Illinois State University
English 260: The History of Literature by Women
Section 1, T-Th 12:35-1:50, STV 347A
Spring 1995
Julie Shaffer

Office: STV 413U

Office Hours: TR 2:00-3:30

Office Phone: 438-2364

Course Description; Texts; Assignments and Grades;
Attendance and Paper Policies; Reading Schedule

In this course, we will survey the history of western literature in English by women. The field is too large to examine exhaustively and we cannot hope to cover every major female author writing in her period in America and Great Britain nor can we hope to look at every topic that has concerned women writers. We will, however, touch on as many seminal female authors as we can, and on the issues they have written about. As we do so, we will examine not only a variety of literary genres by women poetry, stories, and novels - but other materials as well, including conduct materials and essays about women and their cultural place. For the most part, the texts we read will be woman-penned, but occasionally male-authored works will be included to provide other points of view. Over the course of the semester, we will focus on a number of thematic cultural issues, such as women's "real nature" and the societal roles sanctioned for them at different moments in western history. As we attend to the shifts in definitions of women's nature and their roles, we will move toward an awareness of the ways that femininity and female identity get constructed. As we do so, we will examine the ways that gender itself, male and female, and the ways the two sexes interact, are constructs that shift over time.

In looking at literary genres, we will of course attend to their literariness, but we will also examine the ways these participate with other cultural texts to construct female identity; we will look, that is, at the ways women's texts react to previous constructs of accepted femininity and female identity, challenging or enlarging on such constructs. Because the question of female identity overlaps with questions of class and race, we will discuss these complications of the issue of 'natural" femininity. We will be doing a lot of reading and writing and I will expect you to keep up. You will also be expected to participate in discussion; doing so will comprise a percentage of your grade.

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Packet, available at PIP in the Bone Center
Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, eds., The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women
Frances Burney, Evelina
Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (in Gilbert and Gubar)
Alice Walker, The Color Purple


Elizabeth McMahan et al, The Elements of Writing about Literature and Film

Supplementary works will be on reserve at Milner. You may find them helpful for your presentations and/or papers (see assignments, below). I may at times require you to read something on reserve. We may also view films as a group.

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Assignments and Grades: Your grade will be based on participation, on written work performed in class, on analytic and research-based papers written outside of class, on any group work I may give in class, and on a final, if I assign one. I will assign 3 papers. You will each also be required to give a presentation on one of the major works we'll be discussing.

Attendance and Paper Policies: We will follow a modified version of the English Department's policy on attendance. According to that policy, you may take a total of one week's worth of excused absences, but once your absences have exceeded two weeks' class meetings, your grades suffer. In this class, I will not differentiate between excused and unexcused absences; once your absences exceed 2 weeks of class meetings, your grade may fall one-half letter grade for each additional absence. Once your absences exceed 3 weeks of class meetings - 6 absences - your grade may drop to fail. Very late arrivals and very early departures will be counted as absences, as will your coming to class unable to add to discussion from utter unpreparedness - from not having read the text, for example. If you are absent on days on which we are writing essays in class or doing group work, in addition to being marked absent, you will receive a fail for those grades. In-class writing and discussion cannot be made up. Other assignments handed in late will also adversely affect your grade, unless you have discussed your need to hand a paper in late beforehand with me. Generally, papers handed in late will drop one full letter grade for each day they're late, and after one week, they will not be accepted. Plagiarism will result in a fail on the paper, a fail in the course, and action taken against you through the appropriate university channels. Newspaper reading, sleeping, and private conversation in class, along with any other rudenesses, will not be tolerated.

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 Readings from The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women (NALW) and the course packet
(many from Vivien Jones' Women in the Eighteenth Century: Constructions of Femininity [London: Routledge, 1990])
to be read and discussed preceding discussion on Burney's Evelina

On sex, men's and women's nature, and relationships:

Aphra Behn, "The Willing Mistress," 1673, and "The Disappointment," 1680 (NALW 88-89; 90-93)

Delariviere Manley, "The Wife's Resentment" 1721 (in packet)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, from Emile, 1761 (in packet)

George Savile, the Marquis of Halifax, from The Lady's New Year's Gift; or, Advice to a Daughter 1688 (Jones selections, from packet)

Wetenhall Wilkes, from A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice to a Young Lady 1740 (Jones selections, from packet)

"Philogamus," from The Present State of Matrimony; or, the Real Causes of Conjugal Infidelity and Unhappy Marriages 1739 (Jones selections, from packet)

Dr. Gregory, from A Father's Legacy to His Daughter 1774

On men and women's nature and education:

Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, "Female Orations" 1662 (NALW 72-6)

Mary Astell, from A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, 1694 (NALW 113-117)

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, "To the Countess of Bute," 1753-63 (NALW 118-22)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, from Emile, 1761 (in packet)

Mary Wollstonecraft from Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1791 (NALW 135-143; 157-160)

Maria Edgeworth, from Letters to Literary Ladies, 1795 (NALW 187-94)

To be read and discussed before reading Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South:

John Ruskin, "Of Queen's Gardens," from Sesame and Lilies, 1864 (in packet)

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last updated 12 January 1999