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Mothers and Daughters, Together and Apart: Myth, Theory, and Literature

ENGL 290.601
crosslisted as: WSTD 293.601
instructor(s):
M 5:30-8:20

Oscar Wilde once wrote that all women eventually turn into their mothers, and that was our tragedy. But need the relationship between mother and daughter be tragic? The romance as well as the antagonisms between mothers and daughters have been beautifully addressed by some of the best writers of our time! In this course, we'll be examining the ways in which writers have represented the relationships between mothers, who are also daughters, and daughters, who see a possible future in their mothers. How does this first relationship inform what it means to be a woman? We'll start by examining a few influential myths regarding mothers and daughters: the stories of Persephone and Demeter, Snow White and her (step)mother, and Clytemnestra, Iphigeneia, and Electra. We'll then read contemporary literature alongside the work of feminist psychoanalytic theorists such as Nancy Chodorow and Luce Irigaray in order to gain an understanding of the complexity of these relationships. Writers may include: Angela Carter, Toni Morrison, Rita Dove, Edith Wharton, Kirsty Gunn, Virginia Woolf, Anne Sexton, Tanith Lee, and Amy Tan. We may also watch the film Lovely and Amazing.