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Gender, Sexuality and Literature: Marriage and Family from Romance to Realities

ENGL 090.401
instructor(s):
MW 6-7:30

In this class, we'll be reading novels and short stories that examine marriage, family and childhood, as well as theoretical material that explains, subverts and enriches the fiction. The course is divided into four sections, each with texts that can be made to comment upon each other. For example, in the first section, we'll be looking at the idealization of marriage by reading Jane Eyre, Pearl Abrams' The Romance Reader and Janice Radway's classic work on romance novels and their readers. We'll also look at the realities of marriage through The Awakening, The Yellow Wallpaper and stories by the Irish novelist Edna O'Brien, and at unconventional versions of childhood and "home" through Ella Leffland's Rumors of Peace, Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees, Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping and stories by Toni Cade Bambara. Throughout, we'll be investigating the ways in which fiction codifies, subverts and re-codifies notions of "proper" female behavior, domestic relations and individual freedom.

You'll have short, frequent writing assignments, including response papers and discussion questions designed to focus and energize class discussion. You'll also do a longer paper (7-10 pages) in which you bring the theoretical readings to bear on the fiction. 

If you have questions, please feel free to email me: dburnham@english.upenn.edu