I keep this page updated with links to the online syllabi of classes I teach. Current/most recent classes are at the top.
Open access is a central tenet of my feminist pedagogy, which means that you are welcome to share and adapt any of my teaching materials for your own classes. If you do, I would love to hear what you did and how it worked! You can contact me at alothian at umd dot edu. I appreciate but don’t expect citation for pedagogical use of my course material, but if you draw on this work for research or publication, formal citation is necessary.
In 2020, I had a reduced teaching load due to parental leave. I taught updated versions of two of my regular classes:
Producing Feminist Knowledge: Worldmaking and Critique in the Face of Violence, a fully online version of my department’s graduate feminist theory seminar.
Digital Feminisms, my freshman seminar in Design Cultures and Creativity, which transitioned to online format mid-semester alongside most other university courses in Spring 2020.
In Fall 2019, I taught these classes:
Producing Feminist Knowledge: Worldmaking and Critique in the Face of Violence, an updated version of the graduate seminar in feminist theory I am teaching for the third time.
Speculating Social Justice, a new version of my second-year workshop/seminar in Design Cultures and Creativity with a focus on radical imagination and politicized creative practice in speculative cultural production.
In Spring 2019, I taught these classes:
Digital Feminisms, a redesigned version of my regular freshman seminar in Design Cultures & Creativity. Here’s the course description:
How has the internet helped – and hindered – feminist activism? What is feminism anyway, and who is it for? Beginning with the power of the #metoo hashtag, which we will study alongside its limitations, this class will delve into the context and significance of online feminist movements. We will discuss the continuing relevance of pre-internet feminist discussions of race, gender, sexuality, and violence while we explore the affordances of digital media for political movements. Students will have the opportunity to pursue their own interests within the broad context of digital media and social justice.
Feminist Conflict, a senior seminar in Women’s Studies. Here’s the course description:
Why can’t we all just get along? This seminar will offer an opportunity to delve into the history, and the present, of conflict and disagreement within feminist movements––including the ongoing legacy of the 1980s clashes over porn and BDSM known as the sex wars, women of color and trans critiques of white cis feminist exclusion, and responses to abuse within social justice movements. Rather than seeing conflict as a failure to achieve goals of unity and progress, we will take feminisms’ fractures and disputes as opportunities to study how power and difference operate in struggles for social transformation. We will also ask what it might mean for conflict itself to be feminist. How can we apply feminist principles of justice and care in the most fraught situations, without eliding the structural issues that lead conflicts to develop?
In Fall 2018, I went on research leave and developed two new book projects (one collaborative, one single-authored) in fan studies.
In Spring 2018, I taught these classes:
Science Fiction for Social Justice, a 200-level Honors seminar with the following description:
In her 1993 novel Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler wrote: “There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.” This class will offer an opportunity to spend time under new suns, as they have been imagined by creators of speculative fiction whose radical imaginations challenge oppressive structures of gender, race, sexuality, capitalism, and empire. We will learn about the history and present of those structures by engaging deeply with the ways that people have imagined changing them. Paying special attention to the histories of feminist science fiction and Afrofuturism and their intersections, the creators with whom we will engage include Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Nnedi Okorafor, and Janelle Monae. In the new worlds, unexpected pasts, and transformative futures imagined by feminist, queer, and antiracist cultural producers, we will look for tools that open up possibilities for transforming our own present. Our assignments will include not only reading and discussing science fiction novels, short stories, and films, but also engaging with them in creative ways––adapting works for different forms, applying their insights to real-world situations, and building from their examples to create our own speculative worlds.
Gender, Race, and Labor in the Digital World, an updated version of my regular freshman seminar in Design Cultures & Creativity.
In Fall 2017, I taught these classes (both repeats of Fall 2016 classes with updated syllabi):
In Spring 2017, I went on research leave and finished my first book. It was wonderful.
In Fall 2016, I taught these classes:
Producing Feminist Knowledge: Worldmaking and Critique in the Face of Violence, the first graduate seminar in our Women’s Studies core doctoral sequence.
The catalogue description is:
Examines two fundamental concepts in women’s studies: intersectionality and interdisciplinarity. Looks at how feminisms have shaped and been shaped by knowledge-production within and across disciplinary boundaries, cultures, and paradigms. Develops an appreciation of intersectional theory as a critical research tool and as a set of responses to issues of power, domination, oppression and other loci of difference.
You can read my extended course description here.
I also taught, for the second time, my second-year workshop/seminar in Design Cultures & Creativity, Media, Culture, and Identity: Marginalized Perspectives.
From TV to Tumblr, media plays a big part in our understanding of who we are. It’s a source of knowledge, a powerful influence, and a means of expression. And it never fully represents the diversity and complexity of the world. In this course, we’ll develop our critical reading, viewing, playing, listening, and making skills in order to better understand how media shapes cultural perceptions of intersecting identity categories: gender, race and ethnicity, disability, class, and more. We’ll focus especially on the perspectives of activists, artists, fans, and everyday people who tend to be marginalized within mainstream media structures. We will study the ways in which feminists, LGBTQ people, people of color, and others with a wide range of identities and affiliations have created their own media to challenge or reinterpret dominant constructions of their identities and to develop critical narratives about culture, power, and oppression. As part of the class and in preparation for your capstone, you’ll build skills in creating and remixing media to reflect on your own relationship to culture and identity.
In Spring 2016, I taught these classes, both for the second time, with updated syllabi:
Gender, Race, and Labor in the Digital World, a freshman seminar with the following description:
The class will explore how the power structures of race and gender have been co-created with the development of digital technologies – even as feminist, queer, and antiracist movements have made the digital world their own since its earliest days. We’ll learn about the ways in which practices of media consumption, design, production, and critique connect privileged and disprivileged users in the US and elsewhere. We’ll look at our own position within global circuits of labor and as participants in the ways race, gender, disability, and class are represented and experienced online. And we’ll discover the practices that critical artists, thinkers, and media makers use as they work to creatively transform this unequal landscape.
Introduction to LGBTQ Studies, a class that doubles as a gen ed diversity/social studies requirement and a gateway to the LGBT Studies minor/certificate:
When asked about LGBT political issues, most people’s first thought will be of marriage equality, with perhaps some additional thoughts about workplace inclusion and hate crimes laws. Yet these are only a small part of the history and reach of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer movements and communities in the USA and beyond. In this class, we will take a broad perspective on the history and present of gender and sexuality. We’ll begin by exploring the social meanings of sex and gender, with the goal of understanding how institutional and interpersonal power relations affect all our experiences of identity and desire,. Then we will trace some histories of US-based LGBT social and cultural movements, discovering the conflicts and debates that have characterized this activist history on the streets, in the media, and in academia. Finally, we will engage our current moment, bringing an informed perspective to bear on LGBTQ media, art, and politics.
In Fall 2015, I taught these classes:
Transforming Cultures and Technologies: Gender, Race, and Digital Media, a special topics class in Women’s Studies – partially taught as a node in FemTechNet‘s Distributed Open Collaborative Course for 2015.
The class will explore how racialized and gendered power structures have been co-created with the development of digital technologies – even as feminist, queer, and antiracist movements have made the digital world their own since its earliest days. We will focus particularly on the many ways that marginalized communities, activists, and artists are creating and using digital tools. In addition to reading, writing, and experiencing media, students will make creative and collaborative projects such as digital games, remix videos, and social media archives.
Media, Culture & Identity, a seminar for second-year students in the Design Cultures and Creativity honors program who are beginning work on an interdisciplinary capstone project.
From TV to Tumblr, media plays a big part in our understanding of who we are. It’s a source of knowledge, a powerful influence, and a means of expression. In this course, we’ll look at how media shapes cultural perceptions of intersecting identity categories: gender, race and ethnicity, disability, class, and more. We’ll focus especially on the ways that activists, artists, fans, and everyday people have created their own media to challenge or reinterpret media constructions of their identities and to explore the complex and contradictory meanings of “identity” itself. As part of the class, you’ll practice creating and remixing media to reflect on your own relationship to culture and identity, and you will develop a proposal for a capstone project that may incorporate some of what we discuss in class.
In Spring 2015, I taught two small seminar classes: one for freshmen in the Design Cultures and Creativity honors program, and one for seniors in the LGBT Studies certificate or minor. These courses are giving me the opportunity to bring my research into the classroom and join with my students in exploring creative methodologies for humanities scholarship and pedagogy; it’s shaping up to be a wonderful semester.
Gender, Race and Labor in the Digital Age, a project-based freshman seminar, has the following course description:
Digital media technologies often seem to make the world a smaller place. But the capacity for many of us to chat, Skype, or share media with friends who are thousands of miles away can sometimes hide the ways that digital experience differs with gender, race, class, and location. This course explores the differential production of digital cultures through race, gender, and their intersections with other structures of identity and power. We’ll learn about the ways in which practices of media consumption, design, production, and critique connect privileged and disprivileged users in the US and elsewhere. We’ll look at our own position within global circuits of labor and as participants in the ways race, gender, disability, and class are represented and experienced online. And we’ll discover and experiment with the practices that critical artists, thinkers, hackers, and media makers use as they work to creatively transform this unequal landscape.
Queer Futures, the capstone seminar for LGBT Studies students, has this description:
The world of LGBTQ cultures and politics is a rapidly changing one. In this course, we’ll read scholarship and engage with fiction, art, and media whose focus has been on the meaning and possibility of a queerer future – one that would create transformative change in the structures of gender, sexuality, empire, race, and/or disability. These works, which describe diverse possibilities for refusing the status quo and/or imagining a different world, will provide a springboard for students’ own research into – and creation of – possible futures for LGBTQ culture, art, and activism.
In Fall 2014, I began my career at the University of Maryland’s LGBT Studies program with an introductory class in LGBT Studies. The course description is as follows:
When asked about gay and lesbian political issues, most people’s first thought will be of marriage equality, with perhaps some additional thoughts about workplace inclusion and hate crimes laws. Yet these are only a small part of the history and reach of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer movements and communities in the USA and beyond. In this class, we will take a broad perspective on the history and present of gender and sexuality. We’ll begin by exploring the social meanings of sex and gender, with the goal of understanding how institutional and interpersonal power relations affect all our experiences of identity and desire, regardless of our identifications. Then we will trace some histories of US-based LGBT social movements, discovering the conflicts and debates that have characterised this activist history on the streets, in the media, and in academia. Finally, we will engage with current debates, bringing an informed perspective to bear on pressing contemporary issues in LGBTQ studies and politics.
Introduction to LGBTQ Studies. I experimented with a few new elements in the course website, including a plugin for students to submit questions that can be anonymous if they like.
In Spring 2014, I taught two 200-level classes with a thematic and institutional link: both were part of the Women’s Studies program at IUP, and both gave me the opportunity to discuss the intersections of gender, race, biology, culture, and history with engaged and excited undergraduates…
In Fall 2013 at IUP, I taught a doctoral class titled “Archives and Feelings: A Seminar in Critical Methodologies and Cultural Politics.”
What is at stake when we sit down to create scholarly work? Who are we writing for, and why? What responsibilities do we have to publics outside of the academy, and what commitments do we honor other than our own career trajectories? How can our understandings of our role in knowledge production be transformed when we take seriously the uneven distributions of power by race, class, nation, gender, disability?
This seminar will explore these questions and more by reading recent work at the borders of critical theory, social justice, memoir, and fiction. We will focus particularly on the “affective turn” in cultural studies and on the intersections of queer studies, feminism, and critical race analysis, but students will work with with objects of their choice in order to think about the impact of this kind of theory on their own projects-in-process. Through experimentation and workshops in scholarly writing, students will produce work that engages a variety of voices and audiences.
We used CommentPress to create an ongoing writing workshop for students, who are writing short essays that draw on the readings to explore their own scholarly projects. Their work is locked on the site for privacy’s sake, but it was exciting and inspiring to read. I also wrote each of the assignments myself, which was a great exercise both personally and pedagogically.
In Summer 2013, I taught a queer studies seminar in IUP’s low residency doctoral program. The intensely engaged, thoughtful, and hard working students made this one of the most exciting teaching experiences of my career so far. Student work is locked down, but you can see the syllabus, schedule, and assignments –– as well as informal student blog posts –– at the website here: Sexuality, Race, and Space: Queer Literary and Cultural Theory
In Spring 2013, I taught a graduate course (cross listed in IUP’s Masters and doctoral programs in Literature and Criticism) titled American Futures: Science Fiction, Media, and Culture in the 20th Century. Here is the description:
“Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.” J. G. Ballard
“The boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.” Donna Haraway
The lines from Ballard and Haraway quoted above state something that has become a conversational commonplace in the early twenty-first century: we are living in the science fiction future. This class will examine the variety of futures American science fiction has imagined in the twentieth century, exploring the way familiar tropes developed in often-overlooked works of literature and visual culture before emerging into the mainstream through Hollywood film, network TV, popular music, and digital media. We will trace key histories of American literature, culture, media, and politics through our readings, while also contemplating the range of social realities that science or speculative fiction (we will discuss the contested meanings of both those terms throughout the class) seek to represent and critique. Questions of race and gender will be central to our inquiry.
As an Assistant Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, I designed versions of the university’s general education courses that meet the Liberal Studies program’s learning objectives through engaging students with the practice and theory of digital humanities, new media, and technoculture studies, as well as with literature and film.
I used public websites, run on WordPress, to organize the classes and open them up beyond the walled spaces of learning management software. Students must (with guidance) think through the consequences of online public speech as part of their participation in the classes.
My integration of Twitter and digital pedagogy in the design of these classes got a little attention in the digital humanities world, which was very gratifying. Chuck Rybak quoted a few things I said about Twitter and writing, along with my detailed rubric for evaluation of my first-year English class’s Twitter requirement, in his Storify, Helping Students to Write Better (with tweets). And Roger Whitson included my “Rage Against the Machine” class in his round up of digital humanities-oriented syllabi at Digital Culture Now. I love engaging in public conversation about teaching and seeing what others are doing with their classes; I definitely consider all of the syllabi linked above to be open source documents from which other teachers should borrow as they see fit.
As a graduate student, I had a lot of varied opportunities to teach. I’m most proud of the literature and writing seminar I designed in USC’s Thematic Option undergraduate honors program, titled Future Generations: Narratives of Reproductive Speculation. Here is the syllabus. For this intimate seminar setting I chose to host the class at Dreamwidth, a community-oriented site that places a lot of emphasis on privacy and allowed students finely grained control over who could access their postings.
The student work produced in an open, creative assignment in this class was truly wonderful, ranging from dystopian fiction to original theatre. One student made this powerful remix music video , crafting an argument about the use of drugs to obfuscate the possibility of dissent in Brave New World, Children of Men, and the contemporary US. And this rage comic, which was submitted accompanied by a critical meditation on the reproduction of ideas in internet memes, is––at least for the meme-literate––a glorious testimony to the transformative power of encountering new ideas.