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EH 228 A (ES)
Ourselves and Others:
Gender, Race, and Class in Literature
Spring 2014
MWF 12:30-1:30
Humanities Center 317

Common Goals for Explorations in Scholarship Seminars

Explorations Seminars ask four questions:
  • How does one effectively participate in the college community?
  • How does one learn to ask the “right” kinds of questions?
  • How does one use research to explore problems and develop solutions?
  • How does one work with others to develop better, more useful understandings?
As an Explorations in Scholarship seminar, this course assumes that learning and understanding begin with curiosity. Our understanding grows as we collaborate with others, connect ideas, do research, and give and receive feedback. In this class, we present our ideas in writing, in oral presentations, in class discussions. All of these modes provide us opportunities to practice and hone our learning strategies, strategies that can serve us in this class and in all college coursework and endeavors. In the end, we arrive in a new place, seeing the world in a new way. Identifying new ways of being, doing, and knowing is the essence of learning in college.

As a way of addressing the goals outlined above, this course focuses on how literature intersects with the world we live in, particularly by examining issues of gender, race, and social class. The activities we engage in will enable you to develop not only the habits of mind required for a scholarly approach to literature but also to see clearly the place of literary study in a college education, the connections between literary study and other academic disciplines, and the relationships between theory and practice and between art and life. By the end of the term, 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 academic community, and of how that community relates to and serves the wider community.

Course-Specific Learning Outcomes

Upon satisfactory completion of the course, students will have gained experience in
  • being effective classroom discussants and participants
  • identifying strengths and weakness of differing approaches to topics being investigated, and positioning themselves in an ongoing inquiry
  • making clear and effective presentations of research and positions held
  • using basic information technology effectively for research and peer teaching
  • identifying personal and cultural biases and determine how they affect reading and writing
  • identifying the structural elements of a work of literature and articulate how they work together to convey an idea or advance an argument


Literature and Gender, Wiegman and Glasberg, eds.
Four Major Plays, Ibsen
Dude, You're a Fag, Pascoe
The Working Poor: Invisible in America, Shipler
A Writer's Reference, Hacker

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 second paper. Please follow this link to an extended description of your journal. Your service-learning activities will begin by mid-September and be completed by the first of December. 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 Travel in Alabama at the bottom of the page.

Our community partner for service learning is Alabama Possible, a campaign of the Alabama Poverty Project. Our specific activities will be part of the Blueprints College Access Initiative. According to its Web page, "The Alabama Poverty Project (APP) is a statewide nonprofit organization that works to reduce systemic poverty and its root causes by inspiring Alabamians to pursue a state in which no individual’s quality of life is diminished by poverty. APP disrupts misperceptions, raises public awareness and engages residents to reduce poverty and its negative impacts on Alabama’s families. Through its work and activities, APP educates Alabamians about poverty, motivates higher-education and faith-based institutions to engage in poverty-reduction activities, and advocates for fact-based policy decisions."

"APP’s Blueprints College Access Initiative connects 21st century high school students and their families with helpful resources and relationships so they are equipped to graduate from high school and college career-ready. The Blueprints College Access Initiative applies a ‘near peer’ mentoring model in which college students serve as mentors for high school students. This program demystifies the college-going process by connecting high school students with an information-rich network of supportive coaches who help them make structured decisions while navigating the college admissions process successfully." Each member of the EH 228 class will serve as a "near peer" mentor to a student at Jackson-Olin High School in Ensley, a neighborhood just to the west of the College.


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. Discussion and debate are not opportunities to win an argument as much as chances to enrich the entire group's understanding of the text being examined and the issues it raises. Though not necessarily formal, academic discussion has certain qualities that set it apart from casual conversation, and I will be evaluating you according to the following criteria in an effort to help you develop your discussion skills:
  • Points made should be substantive, relevant to the discussion, and linked to the comments of others.
  • Comments should show evidence of analysis of the issue at hand.
  • Comments should add to the group's understanding of the situation.
  • Participants should distinguish among different kinds of evidence, particularly between facts and opinions or beliefs.
  • Participants should attempt to bring other readings, both from the text and from other sources, to bear on the issues under consideration.
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. 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 (this means a minute or two early) and use the bathroom before you arrive.
  • 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.
  • Do not bring personal music devices such as mp3 players to class.
  • If you bring a portable computer to class, use it only for purposes connected to class activities.
  • Silence all cell phones before you come to class, and put them away.
  • 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 two 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 to be submitted through Moodle by the beginning of class on the due date; they must be submitted as a Microsoft Word document having the suffix .doc or .docx; 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. I will return your papers to you in electronic form with my comments imbedded electronically. I will also send you a grading sheet that gives you a breakdown of the scores you earned in various aspects of your paper. For a copy of this grading sheet, 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.

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 Alabama Possible in these activities, you are responsible for contacting the staff there in the unlikely event that you must miss a scheduled meeting. You must make such 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. An e-mail message will be the most effective method. Please understand, however, 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 (15%), your journal grade (15%), the paper grades (20% and 30%, respectively), 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, which will involve library research, will make specific and significant connections between your service learning experiences and your readings as it focuses on issues of race and class. The final examination will require you to write an essay that explains how the structural elements of one of the readings contributes to its theme of gender or race, and an essay that reflects on how the course has sharpened your reading and critical thinking skills.

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: Explorations Lecture and Arts Events are listed below in red. You must attend at least three of these events, take notes on each presentation and your reaction to it, and be prepared to discuss them in subsequent class meetings. You will be required to write an essay response to these events on your final examination.

02/05 Introduction to the course
02/07 Introduction to service-learning and The West End

02/10 Literature and Gender, "Introduction" (1-11) and Bambara, "The Lesson" (30)
02/11 Lecture: Dr. Victoria Ott, "Freedom's Fight: African American Troops in the Union Army," 11:00 a.m. Norton Theater
02/12 Orientation for service-learning in the Blueprints College Access Initiative
02/14 Viramontes, "Miss Clairol" (78) and "Reading for Meaning" (369-372)

02/17 Rodriguez, "Proofs" (180)
02/19 Jen, "In the American Society" (45)
02/20 Lecture: Dr. Angela Lewis, "Conservatism in the Black Community: To the Right and Misunderstood," 4:00 p.m. Norton Theater
02/21 Shipler, The Working Poor: Invisible in America, class discussion

02/24 Shipler, The Working Poor: Invisible in America, group discussion
02/26 Shipler, The Working Poor: Invisible in America, group presentations
02/27 Lecture: Dr. Shane Pitts, "Wishful Seeing: Social Rejection Shapes Visual Perception," 11:00 a.m. Norton Theater
02/28 Professional Conference -- No Class

03/03 Dude Preface and Chapters 1 & 2
03/05 Dude Chapter 3; Kaneko, "The Shoyu Kid" (55)
03/06 Lecture: Rev. Robert Sirico, President of the Acton Institute, 11:00 a.m. Norton Theater
03/07 Stadler, "Love Problem" (351); Shapiro, "Call Me Barbie" (284) First Paper Due

03/10 Dude Chapter 4; Wolff, "Hunters in the Snow" (198)
03/12 Rios, "The Purpose of Altar Boys" (23); Olds, "The Death of Marilyn Monroe" (280)
03/14 Coleman, "Rape" (121); cummings, "She Being Brand" (124)


03/24 Dude Chapter 5; Moraga, Giving Up The Ghost (90)
03/26 Moraga, Giving Up The Ghost (90)
03/28 Reflection on Service-Learning Activities

03/31 Wright, "The Man Who Was Almost a Man" (81)
04/02 Fuller, A Soldier's Play (213)
04/04 Fuller, A Soldier's Play (213), group planning sessions

04/07 Fuller, A Soldier's Play (213), group presentations
04/09 Fuller, A Soldier's Play (213), group presentations
04/11 LeGuin, "Sur" (333)

04/14 Gould, "X" (38)
04/16 Kincaid, "Girl" (18); Piercy, "Barbie Doll" (22)
04/18 Good Friday -- No Class

04/21 McCullers, "Like That" (71)
04/23 Oates, "Stalking" (174)
04/25 Reflection on Service-Learning Activities

04/28 Hurston, "The Gilded Six-Bits" (162)
04/30 Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper" (319)
05/02 Plath, "The Applicant" (135); Sexton, "Cinderella" (26)

05/05 Ibsen, A Doll House
05/07 Ibsen, A Doll House Second Paper Due

05/12 (Monday, 9:00-12:00) Final Examination

John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College,