Author Archives: ltb22

Respond to Camille Paglia on Katy Perry and Taylor Swift [critical writing]

Today’s readings include a piece by Camille Paglia entitled “Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Hollywood Are Ruining Women.” This piece has provoked a lot of responses–let’s hear yours. Write a thorough critique of the article. What is her argument? Which points do you agree with, and which not? Is Paglia’s evidence solid?


Gender in heavy metal or rap [critical writing]

The readings for today highlight some of the ways that women are portrayed in lyrics and music videos in heavy metal and rap.

For this assignment, choose a song from one of these genres and write a thorough analysis of it. (You can also analyze the video, if there is one.) How are women portrayed in the song? Does the song illustrate (or counter) any of the common themes described in the readings? How do the music, lyrics and/or images work together?


How not to write about female musicians: examples [participation]

In today’s class, we’ll be discussing criticism of female rock and pop musicians. In her article, “How Not to Write About Female Musicians: A Handy Guide,” Maura Johnson highlights some of the ways that sexism becomes apparent in criticism.

Find an example or two that illustrate one or more of her points from recent articles in music blogs, magazines, etc. Send them to me before class, and be prepared to lead class discussion about your example.


Response paper to “Free to Be You and Me” [critical writing]

The album Free to Be You and Me was released by the Ms. Foundation for Women in 1972–a television special followed several years later–and it was intended to encourage gender neutrality.
We’ll be listening to some excerpts for class today, but for this assignment, you should listen to the whole album. Write a critical response. How do the songs challenge traditional gender roles or stereotypes? Do the messages of these songs hold up in 2013?


Blueswomen: other views [research]

Hazel Carby’s essay, “‘It Jus’ Be’s Dat Way Sometime’: The Sexual Politics of Women’s Blues” has been influential on scholarship and criticism about black women in blues and jazz. It has also produced some dissenting responses from other feminist scholars. Find a scholarly book or article that responds to Carby. Provide a citation to this source, and briefly summarize the other viewpoint.


Blackboard engagement [participation]

Earn one participation credit for regularly starting, reading, and commenting on Blackboard discussion threads.

You should start at least one thread during the semester about a topic related to the class, and also comment meaningfully on your classmates’ posts and assignment responses (in other words: ask a follow-up question, provide additions or constructive feedback, offer some reflections, etc.) at least four times–and more would be good!

Toward the end of the semester, you should send me an e-mail with a list of your posts.

Dressing for success (or failure!) [participation]

In class today, we’ll be considering how the way a woman looks on stage contributes to the way audiences and critics perceive her performance. To earn a participation credit for today, e-mail me ahead of time with at least two examples we can use in class for discussion. These can be controversies over a female musician’s dress or looks, images, video clips, etc., from any historical period. Include a few sentences about why you think your examples are significant or interesting, and be prepared to explain them in class.


Suffrage song analyses [critical writing]

Take one of the songs on the listening list for today, which all either support or caricature the women’s suffrage movement in some way. Write a detailed, 1-page analysis of the song. Your discussion should include both the lyrics and the music.

What is the form of the song? What message do the lyrics send, and how do they send it? How does the music support or alter the meaning of the lyrics? (Listen for the use of major or minor keys, the tempo, the way the performer sings, etc.)


Chorus girls [research]

Search through a historical publication (you can use a ProQuest historical newspapers database, the Library of Congress,, or another database with historical periodicals) for articles about chorus girls between about 1880 and 1930. I recommend the Police Gazette.

Post links/images/excerpts from some of your most interesting findings in the “Chorus Girls” thread on Blackboard. You should also comment on your own findings or those of your classmates–how are chorus girls usually characterized in newspaper and magazine reports?