This course will examine the historical, cultural, and political significance of nineteenth-century women's writing, focusing on the ways in which the nineteenth-century women's movement extended to and was driven by the realm of literature. In this period of increasing interest and participation in women's issues, literature inevitably reflected and affected great change; at the end of the century, the New Woman novel in particular emerged as a highly politicized form of literature, directly challenging social institutions at the core of Victorian society. This shift in the construction and purpose of literature from depicting society to offering solutions occurred, this course will contend, as a direct result of the women's movement. Over the course of the semester, we will study the works of women writers, tracing the power of literature to influence politics, culture, and contemporary thought.
Readings may include novels, short fiction, essays, and poetry by the following writers: Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, Anne Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Olive Schreiner, and Sarah Grand. Formal assignments will include a class presentation, one paper (8-10 pages), as well as a mid-term and final exam. Regular attendance and active class participation are also required.