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ENGL 3267 Women Writers


Christie-Anne Leopold



Admittedly, the general course description for this class is quite vague and broad. While our focus will be on British and American women writers, we will be narrowing our scope to the last twenty years (1996-2016). The reason for this telescopic vision is twofold. First, we cannot expect to adequately survey all British and American women writers, as, thankfully, there are too many for us to study in our short, fourteen-week course. Second, if you have taken women’s literature classes in the past, then you have most likely been exposed to literature written by women in the first and second wave of feminism. Some of you may have even been lucky enough to have read or studied medieval, renaissance, romantic, and Victorian women writers. Focusing on the last twenty years gives us a lens into contemporary issues and concerns women writers face. Some of these issues and concerns will, of course, have tendrils to the past, reaching as far back as before the first wave of feminism. But some of these issues and concerns will be different, born out of the closing of a century (20th) and the beginning of another (21st). Such a critical turning point should not be taken lightly, as new and old issues of identity, race, gender, equality, and power clash. Women writers of the last twenty years occupy this tense, transitional space and time.

As such, we will investigate the issues and concerns women writers of the last twenty years represent in their pieces of fiction, memoirs, and blogs. Through examination of literature written by women over the last twenty years, we will endeavor to critically engage with issues currently facing women, such as identity, race, embodiment, gender, equality, and power. While we have narrowed our scope for this course considerably, more narrowing is required, as we cannot adequately even survey women writers of the last twenty years, as there have been numerous important writers and texts. Our fourteen-week course has, unfortunately, limits. I highly encourage you, however, to bring any experience and knowledge you have of literature or writers outside of our assigned reading to bear on our discussions, as this will enrich all of our learning experiences, including mine. In order to give us a structure to this class, I have divided the semester into units. These units are meant to encapsulate some of the most innovative and important genres women have been writing in during the last twenty years. We will begin this semester investigating women writers and artists of comics. In the last ten years, comic books have become cultural and social power-houses. Originally a genre solely occupied by men and about men (think about the writers Alan Moore, Stan Lee, and William Moulton Marston and the characters Captain America, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, etc.), comics have evolved, and women writers and artists have been at the forefront of this evolution, namely Nancy Collins, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Adriana Melo, Emma Rios, Gail Simone, Grace Ellis, and many, many more. Women writers have pushed the boundaries of comics’ representation of gender, identity, race, and power, and we will investigate how and why they have done this. Our next unit will be dystopian literature. While women have been writing dystopias since the 1960s, the last twenty years has seen a boom in women-penned-dystopias (most famously J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter), some of which also center around a female protagonist (think about Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games and Veronica Roth’s Divergent Series). In post-apocalyptic settings, women writers look to female characters to right the wrongs of the world. We will look at two women writer’s depiction of death, survival, and gender in a post-apocalyptic world. Our third unit will broaden out to focus on general fiction. It is important to look at this generalized genre, for in it, women writers tackle seemingly mundane aspects of life for women characters, giving us a glimpse into some of the most stereotyped and novel experiences of women’s lives, such as narratives of family, mother, daughter, sister, and child. Our last unit will focus on memoirs written by four powerful voices: Gloria Steinem, who is a poignant voice of second wave feminism, bell hooks, who has spent her life devoted to third wave feminism, Janet Mock, who takes us on a personal journey of becoming woman, and Helen Macdonald, who takes us on a journey of grief and mourning through falconry. Memoirs provide a lens into the most personal aspects of women writers and their lives. They tell a narrative of self that is deeply intimate, sometimes scared, and profoundly woman. Along with these units, we will also read and discuss chapters from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run With the Wolves in order to connect our comic, dystopian, fiction, and memoir readings with myths and stories of the woman archetype. We will also read some blog pieces from Ms. Magazine to tether us to current issues facing women. Through these units, readings, and weekly assignments, we will journey through important issues and literary techniques, tropes, and genres picked-up and utilized by women writers to explore the concept of “woman.”


Throughout this course you will learn to:

  • Identify and classify a range of genres in which women write
  • Discuss the elements of each text and learn to interpret their meanings and functions
  • Locate, analyze, and evaluate texts written by women in their proper cultural, social, and historical frames
  • Recognize, discuss, and manipulate various reading practices and literary theories applicable to texts written by women
  • Learn to analyze, in written form, your evolving interpretations of texts written by women


In reading order;

  • Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves(ISBN: 978-0712657471)
  • Kelly Sue DeConnick (author) and Valentine De Landro (artist), Bitch Planet Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine (ISBN: 978-1632153661)
  • Kelly Sue DeConnick (author) and Valentine De Landro & Taki Soma (artists), Bitch Planet, Issue 6: Bound by Law, Down for Justice
  • Kelly Sue DeConnick (author) and Valentine De Landro & Taki Soma (artists), Bitch Planet, Issue 7: President Bitch
  • Noelle Stevenson (author) and Brooke A. Allen (artist), Lumberjanes Volume 1: Beware the Kitten Holy (ISBN: 978-1608866878)
  • Carola Dibbell, The Only Ones (ISBN 978-1937512279)
  • Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (ISBN: 978-0446675505)
  • Helen Oyeyemi, The Icarus Girl (ISBN: 978-1400078752)
  • Louise Erdrich, The Antelope Wife: A Novel(ISBN: 978-0061767968)
  • Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road (ISBN: 978-0679456209)
  • Janet Mock, Redefining Realness: MY Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More(ISBN: 978-1476709130)
  • bell hooks, Communion: The Female Search for Love(ISBN: 978-0060938291)
  • Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk (ISBN: 978-0802124739)


Zoom Hangout Participation 20%
Twitter Assignments 15%
Creative Journals + Visual Storytelling Activity 15%
Group Project 25%
Questionnaire (2) 5%

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