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ENGLISH 2KK3 Studies in Women Writers

Academic Year: Winter 2016

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Cathy Grisé

Email: grisec@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 325

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23510


Office Hours: Mondays 2-4 pm, or by appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Description 

This course considers the history, theory, and representations of women’s writing in the science fiction genre, through our study of a select group of texts. These texts provide diverse avenues of inquiry to our topic, and all of them take up one or more issues that can be considered feminist or female-centred, as well as concerns of race, sex, and class, for example. We will meet steampunk prostitutes, pacifist-separatist ocean-dwelling women, female cyborgs, goddess and folk tale figures, aliens, and AIs as we consider the ways in which SF provides a fertile ground for women writers to challenge mainstream Western cultural beliefs and frameworks. Select theoretical and critical readings will supplement our novel studies, as will a few short stories.

Since there is no single textbook for the course, the lectures and tutorials will provide vital contextual and analytical information for your study of the texts: much of the material for your final exam will come from the lectures and tutorials. The lectures and tutorials will also offer a space to develop your critical thinking and communication skills. In addition there is an important written component of the course, including a substantial final argumentative essay.

Course Objectives:

By the end of the course students are expected to:

  • Identify the significant literary themes, theoretical concepts, and generic conventions of women’s contemporary science fiction, as outlined in lectures and tutorials.

  • Have gained knowledge about the specific writers and writings studied, as provided in lectures and tutorials, and be able to apply this knowledge to other writings or materials.

  • Have developed their critical thinking and analytical skills through the study of the course materials.

  • Have developed their written and oral communication skills in class and in their assignments.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

1. Elizabeth Bear, Karen Memory, 2015 (Tor Books, ISBN 9780765375247)

2. Joan Slonczewski, A Door Into Ocean, 1986 (Orb Books, ISBN 9780312876524)

3. Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber, 2000 (Grand Central Publishing, ISBN 9780446675604)

4. Larissa Lai, Salt Fish Girl, 2002 (Thomas Allen Publishers, ISBN 9780887623820)

5. Links to the short stories and critical readings will be made available on Avenue.

Method of Assessment:

Teaching Methods and Learning Expectations

This course will make use of Active Learning, Flipped Classroom, and JITT pedagogical methods. Students are expected to take an active role in their learning for this course—therefore, the weekly homework and in-class participation work is worth a quarter of your final grade.

Breakdown of course requirements

1. Weekly homework and participation: 25%

  • Quizzes, 1-3 short answer questions assessing your comprehension of the weekly readings, your ability to synthesize and compare these readings with other course materials, and/or your ability to analyze key concepts introduced in the course (on Avenue before class and/or in class, weekly): 10%
  • Lecture Attendance and Participation: attendance will be taken in lecture and short in-class exercises will be collected as evidence of participation (weekly, in lecture): 5%
  • Tutorial Attendance and Participation, attendance will be taken in tutorial and TAs will be tracking evidence of participation (weekly, in tutorial): 10%

2.  In-Term Written Assignments: 45%

  • Study Guide Project (due dates Jan. 25, Feb. 11, Mar. 3, Mar. 24; sign up for one of these dates in first week of classes), 1000 words: 10%
  • Tutorial Assignments (due dates vary, TA will provide details in the first tutorial): 10%
  • Essay: 25%
  •           Proposal, 300 words (due in tutorial Feb. 22 or 23), 5%  
  •            Essay, 2000 words (due in tutorial Mar. 21 or 22), 20%

3.   Exam: 30%

  • Final exam (in exam period): 30%

Additional Information

 Lecture expectations:

All students are expected to attend all lectures and are responsible for all materials, activities, and information provided therein. If you have to miss one please tell your TA and ask a classmate for notes.

Tutorial expectations:

All students will attend and participate actively in their tutorial every week and are responsible for all materials, assignments, activities, and information provided therein. If you have to miss one please tell your TA and ask a classmate for notes.

Prolonged absences:

Please contact your TA and your faculty advisor if you have to miss several lectures and tutorials. It is your responsibility to make up the missed work, but accommodations for deadlines can be made if you go through the appropriate channels.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Assignment topics and information will be available on Avenue to Learn and in class. 

Late assignments will lose 2% per day, and will not be accepted seven days after the deadline has passed, except under unusual circumstances where proper documentation and prior notification has been provided to your instructor. Always keep a copy of any assignment handed in for credit.

Students will submit an electronic copy of written assignments to the TurnItIn website or to Avenue to Learn for this course.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Weekly readings Schedule  

  • details of lecture topics will be provided on Avenue

  • Links to online readings are also available on Avenue Content


Week 1, Jan. 7 lecture: Introduction to course

Weekly Readings:

  1. James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), "And I Awoke and Found Me Here on This Cold Hill's Side” http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/and-i-awoke-and-found-me-here-on-the-cold-hills-side/
  2. Helen Merrick, “Gender in SF” in Cambridge Companion to SF, available as an Ebook through LibCat
  3. Veronica Hollinger, “Feminist Theory and SF” in Cambridge Companion to SF, available as an Ebook through LibCat

no tutorial


Week 2 Jan. 11-15: Short Stories part 1: Female Cyborgs and Gynodroids

Weekly Readings:

  1. C. L. Moore, “No Woman Born” (available on Avenue Content)
  2. Natalia Theodoridou, "Android Whores Can't Cry”: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/theodoridou_07_15/
  3. Choose one (A=introduction to Haraway, B=selections from her major theory, C=an advanced theoretical/philosophical analysis of Haraway’s ideas)
    1. "You Are Cyborg" article in Wired (1997), Interview with Donna Haraway http://www.wired.com/1997/02/ffharaway/   OR
    2. excerpts from Haraway’s “The Cyborg Manifesto” (Available on Avenue Content) OR
    3. Margaret E. Toye, “Donna Haraway's Cyborg Touching (Up/On) Luce Irigaray's Ethics and the Interval Between: Poethics as Embodied Writing,” Hypatia 27 (2012): 182-200. (Available through LibCat)

Week 3 Jan. 18-22: Elizabeth Bear, Karen Memory: Feminist Steampunk

Weekly Readings:

  1. Elizabeth Bear, Karen Memory

Week 4 Jan. 25-29: Elizabeth Bear, Karen Memory continued

Weekly Readings:

  1. Elizabeth Bear, Karen Memory

Week 5 Feb. 1-5: Short Stories part 2: Female Utopias and Dystopias

Weekly Readings:

  1. Joanna Russ, "When It Changed" http://lexal.net/scifi/scifiction/classics/classics_archive/russ/russ1.html
  2. Lily Yu, "The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees" http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/yu_04_11/
  3. Choose one: (A=beginner/intermediary discussion of feminism and utopia, B=advanced analysis of French feminist ideas of utopia)
    1. Robin Silberglied, “Women, Utopia, and Narrative: Toward a Postmodem Feminist Citizenship,” Hypatia 12 (1997): 156-177. (Available through LibCat)
    2. Ellis Cameron, “Kristeva, Psychic Space, and Utopia: Toward a Sketch of Abject Utopianism”, Spaces of Utopia: An Electronic Journal, 2nd series, no. 3, 2014, pp. 96-108. http://ler.letras.up.pt


Week 6 Feb. 8-12: Joan Slonczewski, A Door Into Ocean: Feminist Utopia

Weekly Readings:

  1. Joan Slonczewski, A Door into Ocean


Feb 15-20 is Reading Week

Week 7 Feb. 22-26: Joan Slonczewski, A Door Into Ocean  continued

Weekly Readings:

  1. Joan Slonczewski, A Door into Ocean

Week 8 Feb. 29-Mar. 4: Short Stories part 3: Oppression and Authority

Weekly Readings:

  1. Sabrina Vourvoulias, "Skin in the Game" http://www.tor.com/2014/12/03/skin-in-the-game-sabrina-vourvoulias/
  2. Eden Robinson, “Terminal Avenue” (available on Avenue Content)
  3. Choose one: (A=beginner/intermediary discussion of posthumanism and SF, B=advanced analysis of posthumanism and post-female cyborg theory)
    1. Sherryl Vint, “Embodied Texts, Embodied Subjects: An Overview of N. Katherine Hayles” SFFT 1 (2008): 115-26. (Available through LibCat)  OR
    2. N. Katherine Hayles, “Unfinished Work: From Cyborg to Cognisphere” Theory, Culture & Society 23 (2006): 159-166. http://tcs.sagepub.com/content/23/7-8/159.full.pdf+html

Week 9 Mar. 7-11: Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber: Feminist Afrofuturism

Weekly Readings:

  1. Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber
  2. Marleen Barr, Afro Future Females: Introduction, excerpts (available on Avenue Content)

Week 10 Mar. 14-18: Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber continued

Weekly Readings:

  1. Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber

Week 11 Mar 21-25: Larissa Lai, Salt Fish Girl: Feminist Cyberpunk

Weekly Readings:

  1. Larissa Lai, Salt Fish Girl
  2. Carlen Lavigne, “Ch. 2: Contributions and Critiques: Women and Cyberpunk,“ Cyberpunk Women, Feminism, and Science Fiction (MacFarland, 2013), available as Ebook in LibCat 

Week 12 Mar 28-Apr. 1: Larissa Lai, Salt Fish Girl continued

Weekly Readings:

  1. Larissa Lai, Salt Fish Girl

Week 13 Apr. 4-7: conclusions and review

Weekly Readings:

Review your notes and study guides.