Section 30 T/Th 1: 15-2: 30 Phone (919) 475-5992 Location

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Beauty, Brains, and God: Women and Religion in the South

Writing 20: Academic Writing
Professor Mandy McMichael Section 30 T/Th 1:15-2:30

Phone (919) 475-5992 Location 118 Friedl Building


Office 105 Art Building Office Hours T 2:30-4:30 and by appointment
Welcome to Duke and to Writing 20! I’m so glad to meet all of you and hope you are ready for a fun and challenging semester. I look forward to a wonderful class as we work together to become better writers. I also look forward to getting to know you better.


As the only course taken by all undergraduates, Writing 20 claims a unique importance in Duke’s curriculum. This should tell you something about the value Duke places on academic writing. All of your colleagues are taking (or will take) this course. While each section of Writing 20 is different, all instructors of Writing 20 uphold a common set of goals and practices (see below). Writing 20 offers you a set of academic tools that will prepare you for courses at Duke. It will introduce you to practices of reading, thinking, writing, and criticism that you will be expected to implement in other classes. And with any luck, Writing 20 will demonstrate to you the rewards and challenges of involving yourself in academic conversations.
Course Description

Throughout American religious history, women have constituted the majority of churchgoers in America. Because women have not often been the “leaders” of these traditions, however, scholars of American religion have understudied their presence and experiences. A recent trend in religious scholarship to move beyond the study of religious leaders and their ideas has prompted increased study of women and other “outsider” groups. Scholars are realizing the importance of women’s religious experience to understanding religion in America as a whole. This course picks up on this thread.

In this course, we will read pieces written by both Christian women themselves and scholars chronicling Christian women’s experience. We will be examining the ways in which they communicate the same experience or set of beliefs differently. More specifically, we will be reading for evidence that religion has constructed, defined, and regulated gender roles for women and writing about the ways in which women have negotiated (accepted, modified, and/or challenged) these boundaries. What have women written about the “limits” that institutional religion has placed on their minds and bodies? How have they understood their womanhood within the kingdom of God and how have they communicated it to others? How have scholars written about the religious lives of women? We will wrestle with these and other questions as we read and write about southern women’s religious experiences.
Remember, learning to understand and then engage in academic discourse is a long process. Be patient with yourself, your classmates, and me as we embark on this journey together. You will find information about the writing assignments below. I look forward to an exciting semester with you!
Course Narrative

This course is organized around the writing projects detailed below, so read this section carefully. The main writing projects for this course are divided into two categories: blog entries and formal assignments. Though I have divided blog entries and formal assignments into separate categories, they are not unrelated. Blog entries will serve as rough drafts of your essays, either directly or indirectly. Likewise, some of your essays will become “first drafts” of your major projects. Thus, you should think of writing projects as works-in-progress rather than “assignments” to be completed by an assigned date and then forgotten. There are deadlines, of course, and penalties for missing them. But I encourage you to think of each writing project as a building block for the next project.

Throughout the semester, you will write post 4 blogs on the blackboard site for this course. These short pieces will always be due on Tuesdays, inviting you to reflect on the reading for the week or some other aspect of the course. In addition to your 4 posts, you’ll be responsible for writing at least 8 comments on other posts throughout the semester. The directions for each post will be slightly different, but each will relate to one of the “big” questions of the course. How has religion constructed, defined, and regulated gender roles for women? How have women negotiated these roles? These brief reflections will provide starting points for the first three essays discussed below.
The formal assignments include five essays and two major projects. The first three essays ask you to deploy writing moves described in Joseph Harris’s book Rewriting, which we’ll read together. These brief essays will probe into the ways in which women experience religion and/or the ways in which Christian women’s experience is chronicled by scholars. You’ll expand one of those essays into your first major project, a critical book review of God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission, similar to those written for popular journals. These preliminary exercises in formulating, articulating, and supporting an argument will prepare you to take on the final three writing projects.
After fall break, you’ll write two more “essays:” a movie review of The Eyes of Tammy Faye and a research proposal. The second of these essays will allow you to explore a topic that will serve as the basis for your second major project. In the final research project, you will analyze the role gender played in religion at a historical moment (or within a religious group) in the South. As you enter this ongoing academic discussion, you will strive to find and employ persuasive writing techniques that allow you to make your own argument regarding the ways in which Christian women in the South have accepted, modified, and/or challenged religious boundaries. You will also be required to offer a short oral presentation on your second major project.
I’ll ask you to do two other types of writing at various points in the semester. First, I’ll often assign brief, ungraded in-class writings based on the class reading or discussion. You’ll need to keep up with the course reading in order to complete these projects. Second, I’ll ask you to write workshop critiques of your classmates’ major project drafts. These critiques are 300-500 word documents in which you critically appraise your peers’ drafts of essays and major projects. Because academic writing is a social process, you will also share drafts of your major writing projects with your classmates, who will help you to think about how to revise and strengthen them.
Don’t worry about memorizing all these details – I will provide prompts for every assignment in class. By the end of this course, you will have practiced a variety of writing skills—including researching, drafting, workshopping, revising, and editing—and undertaken two major projects. If you actively engage in the work of this class, you will leave the course with a renewed sense of confidence in your ability to tackle a host of academic writing projects. That is certainly my hope for each of you.
Goals & Practices

While many of the specific features of academic writing vary from discipline to discipline, students in all sections of Writing 20 learn how to:

  • Engage with the work of others

  • Articulate a position

  • Situate their writing within specific contexts

The actual labor of producing a written academic argument usually involves taking a text through several drafts. In developing their work-in-progress, students in all sections of Writing 20 practice are offered practice in:

  • Researching

  • Workshopping

  • Revising

  • Editing

Please see for more explanation of these goals and practices.

Course Objectives

In addition to the universal Writing 20 goals outlines above, there are several additional objectives that I would like to help you achieve in our class:

  • Begin to read texts with “double vision” (this means you will start to analyze the delivery and presentation of ideas, as well as the content)

  • Identify your individual strengths and growth areas as a writer

  • Develop an ability to write academic summaries and critiques of articles, books, and movies

  • Enhance your ability to give and receive constructive feedback (both on the blackboard blog and in your workshop critiques)

  • Gain an appreciation for crisp, clear prose and seek to model it in your own writing

  • Have fun with writing!

Assignments and Grading

There are five primary types of written assignments in this course: in-class writings (ICWs), blog entries (BEs), essays (Es), workshop critiques (WCs), and major projects (MPs). ICWs receive either a  (satisfactory), - (unsatisfactory), or a 0 (incomplete). If you miss class, you cannot make up an ICW. (I will, however, omit your lowest ICW mark when I calculate your final grade.) Your ICW marks will factor into your class involvement grade. WCs will be graded in the same way, but they constitute a category of their own in the grading rubric.

I assign letter grades to essays and final drafts of major projects. There will be 5 essays and 2 mjor projects. If you turn in a late draft for one of the major projects, your grade on that project will drop one letter for each day late. Late essays will be penalized one partial step (i.e., A to A-) for each day late. I may grant extensions for extenuating circumstances if you request an extension at least 24 hours prior to the due date.
Your final grade for this course will reflect the quality of your writing as well as the quality of your course participation. Thus, your reflections on the common reading, your participation in workshops, discussions, etc. and the quality of your ICWs will all factor into your grade for the course. Twice during the semester (at midterm and at the end), I will provide you with a summative evaluation of your performance on blog posts, workshop critiques, and class involvement.
Grade Breakdown:

25% - Essays (Es)

15% - Final Draft of MP1

20% - Final Draft of MP2

5% - Student Panels

3% - Library day exercises

12% - Blog Posts and Comments

10% - Workshop Critiques (WCs)

10% - Quality of Class Participation (including contributions to discussion, group work, workshops, and conferences; quality of in-class writing; and timeliness in turning in all assignments and drafts)
Format of Written Work

Written work should be typed in a standard word processing program (preferably MS Word) and double-spaced. Please use 12-point font in either Times New Roman or Garamond. I expect you to edit or proofread all written work (even first drafts!). I will not edit your paper for grammatical errors. Good grammar is an assumed pre-requisite for this class. Please give each piece of writing an original title, use page numbers on multi-page assignments, and include your name, assignment, and the due date in a header on the first page. Save the assignment using the following format: last name_first name initial – due date.doc (e.g. McMichael_M – 8.26.08.doc). All work should be posted on the class Blackboard site under “Assignments” (unless otherwise noted). In addition, you should always print a copy of your work and bring it to class on the due date (excepting your blog posts and comments).

Absence Policy

I expect you to attend all scheduled class meetings (including a movie viewing), but I understand that conflicts inevitably arise. I allow each student three absences without penalty. (One exception: absences on the days when your writing is to be discussed in a seminar workshop or a peer-critique group will be penalized.) Each absence after the third—regardless of the reason—will result in a partial-step drop in your final course grade (e.g. an A- becomes a B+, a B becomes a B-, and so on). If severe illness or an emergency causes you to miss more than three class meetings, it is your responsibility to discuss the situation with me. Otherwise, you are wholly responsible for ensuring you miss no more than three class meetings (and preferably fewer!). Because of the stiff penalty for missing more than three classes, I suggest you reserve your absences for illness, nonnegotiable engagements away from campus, and true emergencies. Missing class does not excuse you from learning what happened that day, and all assignments must be submitted on time unless you have cleared an alternate due date with me in advance. Two tardies (more than 5 minutes late to class) constitute an absence. Missing a scheduled conference with me also counts as an absence.

Why the stringent attendance policy? It is important for you to be in class. Writing 20 operates as a seminar, where each participant’s contributions help us learn together. Your peers depend on your for analysis of the texts we read, critiques of their writing, and development of an academic community.

I will meet with each of you one-on-one at least once during the semester. I am happy to meet with you as often as you find helpful. One-on-one conferences offer the advantage of discussion about your writing, and often some of the best revision ideas emerge out of these conferences. Please feel free to schedule a conference with me whenever you want to discuss a writing project, course readings, or other academic matters. I plan to hold office hours on Tuesdays from 2:30-4:30 (location to be announced), but I am available to meet at many other times. The best way to set up an appointment is to email me.

You must schedule a one-on-one conference with me during the week after you submit the first draft of MP1; I will distribute a sign-up sheet for conferences during class time. There conference will be rather brief (15 minutes) and they will focus on how to revise your essay before submitting a second draft.

  • Attend class prepared and on time

  • Read the assigned materials

  • Thoughtful, considerate participation in class

  • Respect for the differing viewpoints that will inevitably be held by your classmates and/or authors of our texts (no personal attacks, please)

  • Complete all writing assignments on time

NOTE: Students with learning or other disabilities who believe that they may need accommodations in this class should visit to learn about Duke’s policies concerning academic accommodations. If you find that you do need accommodations due to a disability, please contact me by the end of the third week of class (September 11). All communication about disabilities will be kept confidential.

Plagiarism & Academic Honesty

Knowingly presenting someone else’s work as your own constitutes plagiarism. Plagiarism is one of the most serious offenses in academia because it undermines the community of integrity that supports a scholarly community. As such, the penalties for plagiarism are harsh. All instances of cheating and plagiarism will be referred to the Duke University Undergraduate Judicial Board (minor, first-time offenses may be settled by faculty-student resolution), and serious plagiarism will result in failure of the course. See for more details. If you have questions about citing sources or what constitutes plagiarism, visit and

I expect each student to uphold the Duke Community Standard. You may read it here:

Writing Studio

The writing studio is a great resource offered to Duke students. You can schedule an appointment at any stage of the writing process, whether you’re struggling to come up with an idea for a project of polishing a final draft. You can visit the Writing Studio in the Academic Advising Center during the day, at Lilly Library during the evenings, and at Perkins Library location at various hours. You may also make use of the Writing Studio’s e-tutor program. Visit the Writing Studio’s website ( to find out how to schedule an appointment and to access the studio’s online resources.

Required Textbooks

There are two required textbooks; both of them are available in the university bookstore.

Griffith, R. Marie. God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Sumission. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000.

Harris, Joseph. Rewriting: Doing Things With Texts. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2006.

Other readings will be available under “course documents” on Blackboard (
A Final Note

I want to help each of you succeed in improving, and enjoying, your pursuit of academic writing. We will all grow together in our writing this semester and that is quite an exciting prospect to me. I hope that you will seek me out if you have concerns about any aspect of the course. If you have questions about readings, assignments, feedback, or class activities, I want to answer them. That’s what I’m here for! I look forward to getting to know each of you better over the course of the semester!


Note: This schedule may change somewhat during the semester. All changes will be mentioned in class and announced via email. Readings marks (Bb) can be found under the “course documents” section of our Blackboard site. All assignments must be posted to Blackboard by the time they are due. Please bring hard copies of all assignments and reading materials to class.

Tuesday, August 26 – Introductions

Thursday, August 28 – “They Say/I Say,” Introduction (Bb); Ann Braude, “Women’s History Is American Religious History” (Bb)

Tuesday, September 2 – “Women and Religion in the South: Myth, Reality, and Meaning” (Bb)

Thursday, September 4 – Griffith, Introduction, Ch. 1

Tuesday, September 9 – Harris, ch. 1 (Coming to Terms); Griffith, Ch. 2

Thursday, September 11 – E1 due; Large group workshop

Tuesday, September 16 – Griffith, ch. 3-4

Thursday, September 18 – Griffith, ch. 5

Tuesday, September 23 – Harris, ch. 2 (Forwarding); Griffith, ch. 6

Thursday, September 25 – E2 due; Large group workshop

Tuesday, September 30 – Harris, ch. 3 (Countering); Griffith, Conclusion

Thursday, October 2 – E3 due, Large group workshop

Tuesday, October 7 – Harris, ch. 5 (Revising)

Thursday, October 9 – MP1.d1 due; Library Day in Divinity School library

Tuesday, October 14 – NO CLASS – FALL BREAK

Thursday, October 16 – WCs due; Small group workshops

Tuesday, October 21 – NO CLASS – Conferences with Instructor (bring revision plan)

Thursday, October 23 – MP1.d2 due; Deliberations exercise

**Monday, October 27** – E4 (research proposals) due at noon

Tuesday, October 28 – Library Instruction (class meets in Lilly Library)

Thursday, October 30 – Heyrman, “Mothers and Others in Israel” (Bb); a primary source TBD
Tuesday, November 4 – “Women and Southern Religion” (Bb); a primary source TBD

Thursday, November 6 – E5 (Movie Review) due; Elevator Speech Activity

Tuesday, November 11 – “Home and Hearth: Women, the Klan, Conservative Religion, and Traditional Family Values” (Bb); a primary source TBD

Thursday, November 13 – MP2.d1 due

Tuesday, November 18 – Writing Studio Workshop

Thursday, November 20 – WCs due; Small group workshops

Tuesday, November 25 – NO CLASS – MP2.d2 due at class time

Thursday, November 27 – NO CLASS – THANKSGIVING

Tuesday, December 2 – Student Panels

Thursday, December 4 – Students Panels

***Tuesday, December 10*** – MP2.d3 due at 9:00 am
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