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Course Information

Instructor Info:Angela Willey
Term: 2014F
Meeting Info: Monday
04:00 PM - 07:00 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) WLH

Grounded in queer and feminist concerns with marriage and coupled forms of social belonging, this class will consider "monogamy" from a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives. From the history of marriage to the science of mating systems to the politics of polyamory, the class will explore monogamy's meanings. Students will become familiar with these and other debates about monogamy, a variety of critical approaches to reading and engaging them, and fields of resistance to a variety of "monogamy stories" within and beyond the academy. The course will draw in particular on feminist critiques of the nuclear family, queer historicizations of sexuality, and science studies approaches to frame critical questions about what monogamy is and what discourses surrounding it can do. Through historical analysis and critical theory, the class will foreground the racial and national formations that produce "monogamy" as we know it. Students will develop skills in critical science literacy, interdisciplinary and collaborative research methodologies, and writing in a variety of modalities.


Readings will be available electronically.



The course will be largely discussion based, with a flexible lecture/discussion format.  Lectures will contextualize readings, not summarize them: it is imperative that students come prepared (with questions and comments) to discuss the key readings for each class period.  You are expected to bring all readings to class with you (see details under “participation”).

Course Objectives:

See course description.

Evaluation Criteria:

Note: You must complete all assignments to be eligible to receive an evaluation for this class. 

Participation: Attendance (both physical “showing up” and presence) is crucial as the learning goals for this class are cumulative.  Excused or unexcused, missed classes must be made up by writing a summary of each text assigned for the class period you are absent.  Summaries are due one week from the date of the missed class.

About “good” class participation: “Good” class participation does not necessarily mean talking the most. There are many ways to promote dialogue in class, including asking questions, noticing if others are silent and trying to make space for more timid voices, allowing silences just to “be” for a few moments (often silence is not emptiness but rather intense thinking), talking to each other and not just to the instructor, reminding yourself that the goal is not to be “right,” but to collaboratively work through issues and problems.

Additionally, you are expected to read closely and come prepared to discuss each author’s argument on its own terms and in relation to the larger themes of the course.  You should keep a notebook (digital or old school) of key concepts and quotes with page numbers from each of the readings and bring this to every class.  All readings must be brought with you to class.

Autobiographical Essay: In this first (2 page) assignment you should: (1) write a very brief autobiography of your life, (2) tracing events or experiences (academic and otherwise) that have influenced your interest in and knowledge about monogamy, and (3) explain how you think about monogamy’s place in sexuality studies. Additionally, spend approximately a paragraph at the end describing (4) your strengths and weaknesses as a student and as a writer.  It’s helpful to me to know what you’re working on.

End-of-Semester Final Thoughts Essay: For this 2 page essay you should: Re-read your autobiographical essay from the beginning of the term. In another brief essay, reconsider your views. What is the most important thing you have learned this semester?  Reflect on your understanding of monogamy studies and on your growth as a student and a writer.

Reading journals: careful reading is engaged reading, and writing is thinking, so in order to facilitate thoughtful engagement with the texts and the concepts they raise, every week you will submit a 1-2 page (single spaced) informal response. Responses may take a variety of forms, so long as they address the texts and weekly framing questions on Moodle.  Responses must be posted AT LEAST 24hrs before class (By Sunday at 4pm). 

Students will be grouped into online cohorts.  Each week you will write your response paper to your online group members and read and respond briefly to each of theirs (in a few sentences – asking a clarifying question, posing a challenge, following up on an insight you found useful, etc.). You will take turns briefly summarizing questions and key points from your group’s discussion in class.  You will have one “pass.”  A response not submitted by the deadline will count as your pass.  Any response not posted by the deadline after you have used your pass will impact my evaluation of your participation in the course.  In your evaluations, I will comment on your ability to synthesize material and on the thoughtfulness and depth of your engagement with the texts.

Book Reviews: You will be assigned an important and/or recent book related to the themes of the course to read carefully, summarize, and review.  Book reviews will be peer-reviewed, revised, and rewritten.  In your evaluations, I will comment on your understanding of the book, your success at connecting its argument to broader themes of the course, the thoughtfulness and depth of your engagement, and, importantly, the quality of your participation in the peer review process: as both a reviewer and in responding to reader feedback in your revisions.

Critical Monogamy Studies Op-ed Project: Guidelines for this project will be distributed and discussed in class.