ENGL/WGS 333 - Women's Literature

This course will use literature, film, and critical theory to consider the category “woman” as a site of cultural contestation:  as a site intersected by cultural formations based on race, ethnicity, language, nationality, sexual orientation, and social class.  We will pay particular attention to our texts’ use of language (especially the use of dialect in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives) and the shifting significance that literary and cinematic characters take on as they reappear across different texts, media, geographical locations, and historical periods.  Virginia Woolf’s novel and Sally Potter’s film Orlando both use the fantastic to land the same character in different times, places, and embodiments.  Jean Rhys’s 1966 Caribbean novel Wide Sargasso Sea develops the story of Bertha Mason, who appears only briefly as the “madwoman in the attic” in the 1848 English novel Jane Eyre;  the film The Hours reworks Woolf’s 1920’s London novel Mrs. Dalloway in the context of 1990’s New York City;  and films such as Orlando, The Hours, and Beloved translate prose narratives into the language of cinema.  What can literary and cinematic texts tell us about the effects that cultural and historical positioning have on the construction of “woman,” and of gender more generally?