back by 6:30 a.m. Thursday).
BSC student coordinators: Mallie Searcy ( and Maria Presley ( First light staff contact: Shannon Horsley -- 323-4277 or

Option 4: Firehouse Men's Shelter
Monday - Friday 6:00 p.m. - 6:00 a.m. Volunteers serve food, spend time with the men in the shelter, and spend the night.
Firehouse staff contact: Ann McNeil -- 252-9571 ext. 112

Option 5: Urban Ministry Community Kitchen
Monday - Thursday 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Volunteers assist with preparation, serving, and clean up at the soup kitchen. This program provides meals to homeless and working poor in our community.
Urban Ministry staff contact: Ms. Belle Carlisle -- 781-0517

Option 6: Community Ministries and Project ID
Monday - Friday 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. -- Hospitality, coffee, and muffins.
Tuesday & Thursday 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. -- Clothing distribution.
Tuesday & Thursday 11:00 a.m. - noon -- Assisting clients in obtaining state issued ID.
Highlands United Methodist Church staff contact: Reggie Holder -- 9338751 or

The Service Learning Office is located in Norton Campus Center 213, and its Director is Kristin Harper. Please inform her about your choice of service activity. Stop by her office or call her at 226-4720. Let her know that you are a member of this class.


Class Participation: As a member of this scholarly community, you are responsible for class discussion. My role in the class is not to give you the final word on literature but to coordinate your discussion of it. One of the premises of this course is that there are multiple approaches to literary texts. Class discussion allows us to unravel the complexity of the texts we read because during discussion we must account for our own opinions as we consider those of our fellow readers. Come to class prepared to make significant comments on the reading assignments and to ask useful questions. Take notes as you read, and write out substantial responses to the study questions I have provided for each of your readings. I may call on you at any time for your response to a reading assignment. Class participation -- as an individual and in group activities -- counts one fifth of your grade. Your written responses to the study quesitons are part of this grade. Please follow this link to a Web page that outlines the fundamental virtues necessary to create and maintain a vital scholarly community.

Classroom Behavior: Because our classroom space is devoted to the study of literature, it must therefore be free of distractions. To that end, I expect you to observe the following rules:

  • Arrive on time.
  • Do not begin packing for your trip to your next class before I end our class. I will end our class on time.
  • Do not bring food into the classroom, and bring drinks only in containers that will not spill.
  • Silence all cell phones before you come to class.
  • Pay attention to the person who is speaking: do not engage in private conversations.

Writing Assignments: In addition to your journal and your informal in-class writing assignments, you will write three formal papers. These papers are the counterpart to class participation: whereas in class you will develop and test your ideas by voicing them in the group, in your papers you will develop and test your ideas through extended thought and multiple drafts. As in class discussion, you must be aware of your audience, but unlike class discussion you cannot change, modify, clarify, or correct your ideas once you turn the paper in. You will discover things about yourself and about literature as you write, but once you submit the paper it must stand on its own. Start early on these papers, and go through several drafts, not just correcting any errors you find but developing your examples and clarifying your explanations. If it helps, think of class discussion as rehearsal and the papers as performance. Audiences expect certain things out of a performance. As your audience, I hope to find your performance thoughtful, honest, careful, spirited, well-developed. At the very least, I expect the following -- papers are due in hard copy at the beginning of class on the due date; they must be printed on a laser or ink jet printer and fastened with a staple; your work must follow the proper manuscript form (MLA style) found in your college writing handbook purchased for your composition class. I may choose not to accept written work that does not conform to standards; if so, I will require you to rewrite the assignment. I will not accept late work without having given prior consent. For a clear idea of my grading scale for papers, please follow this link.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is the most serious offence against academic honesty. As such, it has the most severe penalties. Put quite simply, plagiarism is the use of someone else's words or ideas without giving him or her credit. Anytime you quote directly or indirectly from a source, or if you paraphrase or summarize material from a source, you must document that act of borrowing. The papers you write for this or any class at Birmingham-Southern are documents by which your professors will measure your ability to collect and analyze data, understand concepts, and articulate ideas. Presenting another person's work as your own is dishonest and fraudulent. Any act of plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the assignment without possibility of revision. Intentional acts of plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the course. All acts of plagiarism will be referred to the Honor Council.

Class Attendance: Because the classroom experience is central to this course, you must be present in both body and spirit during class time. Recognizing that you have a complex life, I allow you two sick days and two personal days for the term. Any absences beyond those four will cost you a letter grade reduction per day absent on your final course grade. You will not be allowed to make up missed work unless you get permission from me ahead of time or unless I have been contacted by Health Services or your academic advisor about your extended illness.

Service Activity Attendance: Because you will be working with the Office of Service Learning in these activities, you are responsible for contacting the staff there in the unlikely event that you must miss an appointment. You must also contact your partner. You must make these calls ahead of time or, if you are incapacitated, you must arrange for someone else to make the calls. Think ahead in case of emergencies: others will be depending on you.

Contacting Your Professor: You may contact me by leaving me an e-mail message, a voice-mail message at my office extension, or a written note on my office door bulletin board or in my mailbox in the Humanities Office. Please understand that your leaving a message does not constitute your having my permission for your request.

Course Grade

The final grade will be the average of the class participation grade (20%), the paper grades (20% each), and the final exam grade (20%). The first paper will require you to account for your response -- the "what," "how," and "why" of it -- to one of the readings. The second paper will explain how the structural elements of one of the readings contributes to its theme of gender, race, or class. The third paper will make specific and significant connections between your service learning experiences and your readings. The final examination will require you to identify passages from the readings and comment on their significance both to the immediate context and to larger issues.

Your papers should reflect extensive thought and multiple drafting, and you should draw on the writing skills you are learning in your writing class. In addition to the instruction in writing you get in both classes, you should make use of the tutorial support available in the Writing Center. Information about the Writing Center appears on its Web page, which you may reach by following this link. Remember that your assignments are both a learning tool for you and an evaluation tool for me. The more effort you put into them, the more you will learn and the better you will be evaluated. Please see the statement of my philosophy of grading that I have posted on this Web site.

Course Schedule

Reading assignments are listed below on the days we will be discussing them in class. Take notes on the readings, respond in writing to the study questions, and come to class prepared to discuss the texts and the issues they raise. Writing assignments and examinations are listed below in boldfaced type.

Note: Intellectual and Cultural events and activities are listed below in red. You must attend these events, respond in writing on our class weblog within 48 hours of each one in terms of its relevance to the material of this course, and be prepared to discuss them in subsequent class meetings.

2/4 Introduction to the course

2/7 Literature and Gender, "Introduction" (1-11) and Bambara, "The Lesson" (30)
2/9 Viramontes, "Miss Clairol" (78) and "Reading for Meaning" (369-372)
2/11 Jen, "In the American Society" (45)

2/14 Kaneko, "The Shoyu Kid" (55)
2/16 Wright, "The Man Who Was Almost a Man" (81)
2/18 Fuller, A Soldier's Play (213)

2/21 Fuller, A Soldier's Play (213) and "The Writing Process" (373-388)
2/22 Reginald McKnight, Fiction Writer, BACHE Visiting Writer Series, Norton Theatre, 11:00 a.m. CEIS Event #1596
2/23 Fuller, A Soldier's Play (213)
2/25 Fuller, A Soldier's Play (213)

2/28 Fuller, A Soldier's Play (213)
3/2 McCullers, "Like That" (71)
3/4 Oates, "Stalking" (174)

3/7 Reflection on Service-Learning Activities First Paper Due
3/9 Stadler, "Love Problem" (351)
3/10 Provost's Forum: Professor Charles Mason, “My Music, A Discussion of Five Pieces Worked on During My Sabbatical: Expressway, A Completed Portrait of Picasso, Fast Break, Filibuster, and Thimblerigger” Norton Theatre, 11:00 a.m. CEIS Event #1549
3/11 Hemingway, "The Sea Change" (330)

3/14 Moraga, Giving up the Ghost (90)
3/16 Moraga, Giving up the Ghost (90)
3/18 Moraga, Giving up the Ghost (90)

3/21 Reflection on Service-Learning Activities
3/23 Cisneros, "The Eyes of Zapata" (138)
3/25 Good Friday -- no class


4/4 Hurston, "The Gilded Six-Bits" (162)
4/6 Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper" (319)
4/7 Provost's Forum: Professor Richard McCallum, “Predictors of Health Risks for Low-Income Youth: A Structural Equations Model” Norton Theatre, 11:00 a.m. CEIS Event #1551
4/8 LeGuin, "Sur" (333)

4/11 poetry selections (15-30) Second Paper Due
4/13 poetry selections (15-30)
4/15 Registration for Summer and Fall terms -- no class

4/18 Reflection on Service-Learning Activities
4/20 poetry selections (120-137)
4/22 poetry selections (120-137)

4/25 poetry selections (261-284)
4/27 poetry selections (261-284)
4/29 Russ, "When It Changed" (345)

5/2 Ibsen, A Doll House
5/4 Ibsen, A Doll House
5/6 Ibsen, A Doll House

5/9 Reflection on Service-Learning Activities
5/11 Review for Final Examination Third Paper Due

5/19 (Thursday, 1:00-4:00) Final Examination

John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College,