Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Objectives

International Women's Voices has several objectives. It introduces students to a variety of works by contemporary women writers from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and North America. The emphasis is on non-western writers. The readings are chosen to encourage students to think about how each author's work reflects a distinct cultural heritage and to what extent, if any, we can identify a female voice that transcends national cultures. In lectures and readings distributed in class, students learn about the history and culture of each of the countries these authors represent. The way in which colonialism, religion, nation formation and language influence each writer is a major concern of this course. In addition, students examine the patterns of socialization of women in patriarchal cultures, and how, in the imaginary world, authors resolve or understand the relationship of the characters to love, work, identity, sex roles, marriage and politics.

This class is a communication intensive course. In addition to becoming more thoughtful readers, students are expected to become a more able and more confident writers. Assignments are designed to allow for revision of each paper. The class will also offer opportunities for speaking and debating so that students can build oral presentation skills that are essential for success once they leave MIT. The class is limited to 25 students and there is substantial classroom discussion.


There are no prerequisites for this course. It is meant for undergraduates who like to read and who are curious about cultures other than their own.

Summary of Major Assignments

Throughout the semester students are asked to submit short reading response essays on every work. These essays will be read, but not graded. Three asterisks on the syllabus indicate days on which these short responses must be submitted. One purpose of the responses is to get your thoughts and reactions together for class discussion; therefore, they must be submitted when you come to class - not a few days or an hour later. Unless you have a convincing excuse, failure to turn-in a response paper will lower your grade. These response papers should avoid summarizing the works. Here are some things to consider while reading and writing the short responses:

  • What is your reaction to the work? Does it move you? Do you hate, love or feel indifferent toward it? Is your reaction based on gender? On nationality? What else in your own education has influenced your reaction?

  • How is the author's vision shaped by her culture? By gender?

  • Do the personal and/or political views differ from those of male authors whose works you have read on the same theme?

  • What is the author's view of sex roles, class, race, religion, sexuality, and sexual preference?

  • What role do children play in the lives of the main characters?


There will be four longer papers (5-6 pages) required in the course of the semester. For the first three papers you will submit the first version of the paper on the date indicated on the syllabus. Our writing tutor will have conferences with you regarding your first versions. Then you will re-write the paper for submission on the date indicated on the syllabus. There is no required draft for the fourth paper but you are welcome to meet with the tutor before it is submitted.

The class will divide itself into groups. Each group will be responsible for teaching one class. The group will meet to discuss the reading and to outline its teaching plan; the group will prepare "thought questions" on the reading and distribute them at the class meeting prior to discussion of the book. Teaching groups will meet with the instructor before they finalize their teaching plans. Groups should obtain and distribute bibliography on the author and/or the culture under discussion through library work. Students are not required to submit a journal entry on the book for which their teaching group is responsible.

Course Format

Each class is 1-1/2 hours. There will be short lectures to provide background on the history, geography and politics of the countries represented by the authors. Lectures will also contextualize the author's style and place in the literary history of her country. When teaching group presentations are scheduled, students will lead 45 minutes of the class. Most class time will be spent in discussion - either with the whole group - or with the class divided into smaller groups that report back to the whole. Frameworks for these discussions will be distributed in class.

Basis for Grade


  1. Students are expected to attend all classes since class discussion is central to the course. Unexcused absences will automatically lower your grade.

  2. Since this HASS-D subject is communication intensive there is no final exam.


Class Participation 20%
Papers 50%
Teaching Group 10%
Response Journals 20%

Other General Course Guidelines

If at any time during the semester you find yourself having trouble with work for the class, let me know right away - not at the end when it is too late. If you have any suggestions regarding any aspect of the course - how it is taught, organized, etc. - feel free to let me know either by seeing me or by attaching a note to your journal.