WGS 393 • 19TH-CEN WOMEN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Writers have always employed an ingenious array of narrative strategies to construct and project their sense of an autobiographical self/selves, but historically that task has entailed an additional cultural challenge if not an outright psychological impossibility for women writers worldwide. Although the male autobiographical impulse did not fully begin to manifest itself in Western culture until Rousseau (notwithstanding the anomaly of St. Augustine), women still tended to confine themselves to the less overt (and egoistic) modes of the diary, letter, memoir (often purporting to be about another subject), and fiction. It is the goal of this course to examine the autobiographical impulse in nineteenth-century British and American women's writing by exploring the concept of the individualistic self vs. the sense of self/selves as part of community (and duty) and the ways in which that communal self can partake of humankind and participate in self-actualization. Although members of the class may have read individual titles from the course list before, they will now have the opportunity to read them critically within the context of other women's self-writing itself possibly a first-time experience.
Primary readings (some on xerox file in Chez Cal*): Wollstonecraft, A Short Residence in Sweden (1796)--PCL Reserves M. Shelley, Selected letters and journal entries* E. Brontë, Selected poetry (see website) A. Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847) Fuller, Selections from Memoirs (1852)* C. Brontë, Villette (1853) Martineau, Selections from Autobiography (1855; 1877)* E.B. Browning, Aurora Leigh (1856) H.E. Wilson, Our Nig: or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (1859) G. Eliot, Mill on the Floss (1860) Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) Dickinson, Selected poetry (PCL Reserves--choose your own) Schreiner, Story of an African Farm (1883) Chesnut, Selections from A Diary from Dixie (1886)* A. James, Diary (1892) A.T. Ritchie, Selections from Chapters from Some Memoirs (1892)* Besant, Selections from Autobiographical Sketches (1885) & An Autobiography (1893)* Oliphant, Autobiography and Letters (1899) Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) J. Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House (1910) Secondary readings on reserve: drawn from Benstock, S. Friedman, Gardiner, Jelinek, Lionnet, Nussbaum, Olney, Sanders, Schenck, S. Smith, Swindells, Woolf, etc.