Parallel to the emergence of (first wave) feminism, the Women’s Movement, and the struggle for suffrage at the end of the 19th century, literary representations of women started to challenge traditional views on femininity. Concepts like “true womanhood” or separate spheres for men and women were questioned and gender roles were re-negotiated. In this seminar, we will trace the emergence of “New Women” in American fiction from the latter part of the 19th century to the so-called “Roaring Twenties” to investigate in how far representations of femininities and sexualities changed and how aspects like equality, liberty and independence are depicted. We will analyze interconnections between literature and society and consider the cultural functions of these texts and representations. Students will be provided with historical backgrounds on changes in the U.S. at the time as well as theoretical texts which help to contextualize literary representations. The focus of the seminar will be on representations by female authors but we will also discuss two excerpts from texts by male writers. Our readings will include excerpts from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby and Henry James’s novella Daisy Miller as well as Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening.
Please buy Kate Chopin’s The Awakening in the following edition:
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Penguin English Library, 2018. ISBN: 9780241341421.
Other primary texts and a selection of secondary material will be made available.
Requirements: Active participation, including reading and writing assignments, participation in class discussion, a short presentation and a seminar paper.