• Syllabus

    “She used to rock with laughter at the lot of you!”

    Gender/Sexuality/Media Fall 2012

    Professor: Louisa Stein; email: louisas@middlebury.edu

    Class Meetings: MW 2:50pm-4:05pm AXN 109/ Tues Screening 7:30pm-10:25pm SDL Dana Auditorium 

    go link (for moodle site): go/gsm

    Course Description

    This course explores the intersecting roles played by gender and sexuality in our media, focusing specifically on film, television, and digital culture. As we unpack media texts from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca to Fox’s Glee, we investigate the multiple ways in which popular media texts construct and communicate gender and sexuality. We will analyze how viewers engage with and make sense of representations of gender and sexuality and integrate them into their everyday lives, and we will consider how gender and sexuality inform our experience of online social networking, media fandom, and video game culture. Readings will include feminist film theory, queer theory, fandom studies, digital media studies, and videogame studies. We will also regularly read related works of online popular criticism. For final projects, students can write media analyses, conduct historical or online research, or integrate class ideas into creative works.

    Note: Fox’s series Glee will be a through-line throughout this class, a shared text we’ll be able to tackle in depth. We’ll be watching episodes sporadically all through the semester. Love it or hate it (or neither), know we’ll be watching and analyzing/debating its representations of gender, sexuality, and identity on a semi-regular basis.


    This class will arm you with the tools to:

    • interrogate the role of gender and sexuality in cultural context
    • debate theories of gender and sexuality in film, television, and new media studies
    • incorporate theories of gender and sexuality into your own interpretations and analysis of media texts
    • sustain critical thought regarding the role of gender and sexuality in media, in written form
    • enhance analytic analysis with multimedia creative production

    Required Books: Available at the bookstore

    • Piepmeier, Alison. Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism. NYU Press, 2009. [This is also available as an ebook at the library but please note that printing is limited for copyright reasons, and that you must read the book online before downloading.]
    • Thornham, Sue, ed. Feminist Film Theory: A Reader. NYU Press, 1999. [This is also available as an ebook at the library but please note that printing is limited for copyright reasons]
    • Gauntlett, David. Media, Gender and Identity: An Introduction. Routledge, 2008.

    Reading Inquiries (weekly)

    By 11pm every Sunday, you will have reading inquiries due online. These inquiries will consist of questions that you pose of each reading, or that the reading inspires you to ask. Each inquiry should be between 250 and 300 words long. Your inquiries may explore points you didn’t fully understand, examine associations prompted by the readings, or point to gaps you feel the readings have left unexplored. They should be substantive questions, not trivia or yes or no answers. 

    Post your inquiries in the specified Moodle forum. I highly recommend writing up your questions in a word processing program and then cutting and pasting to Moodle to avoid any Moodle mishaps (™). We will explore the questions you pose in class discussion. The inquiries will be graded from1-10. You can choose to skip one week of inquiries. Just email me to let me know that a given week will be your there’s-too-much-other-stuff-going-on freebie week.

    1 Page Synthesis Essays (ongoing)

    Every week, before the screening, I will offer prompts to guide your viewing and our discussion.  These prompts will encourage you to synthesize the readings and the screenings. Every other week, you will write a short essay responding to these screening prompts, drawing on at least one appropriate reading to support your analysis. (This amounts to a total of 5 1-page papers over the course of the semester.)

    Each synthesis essay should have a thesis and focus, and a title (as creative as you want!) that reflects this thesis and focus. You do not need to respond to all of the prompts; just the ones (or one) that inspire(s) you and seem(s) connected to the ideas you want to explore. These essays must be written in 12 point font, and must fit on one page only. Beyond that, you can play with the margins, font, and structure to squeeze in as much as you want to, depending on the essay. Be sure to review, revise, and proofread these essays before calling them done.  Also be sure to include your name and the Middlebury honor code (you can handwrite this on the bottom or the back). Print these essays out and hand them to me in class on Monday. I also ask that you upload your syntheses to moodle for safe-digital-keeping.

    You will have the opportunity to revise two of these short essays over the course of the semester. If you choose to rewrite, your rewrite will be due a week after you’ve received your feedback and grade. I will average together the earlier and later grade to determine your final grade for the rewritten essay. However, your rewrite can only increase your grade; I will not reduce your grade beyond the original, so rewriting can only help!

    DIY Textual Analysis (Due 11/4)

    Here’s your chance to take the theory we’ve been discussing and apply it to the media text of your choice. You can analyze a film, television series, video game, online interface (web page or site, or digital text). Apply at least two of the theoretical readings we’ve read so far to your text of choice, performing a substantive analysis, five pages in length. Be sure to cite your sources (both the theoretical sources and any additional primary or secondary sources you seek out) using MLA formatting.

    [If you're interested in pursuing your DIY Textual Analysis in a non-traditional format, for example either as a video essay or a hypertext essay, please feel free to talk over the possibilities with me.]

    Final Paper/Project (due 12/12 @ midnight on moodle)
    There are five choices listed below, but if you have another idea for a focus that doesn’t quite fit in these categories, feel free to run it by me. In every case, your final paper/project must draw on a minimum of three of the required readings and two external academic readings (books or journal articles). Reference your sources (required and not) with full citation using MLA (Modern Language Association) formatting.

    1. Write a 10-12 page close analysis of discourses of gender and sexuality in a television program or film of your choice, drawing on the readings and discussions. You can also consider advertising, exhibition, scheduling, and reception.
    2. Write a 10-12 page close analysis of discourses of gender and sexuality in a specific instance of new media, such as a video game, online interface, or transmedia textual network.
    3. Write 5 2-page film or television (episode) reviews, in a popular critical voice, interrogating issues of gender and sexuality throughout. These reviews should be informed by the ideas we’ve encountered in theory readings and discussions, but they can be written in a more informal, popular, or playful tone. Imagine them to be a series of blog posts on a particular theme. You can also opt to post these online as an actual blog post series.
    4. Write a 10-12 page paper exploring the discourses of gender and sexuality in a specific case of audience textual creativity, such as personal web pages, bulletin board participation, fan fiction/art/vids, etc. You could consider the work of a single artist/author or a particular site or genre of creativity.
    5. Create a film, visual essay (vid), webisode, or script that addresses the themes of gender, sexuality, and media raised in class. In addition, write a 5 page paper in which you connect your creative work to the ideas raised in class and in the required readings.

    You will have the opportunity to submit an optional rough draft for feedback. Whether you submit a rough draft or not, I encourage you to choose a topic that you feel truly excited about, start working on it early, and give yourself plenty of time to research, draft, rewrite, and proofread.

    We will hold a mini conference/screening toward the end of the semester where you will share your projects with each other. You may not be finished with your project at this point, but you’ll need to have made enough progress to be able to share the final stages with your classmates.

     Zine (Due 11/12 in class; individual statement due on moodle 11/13)

    Together with your group (chosen in class) choose a focus for a zine. Your zine should engage with the ideas in class, but can do so in any creative form you see fit, through a combination of aesthetic choices and creative typography. We will have studied the significance of zines and looked at examples by the time this assignment comes round. You will create an original hard copy, five zeroxed copies in the tradition of zine printing, (we’ll go over the process in class), and a pdf file saved at a reasonable size for uploading & downloading (again, we will go over this process in class). In addition to the zine, you will each individually write a blurb that explores what you feel the zine accomplishes and that provides details about your contribution to the zine.

    Extra Credit: You can get extra credit by participating in the class digital discussions, either on twitter (during screenings and beyond) with the hashtag #gsm267 (we'll go over this in class) or in the moodle extra credit forums. With both tools, you can respond directly to ideas raised in class and in screenings, or make connections beyond class and screenings to your engagement with other elements of media culture, past and present. 


    Grading Breakdown

    • Attendance and Participation 15%
    • 1 page syntheses with opportunity to rewrite 20%
    • Group zine & individual blurb 15%
    • Inquiries 20%
    • DIY textual analysis 10%
    • Final Paper and In Class Conference 20%


    Week by Week Breakdown

    Sept 10&12 Gender Constructions

    Screening: Glee 1.1, Glee 1.18, Girls 1.1

    Due Thursday September 13th by 11pm: Your first set of weekly inquiries **From here on in, weekly inquiries will always be due on the Sunday before the readings are listed at midnight.**

    Sept 17&19 Gender and Identification

    Screening: It (1927), Damages

    [Monday September 17 is Rosh Ha Shana; we will be holding class, but any students who wish to observe Rosh Ha Shana will be excused from class. I will be happy to meet with students individually to go over what we cover in class.]

    • Gauntlett, David. Part 3 & 4. (Representations of Gender in the Past/Representations of Gender Today)
    • Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (Thornham)
    • My thoughts on Damages 

    Due Monday (Sept 24) 1 page synthesis essay (responding to prompts on Glee & Girls and/or It and Damages)

    Sept 24&25  Complicating the Male Gaze

    Screening: Gossip Girl 1.1, 1.7, Glee 2.6

    [September 25th: class session will not be held due to Yom Kippor; instead we will have a digital conversation on moodle that can extend through the weekend.]

    Oct 1&3 Gender, Knowledge, & Power

    Screening: Rebecca (1940) 

    Due Monday (Oct 8) 1 page synthesis essay (responding to prompts on Rebecca and and/or Gossip Girl and Glee)

    Oct 8 & 10 Identity & DIY Authorship

    Screening: Special guest visit from Francesca Coppa

    Meet this week outside of class with your group to begin the zine brainstorming process.

    Oct 15 & 17 Focus on Zines, Remix, & DIY authorship [No class October 15&`16—Fall Break]

    • Piepmeier, Chapter 4 “‘We Are Not All One’ Intersectional Identities in Grrrl Zines.”
    • Clover, Cover. "Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film." (Thornham)

     Oct 22 & 24 Masculinity &/as Spectacle

    Screening: The Band Wagon, Glee 2.16

    Due Monday October 29th 1 page synthesis essay (responding to vids screening, zine exploration, and/or The Band Wagon & Glee)

    October 29 & 31 Queer Meanings and Interpretive Flexibility

    Screening: Sherlock, Glee 3.2

     Nov 5 & 7 Queer Meanings and Interpretive Flexibility II

    Screening: Husbands, Glee 3.5, 3.7

    No new readings this week, because we're going to slow down! In place of inquiries, respond to the forum prompts about the circulation of queer meaning & heterosexual assumption.

    Nov 12 & 14 Gender, Feminism, & (Digital/Material) Selves

    November 12—Zines Due in class [original + 5 prints] + 300-500 word individual zine statements uploaded to moodle

    Screening: Remixes & Youtube Videos

    [Since there are four shorter readings, please read them all but you only need to write three inquiries; your choice which three!]



    Nov 19 & 21 [NOV 21 = Thanksgiving Break] Gender, Sexuality, and Play

    Due Monday November 19th (to avoid zine collision) 1 page synthesis essay (responding to prompts on GleeSherlock, and/or Husbands)

    • Extra credit possibility: Over the next two weeks, spend a few hours experimenting with a video game, either one you already have access to, one available at the department, or on various Second Life transmedia extensions (see the links in resources). Connect your experience to the readings in an additional 1 page paper synthesis, and also discuss your experiences in the forums.

     Nov 26 & 28 Future Gender, Future Play

    Screening: Tomb Raider; Selected machinima

    Dec 3 & 5 Class Conference

    1 page synthesis due Monday Dec 3 on Remixes, YouTube videos, &/or Tomb Raider

    • Presentations & Party

    Due Monday December 12th at 11pm: your Final Paper/Project uploaded to moodle

    "There's nothing ironic about show choir."