GRSJ 224F (3 cr): Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice in Literature


This is a second-year course that assumes you have a working familiarity with reading and writing about issues and theories of gender, sexuality, race, and social justice. Ideally, you will have taken GRSJ 101 but it is not a prerequisite.

Course Description

This course was created with Oscar Wilde’s assertion that “Literature reflects society and society shapes literature” kept closely in mind.

In this course we will be considering some of the ways that literature can both shape and reflect the ways that we think about gender, race, sexuality, and social justice. We will be thinking critically about the impact that authors, artists, and theorists have on the ways we think about bodies, desire, partnerships, life arrangements, priorities, and choices—of ourselves and of others. We will consider what traditions authors and theorists are resisting, and what new directions their works might lead us. We will be reading both critical theory and literary texts to better understand the ways that sexual identities, practices and politics are shaped by their respective societal definitions of gender norms and constructions of sexual taboos, which are, in turn, constricted by overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination, persecution, and subjugation; such as those based on age, gender, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, sexuality, as well as historical practices of colonialism and environmental exploitation.

This course engages with complex discussions and we will deal with sensitive material about controversial topics. Therefore, content of this course will include topics that may be difficult for some people to confront or discuss.

Course Structure

This course is entirely online, and Canvas is the learning technology we will use. The course is organized by modules and each module divided into weeks. Each week will have assigned readings and a series of Instructor’s notes. Throughout the course there are graded tasks (five quizzes, five 250-350 word written assignments, and a larger video or written project) that will be based upon readings, the content of the instructor’s notes, and independent research for the larger video and written project. All of your assignments will be submitted online. You will have chances to interact with your instructor and other students via the Chat Room. Your instructor will be available by email.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Expand and refine competencies of reading, thinking, and writing critically about complex social issues as they are represented in theory and in literature.
    1. Identify and describe different manifestations of social justice/injustice and discern the cultural complexities inherent in those manifestations.
    2. Recognise and critically analyze cultural norms and biases in a way that leads to an understanding of how norms and biases affect world-views.
    3. Identify, describe, and analyze important issues of social justice in literature from an erudite theoretical perspective.
    4. Ascertain and describe how power, positionality, privilege, and other sociostructural factors impact people locally and globally.
  2. Increase capacity to analyze cultural texts and contexts, and apply appropriate theoretical models to those texts and contexts.
    1. Describe how social sciences, historical precedents, social theories, culture, and ethics are integral to development of an informed approach to social justice/injustice issues in literature.
    2. Use critical theory in innovative, integrative, and analytical ways to address literary and theoretical representations of social justice/injustice.
    3. Demonstrate an effective knowledge of critical tools and theories pertinent to the study of social structures and changes as they are relevant to literary representations of social justice/injustice.
  3. Enhance abilities to entertain and engage with conflicting arguments, viewpoints, andbeliefs—and to assess information effectively and accurately.
    1. Identify and describe the implications of interpersonal and structural discrimination, and unequal distribution and access to power and resources.
    2. Pinpoint and discuss barriers to equality, equity, and inclusiveness.
    3. Characterize and describe the hegemonic structures and practices that foster social injustice and oppression.

Learning Materials

Most of the reading material for this course will be provided via online reserves available as digital texts from UBC library. However, you are responsible for purchasing these four texts—all of them are available as e-books, or hard copies can be ordered from the UBC bookstore. Please note, your instructor will be referring to pages as they appear in the digital versions.

Burns, Anna. Milkman. Greywolf Press, 2018.
360 pages

Rosenberg, Jordy. Confessions of the Fox: A Novel. Random House Publishing Group, 2018.
303 pages

Rushdie, Salman. Quichotte: A Novel. Knopf Canada, 2019.
393 pages

Shafak, Elif. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World. Bloomsbury, 2019.
313 pages

Assessments of Learning

5 X 400-500 word assignments (5 X 5 = 25%)

5 X short quizzes (5 X 5 = 25%)

1 X 1350–1500 word research paper (25%)

1 X Final Exam (25%)


Textbook Order Form

GRSJ 224F Textbook order form (updated Aug 2020)