U.S. Women’s Literature and Culture

U.S. Women’s Literature and Cultures

ENG 455, AMST 455, WGSS 445


Instructor: Dr. Ruth Y. Hsu

Email: rhsu@hawaii.edu for additional inquiries

Office hours: M, T, W TBA and via zoom

Course Description:  This course features the literary and cultural production, worldviews and histories of women of diverse racial, ethnic, indigenous identities, as well as of gender diverse people in the United States from the 1960s to the present. We’ll read, watch, and listen to a variety of literary and cultural texts to understand how filmmakers, dramatists, artists, and writers viewed their pasts, contemporary circumstances, and potential. Their stories hold lessons for everyone as they deal with the impact on their lives and their families’ lives of ethnic and racial identity, of class, slavery, colonialism, and migration. Sexuality and gender have shaped women’s experiences, identities, and creative expression.

We’ll think and discuss and write about literary and cultural genres (such as prose, television shows, films, poetry) and performances (stand-up comedy, spoken word) that illustrate dynamic self-invention, or the formation of transgressive collectivities, or new modes of political or cultural resistance.

We’ll familiarize ourselves with “signifying” concepts from the disciplines of English Studies (particularly cultural and literary analytical methods), Women’s Studies, and American Studies, and interweave those concepts when we read and engage with primary texts such as the following: novels by Toni Morrison, Joy Kogawa, LeAnne Howe, and Keri Hulme; essays by Gloria Anzaldua, kuʻualoha hoʻomanawanui, Winona LaDuke, Audre Lorde, Susan Sontag; and short stories by Annie Proulx, Louise Erdrich, Ursula Le Guin.

Required books: Hulme, The Bone People; Morrison, The Bluest Eye; Kogawa, Obasan (selection), Howe, Shell Shaker


Several short readings (short stories; essays) will be in PDF in Laulima.


Possible feature film to be assigned, Women Talking; or, Orlando;


A selection of work by Mindy Kaling.


Assignments: in-class responses to readings (5 to 10 mins per week); one research-based semester paper (8 to 10 pages, double-spaced); one in-class presentation (5 to 10 mins.)


This class is primarily a reading and small and large group discussion class. You’ll gain the most if you do the assigned reading before class, come to class with one or two analytical questions about the assigned readings and engage your classmates in a discussion about the readings and the questions.


  • This course description is based upon the 455 taught by Dr. Elizabeth Colwill, American Studies