Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Topics in Women and Literature

ENGL 290.401
R 1:30-4:30

This weekly seminar will investigate the role of memory and its intimate relationship to female existence in novels, stories, poems, and essays by Irish, English, Indian, African American, Arab American, and Caribbean writers. In our readings and discussions, we will turn our attention to questions of cultural and collective memory, the relationship between memory and written history, and the inscription of memory -- and history -- on the woman's body. We will also look at the relationship between memory and identity, memory and madness, memory and fertility. Some of the specific issues to be explored are pregnancy and childbirth, rape, incest, domestic abuse, and bodily desire.

Readings will include fiction and poetry by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Edna O'Brien, Eavan Boland, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Naomi Shihab Nye, Anita Diamant, Jamaica Kincaid, James Joyce, Roddy Doyle, and Jeanette Winterson. We will also read critical and theoretical materials on memory by Maurice Halbwachs, Paul Connerton, Lisa Suhair Majaj, Peter Burke, and Yael Zerubavel. Because this course is designed as a seminar, student participation will be critical to producing a lively and ongoing discourse on the subject matter. To that end, students will be responsible for presenting brief, informal reports or presentations to generate class discussion. Additionally, you will be asked to maintain a writing portfolio throughout the semester, which will contain response papers, book reviews, and a final 10-15 page critical essay.

fulfills requirements