American Women Writers
Being American, and being a woman, have not been stable identities, but have been (and continue to be) reshaped over time. In this class, we will chart a history of writing by American women, beginning just before the American Revolution, and continuing to the present. Rather than viewing American women's writing as a consistent whole, we will be considering the diverse ways these women addressed issues of national and gender identity. We will also look at how these women negotiated between the two, particularly during periods in which women were legally excluded from certain kinds of participation in the national and political spheres due to their gender and/or race. How did their writing, by virtue of its creation, respond, implicitly or explicitly, to these legal definitions of the American? How did these women imagine ways of being American and being a woman? Though the class has a longer historical sweep, our focus will be primarily on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and will include poetry, novels, short stories, and some selected journalism and critical texts. We will read works by Phillis Wheatley, Emily Dickinson, Zitkala-Sa, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sarah Orne Jewett, Frances Hopkins, Nella Larsen, Edith Wharton, and Flannery O'Connor. Class requirements include weekly short responses, two close reading papers, and a final exam.