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GWSS 590 A: Special Topics

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
SAV 158
Sasha Su-Ling Welland

Syllabus Description:

Autumn 2017
TTH 1:30-3:20
Savery 158

Sasha Welland
Office: Padelford B-110P
Office Hours: M 3:30-4:30

Course Description

This workshop-based course focuses on the craft of writing as part of feminist knowledge production and guides participants in developing as writers in ways that reflect the commitments of their research projects. What is the relationship between form, content, and audience? It also guides participants in the practice of peer critique and support.

We will do in-class writing exercises that focus on narrative and analytic prose, moving back and forth between sentence-level elements of style, such as punctuation and syntax, to the bigger picture of scene, point of view, and voice. We will consider the relationship between story (how to craft a compelling narrative through research materials) and theory. Depending on who is in the class and the types of projects you’re working on, we might also branch into areas such as poetry, transcription, translation, ekphrasis, etc. 

Over the quarter, students will work on drafting and revising one sustained piece of writing, such as a dissertation chapter, or an essay or story that communicates your research to different publics. You will share drafts with peers for feedback, and then revise and repeat.

What forms of writing are you moved by? What arguments do you find powerful, even if turgidly written? How might we do both (move readers with our words and analytic power) through feminist intellectual and scholar-activist projects and pursuits that take shape at least in part through the practice of writing? With these questions in mind, students will also bring examples of writing that have inspired them so that we can examine them in terms of craft as much as argument. 

Course Materials

Books: These books have been ordered and should be available at the University Book Store. I have selected books with writing exercises and prompts that I hope will serve you well for this course and into your writing future. Please let me know if you have trouble getting the books. The Strunk and White is not required but recommended. It is an old standard and many used copies of it are widely available. I have returned to it time and again to remind myself of grammatical rules and of ways to make my writing more readable, clear, and lively.

  • Ursula K. Le Guin. Steering the Craft: A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story. Boston: Mariner Books, 2015 (second edition).
  • Kirin Narayan. Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012.
  • William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. New York: Allyn & Bacon, 2000 (fourth edition)

Assignments & Evaluation

Class Participation (10%)

In order to build the respect and trust necessary for this workshop to be productive for all, you need to show and be accountable to your peers. If you must miss class for an unavoidable reason (illness, pre-scheduled exam defense, conference presentation, etc.), you should still complete the in-class writing exercises we will be doing in class and share those via a Canvas discussion board I will set up for this purpose. Please check with a classmate about in-class exercises you missed. You will also be responsible for keeping up with providing feedback to your peers as outlined below.

First Draft of Work-in-Progress (20%)

You will develop and share with the class an initial draft of a piece of writing you are working on. This first draft should be between 5-10 pages. During Week 2, we will set a workshop schedule for whose work we will discuss during each class session. Two writers will have their work discussed during each session, with approximately 45 minutes of feedback for each. According to a schedule we will set together during Week 2, you will submit your draft via Canvas to the group in advance. If you are signed up for a Tuesday meeting, please submit your work by 5 pm on the preceding Friday before. If you are signed up for a Thursday meeting, please submit your work by 5 pm on the preceding Monday.

Peer Critique (25%)

With the premise of “everyone writes, everyone reads,” you will carefully read the work shared in advance by your classmates. For the session in which their work will be critiqued, please prepare a one-paragraph reflection on their writing and what you got out of it. What was your first impression? What about the writing did you really like? Where were you confused or surprised or frustrated or delighted? Please print out a hard copy of this reflection to bring to class. You can use this as a starting point for the feedback you will give in person as part of the group discussion, and then give your written comments to the writers themselves at the end of class. 

Revised Draft of Work-in-Progress (20%)

With the peer feedback you received in mind, you will revise (and perhaps extend) your piece of writing. This second draft should be between 10-15 pages. We will follow the same procedure as outlined above for a second round of peer critique of your work. With this draft, you may consider submitting with it a few questions that you would like to consider your readers to keep in mind as they read.

Final Revision (25%)

During finals week, on December 12, you will submit a final revision of your work to me. (We can discuss as a class whether or not you’d like to share your final work with everyone.) This is the only piece of writing I will give a 4.0-scale grade, accompanied of course by comments. Everything above will be evaluated on a completed/not-completed basis. The final revision can be up to 15-20 pages, although we can discuss what your goals are for the piece (thesis submission, dissertation defense, publication, etc.) and therefore optimum length. Longer is not always better!

Week 1


  • Introductions
  • Why this workshop
  • What makes this a feminist workshop
  • “Where I Come From” exercise

For the next class:

  • Read: Narayan, Preface + Chapter 1; Le Guin, Intro + Chapter 1 + Appendix
  • Write: Do the three writing exercises in the “Taking Stock” section of Narayan’s Chapter 1 (pp. 5-7). Bring these three pieces of writing to class on the following Tuesday.

Week 2 


  • Course overview, settling in
  • In-class writing: Being Gorgeous
  • Share your “I most hope to write” exercise
  • Discussion of workshop schedule

For the next class:

  • Read: Le Guin, Chapter 2
  • Write: Do at least two more of the short writing exercises in Narayan’s Chapter 1 (pp. 8-21).
  • Write More: Complete the first two-page "Story and Theory" exercise at the end of the chapter (p. 22) and bring it to class on Thursday. (Apologies for my previous directions, which did not make sense because the "Theory and Story" exercise builds off of the "Story and Theory" one.)
  • Find: Two authors whose writing you are inspired by. The first should be someone whose language and way with words you love. The second should be someone whose analytic clarity or theoretical insight you find powerful. Select 1-2 sentences by each to share in class. Be prepared to reflect on what you might bring to your own writing from these exemplars. Is it possible to bring these two ways of writing in conversation with one another?


  • In-class writing: Am I Saramago
  • Share your “Story and Theory” piece
  • Draft notes for a "Theory and Story" piece
  • Share your writing exemplars

For the next class:

  • Read: Mia and Fabian's drafts, to be submitted by Friday, 10/06.
  • Write: First set of peer feedback for the following Tuesday. Please bring a copy of your paragraph to class on 10/10. 

Week 3


  1. Mia
  2. Fabian


  1. Jey
  2. Jainey 

Week 4


  1. Victoria
  2. Ty 


  1. Meshell 

Week 5


  1. Yaoyao
  2. Sara 


  1. Anjuli 

Week 6


  1. Christina


  1. Marcus

Week 7


  1. Mia
  2. Meshell


  1. Jey
  2. Jainey

Week 8


  1. Ty
  2.  Fabian


No class—NWSA

Week 9 


  1. Anjuli
  2. Sara 


No class—Thanksgiving

Week 10


  1. Yaoyao
  2. Victoria


  1. Christina
  2. Marcus

Week 11

12/05 TBA

12/07 TBA

Finals Week


  • Final Revision Due



Catalog Description: 
Offered by visitors or resident faculty as a one-time in-depth study of special interest.
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:10pm