Meanings and Models of Motherhood in European History and Literature

WS 267 Syllabus

Course Goals and Objectives

This course pursues several goals simultaneously. First, it will examine motherhood as a social, historical, and literary construct. That is, we will discuss how motherhood was defined in a variety of historical cultures: the work assigned to or expected of mothers; the ideal of the "good mother"; the relationship between mothers and fathers; and the legal position of mothers. At the same time, we will examine motherhood and mothers in a variety of literary texts from the same periods, discussing motherhood as metaphor.

The course also aims to develop students' familiarity with various forms of information technology, and multimedia presentations. Students will complete Web-based research assignments (on historic or literary figures), and will design their own Web pages.


Your grade will be based on your performance in seminar discussions, on essays which you will write at home or during class examinations, and on the IT assignments you will complete (Web pages and Web-based research). To do well in this class, you will need to do the reading assignments before class and participate in discussion. You will find that it is not possible to do well without having done the readings. Each week, you will be required to post a short essay (one long paragraph), which discusses your reaction to the reading assignment for that week on the class Web Board every week, before we discuss the assigned reading. Your grade will be weighted as follows:

The grade for your participation in the discussions will be based on the quantity and quality of your contributions to the discussion. To participate, you need to have finished the reading before the class meets; this sounds obvious, but there are some people who believe that they can contribute to a discussion without understanding the subject of that discussion. They can't. Doing the reading is not enough, however. You need to raise questions and make comments about it, too. If you never say a word in discussion section meetings, your grade will suffer.

If you get a low grade on a test, or if you can't make sense of the reading assignments, or if you have any problems which the lectures, COME TALK TO US ABOUT IT DURING OUR OFFICE HOURS. It's probably a difficulty we've seen before, and we may be able to offer helpful suggestions about overcoming it. If you ignore a problem, it always gets worse, not better. If you have a question in class, just raise your hand.

Absences, Missed Tests, and Late Papers

If you are absent from class, first ask a classmate for a copy of his/her notes on the discussion. If you still have questions after studying these notes and the reading assignment for the week, please make an appointment or come to see one of us during our office hours. Late papers may be allowed, but only for a very short list of valid reasons, which include jury duty, an illness certified by a physician, or a death in your family. We may require proof in each case. You may not file with the registrar's office to take a make up exam after the end of the semester without my permission; if you do so without clearing it with one of us first, you will receive an "F" for that examination.

Scholastic Integrity

Cheating and plagiarism (copying an answer from someone else's essay or a book) are the most serious offenses possible in academic life. If they occur, you will lose credit for the work in question, and your grade will certainly suffer. In addition, Pace procedures for handling cases of scholastic dishonesty will be initiated. We will hand out a sheet on what plagiarism is, so that you will be able to avoid making mistakes inadvertently.

Assignments, Discussions, and Essays

Note: This course will meet twice a week for two hours per meeting, thus each week is set up with two sessions. Students will do additional work with Web-based research assignments, developing their own Web pages on different historic or literary personages/figures. In order to complete this project, students will learn to use Netscape Composer, along with other necessary IT skills.

Class Schedule

Please note: Weeks 7 - 14 have been updated.


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