WMST 224C (6 cr): Women in Literature

WMST 224

Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies — for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Women must put herself into the text — as into the world and into history — by her own movement.

– Hélène Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa

Get inspired.
Find your voice.
Learn how literature works.

Course Description

Women’s Studies 224C: Women in Literature is a 6-credit distance education course that fulfils your Arts literature requirement while introducing you to the fundamentals of feminist literary criticism.

You’ll learn firsthand about the techniques writers use to appear objective or, conversely, bring you into their worlds. Case studies by doctors will provide a background for why and how women began to write their own stories. Inspiring course readings from different places and times — 1950s Winnipeg, pre-Stonewall American lesbian bars, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside — will bring the experiences of diverse women alive. Throughout the course, you’ll learn about literary criticism, textual strategies, the nature of truth, the place of various binaries in the historical and ongoing oppression of women, and the role of class and race in questions of gender.

At the same time, you’ll connect with classmates as you discuss without fear in each lesson’s online forum. You’ll practice different styles of writing in three ungraded and one graded 250-word exercise. And you’ll bring together everything you’ve learned in a final paper where you discuss your own work. In the process, you’ll acquire skills in writing and critical thinking that you can use all through university.


Students are required to have completed at least 6 credits of university/college-level English before enrolling in this course. Women’s Studies 224C is a six-credit course that may work for students as an elective, in fulfillment of an Arts literature requirement, or for credit towards a Women’s Studies Major or Minor.

Course Outline

This course will offer you an overview of some of the dominant issues of feminist literary and pop cultural criticism, moving from basic concepts to more complex applications of these concepts. A secondary, but ongoing focus is also on developing and practicing the basic skills and strategies of literary criticism in general. There are twelve lessons in this course:

Lesson 1: Introduction. Feminist Literary Criticism and its Discontents
Lesson 2: The Case Study: Woman as Text in the Work of Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis
Lesson 3: That’s Hysterical! Woman as Object in the studies of Sigmund Freud
Lesson 4: “Stay Black & Die”: Black Experience in Canada
Lesson 5: “Boy or Girl?”: Identity and Gender in Stone Butch Blues
Lesson 6: “Nothing to Do With Us”: Identity and Class in Stone Butch Blues
Lesson 7: Writing with Mother’s Milk: Hélène Cixous’ prescription for a new language
Lesson 8: Writing Someone Else’s Body: Jeanette Winterson and the Beloved Country
Lesson 9: Rampant Intertextuality. Cixous and Winterson, Talking Back
Lesson 10: Rewriting What’s True: Giving aboriginal women victims a voice
Lesson 11: The Text and the World: Marie Clements, Continued
Lesson 12: Conclusion: Bringing the Body Back Together

Course Assignments

Case Study (peer reviewed) 10%
Evaluation of peer review by instructor 15%
Final Assignment 25%
Final Examination 25%
Class Participation
TOTAL 100%

Case Study Lesson 4 (Later Peer Reviewed)
In this assignment, you will rewrite the case study posted in the Lesson 4 forum in the style of a monologue, using Stay Black & Die as a guide.

Assignment 1: Peer Review (10% peer review, 15% instructor evaluation of peer review)
At the end of Lesson 6, you will use the peer review criteria to review to critique a student’s Case Study, as posted in the Lesson 4 discussion forum.  You will post the case study and your critique in an Anonymous discussion forum. You will give the critiqued fellow student a mark out of 10. Your instructor will evaluate your critique, and will mark it using the same criteria, giving you a mark out of 15%.

Final Assignment (25%)
In addition to lesson-by-lesson work, there is also a formal, graded assignment for WMST 224C. You will be asked to write, on your own, a formal term paper in which you will select two of your case studies and describe the literary techniques, style, and context you employed and how these translated into your final efforts. You are also invited to reflect on the process of rewriting a text.  The Final Assignment will be approximately 10 to 12 pages long (that is, it will be between 2500 and 3000 words).

Discussion Forum Participation (25%)
At some point in most lessons, you will be directed to engage with the lesson’s text and ideas by discussing – fairly informally, but thoughtfully – a specific issue or question(s) posed in the lesson. These questions are boxed to set them off from the rest of the lesson. You will be asked to respond to prompts around the texts you are reading throughout the course and will be expected to respond, explore and expand on other classmates’ ideas. Be reassured that you need not post highly formalized essays or responses to the discussions and presentations. It is expected that you will contribute your carefully thought-out ideas on the questions and/or topics proposed in presentations and further discussions. The point is to demonstrate your real engagement with the topics—your careful thought and clear reasoning about each topic under discussion—and your real engagement with the larger process of learning embodied in the class discussions.

Final Examination (25%)
The final examination is your last course requirement. It will consist of six passages in groups of two, each focused on one of the texts we have read during this course.

Required Readings

  • Custom course package (available at UBC Bookstore)
  • Addena Sumter-Freitag, Stay Black & Die. Vancouver: Commodore Press, 2007.
  • Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues. Ithaca: Firebrand Books, 1993.
  • Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body. London: Jonathan Cape, 1992.
  • Marie Clements, The Unnatural and Accidental Women. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2005.

WMST224C Textbook Order Form

About the Instructor

Carellin Brooks (D.Phil. Oxon) teaches in the Women’s Studies Department at the University of British Columbia. Find out more about her at: http://www.ws.arts.ubc.ca/c_brooks.html

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