Introduction to Women's Literature: 1890-present: Women's Voices, Women Witnesses

English 2189W
Women's Voices, Women Witnesses
Section 1
Aliki Barnstone
Tate 215

In Introduction to Women’s Literature: Women’s Voices, Women Witnesses we will be concentrating on a few key texts. This course will not be taught as a survey. Instead we will read a limited number of texts in several genres and work around the theme of women’s voices at witness. We’ll begin with the Holocaust and The Diary of Anne Frank, which will be paired with Cynthia Ozick’s “The Shawl.” Frank was one of first in creative non-fiction whose personal voice witnessed for the world a momentous and devastating historical event, and whose work was read widely throughout the world. Among the other texts we will most likely deal with are Emily Dickinson’s poems and the film Wild Nights with Emily, Loraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (the play and film) along with Gwendolyn Brooks’ poems that deal with similar subjects such as civil rights and the Great Migration), Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior, which deals with climate change and environmental degradation, Linda Hogan’s Mean Spirit, which deals with Native American history and the environment, Jhumpa Lihiri’s The Namesake, which deals with immigration and the film of the same title, directed by Mira Nair, and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home , a graphic memoir that deals with LGBTQ+ rights and coming out. These texts will be supplemented with essays, poems, and stories. For example, we’ll read texts Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus,” Julia Alvarez’s “Bilingual Sestina,’ selections from Naomi Shahid Nye’s 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems on the Middle East and Janine Joseph’s Driving without a License) and several essential feminist essays by groundbreaking writers: Virginia Woolf, Adrienne Rich, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, as well pertinent historical backgrounds.

Writing assignments include short response papers, which will serve as springboards for our discussion, and keeping a reading journal, and your final project. We will play writing games and work with prompts. For example, like Anne Frank, who wrote to “dear Kitty,” a fictional character, you’ll experiment with writing epistolary. You may write a poem after by Dickinson or Brooks or create a scene in a play, inspired by Hansberry. For your final project, you will produce your own texts in any genre or in multi-genres or hybrid genres, including film, a collection of your essays, poems, and/or stories, a longer essay (personal, lyrical, journalistic, a research paper), a multimedia piece, a photo essay, a short video, or—with my approval—any project that you propose (with my approval). Literary, aural, and visual arts projects will be accompanied by a short introduction, loosely in the form of the academic essay.

This course fulfills the A&S diversity requirement.

This is a hybrid course: for first 10 weeks of this course I will be in-residence and we will meet in the classroom; the last 5 weeks I will work with you remotely on an individual basis and in small groups.