Studies in Women and Literature

2:30p-3:45p TR (30) 3 cr.


There is no prerequisite per se, but at the 300-level, I assume all enrollees (1) are able to write several short, polished papers of substance that meet the requirements of university-level writing, and (2) have had experience with close readings of literature, and critical thinking and discussions. If youíve never taken a literature course before, this will not be a good one with which to begin.

Class sessions will likely adhere to a structure of in-class writings, short introductory lectures from the instructor, group discussions of primary texts and critical readings, some creative exercises, and individual student discussion leading (you may be asked to write up discussion questions in advance). I cannot stress enough the importance of regular attendance and participation.

We are likely to read and discuss works of women writers, some well- known, some lesser-known, with a focus on the contemporary (last 20 years), possibly with a mix of genres, but probably with a main emphasis on fiction (and maybe some nonfiction), and focusing on some works of well-known American writers like Marilynne Robinson, Toni Morrison, Ana Castillo, Octavia Butler, Lydia Davis, etc., and some lesser- knowns like Danzy Senna, but donít be surprised to encounter writing from contemporary women writers from other countries like Annie Ernaux, Nawal el Sadawi, Carolyn Steedman, etc.
We might examine women writers writing about their lives: memoir, autobiography, auto-bio criticism, fictionalized memoir, and other mixed-genre reflections (including poetry, nonfiction, etc.). This approach might easily include some of the above like Ernaux, Sadawi, and Steedman, and possibly bell hooks, Lyn Hejinian, April Sinclair, Pam Huston, Vivian Gornick, Nancy Mairs, etc. This approach might well end up being as much a critical study of form and genre.

There will definitely be a critical component, though the emphasis will be on close readings of and thoughtful engagement with the primary works. Likely requirements will be something along the lines of several short, polished critical essays (3-5 pages each) with clear theses well-supported directly from the texts, weekly written response papers (which will become part of our discussions), some version of quizzes, and an in- class essay exam.

Expect to read the equivalent of a book a week over the semester, as well as critical essays, and to write somewhere around 20-30 pages over the semester. Grades will be based on quality and quantity of your writing, class participation and contributions to discussions, as well as quiz and exam grades.

Textbooks: I will probably assign mostly single-authored books. There may also be a short, supplemental course reader on reserve, or an anthology of supplementary critical readings. Regular attendance, active participation, intellectual curiosity, and enthusiasm are di rigeur.