Literature and the Workplace
English 385.A1 (Accelerated) - Fall 2005

Dr. Kristi Siegel

Associate Professor and Chair, Division of Languages, Literature, and Communication
Wednesdays (August 17 – October 5), 6:00 – 9:50 p.m.,
NDH 247
Office: Notre Dame Hall, Room 239
Office hours: 4:00-5:50 pm – Wednesdays, and by appointment
Phone: 258-4810, ext. 395
e-mail: please send to both

Please note!! Discussion questions for Wednesday's class (Sept. 7) are posted below under "Week Four - September 7."

Course Description and Objectives:

Literature and the Workplace will explore how literature relates to business and work. Although we spend most of our lives “working,” we often give the concept of “work” little thought; literature provides a means to examine the workplace. What are some of the stereotypes that have been leveled at women in the workplace? What are the interpersonal dynamics of the workplace? What values, ethics, inequities, and challenges are evident in workplace literature? What is the definition of success? What are the outcomes of work? (both positive and negative). Selections from drama, short stories, a novel, poetry, cultural theory, music, and movies will serve as a basis to examine central issues in commerce, e.g., interpersonal relationships, the ethics of business, definitions of success, and what we see as the “American dream.”


  • to appreciate and discuss how literature relates to everyday workplace or business dynamics;
  • to consider how men and women or women and women relate in the workplace;
  • to examine definitions of success in light of differing concepts of the “American Dream” and career goals in general;
  • to consider the stereotypes about the workplace literature reinforces or disputes;
  • to respond articulately to literature through discussion, writing, and oral presentation.

Required Texts:

  • Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller. Penguin Books, 1998.
  • Women & Fiction: Short Stories By and About Women. Ed. Susan Cahill. Signet Classics: 2002.
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café. Fanny Flagg. Ballantine: 2000.
  • Numerous handouts of short stories and poetry (make sure to have a folder or binder to organize the handouts)

[See Course Policies below]

From Nine to Five: Literature and the Workplace
Course Calendar

Unit I – (Weeks 1 –3) Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus

  • What does literature have to tell us about the relationships between men and women?
  • How do men and women relate in the workplace?
  • What stereotypes are associated with men and women in the workplace?
  • Do men and women communicate differently? (yes, I know – a whopping generalization here)
Prior to Week One
  • Read “White Tigers” excerpt from A Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston (handout)
  • “Why It’s Great to be a Guy” – e-mail excerpt
  • “Composite of a Romance Tip Sheet”
  • List the ways in which Fa Mu Lan defies typical stereotypes about women
  • List the stereotypes about women implied in the e-mail excerpt
  • Based on the information in the “Romance Tip Sheet” what are the desirable qualities of a romance heroine?
Week One August 17
  • Introduction to course and to each other
  • Discussion of syllabus, assignments, course expectations
  • Lecture and Discussion: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: How Have Women Been Depicted in Literature and Culture?”
  • “White Tigers” excerpt from A Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston.
  • “Why It’s Great to be a Guy” – e-mail excerpt
  • “Composite of a Romance Tip Sheet”
Movie Clips:
  • The Women – Dir. Geoge Cukor. Norma Shearer. Rosalind Russell. 1939.
  • Sleeping Beauty (Disney version – 1959)
  • Cinderella (Disney version – 1950)
  • Discussion of stereotypes implicit in e-mail and Tip Sheet and defied in Kingston excerpt
  • For next class, consider what fairy tale, nursery rhyme, movie, story, etc., was particularly influential. What about it appealed to you? What messages to young women do you see in it now?
  • Essay assigned (handout)
Week Two August 24
Short Stories:
  • “Cinderella” – Anne Sexton (poetry packet)
Movie Clips:
  • Mr. Mom (Dir. Stan Dragoti. Michael Keaton. Teri Garr. 1983)
Audio Clips:
  • Hey There, Little Red Riding Hood – Sam the Sham (1960s)
  • Where Have all the Cowboys Gone – Paula Cole (1990s)
  • Discussion of readings and discussion topic question
  • Handout on creating discussion questions
  • Oral reports
  • Read Woolf’s essay and write a response. Do you feel women still have an “Angel in the House”?
  • Consider Woolf’s the second inhibition discusses. Are women still uncomfortable talking and writing about their bodies?
Week Three August 31
Critical Theory:
  • “Professions for Women” – Virginia Woolf

Short Stories:

  • “Like a Winding Sheet” – Ann Petry, p. 171
  • “Seventeen Syllables” – Hisaye Yamamato


  • “Women” – May Swenson

Movie Clip and Review:

  • Adam’s Rib (Dir. George Cukor. Kathryn Hepburn. Spencer Tracy. 1949)

  • Discussion of questions on Woolf’s essay.
  • Discussion of readings.
  • Oral reports
  • For next class, read “The Site of Motherhood” – does Western culture value motherhood? What is your definition of “work”?

Unit II – (Weeks 4 & 5) Working Girl or Baby Boom: Women and Work

  • How do women relate to one another in the workplace?
  • How have “career” women been depicted?
  • What obstacles have women faced? What challenges do women face now?
  • What positive models of women-to-women workplace dynamics can you identify? negative models?
  • Does the myth of the “superwoman” still persist?
Week Four Sept. 7

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Each answer should be at least one fully developed paragraph; mail your answers to by Friday, September 9. Also, please remember to send the thesis for your essay!

  1. Read "The Site of Motherhood." How do you feel American culture views motherhood? Justify your answer with specific examples.
  2. Read "The Office." In a famous essay by Virginia Woolf, she commented that in order to write a woman must have a "room of one's own." However, is that enough? What do the experiences of the woman in "The Office" suggest?
  3. Read "Winter Night." What opinion do you have of Felicia's mother? On what details, specifically, do you base your opinion?
  4. Read "Two Kinds." Is the mother's strong desire to have her daughter succeed characteristic only of parents who are immigrants, or is this desire universal?
  5. Discuss the main point in one of the three poems: "The Secretary Chant," "Sadie and Maud," or "Superwoman."

Critical Theory:

  • Excerpt from Women’s Autobiographies, Culture, Feminism, Peter Lang Publishing: 1999, 2001. Kristi Siegel, “The Site of Motherhood” (handout)

Short Stories:

  • “The Office” – Alice Munro, p. 373
  • “Winter Night” – Kay Boyle, p. 113
  • “Two Kinds– Amy Tan


  • “The Secretary Chant” – Marge Piercy (poetry packet)
  • “Sadie and Maud” – Gwendolyn Brooks (poetry packet)
  • “Superwoman” – Anne Petker Dicken (poetry packet)

Movie clips:

  • Working Girl (Dir. Mike Nichols. Melanie Griffith. Harrison Ford. 1988)
  • Baby Boom (Dir. Charles Shyer. Diane Keaton. Sam Shepherd 1987)

  • Discussion of questions on “The Site of Motherhood”
  • Discussion of readings
  • Oral reports
  • For next class, complete three discussion questions on Fried Green Tomatoes (these will be collected; be prepared to answer your own questions).
  • Complete essay - due next class.
Week Five
Sept. 14

Discussion questions collected.
Essay collected.

  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café – Fannie Flagg
  • Fried Green Tomatoes (Dir. Jon Avnet. Kathy Bates. Mary Stuart Masterson. Jessica Tandy. 1991)
  • Discussion of Fried Green Tomatoes
  • For next class, bring in your definition of “success.”


Unit III – (Weeks 6 & 7) The American Dream, The American Nightmare

  • What does literature tell us about the American Dream (or materialistic dreams in general)?
  • What is your definition of success? failure? happiness? greed?
  • How will you know when you’ve attained your goals?
  • Do you feel America is the “land of (equal) opportunity”?
Week Six Sept. 21
Short Stories:
  • “Dream Deferred” – Langston Hughes (poetry packet)
  • “For a Lady I Know” – Countee Cullen (poetry packet)
  • “The World is Too Much with Us” – William Wordsworth (poetry packet)
Movie Clip:
  • Review of Wall Street – Roger Ebert
  • Wall Street. (Dir. Oliver Stone. Charlie Sheen. Michael Douglas. 1987)
  • Discussion of “success” definitions
  • Oral Reports
  • Discussion of readings
  • Review for short-answer exam next class
  • For next class, consider whether we (Western culture) face more pressures now than in the early 1900s. How has the role of women changed? Do we have fewer obstacles or more challenges?
Week Seven Sept. 28
Exam (short-answer questions)
  • Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller
  • Death of a Salesman (Broadway Theatre Archive. Dir. Alex Segal, Lee J. Cobb, George Segal, 1966)


  • Discussion of role of men/women in today’s society.
  • Discussion of Death of a Salesman
  • Short-answer exam
  • For next class, complete final project.
Week Eight Oct. 5 Summing Up

Presentations of Final Projects
Course Evaluations


Bibliography (Additional texts of interest – not required):

  • Talking from 9 to 5. Women and Men in the Workplace: Language, Sex and Power. Deborah Tannen. Avon Books: 1995.
  • Working: People Talking About What They Do all Day and How They Feel about What They Do. Studs Terkel. New Press. 1997.
  • The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation. Jim Cullen. Oxford UP, 2002.
  • Beyond Work-Family Balance: Advancing Gender Equity and Workplace Performance. Rona Rapoport. Josey-Bass, 2001.
  • Race, Gender, and Work: A Multicultural Economic History of Women in the United States. Teresa L. Amott. South Bend Press, 1996.
  • The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How it has Undermined Women. Susan Douglas. Free Press, 2004.

Important Academic Dates:

  • Thursday, August 11, 2005 - Accelerated New Student Orientation
  • Monday, September 5 - Labor Day (no classes)
  • Friday, September 23, 2005 - Accelerated Term 1--Last Day to Withdraw from Classes
  • Monday, October 10, 2005 - Accelerated Term 1 ends

Attendance Policies – Accelerated Format:
Student attendance at each class is essential.

  • If you have to miss a class for any reason please contact the teacher ahead of time, or to leave a message for the instructor call the Center for Educational & Professional Advancement at 414-256-1252.
  • You are responsible for making up missed work, obtaining class notes, or, at the discretion of your instructor, you may be given an alternative assignment.
  • For an 8-week course a second absence from the same course lowers your grade one full letter grade; e.g. from a “B” to a “BC.”
  • For an 8-week course the third absence from the same course will result in a grade of an “F,” or you may withdraw if the accelerated withdrawal deadline has not passed.

Course Expectations – Accelerated Format:

  • Accelerated courses meet in five 8-week terms each year. Your course can meet for 8 weeks or 4 weeks, rather than a 16-week semester. The accelerated course content is the same as a 16-week class. Because less time is spent in class, your courses will be more intense with a heavy workload.
  • An assignment is due on the first night of your class. To prepare, obtain your textbook and class syllabus from MMC Bookstore two weeks prior to the start of the term.
  • You are expected to learn more of the class material outside of class. You may have double the homework of a regular class, and you could have group work assignments.
  • It is essential to come to every class and to come to every class prepared.
  • Remember your course meets one night a week; you must learn larger blocks of material for each week.
  • Talk with the teacher early if you are having problems. There is no time to let things ride.
  • Go to the Academic Resource Center early (this is a free student service); get a tutor early.

Please Note

All students have the right to expect equal treatment and equal opportunity; if you have a disability or special need, please meet with me privately to discuss any accommodations you might need. Thank you.

Course Assignments:

  • One essay (at least four full typed pages) due on Week 5 treating one or more of the assigned topics or readings – 20%
  • Prepared discussion questions on one of the readings (this assignment will be explained in class) – 5%
  • One oral presentation on a poem or short story – 10%
  • Short answer exam (on week 7) – 25%
  • Final project (and presentation of project, if applicable) – 30%
  • Incredibly good, articulate, and enthusiastic participation in class discussions – 10%

Late Papers:
Late papers will not be accepted without serious cause and may be subject to a lower grade.


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