Special Themes in Literature 1890-Present: Bad Girls

Bad Girls
English 3119
Elisa Glick
Middlebush 210
Course Description

Cross-listed as WGST 3480.

Divas. Lady killers. Witches. Bitches. Bad mothers. Radicals. Sexual outlaws. Queers. Femme fatales. This course investigates American culture’s obsessive, love-hate relationship with one of the most enigmatic and controversial images of modern womanhood:  the “bad girl.”  Why have bad girls provoked such ambivalent feelings in the modern imagination, remaining objects of fascination and repulsion throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first?  Why does the image of the bad girl—sometimes beguiling, sometimes sinister—captivate and shock us today? How have women appropriated stereotypes of female deviance to rebel against gender constraints?   Examining changing representations of bad girls and the social contexts they variously reflect and illuminate, this course investigates how differences of race, class, and sexuality have shaped cultural norms of femininity since the postwar era (although we will read some early twentieth-century texts, too). Throughout the course, our aim will be to examine ways in which the bad girl is indispensable to modern constructions of gender and desire in American culture.   Course materials will include fiction, poetry, memoir, graphic memoir, film, theoretical and historical essays, and popular culture. Readings by Sandra Cisneros, Angela Davis, Ellen Forney, Amber Hollibaugh, Mary Karr, Audre Lorde, Carsten McCullers, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Adrienne Rich, Sapphire, and Anne Sexton.