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Shades of Grey: Deconstructing Gender in Popular Media 

This course is a part of OSU's First Year Writing Program, offered primarily to incoming Freshman. It fulfills the Level One Writing and Communication requirement of OSU’s General Education. Students in this course work to develop their analytical writing skills, gain foundational knowledge of rhetorical analysis/production, and become immersed in the chosen course theme. 


Course Description and Objectives


Back in 2011, E.L. James (Erika Mitchell) published the first installment of her Fifty Shades trilogy and brought ‘women’s writing’ to the forefront of mainstream media by writing both an erotic romance and a series that originally began as Twilight fanfiction—a work and a genre that are equally produced by and geared towards women. Since then, the franchise has sparked a great deal of controversy, not only for its questions regarding authorship (Do these characters belong to Meyers or James? Is Fifty Shades original ‘enough’?), but also for those relating to how both women and men are depicted in media, how women in particular write, and who they are supposedly writing for. Our class will focus in on this second set of questions, examining the ways in which gender is represented in popular culture, paying careful attention to issues of sexism. We will examine advertisements, film, posters, television, selfie culture, comics, and the call for certain depictions of women within fan culture (such as the Bechdel Test and Mako Mori Test). While our focus will be on the ways in which hegemonic gender norms are produced and consumed, the views of non-binary and gender fluid students are crucial for helping us work through these questions. 


Goals and Objectives for the General Education Curriculum


Writing and Communication

Students are skilled in written communication and expression, reading, critical thinking, oral expression and visual expression


Level One (1110)

Expected Learning Outcomes:

1. Students communicate using the conventions of academic discourse.

2. Students can read critically and analytically.


In this first-year writing course, you will develop your capacity for undertaking academic research and analysis through an original research project and presentation of the results of your work to an audience of your peers. You will identify an area of interest within our course theme—the representation of women in popular culture—and you will find materials to analyze, develop analytical research questions, explore secondary texts, and make claims that are connected to the evidence you have discovered. As many researchers do at this stage in their work, you will then reframe what you have learned for a public audience. During the research process, you will also be preparing for the English 1110 Symposium by working on your own Symposium Presentation, a 5-minute presentation consisting of 15 images, each accompanied by 50-65 words of narration. The creation of your Symposium Presentation will provide significant opportunities for considering the nature of your research, the relationship between visual and written text, and issues of writing craft.


Required Materials  

  • Readings posted to Carmen site.

  • Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. Writing Analytically 7th Ed. Boston:Cengage, 2015

  • You will need to have access to all readings during each class meeting, either in hard copy or digitally.


Course Requirements

During the semester, you will complete several major assignments designed to build on each other intellectually and conceptually. These assignments are:


Analytical Research Project: Analysis of Primary and Secondary Sources (50%)                                                                                      

Skills: Identification of appropriate primary sources for analysis, accessing university library databases, application of analytical frameworks and rhetorical methods, analysis of primary and secondary sources, synthesis of multiple critical viewpoints into new interpretations, thesis development, composing process, style and grammar. (Includes the PSA, Bibliography, SSI, and final paper).


Symposium Presentation (30%)                                                                                                                                                        

Skills: Making appropriate rhetorical decisions to reframe the results of academic research for a new audience, understanding genre expectations, attribution and citation of digital and visual sources.


Process Posts & Symposium Active Listening and Response (15%)                                                                                                                                                       

Skills: Preparatory writing and image collection, careful listening, responding to presentations in oral and written form.


Participation (5%)    


Skills: Active participation in discussion, in-class writing, productive collaboration, respect for classmates, pop quizzes.


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