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Sociology through Literature

Vassar College Exploring Transfer Program 2000

Instructors: Diane Harriford and Yi-Chun Tricia Lin (tricia_lin_ny@yahoo.com)
Counselor: Lawrence Nsereko
Office Hours: TTh 11-12 and by appointment (New England 205)

This course combines literature and sociology to deepen our understanding of various social issues. We will use analytical frameworks of sociologists, such as Marx, Durkheim, Weber, and Dubois, to examine the following: James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, Willa Cather's Sapphira and the Slave Girl, Sandra Cisneros' Woman Hollering Creek, Epeli Hau`ofa's Tales of the Tikongs, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place, Nella Larsen's Passing, and Lois-Ann Yamanaka's Blu's Hanging.

Course Outline:

Week 1

Readings:

6/19

"Introduction" and Marx (Farganis 1-23; 40-71)

6/20

Cather, Sapphira and the Slave Girl

6/22

Presentation

6/23

Durkheim (Farganis 74-100)

Topics: class, alienation, ideology, consciousness, gender, and race
First essay due on June 23rd: Discuss Sapphira and the Slave Girl as though you were Marx. (750-1250 words)

Week 2

Readings:

6/26

Woman Hollering Creek

6/27

Presentation

6/28

Their Eyes Were Watching God

6/29

Their Eyes Were Watching God

6/30

Presentation

Topics: suicide, tradition, religious culture, and division of labor
Second essay due on June 30th: Choose one of discussion topics, and show how it is developed in Woman Hollering Creek. (750-1250 words)

Week 3

Readings:

7/5

Baldwin (Handouts)

7/6

Weber and Dubois (Farganis 108-23 & 135-44; 180-82 & 186-92)

7/7

Blu's Hanging

Topics: rationalism, formation of identity, and language
Third essay due on July 5th: Design a topic of your own on Their Eyes Were Watching God. (750-1250 words)

Week 4

Readings:

7/10

Presentation

7/11

Mead (Farganis 158-79); Lorde

7/13

Passing and Giovanni's Room

7/14

Presentation

Topics: development of self and sexuality
Fourth essay due on July 11th: Design a topic of your own on Blu's Hanging. (1250-1750 words)

Week 5

Readings:

7/17

Tales of the Tikongs

7/18

A Small Place

7/20

Presentation

7/21

Finaleóassessment

Topics: class, gender, race, colonialism, and post-colonial writing
Fifth essay due on July 17th: Discuss the notion of passing in Passing or Giovanni's Room. (1250-1750 words)
Sixth essay due on July 21st: Adopt one sociologist/theorist, and then in the voice of your chosen sociologist/theorist and in the fashion of Hau`ofa's and Kincaid's works, write creatively about your sociological understanding of the Hudson Valley. Draw freely from other literature you have read in the other class. (2500 words)

Course Requirement:
Attendance in class is mandatory unless you are too sick to get out of the bed.
Read all the assignments.
Writing assignments are due at the beginning of class on the due date. Late papers will not be accepted.
Enjoy yourself.

Guidelines for the Papers:
Pay attention to the structure of the whole essay; there should be always a proper introduction.
Summarize the book succinctly, making certain whoever reads the paper gets a clear idea of the book, but do not re-tell the entire story.
Locate passages that illustrate relevant sociological topics.
Critique the book based on the concepts or the concepts based on the book.
Link your discussion to contemporary issues.
Contrast books with other books when it is appropriate.

Methodology for the Presentations:
Structure the presentation so that all participants speak.
Give examples when appropriate.
Be creative; devise ways to involve the audience.

upload: 10/04/2000

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