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Women and Literature: Contemporary Fiction

ENGL 016.401
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

This course will cover a range of fiction (and a few memoirs) by late 20th-century and contemporary women writers from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Africa, and the Middle East.   We will study two novels each by five highly acclaimed writers.  These are likely to include: Toni Morrison (Song of Solomon and Beloved), Margaret Atwood (Tracks and The Round House), Jeanette Winterson (Oranges are Not the Only Fruit and A Passion), Maxine Hong Kingston (The Woman Warrior and China Men), Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis I and II), Pat Barker (The Ghost Road and Toby’s Room), Chimanda Ngozie Adichie (Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun), and Margaret Atwood (Oryx and Crake and The Handmaid’s Tale).  These works include historical as well as futuristic novels; they deal with various forms of violence and oppression (war, crime, slavery, discrimination, etc.) as well as various forms of resistance and creative self-affirmation.  Questions of style and form will also be important in this seminar: we will consider how these writers revise various received traditions and genres (e.g., the Bible, fairy tales, and legends), how they deploy narrative strategies like magical realism, science fiction, and the graphic novel, how they investigate official and unofficial versions of history and dominant and marginalized forms of knowledge. Also important are the politics of textual interpretation; we will therefore study one critical work over the course of the semester to help us come to a broader and more theoretical understanding of our methodologies of reading. This is Rita Felski’s sprightly, skeptical, and imaginative book, Literature After Feminism. All interested freshmen are welcome in this course, irrespective of gender and possible major: all that is required is a taste for powerful writing and a willingness to get up a little early on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

This course counts as an Arts and Letters course in the College's General Education requirement.