This course explores the art and activism of Audre Lorde, a self-proclaimed “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” Throughout the late twentieth century, Lorde was a prominent cultural critic who analyzed the intersections of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Her work emerged from and inspired the Women’s Movement, the Black Power Movement, and the Gay and Lesbian Movement. Famously, she insisted that art (and poetry in particular) is not a “luxury” but a means of survival for women, people of color, people who are gay, lesbian, and queer, and people from other marginalized groups. In this course, we will analyze Lorde’s poems, essays in Sister Outsider, hybrid “biomythology” Zami, reflections on illness in The Cancer Journals, and teaching materials, as well as her impact on contemporary writers and activists. Note: this course emphasizes experimentation, creativity, collaboration, and student-centered learning. Together we will work, in Lorde’s words, to “envision what has not been and…make the reality and pursuit of that vision irresistible.”


In this course, you will learn 

  • To closely read and analyze literary texts, especially in relation to the material, economic, social, and political conditions in which they were produced.
  • To read critically and creatively and draw connections among a wide variety of texts.
  • To make persuasive arguments that are organized and supported by sufficient evidence.
  • To communicate with different audiences and in different contexts, with an emphasis on digital publishing.
  • To collaborate effectively, for the maximum benefit of everyone in the group.
  • To teach complex material to students with different learning styles. 


25% Attendance, participation, homework
30% Blog post, facilitation, comments 
25% Student-Led Lesson
20% Recap post for


All additional readings will be available on our course website.
Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider (Crossing Press, 2007) 9781580911863.
Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (Crossing Press, 1982) 18190883.


Class URL:

This semester, instead of Blackboard, our course will use a customized site built using the content management system. is the free, open-source software upon which 34% of the world’s websites are built. 

One-time registration: Before you are able to access readings and write blogs on our course site, you will need to register. For this course, you will be writing blogs that are publicly available. For that reason, I encourage you to sign up for an account with a username that will not disclose your identity. Often, students choose to use their first name and last initial. 

From the homepage click “Register.” Your username and name should include your first name and last initial and I recommend you set “Who is allowed to see this field?” to “All Members” so that only our class can identify you. Remember to save your username and password! 

Once you are registered, you will be able to access readings and write blogs and comments by logging in to our class site using your username and password. 


Academic integrity: Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students who cheat or plagiarize will be disciplined according to the guidelines in chapter 340 of the College Handbook. All students are expected to have read this chapter and to understand the Handbook’s definitions of these terms. 

Accommodation of disabilities: As part of SUNY Cortland’s commitment to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment, we strive to provide students with disabilities with equal access to all courses. If you believe you will require accommodations in this course, please place a request with the Disability Resources Office (DRO) in Van Hoesen Hall, B-1 or by visiting the DRO website or calling 607-753-2967. Since accommodations require early planning and generally are not provided retroactively, please contact DRO as soon as possible. You are encouraged to meet with your instructor to discuss other strategies that could also be helpful.

Attendance: All students are given three absences. All subsequent absences will reduce your final grade by one-third of a letter grade. For example: if you earn a B+ but miss four classes, you will earn a B. Two late arrivals constitute an absence. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to contact other students and find out what you missed. 

Diversity and inclusion: I believe that the different perspectives you bring to our readings, discussions, and assignments are a tremendous benefit to all. It is my intent that students from diverse backgrounds will be well served by this course and that the materials presented will respect differences of gender, sexuality, disability, age, class, ethnicity, race, and culture. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. For more info, see chapter 130 of the College Handbook and the Institutional Equity and Inclusion Office

Respectful discussion: Discussion is encouraged but you must always be respectful of ideas shared by your peers; the classroom should be a challenging, fun, and positive place for all.

Submission of work: All work in this class should be properly cited according to the Modern Language Association (MLA) specifications. For blog posts you may use a combination of hyperlinks and MLA style citations. Unless otherwise stated, all formal writing assignments should be submitted in hard copy (printed), with 12 pt, Times New Roman font, double-spaced, with one-inch margins, and your last name and page number in the upper righthand corner of the document. Your grade will decrease one step every day an assignment is late (ex. 1 day late a B+ becomes a B, 2 days late a B+ becomes a B-).

Title IX: Title IX, when combined with New York Human Rights Law and the New York Education Law 129-B, prohibits discrimination, harassment and violence based on sex, gender, gender identity/expression, and/or sexual orientation in the education setting. The federal Clery Act and NY Education Law 129-B provide certain rights and responsibilities after an incident of sexual or interpersonal violence. When a violation occurs, victims and survivors are eligible for campus and community resources. Where the College has jurisdiction, it may investigate and take action in accordance with College policy. If you or someone you know wishes to report discrimination based in sex, gender, gender identity/expression, and/or sexual orientation, or wishes to report sexual harassment, sexual violence, stalking or relationship violence, please contact the Title IX Coordinator at 607-753-4550, or visit to learn about all reporting options and resources.

Tutors: If you would like additional help with an assignment, I highly recommend you make an appointment to visit the Writing Center (Brockway Hall, rm. 216). You can also utilize the Academic Support and Achievement Program (A.S.A.P.) in Van Hoesen Hall B-205 and NightOWL online tutoring. 


  • Take notes on assigned readings. This is called “annotating” a text, which we will go over in detail during class. Your annotations will become the evidence and examples that you analyze in your blog posts. The more notes you take as you read, the easier it will be for you to participate in class discussions and complete assignments.
  • Because this is a discussion- rather than lecture-based course, it is crucial that you take notes in class, not only on material presented by the instructor, but on our class discussions and your peers’ presentations as well. This will help you write excellent blog posts and craft interesting projects.
  • Identify your intellectual investment in the course material. Pay attention to what most interests and perplexes you each class. Take note of these. Try to make connections among them. These will help you craft meaningful blog posts and projects.
  • Come see me during office hours. If you want to come but aren’t sure what you’d like to talk about, start with your list of intellectual investments. I’m here as a resource for you.
  • Ask questions. No question is too small. We are all learning and experimenting.
  • Make an effort to connect our course discussions, readings, and activities to your experiences outside of the classroom. This is called praxis.
  • Be an active classroom participant. Come to class ready to share questions and ideas. This includes reflections on the structure of the class itself. Be vocal about what does and doesn’t work for you, and suggest learning experiments you’d like us to try as a class.
  • Because this class is structured around experiments, take creative risks and be willing to fail.
  • Care about your work as much as I do. This means proofreading ad nauseum (so many times that you can’t bear to look at it again) and finding people, such as peers and tutors, willing to proofread your work. I won’t proofread your papers but if you come to office hours we can talk specifically about your revising and editing strategies.
  • Plan ahead. At the beginning of the semester, write all of your assignments down in a calendar, agenda, or planner. Include reminders two weeks, one week, and two days before each deadline. If you need to print something, do so the day beforehand. Printer problems are not an acceptable excuse for late work.


Active in-class participation, quizzes, homework, course evaluation (20%)

Class discussions are a vital part of our class and it is essential that all are actively involved. The more effort and energy you put into this course, the more we will all learn. In order to actively listen, participate, and learn you must not use electronics in class for anything unrelated to our course. Every class will involve some assortment of group discussion, note taking, quizzes, and activities. In order to get full credit for participation, you must come to class with the assigned readings annotated and you should try to contribute at least one comment or question during each class. Most quizzes will be announced ahead of time. The frequency of quizzes will increase if students attend class unprepared, without readings and notes. 

Blog, class facilitation, comments (30%)

Blog post (10%): At the beginning of the semester, you will sign up to write a blog about the assigned reading and serve as a discussion leader for one of our course sessions. Blog posts must be uploaded onto the course blog by NOON the day before class so other students have ample time to comment. Responses should be thoughtful and organized, around 600-800 words (roughly 3 solid paragraphs), and should end with two robust discussion questions. We will go over how to ask excellent questions (NOT: what did you think about the reading? Did you like my blog post?).

Your blog should draw our attention to something specific about the assigned reading, helping us to see it in a new way. Your blog does not have to address every aspect of the assigned readings; instead, the best posts will have a main argument (thesis), make 1-2 observations, and elaborate on these observations: exploring their implications and using these observations to raise new questions. The deliberate use of images, music, video, and supplementary materials is encouraged. 

Some options for your blog post:

  • highlight a key takeaway from the reading(s). 
  • provide historical context or a theoretical perspective that reveals something about a text.
  • explore a moment in (or feature of) a text that you found surprising, unexpected, shocking, confusing, intriguing, or moving in a particular way. Why did you feel this way? 
  • illustrate an important connection between two texts, such as a common question they both take up.
  • trace a significant pattern you see developing throughout a text.
  • introduce additional examples that either support or complicate the author’s argument.
  • connect an example from the text to something going on in the world beyond the classroom.
  • creative option: make an infographic, interactive game, or other multimodal composition that engages with the author’s argument.

Facilitation (10%): On the day of class for which you are blogging, you will also facilitate a class discussion based on your blog post and discussion questions. Similar to the blog posts, the goal of these facilitations is to help the class see a specific aspect of the readings in a more complex way. You may lead the class in a short activity (think-pair-share, a close reading exercise, a writing prompt, etc.), design a worksheet, give a presentation, organize a debate, or lead a discussion based on your post and students’ comments. Students can elect to work individually or as a group. Each student is responsible for a 10 minute facilitation. If you elect to work with other students, this time compiles (so two students would be expected to lead a 20 minute activity). Either way, you must coordinate ahead of time with the other blogger(s). If you need additional time for your activity, some exceptions can be made if you contact the professor at least 48 hours ahead of time. You will receive feedback on your facilitation via email. 

Facilitations should

  • Teach us something: help the class see an aspect of the assigned reading(s) in a new way.
  • Encourage class participation, engagement, and critical thinking.
  • Be well-organized, not haphazardly thrown together, and stick to the time allotment of 10 minutes per person.
  • Include every member of the group (if you elect to work as a group).
  • Be creative and delivered with enthusiasm – this is your opportunity to teach the class in whatever way you want. Make it your dream lesson! The way every course should be taught!

Comments (10%): For classes in which you are not responsible for writing a blog entry, you are expected to comment on someone else’s post. These comments should demonstrate a respectful and collegial engagement with other students’ ideas and/or questions. For this reason, commenters are expected to quote at least once from the assigned reading. For instance, you can introduce an additional piece of textual evidence (a quote from the reading) that either supports or complicates the blogger’s interpretation. Comments should be about 50-150 words in length and must be posted before class. We will go over effective commenting strategies in class. Comments will be evaluated collectively for a total of 10% of your final grade.

I will not accept any late blog posts, facilitations, or comments. These cannot be made up so remember to check your own schedule before signing up for response dates.

Student-led lesson (25%)

For this assignment, you will work in small groups to plan one session of our course. This will include identifying a topic, assigning readings or other homework, and planning and executing activities for one 50-minute class period. Sample topics include Black feminism, intersectionality, queer theory, a current event, additional writings by Lorde, or greater exploration into a topic covered in class. More details to follow.

Final project: recap blog posted to (20%)

For the final project, you will make a public contribution to knowledge by posting a recap of your student-led lesson to the academic network HASTAC is an interdisciplinary community of more than 16,000 students, professors, authors, activists, and educators committed to “changing the way we teach and learn.” Overall, your goal is to explain your lesson in a way that will be useful to students and educators beyond our classroom. To achieve this, your post should include enough information for someone to adapt your lesson (or a portion of your lesson) for their own classroom context. Your post should include 1) an overview of the lesson 2) objectives 3) an explanation of the assigned homework and in-class activities 4) a rationale for why you chose these activities 5) links to assigned materials 6) resources (such as handouts or powerpoints) created for the lesson and 7) whatever additional information you think might be useful to readers. More details to follow.


Dates designate the day on which readings will be discussed in class and the due dates of assignments. Dates and assignments are subject to change. All readings must be annotated to receive credit. 

11Mon 1/27Welcome! Introductions & blog sign up. 

Framing Texts: An Introduction to Audre Lorde & Black Feminism

2Wed 1/29Poetry Foundation, “Audre Lorde” & Lorde, “A Litany for Survival”
Post a blog introducing yourself to the class. Comment on one other post. 
In class: continue going over syllabus & review close reading 

3Fri 1/31Collins, “The Politics of Black Feminist Thought” (1-19) & Lorde, “Power”
In class: Review close reading
24Mon 2/3Film: A Litany for Survival (available online). Come prepared to discuss one important moment or idea in the film that struck you as particularly interesting or important.In class: Review blog instructions & co-author community guidelines 

Wed 2/5Smith, “Toward a Black Feminist Criticism” & Lorde, “Love Poem” & “Coal” 
Blog posts and comments

Sisters, Killjoys, and Genealogies of Intersectionality

5Fri 2/7Lorde, “Introduction,” “Poetry is Not a Luxury” & “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” in Sister Outsider
36Mon 2/10Lorde,“The Master’s Tools,” & “Age, Race, Class, and Sex” in Sister Outsider & & Crenshaw, “The Urgency of Intersectionality”  
Blog posts and comments

7Wed 2/12“An Interview: Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich” in Sister Outsider, Poetry Foundation, “Adrienne Rich” & Rich, “Diving into the Wreck” 
Blog posts and comments

8Fri 2/14Continue discussion of Sister Outsider
49Mon 2/17Lorde, “The Uses of Anger,” in Sister Outsider and Ahmed, “Feminist Killjoys and Other Willful Subjects” 
Blog posts and comments

10Wed 2/19Lorde, “Scratching the Surface,” “Sexism: An American Disease in Blackface” & “An Open Letter to Mary Daly” in Sister Outsider 

Pleasure Week

11Fri 2/21Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic” & brown & Page, “The Legacy of ‘Uses of the Erotic’” (37-52) in Pleasure Activism
Blog posts and comments
512Mon 2/24Brown, “Introduction” (2-18), “Who Taught You to Feel Good?” (21-25) & “Love as Political Resistance” (59-63) in Pleasure Activism

The Cancer Journals 

13Wed 2/26Lorde, “Introduction” in The Cancer Journals, Carroll, “Doctors and Racial Bias: Still a Long Way to Go,” & Rabin, “Huge Racial Disparities Found in Deaths Linked to Pregnancy”  

14Fri 2/28Lorde, “Breast Cancer: A Black Lesbian Feminist Experience” in The Cancer Journals (24-54)
Blog posts and comments
615Mon 3/2Lorde, “Breast Cancer: Power vs. Prosthesis” in The Cancer Journals (55-77)


16Wed 3/4Zami (Beginning-21)
Blog posts and comments

718Mon 3/9Zami (22-80)

19Wed 3/11Zami (81-115)
Blog posts and comments

20Fri 3/13Zami (116-142)
In class: Collaborative close reading 

821Mon 3/23Zami (143-end) 

Lorde as Teacher 

22Wed 3/25Lorde, “Poet as Teacher” & archival teaching materials (1-14, 18-34) 

23Fri 3/27Lorde’s teaching poems (“The Classrooms,” “blackstudies,” “The Bees,” “Teacher”)
Blog posts and comments 
924Mon 3/30Davidson, “Introduction” & Savonick, “Afterword” to Structuring Equality
In class: Continue discussion of teaching

25Wed 4/1About HASTAC, Mckenzie, “The Ethical Social Network,”  Cohen, Dwyer, Evola, White, “Technology and the Sexualization of Young Women: Lesson Plan” 
In class: Introduce student-led lesson

Lorde in Germany 

26Fri 4/3Wilder, “Audre Lorde’s Berlin,” Schultz, “Audre Lorde in Berlin,” & Lorde, “Berlin is Hard on Colored Girls” 
Blog posts and comments
1027Mon 4/6Film: The Berlin Years (available online) 
Individual lesson plan due in class
In class: guidelines for successful collaboration

Student-Led Lessons 

28Wed 4/8Co-working day: group lesson plans 

1130Mon 4/13FLEX DAY – SNOW 

31Wed 4/15All materials for lesson due. Each group meets with prof. to go over homework & in-class plans. 




37Wed 4/29Lab day: recap blog posts 

38Fri 5/1Complete hard copy drafts of recap blog posts due in class for peer review 
1439Mon 5/4Lab day: recap blog posts 
Complete draft of recap blog post emailed to prof. by 5 pm

40Wed 5/6Lab day: recap blog posts 

41Fri 5/8Recap blog posted to by class
In class: presentation and celebration! 

Final course reflection due via email by 11:59 pm on Tuesday, May 12.

css.php Skip to content