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If You Were Teaching...

a one semester 2nd year college course in "Women's Lit," what novel would you teach???

I'm thinking about Jane Eyre, but would welcome other suggestions, just NOT The Handmaid's Tale, please.

ETA and not Mrs Dalloway, much as I love it, because I teach it in my 20th century lit course that some of my students in this upcoming course might have taken. And lidocafe teaches it in hers, so the same argument applies.


( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 12th, 2008 12:38 pm (UTC)
What's the definition of "Women's Lit"?
Apr. 12th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
Pretty much anything written by a woman. I don't consider it means that it's FOR women or necessarily "feminist" (although one could argue that everything that deals with women's lives in some way is intrinsically that)
(no subject) - chickenfeet2003 - Apr. 12th, 2008 04:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - intertext - Apr. 12th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2008 12:39 pm (UTC)
Only one novel?

Two books came to mind for me, both probably wrong. Evelina is a great book, and one they're unlikely to read other places.

Suggesting The Golden Notebook is probably as bad as suggesting The Handmaid's Tale, but I'm going to do it anyhow.
Apr. 12th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
Well, I could do two if they were both fairly short. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to do the course historically or by theme or what, but one possibility would be starting with Jane and ending with something else.

Evelina? I'm ashamed to say I don't know it...
(no subject) - frumiousb - Apr. 12th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - intertext - Apr. 12th, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - egretplume - Apr. 13th, 2008 05:24 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2008 01:43 pm (UTC)
Pride and Prejudice. It's fun and it's feminist--it breaks all the rules about "passive and pure heroine or die" but it's so funny and smart one doesn't realize it. In this one, the women have power equal to,if not more than, men. Within the rules.
Apr. 12th, 2008 03:44 pm (UTC)
There's also a whole lot of anger in those elegant sentences.
(no subject) - sartorias - Apr. 12th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - intertext - Apr. 12th, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
Jane Eyre
would work well, but if you wanted something a little less likely to have been encountered before, what about Elizabeth Gaskell? I've taught
North and South
at A Level with quite a lot of success. Or, of course, my beloved Austen -
is full of material relevant to "women's issues".
Apr. 12th, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC)
The anthology I am considering using actually has Northanger Abbey in it. Not my choice for "one" Jane, and I think it needs teaching in the context of other Gothics, but a possibility. But there's also the problem that I think a colleague teaches it in another course...
(no subject) - lady_schrapnell - Apr. 13th, 2008 08:54 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2008 02:02 pm (UTC)
How about Elizabeth Gaskell's Ruth--I know the heroine meets a tragic end, but it's written by a woman and addresses social issues, and talking about how the author was constrained by her society is interesting. Similarly, how about Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall--single mom has run away from alcoholic husband... in the 19th century. Lots of things to talk about with that.

And I really like The Wide Sargasso Sea, as much for its sexiness and bringing in of race questions (and for its beautiful language) as for its dialogue with Jane Eyre.

Personally, I really didn't like The Handmaid's Tale.

Edited at 2008-04-12 02:02 pm (UTC)
Apr. 12th, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC)
Yes, I've actually considered teaching both (Jane and Sea). However, there is again some risk that they might have Done that with another instructor.

And I didn't like Handmaid's Tale, either. I don't consider it Atwood's best work. If I were teaching her, I'd teach Alias Grace, which I think is a great book. Or Cat's Eye.

Edited at 2008-04-12 04:04 pm (UTC)
Apr. 12th, 2008 02:15 pm (UTC)
Sherri S Tepper's Beauty
Apr. 12th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
Ooh. Interesting choice. (thank you for NOT mentioning Gate to Women's Country, though I like it better than Handmaid's Tale)
(no subject) - a_d_medievalist - Apr. 12th, 2008 04:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - intertext - Apr. 12th, 2008 04:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2008 04:04 pm (UTC)
if you do Jane Eyre, you should do Wide Sargasso Sea. To The Lighthouse, A Room of One's Own, Middlemarch, The Awakening, The Bell Jar, I could go on for awhile. All great books. Good luck and you are damn lucky to have gotten such a course. I am jealous!
Apr. 12th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
I think To The Lighthouse is too hard, and Middlemarch too long (have to be realistic about the abilities of 2nd year college students). The Awakening - yes, a possibility, though if I were doing something non British I'd probably consider a Canadian. (Canon is slightly different north of the 49th). Carol Shields comes to mind - Unless is a great book. I'm also considering a Muriel Spark (Prime, anyone?).

Yes - I'm really looking forward to the course, and shall enjoy planning it over the next few months.
(no subject) - deepforestowl - Apr. 12th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
A book you've probably never heard of, by a writer who later sold out and became the best-paid female writer of her generation:
Saturday's Child
by Kathleen Thompson Norris. Sister-in-law of Frank Norris and wife of Charles Norris. Resident of Palo Alto, among other Bay Area places, and lyrical writer about nature's beauty -- not that there's a lot of that in this book.

Susan is an orphan living with her widowed aunt and three cousins in a San Francisco boarding house. Unlike her cousins, she insists on going to work -- she wants to make something of herself. And she gets in all kinds of trouble, of course. To escape the meaninglessness of waiting for a man to find her and marry her, she gets work in an office, becomes a companion to a wealthy young invalid (and sees the dark side of wealth), is tempted to start an irregular liaison with a writer, and finally finds satisfying work and marriage.

Norris is notable as the only successful romance writer (and in her day, she was unbelievably successful) to be profoundly distrustful of falling in love. The real plot in most of her novels is "girl finds the work she loves." Often that's "girl meets ranch and raises kids, discovering what a pain the wrong husband can be" or "girl drags herself up from shame and poverty and possibly losing her virginity." It's never about becoming merely a wife, although most of the heroines are married in the end.

I'm really glad to see that this book, one of her early, socialist/feminist period, has been reissued. Some of her middle-period works are just hackery and not worth reading. Her late period stories, after her husband died, are notable for the luxury of their settings and the absolute cynicism with which she writes about life among the wealthy.
Apr. 12th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
Wow - it sounds wonderful. You're right - I've never heard of it (or the author, to be honest). Might be a possibility for the future - not this year, perhaps.
(no subject) - wordweaverlynn - Apr. 12th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2008 07:04 pm (UTC)
I love Unless -- I love the issues about translating in it -- how you have to speak the language but also truly understand it. The Japanese fellow I'm tutoring wants to be a translator and we've talked about that book.

What about The Diviners? But then, that might be addressed in another class. *goes to look at book shelf* A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is pretty fabulous. And there's always The Secret Garden, but seeing as it's a children's book officially, it probably wouldn't fit.
Apr. 13th, 2008 06:09 am (UTC)
i think i might know the student whom you are tutoring--does he go to camosun? if it's the same one, he's a nice guy and v. hardworking
(no subject) - globalfruitbat - Apr. 13th, 2008 07:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lidocafe - Apr. 14th, 2008 02:07 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 13th, 2008 02:41 am (UTC)
Well, I don't think you can go wrong with Jane Eyre, if only because so many will expect them to know it and because so many other women writers have been affected by it. TB has been teaching it and Wide Sargasso Sea in first year, if you can believe it. Yes, both of them! But I suspect they've not spent enough time on it. If you wanted to do a George Eliot that is more obviously about women, I'd do A Mill on the Floss. I adore Spark, and PoMJB is a masterpiece, and very short and would compliment Northanger Abbey very well. One of the shorter Margaret Drabbles might also capture that period. I have had great fun teaching Weldon's The Life and Loves of a She Devil as well. Are you really confining it to Britain? If not, consider Nadine Gordimer, Isabel Allende, or even The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. The latter is such a jewel of a novel. I also liked Margaret Laurence's A Jest of God.

This is one of the hardest parts about teaching a new course, isn't it? Choosing means saying no to so many things.
Apr. 13th, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC)
I'm not confining it to Britain, just that I tend to read more British, so those are my choices. Allende...? Hmm. I think her books are a bit overwrought, except Of Love and Shadows, which I adore.

Yes, it's an agonizing decision. Whatever I choose, someone (maybe me) will say "why didn't you choose something else"?

I was talking about this with friends last night, and we actually thought Orlando might be a good choice.
Apr. 13th, 2008 05:33 am (UTC)
Linda Hogan's Solar Storms. Here is Publisher's Weekly paragraph copied from Amazon:
In her luminous, quietly compelling second novel, Hogan, a Chickasaw poet and writer (whose first novel, Mean Spirit, was a finalist for the Pulitzer), ties a young woman's coming-of-age to the fate of the natural world she comes to inhabit. Angela Jensen, a troubled 17-year-old, narrates the tale of her return to Adam's Rib, an island town in the boundary waters between Minnesota and Canada. Tucked into a pristine landscape of countless islands, wild animals and desperately harsh winters, it's her Native American family's homeland. As a child, Angela was abandoned by her mother, Hannah Wing, but not before Hannah had permanently scarred half of Angela's face; earlier, Hannah herself had been separated from her family and unspeakably abused. In Adam's Rib, Angela is reunited with her great-grandmother, Agnes Iron, and Agnes's mother, Dora-Rouge; she also spends a winter with Bush, a solitary woman who briefly raised her and, years earlier and also briefly, raised Hannah. Just as Angela discovers through her family's elemental way of life her own blood ties to the land, the threat of a huge hydroelectric dam project ruins her idyll. The four women-- Angela, Agnes, Dora-Rouge and Bush-- embark on a dangerous journey far northward to visit the homeland, where Hannah Wing is known to live. Hogan's finely tuned descriptions of the land and its spiritual significance draw a parallel between the ravages suffered by the environment and those suffered by Angela's mother. And, as the land is transformed, so are the lives of the characters, often in deeply resonant ways.
Apr. 13th, 2008 05:57 pm (UTC)
That sounds wonderful. I shall certainly look for it and read it - maybe food for next year... And I agree about The Golden Notebook - I think it's a bit dated now, though still important canonically. I didn't really enjoy it much when I read it for my comps, so I probably wouldn't want to teach it.
Apr. 13th, 2008 12:25 pm (UTC)
Mill on the Floss?
Apr. 13th, 2008 05:59 pm (UTC)
Yes - it or Middlemarch would have to be high on my list. It's so hard to choose!
(no subject) - lidocafe - Apr. 13th, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 13th, 2008 10:19 pm (UTC)
An interesting one to do with Northanger Abbey, and influential on it although not a gothic as such, is Charlotte Lennox's The Female Quixote.
Apr. 14th, 2008 12:41 am (UTC)
Yes, I have that on my "to read" list as well...
Apr. 14th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
I'd do either Maria Edgeworth, Belinda or Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, I think.
Apr. 14th, 2008 12:42 am (UTC)
More interesting choices! I'm now thinking of making a reading list and having students choose one to read as a second novel - all these good suggestions won't go to waste :)
(no subject) - lidocafe - Apr. 14th, 2008 02:10 am (UTC) - Expand
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