Have a Question? Contact the Humanities Office or an Academic Unit


Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 2

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Nadine Attewell

Email: attewen@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 311

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24492


Office Hours: T 2:30 - 4:20

Course Objectives:

This course introduces students to key aspects of twentieth- and twenty-first century thinking about gender and sexuality. Because discourses of gender and sexuality are bound up with other discourses of identity, including discourses of race and nationality, over the course of semester, we will discuss a variety of historical, critical, and theoretical readings from the intersecting fields of feminist, queer, trans, masculinity, and critical race studies. But because theories of gender and sexuality so often turn on issues of language and representation, we will also examine an array of cultural texts, including literary works by Ivan Coyote, Nalo Hopkinson, Hiromi Goto, Jackie Kay, Jamaica Kincaid, Larissa Lai, Toni Morrison, Trish Salah, and Lisa Tuttle, as well as the films Paris is Burning! and Far From Heaven.




This course


            ― introduces students to key aspects of twentieth- and twenty-first century thinking

                        about gender and sexuality

            ― highlights intersections between a variety of discourses of identity, including

discourses of gender, sexuality, class, race, and nationality

            ― develops students’ confidence in working with theory to think about phenomena in the

                        world, including cultural artifacts

            ― develops students’ analytical skills by challenging students to engage in close reading

and critical thinking

            ― gives students the opportunity to improve their writing skills, by offering guidance in

the art of writing clear, well-argued, and well-supported essays, as well as

                        substantive feedback on written assignments

            ― challenges students to exercise curiosity about the world they inhabit, to ask questions

                        about what they don’t know, and perhaps more importantly, to ask questions

                        about what they think they do know


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

The following texts are available for purchase from the Campus Store – 

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Vol. 1: An Introduction (1976)

Jackie Kay, Trumpet (1998)

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (1970)

– as is a coursepack of required readings. The films Paris is Burning (1990; dir. Jennie Livingston) and Far From Heaven (2002; dir. Todd Haynes) will either be made available online or shown in class. Please consult the syllabus for details!

Method of Assessment:

Attendance and engagement: 10%

Short Assignments (2): 10%

Essays (2): 50%                                              

Final Exam: 30%


Grading Scale


90 to 100 12 (A+)            85 to 89      11 (A)              80 to 84           10 (A-)                       

77 to 79   9 (B+)               73 to 76      8 (B)                70 to 72           7 (B-)

67 to 69   6 (C+)               63 to 66      5 (C)                60 to 62           4 (C-)              

57 to 59   3 (D+)              53 to 56      2 (D)                50 to 52           1 (D-)             

0 to 49     0 (F)

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

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:

Schedule of Readings and Assignments (CP = coursepack)


January 6                     Introductions


January 13                  Thomas Laqueur, “Of Language and the Flesh” (CP)

                                    Michel Foucault, from The History of Sexuality (Parts One and Two)

Tutorial                       Discussion


January 20                  Michel Foucault, cont’d.

                                    Judith Butler, “‘Women’ as the Subject of Feminism” (CP)

                                    Judith Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” (CP)

Tutorial                       Discussion


January 27                  Judith Butler, cont’d.

                                    Jay Prosser, “Changing Bodies, Changing Narratives” (CP)             

                                    Short Assignment 1 Due

Tutorial                       Discussion


Febru       ary 3                  Ivan Coyote, “The Rest of My Chest” (CP)

                                    Trish Salah, “Post Script: Itinerary of a book/Anxiety of Influence” (CP)

                                    Jackie Kay, Trumpet (1 – 160)

Tutorial                       Discussion


February 10                Jackie Kay, Trumpet (complete)

Tutorial                       Discussion


February 17                Reading Week


February 24                Jennie Livingston (dir.), Paris is Burning [watch online on your own]

                                    bell hooks, “Is Paris Burning?” (CP)

                                    Judith Butler, “Gender is Burning” (CP)

                                    Bobby Jean Noble, “Our Bodies Are Not Ourselves” (CP)

                                    Essay 1 due

Tutorial                       Discussion


March 3                      Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (through “Spring”)

                                    Patricia Hill Collins, “Shifting the Center” (CP)

Tutorial                       Discussion


March 10                    Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (complete)

Tutorial                       Discussion


March 17                    Todd Haynes (dir.), Far From Heaven [in-class viewing]

                                    Betty Friedan, “The Problem That Has No Name” (CP)

                                    Short Assignment 2 due

Tutorial                       Discussion

March 24                    Todd Haynes, Far From Heaven

                                    Dana Luciano, “Coming Around Again” (CP)

                                    Victoria Hesford, from Feeling Women’s Liberation (CP)

Tutorial                       Discussion


March 31                    Donna Haraway, from “The Cyborg Manifesto” (CP)

                                    Lisa Tuttle, “Wives” (CP)

                                    Nalo Hopkinson, “A Habit of Waste” and “Slow Cold Chick” (CP)

                                    Hiromi Goto, “Stinky Girl” (CP)

                                    Larissa Lai, “Rachel” (CP)

Tutorial                       Discussion


April 7                        Taking Stock: The Present Tense

                                    Essay 2 due


Other Course Information:

Course Requirements


1. Regular attendance and in-class engagement are worth 10% of your final grade. This class is about critical inquiry. That is, it’s about asking and attempting to answer interesting questions raised by texts. Class participation is therefore important, since class is the place to raise comprehension questions, as well as to demonstrate and develop your critical thinking and speaking abilities. Tutorials, in particular, depend upon your informed and active participation. Active in-class engagement includes contributing to discussion with questions and comments. It is therefore imperative that you not only attend class and complete the readings by the beginning of the week in which they are assigned, but that you do so with care, attention, and engagement. Bring the readings to class. If the reading originated as a PDF, print it out. Take notes! Scribble in the margins! If you are anxious about speaking in public, prepare something, however brief, to say. Your participation grade will largely depend upon your performance in tutorial. However, you will also be invited to participate in discussion during the lecture period, and we will occasionally form smaller discussion groups in order to vary the opportunities for interaction. Please come to all class meetings prepared to contribute thoughtfully and respectfully.


2. Reading Responses: to encourage you to engage regularly and rigorously with especially the critical and theoretical readings, you will complete two short assignments over the course of the semester. Each of these assignments will be worth 5% of your final grade, for a total of 10%. For more information about these assignments, for which you will receive substantive feedback, please see the handouts I’ve posted to A2L.


3. Essays: you will write two formal essays over the course of the semester. The first, due February 24, is an essay of five pages (double-spaced; worth 20%); the other, due April 7, is an essay of eight pages (double-spaced; worth 30%). Each develops and offers detailed support for a critical thesis in response to one of a set of assigned questions (to be posted on A2L at least two weeks prior to the due date). You will receive letter grades and substantive feedback for each of your papers.


4. Exams: in April, you will write a final exam worth 30% of your grade.