As part of our work together, we will maintain a collaborative course blog called Girls on Fire: Constructions of Girlhood in YA Dystopian Fiction. It is an online forum designed to expand on our readings and discussions.
YA dystopian and speculative fiction are rich and diverse genres. Given the recent explosion in texts featuring female protagonists, it is impossible for us to address all possible topics during a single semester. The blog is a means for you to introduce texts, topics, and critical approaches that may not be included on our syllabus, connecting them to the goals of the course.
As blogs are often collaborative, you will have a writing partner. As a pair, your job will be to co-author one 800-1,000-word blog post during the semester. Two to three groups will write a blog post each week (by the end of the term, we will have authored 17+ blog posts). As a visual marker, this prompt is approximately 1,175 words.
As an individual, your job will be to comment on at a total of 8 times on weekly posts throughout the term; it is your responsibility to keep track of how often you post and to ensure you’ve completed the appropriate number by the end of term. It is my hope that, through the blog, we will engage in a sustained, critical dialogue about the ways girlhood is constructed in these popular YA texts. Students will receive a detailed prompt and due dates during the second week of class.
During the first week of class, I will place you in pairs and assign due dates. You should be prepared to address some aspect of the novel we’re discussing the week that your blog is due (see below for more on possible topics). Blogs will be due starting the third full week of class and continue throughout the semester. Comments will be due starting the third full week of class, and you should continue posting throughout the semester.
All blog posts will be due on Mondays at the start of class. All comments will be due by Fridays at 5 pm. You should post according to the following schedule:
- October 27th: post at least 3 times
- November 17th: post at least 3 times
- December 9th: post at least 2 times
The blog assignment, including post and comments, comprises 20% of your grade. The two parts of the assignment, post and comments, will be combined for a single mark. Your blog post will make up 84% of your mark, while your comments will make up 16% of your mark (8 comments throughout the term, @ 2 points per comment, equals 16%). You will have a rubric prior by the second week of class.
You are required to co-author a blog post that critically considers some aspect of one of the novels we’re discussing this term. You must write about the novel we are discussing the week your blog post is due (for example, if your blog post is due Oct. 23, you and your co-author should be addressing some aspect of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium).
Your blog post must present an argument, include at least one critical source, and include citations. The possible topics are as varied as the novels themselves. You may want to perform a close reading of a specific passage of the novel, arguing that the author uses the passage to construct girlhood in a particular way. You may want to consider how the author uses setting to construct a dystopian world or how a particular aspect of the dystopian world critiques how girls are treated in contemporary society. You may want to employ a specific theoretical framework in your reading of the novel. The possibilities are endless. In many ways, this assignment is much like a short essay. Approach it as such.
As this is a co-authored assignment, you will need to consult with your co-author. Collaborations can be fruitful and rewarding; they can also be frustrating. The purpose in having you co-author is two fold. First, in professional settings, people are often asked to collaborate on projects; co-authoring in a classroom setting enables you to learn to negotiate such projects in a relatively low-stakes setting. Second, co-authoring is, increasingly, common in the “digital age,” in which people are often posting on various public forms, for professional and personal reasons. In academic settings, co-authoring is very common and is, often, a very productive way to produce polished written work.
If at any point you have any concerns or questions about any part of the process, contact your instructor.
Each blog post should be approximately 800 to 1,000 words and consist of the following parts.
- A title followed by the authors’ names in parentheses.
- An introduction and a thesis statement.
- A Works Cite list in MLA or APA style documenting your sources (your primary source and one critical source).
- Two discussion questions to encourage comments from your peers.
- Tags, which you can add through WordPress (more instructions below).
Some Important Tips
Using WordPress: I’ve put together some instructions for using the site, including registering, composing and publishing posts, and adding comments. The instructions are available on our OWL course site, under the “Resources” tab. I will also add them to the blog itself, through the link “How to Use the Blog.”
Writing your post: I recommend you compose your post in a word processing program (Word works well). Your work will be safe (and easier to save!) that way. When you and your co-author are done composing the post, you can copy and paste it into the WordPress composition pane. Be sure to proofread carefully!
Contextualizing: depending on your topic you may need to offer readers some context. For example, if you’re arguing that, through Katniss, Suzanne Collins responds to a literary tradition of dystopian novels featuring strong female protagonists, you will need to, briefly, discuss that tradition in your post.
Adding tags to your post: When you have finished writing (but before you publish), assign your post tags. On the right-hand side of the screen where you compose a WordPress post, you will notice an option to add tags. Skim through the tags other have already used and add those if appropriate; you must add at least one new tag to your post.
Research: Here are some useful tips.
- Find sources through the MLA International Bibliography, JSTOR, and Project Muse. These are all available through Weldon’s page.
- Pillage! If you find a great source, mine that source’s bibliography! This is especially useful as most of the novels we’re reading were published in the last 10 years.
- If you’re using a term, like “dystopian” or “girl,” begin with the Oxford English Dictionary; it’s available as an e-text through Weldon.
Some Useful Scholarly Sources
- Tom Moylan, Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia (2000)
- Mary Pharr and Leisa Clark, eds., Of Bread, Blood and The Hunger Games: Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy (2012)
- Anita Harris, Future Girl: Young Women in the Twenty-First Century (2004)
- Jessica K. Taft, Rebel Girls: Youth Activism and Social Change Across the Americas (2011)
- Roberta Seelinger Trites, Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature (2000)
- Carrie Hintz and Elaine Ostry, eds., Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults (2003)
- Clare Bradford, et al, eds. New World Orders in Contemporary Children’s Literature: Utopian Transformation (2008)
- Balaka Basu, Carrie Hintz, and Katharine R. Broad, eds., Contemporary Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults: Brave New Teenagers (2013)
- Sara Day, Miranda Green-Barteet, and Amy Montz, Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction (2014)
- Female protagonists and feminism
- Public versus private spaces
- Representations of disability in YA dystopian novels
- Fashion as argument
- Technological changes as representative of race/racialized otherness
- Girls and docility
- Feminist reading of a novel
- Constructions of girlhood
- Heteronormative romance in YA dystopian fiction
- Film adaptations
- Close readings
- Discussions of themes
- Coming-of-age ceremonies
- Death and Dying
- Girls and violence
- Celebrity culture in YA dystopian fiction
- Youth activism