Popular Writing to/for/at Women

Have you ever read a Harlequin romance? And if you have, would you want to admit to it in an academic setting? Probably not—“women’s fiction” tends to be denigrated—even more so if a man is doing the reading! This historical survey course will look at genres of writing that have traditionally have been marketed towards women and examine the characteristics of both the texts and the images of women and men that they offer, beginning with the early modern period (the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) and moving up to the present. We will look at Renaissance “conduct books” and prose romances and the ways they reflected and created expectations for women’s behavior. Then we’ll move on to the Victorian era and the literature of the “angel in the house.” In the modern day, we will look at self-help manuals, romance novels and “chick lit.” How have gender images been constructed by the writing marketed towards women, and how have these constructions changed (or not) over time? We will also explore ways reading itself has been gendered, either feminine or masculine.

The course grade will be based on:

  • reading
  • class participation
  • small-group work
  • and three papers.

Books will be ordered through Revolution Books, and a course reader will also be available at Professional Image.