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(Offered as ENGL 339 and SWAG 339.) [before 1800] “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Virginia Woolf famously said in 1929. What did the landscape of women’s writing look like before women were allowed such liberties, and what effects did their social conditions have on their writing? This course focuses on the work of early female writers, from the medieval to the Romantic period–many of whom are still overlooked today.
We will survey a range of writing by women from 1350 to 1850, putting English and American poets into conversation with political agitators, religious mystics and martyrs, the authors of woman-centered periodicals, and novelists. Our readings will include well-known works by Aphra Behn and Jane Austen along with lesser-known and even anonymous women-authored poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Secondary readings by feminist critics and historians such as Virginia Woolf, Judith Butler, and Toril Moi will frame our discussions. We will ask, how did women writers participate in or drive the invention of new literary forms, such as the periodical and the novel? Does women’s writing have specific formal or stylistic characteristics, and are these affected by women’s social standing and access to education? What does an English literary history that fully includes women’s writing look like, and how does it differ from standard literary histories?
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professors Nelson and Worsley.
If Overenrolled: Preference given to English and SWAG majors.