Fall 2023

Early Women Writers

Listed in: English, as ENGL-339  |  Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, as SWAG-339


Ingrid L. Nelson (Section 01)
Amelia Worsley (Section 01)


(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. But what did the landscape of women’s writing look like before women were allowed these liberties, and what effects did their social conditions have on their writing? This course focuses on the work of early female-identifying writers, from the medieval to the Romantic period–many of whom are still overlooked today. 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 a literary history that fully includes women’s writing look like, and how does it differ from standard literary histories? We will attempt answers to these questions as we survey a wide range of writing by women from 1350 to 1850, moving through various genres. Poets, political agitators, religious mystics and martyrs, the authors of woman-centered periodicals, and novelists, will all feature on the syllabus. Our readings will include well-known works by writers such as Margery Kempe, Mary Wollstonecraft and Harriet Jacobs, along with lesser-known and even anonymous women-authored poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Secondary readings by feminist critics and historians such as Judith Butler and Toril Moi will also frame our discussions. 

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professors Nelson and Worsley.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to English and SWAG majors.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on engaged readings, written work,independent research, oral presentations, and group work.

ENGL 339 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 1:00 PM - 2:20 PM CHAP 203
Th 1:00 PM - 2:20 PM CHAP 203


Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Fall 2023