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Prospectus

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Gender and Literature

Course
2012-2013

Tag(s)

HI, PA, GC

Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 200-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.

Description

In this course we will read, discuss, and write about the ways literary texts – poetry, drama, autobiography, and fiction – shape our understanding of what it is to be and live as a gendered individual. We will take “gender” to refer loosely to the cultural meanings that sexual differences have generated over time, and which are inextricably intertwined with complex determinations of race and class. Possible texts include Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928), Djuna Barnes, Nightwood(1936), Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948), Yukio Mishima, Confessions of a Mask (1949), Monique Wittig, Les Guerilleres (1969), Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1983), Assia Djebar, “Today” from Women of Algiers in Their Apartments (1980), Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry (1989), Tony Kushner, Angels in America (2003) and a selection of poems. Additionally, we will gain insight into the ways theorists narrate the stories of feminism, queer and transgender theory, keeping a critical eye on the consecrated (but flawed) narrative of a shift from liberal, socialist, and radical feminist thought to postmodern gender theory. Authors might include Toril Moi, Julia Kristeva, Eve Klossowski Sedgwick, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Clare Hemmings, Jeff Nunokawa, Leo Bersani and others. Students should expect to read (and hopefully enjoy) a novel or play every week, as well as a selection of theoretical texts.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of your course, students will have:

  • a good awareness of the ways gender has historically determined one’s position in society and of how class and race complicate such determinations

  • familiarity with the different debates and developments in the study of gender

  • enhanced critical reading skills with respect to both literature and theory

  • insight into the complex ways literature and theory reflect, represent, and shape our perceptions of social relations

Mode of Instruction

Classes will typically be opened by a short lecture introducing and contextualizing the texts for the day, followed by a discussion involving the students, partly based on their written responses to the readings. Each class participant will also be involved in a group presentation. A thorough engagement with the readings, a thoughtful manner of presenting and discussing one’s ideas in class, as well as respect for our differences of opinion are crucial for the optimal unfolding of the course.

Assessment

This is a reading-intensive course; in fact, students should expect it to be like a reading tour de force, during which they will live immersed in other people’s thoughts, lives, and worlds. Our aim will be to articulate as well as possible, both orally and in writing, the nuances of such experiences. Evaluation (based, at least in part, on self-evaluation) will have as its object short written responses (4 webposts about the literary texts) on which students will be asked to elaborate in class discussion, a presentation of recommended readings, and a research essay.

Assessment: In-class participation and four webposts
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7 (Sign-up)

Assessment: Oral presentation
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Weeks 1 – 7 (Sign-up)

Assessment: Final research essay (2500 words)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Week8

Literature

Students are expected to have a copy of the following books (either their own or borrowed) when we discuss the texts in class:

Virginia Woolf, Orlando
Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms
Yukio Mishima, Confessions of a Mask
Monique Wittig, Les Guerilleres
Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
Assia Djebar, Women of Algiers in Their Apartments
Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry
Tony Kushner, Angels in America

Contact Information

For any course-related information, please email the course instructor, Dr. Corina Stan, corina@lucresearch.nl.

Weekly Overview

Week 1: Genesis of Gender, or against binary thinking: Virginia Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own” (excerpt) and Orlando, Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
Week 2: Broadening the spectrum of gender: Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms
Week 3: Confession, performance, mask: Yukio Mishima, gay in Japan
Week 4: Radical lesbianism, community, and what it means to be a writer: Monique Wittig, Les Guerrilleres
Week 5: Radical lesbianism, community, and what it means to be a lesbian African-American writer under McCarthy: Audre Lorde, “biomythography”
Week 6: Rewriting tales of gender: Assia Djebar’s Arabic voices, Jeanette Winterson and the Cavalier Poets, Paula Rego’s painted series “Dog-Women”
Week 7: “Friendship as a way of life” and the AIDS crisis: Tony Kushner, Angels in America

Preparation for first session

Students are encouraged to read as many of the texts as possible before the beginning of the block. At a minimum, they should come to the first class prepared to talk about Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood.