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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2009

E 314L • Women's Popular Genres

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
33605 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
CBA 4.326
Spradlin, K

Course Description

"Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do&it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex." -- Jane Eyre

In Jane Eyre, Jane suggests that women cannot be defined by chores and diversions that are traditionally perceived as feminine. In the post-colonial response to Brontë's novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys-Bertha illustrates that conceptions of race are equally impossible to simplify and likewise tied to the assumptions of patriarchal culture, though in a different time and place than Jane Eyre. In E314L, we will examine what makes a "popular women's genre" and consider how these genres seek to define, complicate and unsettle notions of female identity. We will pay special attention to how these genres represent issues of race and gender, how they reflect ideas of their time but also how they interact with one another despite a historical difference, and how they target specifically female audiences. We will restrict our focus to three genres traditionally conceived of as feminine: the romance (represented by Pride and Prejudice and modern chicklit novel Bridget Jones' Diary); the gothic novel (represented by Jane Eyre and responded to in the post-colonial Wide Sargasso Sea); and the sentimental (represented primarily by Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and informed by our earliest text, Oroonoko). In order to engage with contemporary and modern critical responses to these texts, we will consider how they were marketed and received in their own times and how scholars of literature, history, and culture have analyzed them since.

Grading Policy

Peer Review: 5%
Response Papers: 15%
Presentation and Abstract: 10%
Critical literature review (3-4 pages): 20%
2 papers (5-7 pages): 50%


*Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
*Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
*Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
*Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
*Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs
*Oroonoko, Aphra Behn


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