U.S. Women’s Literature and Culture

US Women’s Literature and Culture

DESCRIPTION: As we study contemporary US women’s literature and cultural texts, are starting premise will be that there is nothing natural or essential about what constitutes a “woman.” We will consider evolving historical and political understandings of and challenges to understandings of this category. We will discuss poetry, autobiography, letters, fiction, YA literature, multigenre works, music videos, and films by queer and trans women, by those writing as Black, as Southern white, as diasporic Palestinian, as Asian American, as Kanaka Maoli, as Turtle Islander, as diasporic Filipina, and as Latina, and by women of different classes, ages, and abilities. As we do so, we will consider the interrelationships between gender, sexuality, genre, race, class, and nation. We will think about bodily sovereignty in relation to belongings to land and anticolonial and decolonial struggles for liberation. And we will consider why lies, secrets, and silences so often are topics women writers take up, and about the importance and difficulty of finding literary and cultural forms that give voice to what Toni Morrison has named “unspeakable thoughts unspoken.”

This course satisfies Breadth of Field.

The class meets in-person.

CW: The texts assigned, in addition to writings and discussion topics that your classmates might share, include descriptions of sensitive or disturbing topics, so please be ready for this in taking this class. We will work together to develop a set of best practices and guidelines that allow for (but do not require!) the exploration of difficult topics and that help create a community of care in the classroom.

Please note as well that the texts we will be discussing and the writing and ideas we will be sharing often will be deeply personal as well as political, and might at times challenge your own thinking and values. I therefore require that in taking this course, even as I expect we will express our different views, that you agree to demonstrate respect, consideration and care in the classroom for everyone in it.


Hala Alyan, The Arsonists’ City

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina

Carmen Maria Machado, In the Dream House

No’u Revilla, Ask the Brindled

Laurel Fantauzzo, My Heart Under Water

We will study shorter works by women including the Combahee River Collective, Ann Cvetkovich, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Brandy Nālani McDougall, Chanel Miller, Chanel Miller, Toni Morrison, The Palestinian Feminist Collective, Adrienne Rich, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Haunani-Kay Trask, Sojourner Truth, Elissa Washuta, Aiko Yamashiro

ASSIGNMENTS: A 5-6 page love letter (100 points); a midterm and final exam (300 points); in-class activities, short writing assignments and discussion questions (100 points).