Course Syllabus


English 338: Women and Literature in North America and Europe
Syllabus #1505
5 credits

Pam Hardman
Senior Instructor, English Department
HU 339 | 360-650-7621

Full Course Syllabus:  Eng 338 syllabus.doc

She dealt her pretty words like Blades--
How glittering they shone--
And every One unbared a Nerve
Or wantoned with a Bone--
                                           (Emily Dickinson)

Awareness of our situation must come before inner changes, which in turn come before changes
in society. Nothing happens in the "real" world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.
                                                                                                 (Gloria Anzaldua)



WWU English majors/minors may apply up to 10 credits earned through distance learning to their major/minor course of study. Contact the English Department for guidelines.


Welcome to English 338, Women and Literature in North America and Europe. I have taught this course frequently as a standard classroom course and look forward to working with you through Extended Learning. I hope the readings provoke your ideas about women’s experiences specifically, and gender experiences and identity generally. The issues we deal with ultimately address big questions about knowledge, creativity, identity, and relationships, so men and women both should find much to think about and connect with.

In this course you will read a variety of texts written by women living in North America in the latter half of the 20th century. You will look at each work in its cultural context, discussing how such issues as race, class, religion, science, technology, and popular culture influence the production of the text. These texts all explore women’s experiences in their cultures and, consequently, frequently address issues that are controversial. In taking this course, you do not have to adopt any particular way of thinking. However, the course may challenge some of your beliefs, and I hope you will remain open to such changes. Some of the texts may make you uncomfortable; you are welcome to discuss such discomfort with me via email, in conference, and/or in your assignments. I do, though, still expect you to read all of the assigned material. Often, such discomfort is necessary before we can acknowledge and analyze deep-seated assumptions.

Western Washington University students may want to know that English 338 is a BCGM GUR.




  • Dorothy Allison, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure

  • Joy Harjo, ed., Reinventing the Enemy’s Language

  • Patricia Foster, ed., Minding the Body

  • Ntozake Shange, Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo

  • Tristan Taormino, ed., A Girl's Guide to Taking Over the World

The textbooks may be obtained online through a price comparison website such as Plan on purchasing your textbooks early and always be sure you are purchasing the correct edition of the book for this syllabus.



Before starting into the first lesson, you should carefully read through the whole course packet so you understand the types of reading and writing you‘ll be doing. Each lesson begins with some introductory material about key controversies and ideas explored in the readings; reflect on these issues before you read and keep them in mind as you read.

Reading Assignments:

You will have much challenging but interesting reading to do in this course. Each lesson asks you to read a text and answer a series of questions about the text. Read each assignment carefully, taking notes as you read; you might note questions you have, reactions (anger, agreement), sections that seem particularly important. In addition to the books, you’ll be reading supplemental material supplied by the instructor and looking at many images.

Writing Assignments:

You‘ll be doing a variety of assignments in this course, in order to explore the variety of writers and writings. Lessons 1-8 will ask you to respond to specific questions about the 5 books, a “Representations of Women” reading, readings about social spheres and binaries, and a presentation on cultural attitudes towards women’s bodies. These first eight written assignments ask you to respond to key issues from the reading. You’ll address interpretive questions about the text itself, and connective questions about relations between the text and other texts and current experiences. You’ll also have a chance in these first eight lessons to respond freely to each text, articulating your reactions, the feelings it evoked, and connections to your personal experiences. There is no set length for your answers; some assignments will naturally require more writing than others, depending on the questions posed. For the first eight lessons, you should expect to produce a total of about 6 pages of writing (double-spaced) for each lesson. Lessons will address the following texts and issues:

  Lesson 1 “Representations of Women”: Instructor-provided readings about how women have been represented and defined by patriarchy through the centuries
  Lesson 2 Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo
  Lesson 3 “Spheres and Binaries”: Instructor-provided readings about social spheres, binaries, and identity in society
  Lesson 4 Reinventing the Enemy’s Language
  Lesson 5 Material and PowerPoint presentation on representations of women’s bodies and cultural notions about them
  Lesson 6 Minding the Body
  Lesson 7 Two or Three Things I Know for Sure
  Lesson 8 Girl’s Guide to Taking Over the World
  Lesson 9 Three zine pages you create; you’ll create three original pages that could be included in a zine, such as those included in Girl’s Guide
  Lesson 10 Final cumulative exam; this will be an open-book exam covering all of the material from the course. It will consist of short answer and essay questions


I use several abbreviations in the assignments. They are:

2 or 3:  Dorothy Allison, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure
REL:  Joy Harjo, ed., Reinventing the Enemy’s Language
MB:  Patricia Foster, ed., Minding the Body
SCI: Ntozake Shange, Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo
GG: Tristan Taormino, ed., A Girl's Guide to Taking Over the World



You‘ll get one grade for each lesson, based on your performance on all the assignments in that lesson. “A” lessons will be those that

  • pay close attention to details of the reading
  • answer questions thoroughly and clearly
  • ask pertinent questions about the reading
  • extend your thinking beyond the material supplied by the instructor
  • apply the ideas from the reading to other contexts

If you get less than an A, I‘ll explain why and give suggestions for ways to raise your grades in subsequent lessons.

Each lesson is worth 10% of your final grade.

To determine your final grade, I‘ll add up your points from all assignments and allocate a course grade as follows:

  A = 93-100   C = 73-76
  A- = 90-92   C- = 70-72
  B+ = 87-89   D+ = 67-69
  B = 83-86   D = 63-66
  B- = 80-82   D- = 60-62
  C+ = 77-79   F =  <60


Students taking the course pass/fail must have a cumulative total of 60 points (D-) in order to pass.

It is very important that you get feedback from me on the first assignment before proceeding to the next one, so that you know what I look for and get a feel for how I grade. After that you may turn in two—but no more—assignments at a time. You should pace your work in the course so you have adequate time to turn in all assignments before the end of your nine-month period. If you have other deadlines or are receiving financial aid, read carefully the section on rules and regulations earlier in this packet.

All assignments must be typed and double-spaced, except for lesson 9 and optional visual assignments.



I’m happy to address any questions you may have about the course. Feel free to contact me via email: You can email me questions about the course directly, without going through the Western Online office. You can also come see me in conference if you’re on campus. My office is Humanities 339; my office hours change each quarter and are posted at the English Department website:



You must submit all of your lessons to the Western Online office first, and they will forward them on to me. For all written lessons, you should copy and paste your assignment into the body of your email so I can comment on it (don’t worry about changes to the formatting). Several assignments offer you the possibility of doing a visual piece. If you do a visual, you can scan your work and send it as a JPG attachment. Other alternatives are copying your visual into a Word document and attaching it, or sending it to Western Online the old fashioned way through snail mail.

ALWAYS make a copy of your work BEFORE submitting it.  If lessons get lost, it is far easier to resubmit a copy than to rewrite an entire assignment.  All assignments must be completed in order to receive credit for the course.  Do not turn in more than two lessons at a time, unless we make special arrangements.

Time considerations (a message from the Western Online office) –Organize your time so that you spread your work out over 10-12 weeks, just like a regular academic quarter.  Establish a calendar of due dates for yourself, then stick to it.  Treat your Self-paced course as the serious learning experience that it is.  True learning takes time: time for reading, time for processing new information, time for reflection.  When students get into trouble in a Self-paced course it is most often when they try to rush through a large part of the work at the end of the quarter or right before their own personal deadline.

Remember that grading takes time and our instructors have other classes and students, other obligations.  Therefore, your instructor may not be able to grade assignments instantly, even to accommodate a dire deadline.  Allow time for mailing to and from the Western Online office and also back and forth between our office and your instructor.

Holidays, Intersessions, and Summer Session – When the university is closed for scheduled holidays and between quarters, delay in return of assignments and examinations must be expected.  In addition, some faculty members are off campus during the summer months and delays may be unavoidable.  The Western Online office will inform students of instructor absences, but it is important for students to be proactive in submitting work when they have an important time limit.



I expect all work submitted for this course to contain your own ideas and language, or others’ ideas and language with full, accurate citations using MLA format.  Any potential incident of plagiarism, representing someone else’s ideas as your own, will be pursued thoroughly according to university policy. If I find that you have plagiarized or cheated, you will fail that assignment and may fail the course. See Appendix D of the WWU Catalog for information on WWU’s plagiarism policy:



Pam Hardman received her B.A. in English from Oberlin College, her M.A. in English from the University of Toronto, and is currently finishing her Ph.D. in English from Brown University.  She has been teaching in the Western Washington University English Department since 1993.  Professor Hardman teaches courses in 19th and 20th Century American Literature and Culture, Women’s Literature, Women’s Studies, Critical and Cultural Theory, and Beginning Linguistics.

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