Introduction to Feminist Literary Studies

Course Description: 

The course introduces students to major theories, concepts, and debates of feminist literary studies. The readings will be mainly theoretical. The survey of selected feminist writings on literature seeks to provide an overview of theoretical approaches that have historically shaped the way we interpret literature in relation to gender. Most of the readings will cover the second half of the twentieth century, the time of groundbreaking contributions to feminist literary studies.

Since theory and fiction should be always read in conversation, the theoretical framework will be supplemented by fictional texts that are likewise considered as landmarks in the canon of literature by women.

 Some questions we will consider are: What does it mean to read literature through the lens of gender? Are texts written/read differently by female and male writers/readers? What are gender stereotypes in fiction and how can they be resisted and revised? How do adventures of female and male fictional characters differ? What alternative endings can we imagine for female protagonists if we reject conventional ones, such marriage or death? What is the position of women writers in the canon, is this position changing, and what are the main catalysts of these changes?

Finally, a small portion of the course will also include short creative writing exercises focused on seeking creative and individual, besides merely theoretical, answers to the questions above.

Learning Outcomes: 

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Understand and outline a range of commonly used qualitative research methods, what kinds of questions they are effective for answering, and their limits.
  • Understand the ways in which mixing multiple methods can enhance qualitative analysis and weigh the advantages against disadvantages of choosing certain methods or research design over others.
  • Recognize what constitutes a clear, compelling, and research-able question or set of questions and apply these to your research.
  • Grasp the underlying principles of ethical research and engage in informed debate about how researchers knowledge production and interpretation.
  • Discuss the main points of tension between research ethics and feminist politics that underlie ethnography on vulnerable and marginalized groups.
  • Understand and employ in your interview assignments, the principles of sampling and site choice in interviewing, participant observation, and archival, media, or other text-based research.
  • Conduct, interpret and analyze one interview with an individual of your choosing (please see the assignments section for more detail).
  • Understand and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of conducting ethnographic research and making interview material available online.
  • Outline a qualitative research portfolio that promises to adequately address a clear research question (if and whenever possible) related to the student’s thesis research.
Assessment: 

Course Policies and Requirements:

Attendance

Students are expected to attend all sessions of the course. It is possible to miss one session without giving a reason. More absences will be excused only if they are caused by serious health reasons and are properly documented. However, missing more than a total of three classes (i.e. 1 undocumented and 2 documented absences or 3 documented ones) may result in a failure of the whole class.

Students are expected to come to sessions with the material read beforehand and bring copies of readings (hard or electronic) for each session as class activities require an individual and close engagement with the texts.

 

Participation

Students are expected to participate in class discussions of the readings. Meaningful contributions co-create the content of the class, and are therefore integral to the overall learning experience.

Presentation

Students are asked to prepare a short presentation on either a writer or a text (a novel, a poem, an essay, etc.) of their own choice. The goal of the presentation is to show how other writers/texts inspire us in individual ways and why they may be a significant contribution to our course. The presentation should be kept to 10 minutes (maximum); the format is flexible (PPT, a handout, or just oral delivery).

Final Paper

Students need to submit a Final Paper on the topic of their choice. The paper must engage with at least one theoretical reading covered in class. The format of the paper is a literary analysis essay that presents an interpretation of a literary text while presenting an individual argument supported by meaningful evidence (this means engaging frequently with theory as well as providing textual evidence from fiction).

It is recommended that students choose a work of fiction (one text or more; the choice of the text may be individual, and may be readings encountered in the course, i.e. the reader or student presentations) and present an individual interpretation of it while using a theoretical text covered in the course. More research in order to find supplementary theoretical sources is not required. Students are also encouraged to utilize close reading techniques for effective literary analysis. The length of the paper should be 5-6 pages, MLA style.

 

Evaluation:

Final grade will be calculated as follows:

Attendance, Participation: 20%

Presentation: 20%

Final Paper: 60 %