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Writing Women, Part 2

ENGL 090.401
also offered as: COML 090, GSWS 090
TR 5:15-6:45pm

Course Online: Synchronous and Asynchronous Components


Course ID and 6-digit Number: ENGL-090-401: “Sexuality and Power, 1700-1790”

Professor:  Toni Bowers, Ph.D.


Course Description and Level

This is a sophomore-level course organized as a collaborative, real-time seminar. Students from all disciplines are welcome. 

We’ll focus on the work of the most-read and/or best-remembered female-identified writers who published between 1700 and 1790 in Britain. Occasionally along the way, we’ll pay attention to especially relevant, influential works by male-identified authors.

The course emphasizes primary reading. We’ll read in many genres.  All readings will be in English.

Course Goals:

The largest goals of this course are that students

1) develop as critical thinkers by practicing close-reading, an essential skill for entrance into any profession and into contemporary civic life.

2) learn to exercise historical thinking and imaginative empathy with people very different from oneself.

Students will gain practice in recognizing imaginative writing’s agency in a specific, complex culture – here, the culture of eighteenth-century Britain, and particularly its imaginative constructions of gendered identity. 

Students will become familiar with characteristic locutions and preoccupations eighteenth-century British writing.

Students will learn how to use the Oxford English Dictionary and select library databases.

Though most readings will be in modern editions, students will have occasional opportunities to practice reading early typefaces.

Students will gain experience formulating their thought in writing and orally, in prepared and real-time formats. 

Students will practice researching and presenting collaboratively.


Students from all disciplines are welcome. Students will find it easiest to excel in this class if they have completed Penn’s writing requirement.

Although this course follows on directly from Prof. Bowers’s Fall, 2021 English 90: “Writing Women, 1650-1700,” it is not necessary to have taken that course to excel in this course. The courses do not overlap, and any necessary background will be supplied by the instructor.

Even though both courses are numbered “English 90,” they are distinct in the curriculum and will count as separate courses on student transcripts. Students who take both will receive credit for two different courses.

Class Structure:


Typical Weekly Workload: 3 hours in class, up to 6 hours reading, writing, and collaborating outside class.

Lectures will be brief, delivered during class. Lectures are designed to contextualize the readings. Reading and class participation are the most important assignments in this class.

Discussion will occupy most of our class time. Active verbal engagement in every class session is required of everyone.

Outline of Assignments & Assessments:

1.     Assignments

Over the course of a typical working week, each student will

n  read that week’s assigned material, take notes, and formulate questions and comments.

n  post carefully formulated comments and questions, or short close-readings (as assigned) to the Canvas "Discussion" page by midnight EST before each class. Students are also expected to read each other’s posts and respond to other students’ insights ( a minimum of two responses per class session) on the Discussion page before each class. 

n  Participate actively and constructively in class. Attendance is crucial and mandatory, and engaged class participation is required of everyone, at every meeting. Any absence from class must be accounted for with documentation from the health center or the College office.

Over the course of the semester, depending on enrollment, each student will typically

n   participate with at least one other student to produce one collaboratively prepared class presentation.

n  write one professionally prepared Abstract and workshop it in the seminar on an assigned date. (Detailed instructions will be provided.)

n  write one final essay, an interpretive exercise in close-reading.

o   The essay must be professionally formatted, maturely written, and not more than 8 pages long.

o   Secondary research is not required, but may prove helpful as you develop a research question and thesis. 

2.     Assessments

Consistent attendance and informed engagement in class, evidence of careful reading, and thoughtful on-time discussion posting, are worth 50% of the final grade. 

The remaining assignments (abstract with workshop, collaborative presentation, and final essay) will account for the other 50% of each student’s grade.   

Required Equipment and Texts

Most required textbooks will be available through the University’s bookstore; a few will be available as free links on Canvas.

NB:  Every effort will be made to keep book costs to a minimum. One of our texts is available only in one particular edition, which drives up the price to about $85.00; the others are comparatively inexpensive, and overall the cost of texts will be on the low side. Please do not let the cost of books keep you from enrolling. Feel free to use Van Pelt Library and to consult with Student Financial Services to find out what support you are eligible to receive. Support from SFS is available to cover required texts, course costs, or other items that ensure student health, safety, and secure learning environment. Please also feel free to contact the instructor about book loans from her private library, 



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