Spring Planning (before November!): Selecting Works for Teaching Intro. to Women's Lit.

Isabella Bird in Tibet

I just received my spring teaching assignment in my mailbox, and am delighted to find that I’m teaching “Intro. to Women’s Lit.” for the first time. I am a little kid in a candy store (or a rock climber in a gear shop) when it’s time to select possible works to teach for the next semester’s course. I’ve also noticed a trend in romanticists’ online communities, in that we enjoy suggesting works to teach on a certain theme. For example, on Romantic Circles’ Teaching Romanticism blog, Katherine Harris requested suggestions for her Gustatory Romanticism graduate course, and Roger Whitson did the same for his Visualizing Nineteenth Century Poetry course. In addition, the NASSR-L recently saw a flurry of responses to Diane Hoeveler’s call for suggestions for her Romanticism and Religion graduate seminar, and she very generously collected all of the responses in this Word doc. I’m going to use our forum for a similar kind of request–please help me decide what to teach. And following Katherine Harris’ example, I plan to post my final reading list and course description to our blog as a follow-up discussion.
I’m especially interested in your suggestions for American authors and works to teach from earlier periods, within the romantic-era, and post-romantic periods. To date, I have been transatlantically challenged, so to speak, as far as including American texts in my teaching and scholarship. (Well, I’ve been specifically assigned to teach Shakespeare and surveys of British literature for the past 3 years.) Though I have chosen to specialize mostly in British romantic works for my dissertation, I see this course as a great opportunity to begin to fill in a gap or two in my reading.
Course theme: “Adventure.” I envision the theme of “adventure,” broadly, as one that will include the genres of travel literature, the gothic, experiments with form like those found in Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent, as well as experiments with media, like Shelley Jackson’s electronic literary work Patchwork Girl. Namely, I’m interested in drawing attention to women writers over time who have ventured beyond society’s prescribed boundaries and who have taken risks that they convey one way or another in their authorship.
The CU catalog description requires that this course “[introduce] literature by women in England and America. Covers both poetry and fiction and varying historical periods. Acquaints students with the contribution of women writers to the English literary tradition and investigates the nature of this contribution.”
Initial brainstorming: I’m thinking of including the following authors/works (listed early to late): Sappho’s fragments (ed. Ann Carson), Julian of Norwich (med.), Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative (17th c.), Eliza Haywood (18th c.), Mary Shelley (rom.), Joanna Baillie (rom.), Ann Radcliffe (rom), Mary Wollstonecraft (rom), Isabella Bird (Vict.), Dickinson (Vict.), Woolf (mod.), Angela Carter (contemp.), Annie Dillard (contemp.), Jeannette Winterson (contemp.)
All reading and assignment suggestions are welcome, and I’m especially interested in your ideas for:

  • 18th and 19th c. American authors and works–drama, fiction, poetry, essays
  • I work on the gothic quite a bit — any American women gothic writers or works to recommend?
  • 17th c works
  • If you’ve taught this course, have you used a particular anthology that you would recommend?
  • Assignment recommendations: I have been experimenting with my British Literature survey course with putting together student-made collections or exhibits that relate to works we’re studying in class. Any ideas how we could put together an adventure-themed exhibit for this course? (I’m thinking digital exhibit.)

Thanks in advance!

6 Replies to “Spring Planning (before November!): Selecting Works for Teaching Intro. to Women's Lit.”

  1. Glad to see you’ve got Eliza Haywood on there. I taught _Fantomina_ in intro to Women’s lit and felt it went over pretty well. In terms of seventeenth-century stuff, Aphra Behn’s _The Rover_ is perhaps somewhat adventurous, at the very least it’s a great play, but maybe _Oroonoko_ works better? One that I’ve been wanting to read for a while, but haven’t yet had time for, is Margaret Cavendish’s _The Blazing World_, apparently a kind of utopian travel narrative. It sounds amazing.

  2. I second Kurtis’s suggestion of The Blazing World. It IS fantastic and crazy and amazing. There are zombies, and submarines, and lizard-men, and trans-dimensional travel. And an extensive (if dubious) critique of Renaissance science.
    In terms of the 19th-century America, you could do Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Chopin’s The Awakening, if you’re feeling uber-canonical. I also love Sarah Orne Jewett, a Maine author who wrote some beautiful short-story collections about life in New England (cf A White Heron and Other Stories).

  3. Thanks, Kurtis and Brittany: The Blazing World sounds totally amazing and possibly life-changing. Lizard-men in a utopian travel narrative? I’m smitten and it sounds fun for students, as well. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a great idea, as well. I’m less attracted to Chopin, but I also haven’t read it in a very, very long time, so I will reacquaint myself before making decisions.

  4. Hmm, how about Carter’s The Passion of New Eve? It doesn’t get taught very often and it’s just wildly weird (not to mention gender-bending).
    I’m out on the Americans. Once I get to late 20th Century, it’s a geographic free for all.

  5. Kirstyn, your course sounds just great. If you’re interested in incorporating more electronic literature, you might consider Stephanie Strickland’s work (either Zone Zero, her most recent, or Vniverse)…although I’m not sure how it fits with adventure except to say that she’s exploring the space between the book and the digital or the virtual or, in the case of Vniverse, the galatial or the astronomical! Also, J.R. Carpenter’s work might also fit – her work “The Cape” “animates decades-old black-and-white photographs, illustrations, and maps, adding to these a few laconic caption-sized texts to extend an exploration of ‘place’ that digital space evokes.”

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