Gender, Sexuality & Literature

Phililis Wheatley

DESCRIPTION: This course will explore the meaning of and relationships between the key terms “Gender,” “Sexuality,” and “Literature” throughout history and across cultures, with a focus on the development of writing systems and their power to shape (“construct”) social relations. In particular, the course will ask how do literary representations of gender roles create and contest “commonplace” notions of gender and sexuality? To what extent has the technology of writing been a gendered, and an engendering, activity? What is the connection between authorship and authority? Was Shakespeare a woman? We will also look at the ethics of representations of “the other” in the cause of locating alternative gender roles in other cultures and other times (or, as Michelle Rosaldo put sit, “seeing ourselves undressed”), using Margaret Mead’s controversial representation of Samoan girls as a case study. Finally we will examine the contentious novelistic representations of gender roles in Igbo societies as presented by male and female writers, Chinua Achebe and Buchi Emecheta.

This course has a Contemporary Ethical Issues (E) Focus designation.Contemporary ethical issues are fully integrated into the main course material and will constitute at least 30% of the content. At least 8 hours of class time will be spent discussing ethical issues. Through the use of lectures, discussions and assignments, you will develop basic competency in recognizing and analyzing ethical issues; responsibly deliberating on ethical issues; and making ethically determined judgments.

This class also has an Oral Communication (O) Focus Designation. Fifty percent (50%) of your grade will be based on your performance as a speaker and respondent in oral presentations in various formats. Prior to all of your oral communication assignments, I will provide training in effective public speaking in academic contexts, which will include advice on preparing and rehearsing for these assignments as well as pointers for creating successful visual supplements to your presentation.

Requirements: Daily Reading Responses, Two formal 4-5 page literary essays, Research Paper, Two Formal Debates, Group and Individual presentations.

Major Texts (with the exception of The Joys of Motherhood, all texts are available online or will be posted in Laulima):
Poetry by Enheduanna, Sappho, Gwerful Mechain, Philis Wheatley etc.
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Odyssey

Selections from the Bible
William Shakespeare (or Emilia Bassano?), The Merchant of Venice
Aphra Behn, Oroonoko
Virginia Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own”
Margaret Mead, from Coming of Age in Samoa
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
Buchi Emecheta, The Joys of Motherhood