ENGL 2242

ENGL 2242: Themes in Women's Writing

Please note:  I will not be teaching this course in the coming year.  Check our English Department Course Guide for information on other 2000-level courses.

Course description

The theme for this course will be “Protest and Polemics.” We will examine writing by women that represents issues of gender, sexuality, education, writing, and race and that argues for societal change. Our readings will consist of various genres such as the novel, short story, poetry, and prose non-fiction. A major segment of the course will deal with second-wave feminism in the mid-twentieth century, but we’ll also read samples of earlier and more recent texts that raise a protest about issues relating to women.

In this course, you will have a unique opportunity to do original research in the Mount archives with the recently acquired collection of protest movement buttons donated by Betty Peterson, a long-time activist for peace and social justice in Nova Scotia and elsewhere. You will be asked to work individually and collaboratively in this course and to produce work in various genres, including blog posts, a research paper, and a group project.

Course aims

  • to develop your analytical skills as literary critics while reading texts in various genres over a range of historical periods;
  • to gain some knowledge of a tradition of women’s writing in English and some of the tenets of feminist literary criticism;
  • to develop your research skills;
  • to develop your confidence, creativity, and flexibility as a writer who can work effectively on her own and in collaboration with others;
  • to develop your ability to use various social media effectively.

Pre-requisites and exceptions
Students who have received credit for ENGL 2240 and/or ENGL 2241 may not take ENGL 2242 for credit. The pre-requisite for a 2000-level English course is EITHER the successful completion of a 1000-level literature course OR the successful completion of five units of any university course. If you are not sure that you meet the pre-requisites, please consult with me as soon as possible.


Portfolio: 70%

Your engagement with the course materials will be assessed through the submission of a portfolio of work at the end of the term. Details will be discussed in class, outlined in handouts, and posted on the course Moodle site. The values of the portfolio elements are listed here:

  • a minimum of three blog posts of approximately 500 words each responding to the course readings (15% of portfolio grade)
  • a minimum of two thoughtful blog comments on others’ posts (5%)
  • a brief research report to the class with an annotated bibliography (5%)
  • a research paper of approximately 1500 words, with a brief oral report to the class on your topic (15%)
  • a written group project, followed by a self-assessment of 350 words (10%)
  • social media curation and commentary of approximately 500 words (10%)
  • a final learning assessment (1000 words). (10%)

You will receive grades and feedback on your writing throughout the term.

Exam: 30%

The final exam will provide an opportunity to think about the course readings in new combinations and from a broader perspective. Obviously, the best preparation for the exam is attending every class, bringing the text with you, keeping up with the assigned readings, and taking notes on the class discussions, including marking which passages we analyze together in class, along with actively addressing comments made on your essays and exercises. The Registrar’s Office will set the exam date.


  • A time management system, either digital or hard copy, such as an agenda or calendar
  • Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte. Broadview
  • A Room of One’s Own. Virginia Woolf. Broadview
  • Wide Sargasso Sea. Jean Rhys
  • The Feminine Mystique. Betty Friedan. Norton Critical Edition
  • The Handmaid’s Tale. Margaret Atwood.
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Mary Wollstonecraft. Broadview

Course policies and practices

Correct use of language
Correct use of language is one of the criteria included in the evaluation of all written assignments. In order to demonstrate appropriate professional behaviour, you are also expected to make an effort to use language correctly in all non-graded written materials that you submit, including emails to me and discussion posts to the class.

Plagiarism and cheating
As members of a global scholarly community, we are all expected to abide by certain standards of academic integrity; therefore, university regulations on plagiarism and cheating and other academic offenses will be strictly enforced. These regulations including applicable procedures and penalties are detailed in the University Calendar, are posted on department notice boards, and on the msvu.ca webpage. You are held responsible for informing yourself about the definition and the penalties outlined in the Calendar. In addition, I will explain to you in class what constitutes plagiarism and cheating, but if you have any doubts at all, you are required to consult with me before handing in any assignment or excuse. Also, please note the definitions of “Misrepresentation” in the Calendar, including: “Misrepresenting or involving others in misrepresenting one’s personal circumstances in order to obtain special consideration in one’s academic work.”

Respectful and professional behaviour
Courteous, professional behaviour is expected at all times in all aspects of the coursework. Everyone comes into a course such as this one with various ideas and beliefs. We have to maintain respect for our differences even as we debate ideas that our texts offer us and challenge beliefs that we might hold.

A full load of five university courses per term is equivalent to a full-time job. You should be aware that for every hour spent in class an average of two hours of preparation will be required outside of class on a sustained basis. “Normal Course Load” in the University Calendar contains a more complete explanation: “Students should be aware that a considerable amount (an estimated average is two hours of preparation for each hour of class time) of outside preparation is required throughout each term on a sustained basis. Those students who combine family and workplace responsibilities with university study may find it necessary to adjust their course load or to modify non-study commitments to manage effectively.”

Students with disabilities
If you have a disability and require academic accommodations, you must register with Disability Services <msvu.ca/disabilityservices> as early as possible in order to receive accommodations.

Learning can certainly occur outside the classroom, but it is also prompted by what goes on inside the classroom. To gain fully from this course as we build knowledge and skills, you have to be part of it and engaged in the process. Everyone’s full participation contributes to a vibrant experience for all in the class; if you are not fully committed to the course you are draining some of the energy of the group. To make this the best experience for all concerned, you are expected to attend classes regularly, which is why the University Calendar states: “Regular attendance is expected of students at all classes…. It is the prerogative of the instructor to determine when a student’s scholastic standing in any course is being affected adversely by absence. The instructor then, in consultation with the appropriate Dean, will determine whether or not the student should be dismissed from the course. It is the student’s responsibility to notify the instructor of any justifiable reason that causes an absence from class.“

Of course, things happen that might prevent you from coming to class; if so, you are expected to conduct yourself in a professional manner and to notify me if you cannot attend. That way, I can advise you on the best way for you to keep up with what is going on, and I can better track who is still working on the course materials.

Deadlines and submission of assignments
Effective time management is one of the keys to success in university (and in other walks of life). To help you develop this skill, I ask that you work with a time management system of your own selection, such as a weekly agenda in either electronic or hard copy format. I also usually divide assignments into smaller chunks to help you make steady progress towards a goal. As a further incentive, I deduct points for late assignments – my deductions are not overly punitive, and I exempt people from late penalties if they have a valid excuse for being late which they have discussed with me beforehand if at all possible. After all, things happen in life that we sometimes can’t control. But if you are requesting special consideration due to conflicts with deadlines or exams, make sure that you do so in advance of the deadline.

However, if you are late with an assignment and you don’t have a strong reason that was discussed with me beforehand, your assignment will have one grade level deducted for every 24-hour period beyond the deadline. In other words, if an assignment is due on February 15 at 10:30 a.m. and it is handed in on February 15 at 5 p.m., the assignment will have one grade level deducted from its mark. For example, an A- would turn into a B+, a B+ would turn into a B, and so on. Weekends will count the same as weekdays. Assignment feedback and consultations I will be pleased to discuss with you any concerns or ideas about the course work and to go over rough drafts of assignments or to review graded work, either during my posted office hours on a drop-in basis or at other specific times by previous appointment. I will also answer questions by email, but I cannot guarantee immediate and 24-hour service – you should note that it may take up to two days to receive an answer by email (although I usually am able to respond faster than that).

Cell phones, laptops, and other technologies
This course requires the mindful use of technologies. The basic principle we follow is that the technology that we use has to help us in our work and not distract us. For that reason, all phones and other devices must be adjusted so that they will not make any noise during class time. No recording equipment is allowed in class unless you have received my prior permission. On some days, you will be asked to put away all your electronic devices and use technologies such as pen and paper only. On other days, we might make use of a few smart phones or laptops. Please note, though, that you are not required to have a phone or laptop to do the in-class work.

Moodle and social media
This course uses Moodle, an online course management site, to supplement the information given in class. You might be asked occasionally to use features on the Moodle site such as the discussion forum or the blog. You will be expected to check the course Moodle site at least twice a week, preferably some time before each class. Part of the work of the course will also involve becoming familiar with and using various modes of social media, such as blogs and twitter.

Class cancellations
If I have to cancel a class, I always announce that first on the course Moodle site. Class cancellations are also announced on the Mount`s class cancellation page, and often notices are posted outside the classroom door. If class is cancelled for whatever reason, including general university closure due to weather, always log in to the Moodle site later in the day of the cancellation for further instructions on what to do in lieu of an on-campus class. I usually ask you to complete some work at home to make up the class time.


A detailed syllabus will be posted on the course Moodle site and updated there regularly.

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