Intro to Lit: Literary History

Twentieth Century (US) Women’s Literature

 Course Description:

In this chronological glimpse into women’s writing, we will trace changes in the novel as a genre and representations of women’s lives while we discover commonalities across these texts. This selection of novels, plays, short stories, poems, and essays will help us examine the intersections of sexuality, class, ethnicity, and nation women grapple with in their lives and writing. As we move across decades in these texts, we also embark on a journey throughout the United States that begins in the Northeast followed by a visit to the American South. We will then head to the West Coast and the Midwest. After we direct our steps to the Mexico-US border, we will end our collective journey in Hawaii. On our journey we will pause to ponder a few questions: How do writers communicate their relationships with people, place, and memory? How does place and memory inform the characters these writers create?

To widen our exposure to the literature women produced in the United States in the past century, students will read their choice of texts from a list provided and give a presentation on one book at the end of the course.

 Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Augment their knowledge of how literature is organized by historical periods, genres, cultures, and cultural formations.
  • Improve their ability to ask questions of and to read, analyze, and interpret complex literary texts, using relevant literary terminology critically and creatively.
  • Improve their ability to express ideas by organizing and developing and supporting a description, analysis, or argument in written formats, within the conventions of academic writing.
  • Produce a significant amount of writing such as the course fulfills the requirements of its mandatory W Focus designation (i.e., 4,000 words).


The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905)

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston (1976)

Tracks by Louise Erdrich (1989)

Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991)


A Raisin in the Sun from 1961

 Major Assignments:

Close Reading, Scene Analysis, Critical Papers, and Oral Presentation