Class Days/Time: MWF 12:45-1:40
Instructor: Dr. Rebecca Nesvet
Office and Hours: M 2-4; W 2-3
When I read the phrase “images of women,” the first word leaps out. What “images?” Are they visual, verbal, or do they exist in some other form? Where do the most powerful images come from, and how do they change across time, place, and culture? How has literary engagement with these images shaped literary forms and genres? What sorts of people, experiences, and ideas lie behind our most pervasive female icons? Why is writing about women so often concerned with women’s public image(s), or with dissonances between public image and private self-image; between man-made and woman-made images of women?
In this course, we will explore images of women in literature ranging from the medieval era through the twenty-first century. We will investigate how individual women and the category of woman are represented in poetry, prose fiction, drama, creative nonfiction, and even graphic novels and comic strips. We will employ close reading, creative and critical writing, scholarly editing and digital composition to historicize and critique literary images of the woman including the love interest, lover, autobiographer, (missing?) mother, “manic pixie dream girl” (MPDG), attic-bound madwoman, good (Victorian) wife (“the angel in the house”), horror-story Last Girl, revolutionary New Woman, and even prophet(ess). We’ll also question the term “woman” itself, with some help from theorist Michel Foucault and the “nineteenth-century hermaphrodite” (intersexual) Alexina Barbin.
By the end of the course, you will not only possess a deeper understanding of the dynamics of gender in literature, you will hone your critical thinking and writing abilities, generate independent research, and develop a portfolio of writing and media that showcases your professional skills.
Learning Outcomes of the English Department (taken from the website)
1. Courses in English develop students’ understanding of important works of American and English literature by providing awareness of — and appreciation for — our literary heritage.
2. English as a discipline works to contextualize literature using a historical perspective from which to evaluate works written in their own time, and deepen their insight into their own experience.
3. Inherent in achieving these aims is the development of students’ ability to express their ideas orally and in writing.
4. Although some study English primarily for personal growth and enrichment, the program is intended to prepare students for graduate work, teaching and the professions, as well as for a variety of occupations.
Graduates in English have found careers in personnel work, public relations, business management, journalism, politics, free-lance writing, publishing, and other fields requiring communication skills. Besides an emphasis in literature, the English program also offers an emphasis in creative writing as well as an emphasis in English education.
Learning Outcomes for Humanistic Studies (taken from the website)
1. Students will acquire an understanding of what it means to be human by studying and analyzing important works and ideas in literature, philosophy, language, and history.
2. Students will acquire essential life skills, including the ability to reflect critically on texts and artifacts, to recognize and appreciate nuance and complexity of meaning, and to express themselves in a clear, organized, and well-reasoned manner.
3. Students will be transformed and given greater self-awareness by understanding the historical and cultural context for human values through the study of literature, philosophy, language, and history.
4. Study of the Humanities imparts a fundamental understanding of:
• the significance and chronology of major events and movements in World civilization;
• a range of literature, representative of different literary forms and historical contexts;
• the role of the humanities in identifying and clarifying individual and social values in a culture and understanding the implications of decisions made on the basis of those values.
Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Mariner, 2007 ed., $9)
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (Dover, $3.50)
Michel Foucault, ed. Herculine Barbin, being the Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite, trans. Richard McDougall ($11)
Marjane Satrapi, The Complete Persepolis ($25)
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Dover, $4)
You will be allowed three unexcused absences, for any reason. You don’t need to let me know the reason. After you have used your three absences, your grade will drop by one-third of a letter grade (from B to B-, for example) for each additional absence. Please save up your allowed absences. If you have used them all, have an emergency, and need to miss class again, you will not be excused without penalty. Being disruptively late or leaving early counts as being absent, as does being present without homework, book(s), notes, or equipment.
Mental Presence: I expect all students not only to be physically present in class, but to be mentally present. In other words, while you are in class, pay attention, analyze course materials, grapple with ideas and possibilities, help your classmates, and uni-task. Active mental presence is the only way to learn, and you can’t do it while passively consuming information on a computer or other electronic device.
UWGB Commons for the Digital and Public Humanities
You will all be receiving an email invite to the UWGB Commons for the Digital and Public Humanities. You are to create a username and password that you will use for the remainder of the semester. I will create a private group for this class. In the group, you will be able to collaborate with your group members on documents, have discussions about your scene reading, etc, without having to arrange a series of meetings or communicate through email. The Commons will also serve as the forum for us to post our poems and blog. I will walk you through this in class.
There is a D2L site for this course. We will use D2L for tasks that we find difficult to accomplish in the site for the digital commons.
A Note on Public Work/FERPA
In this course, you will conduct original research, produce creative writing, blog, and annotate texts for readers outside the university. By taking this class, you implicitly agree to the publication of your work. You may choose a byline: either your name or your initials.
Office Hours Please attend office hours. You are required to attend once in the term. Not doing so will compromise your participation grade. Why should you attend? To talk through your brainstorming phase, get suggestions of useful secondary sources, test your ideas, ask questions about the syllabus or content, share work intended for the Sheepshead Review (your Heroide?) or another publication, get clarification of material or assignment prompts, or just say hello. By attending office hours, you can tailor your education to your interests, aspirations, and goals.
For our veteran, active-duty, and military-family students:
Veterans and active duty military personnel with special circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill requirements, and disabilities) and their partners and children are welcome and encouraged to communicate these circumstances to the instructor, as far in advance as possible. This will enable the instructor to provide adjustments and accommodations.