WMST 491 Special Topics: WGSS on the Web                        spring 2012

Instructor:            kate gramlich

Email:                    kategramlich@gmail.com or maymyheart@gmail.com
Online:                  @glitterpits  //  FB.com/kate.gramlich

Office hours:       By appointment in-person or online

Course description:

WMST 491 is a senior-level (or advanced) seminar course in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. Its focus is on ways that gender and sexuality are embodied, discussed, affect and are effected by online spaces. We will be specifically exploring how blogs, social networking sites, and online media outlets are used and are therefore drawing upon both academic and “non-academic” sources to aid in our discovery and exploration of the Internet. There is no textbook for this course. Class readings will be available in PDF format or as online articles. Some readings will actually be YouTube videos, twitter hash tags, and blog posts.

Because of the material, we will be having our conversations both face-to-face and online using our class blog, your personal blogs, and various social networking sites as you see fit. I am interested in seeing how we – as a class – can contribute to larger discussions about these spaces, which means that we will be interacting with others online and moving beyond our bodies, beyond this classroom, beyond SIUC.

Course objectives:

  • To establish a basic understanding of feminist theories, specifically third wave feminism and cyberfeminism
  • To observe and reflect on how technology shapes – and is shaped by – our gendered lives in areas such as media, healthcare, education, sexuality, and politics
  • To take the opportunity to put theory into practice by watching and participating in digital spaces (blogs, social networking, online communities)
  • To investigate the positive and negative aspects of virtual identity*
  • To encourage critical thinking about gender, culture, technology, and identity*

* Thanks to Leandra Preston of University of Central Florida

Course requirements:


  • In-class: As a college student, it is your responsibility to read the assigned readings for each class and be prepared to discuss them. Participation is a crucial part of this course, as it helps us to share ideas and expand our perceptions. You will be expected to: ask and respond to questions, give thoughtful insights, share personal experience (if comfortable and/or applicable), and generally demonstrate to us that you are paying attention and engaging with the material.
  • Online: Because of the nature of this course and its materials, online participation is as important as face-to-face interactions. We will be discussing articles and media online as well as reading and responding to one another’s blog posts. The main purpose of both in-class and online participation is to demonstrate that you are reading, listening, and thinking. This is a small, advanced course, and therefore your participation is crucial.

Weekly readings: Each week, you will be assigned readings from academic journals, books, and blogs that relate to the intersections between online and gendered identities. You are required to read these pieces and come prepared to discuss them in class on Tuesdays. This goes along with participation, as you will be speaking with the class about what you read. Not reading and not participating are not options. If I feel we are not doing the readings as the semester progresses, I will require discussion questions prepared and printed beforehand. 

Blogging: You will be expected to participate in our group blog each week on Thursdays in lieu of face-to-face meetings. You will also be maintaining your own personal blog hosted by WordPress.com throughout the week. As a class, we will decide how best to balance these two by discussing specific blogging prompts and agreeing upon a common standard of engagement. It is my goal for you to “follow” at least two online feminist news sources and both synthesize and react to the posts that you read each week. The purpose of this is to become a more critical consumer of the Internet while expanding your interests on topics of your choice.

Presentation: I would like you to present on your blog and on the topics you are most interested at the end of the semester. We can discuss the details of this as a group.

Papers: You will be required to write two short (2-3 page) papers during the semester so as to develop your ability to write academically and practice writing succinctly for an offline audience. Clarity and brevity will be the focus of these papers. Prompts for these papers will be given as the semester progresses.

Class Policies:

Attendance: Your agreement as a student of this university is to show up for class. In addition, this is short and there are very few of you, meaning that each class period is important. You are allowed two personal days (i.e. two Tuesdays) for vacations, hangovers, etc. Because SIUC recognizes certain extenuating circumstances as excused, if you provide documentation of excused absences to me ahead of time, I will try to work with you.

Late Policy: You are an adult. Repeated tardiness will count as absences.

Email Policy: I love email and check it frequently. I am more than thrilled to chat online with you if you have questions about the readings or would like to talk about your papers/presentation.

Make-Up Work/Late Work Policy: No make-up papers, presentations, OR blog posts will be allowed.

Academic Dishonesty: You are welcomed to this classroom community with the assumption that the work you do will be your own. Presenting another’s work as your own, even if by accident, is a serious violation of the Student Conduct Code. This policy counts for written work on paper and online. Plagiarism is theft—plain and simple. Consult the Undergraduate Bulletin for policies on plagiarism and academic dishonesty. Severe penalties result from plagiarism and academic dishonesty (from failing the paper, to failing the class, to being expelled from the University. Whether quoting, paraphrasing, or even summarizing someone else’s work, you should cite your sources; failure to do so constitutes an act of plagiarism. Buying a paper online, copying text from several web sites, and turning in someone else’s paper are all examples of plagiarism when you claim such works as your own. Suspected cases of plagiarism will be investigated following Article V of the Student Conduct Code. If you are uncertain about citing sources, please consult the Writing Center (they are a great resource).

Emergency Procedures: Southern Illinois University is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for study and work. Because some health and safety circumstances are beyond our control, we ask that you become familiar with the SIUC Emergency Response Plan and Building Emergency Response Team (BERT) program. Emergency response information is available on posters in campus buildings and on BERT’s website, http://www.bert.siu.edu. Instructors will provide guidance and direction to students in the classroom in the event of an emergency affecting your location.

Supplementary Assistance: With the cooperation of SIUC’s Disability Support Services (DSS), each student who qualifies for reasonable supplementary assistance has the right to receive it. Students requesting supplementary assistance must first register with DSS in Woody Hall B-150, (453-5738) or http://disabilityservices.siuc.edu/
Notice:  If you have any type of special need(s) or disability for which you require accommodations to promote your learning in this class, please contact us as soon as possible.  The Office of Disability Support Services (DDS) offers various support services and can help you with special accommodations.  You may wish to contact DDS at 453-5738 or go to Room 150 at Woody Hall to verify your eligibility and options for

Saluki Cares: The purpose of Saluki Cares is to develop, facilitate and coordinate a university-wide program of care and support for students in any type of distress—physical, emotional, financial, or personal.  By working closely with faculty, staff, students and their families, SIUC will continue to display a culture of care and demonstrate to our students and their families that they are an important part of the community. To make a referral to Saluki Cares click, call, or send: www.salukicares.siuc.edu; (618) 453-5714, or siucares@siu.edu.

Grades: It is your responsibility to keep track of your points. To dispute a grade earned on an assignment or exam, please wait twenty-four hours and then contact me via email for an appointment. Grade complaints need to be submitted within one week from the time that the grade/assignment was handed back.
[A = 1000 – 900; B = 899 – 800; C = 799 – 700; D = 699 – 600; F = 599 – 0]

A specific breakdown of grades and assignments will be provided to you shortly. 


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