English 214:  19th c. U.S. Women Writers
Professor Glynis Carr 
Fall Semester 2002 
Office: 207-C Vaughan Literature Building 
Office Hours: M, W 10-11, 4:30-5:00; Th 4-4:30; 
and by appointment 
Phone: 570-577-3118 (Office); 523-7486 (Home)
577-1553 (Vickie Snyder, Dept. Secretary)

Texts and Materials
Norton, Mary Beth, and Ruth M. Alexander, eds. Major Problems in American Women's History. 2nd ed.
Fanny Fern. Ruth Hall.
Harriet Beecher Stowe. Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Harriet Jacobs. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
Kate Chopin. The Awakening.
Xeroxed packets of short fiction and miscellanea.
Suggestions for Further Reading and Links to Related Sites.

Course Description

    This course is an introduction to nineteenth century U.S. literature written by women. The course emphasizes fiction, but the reading list includes poetry, autobiography, essays, diaries, and other written materials. The course is organized thematically around major problems in American women's history.  We will explore the contribution of literary studies to our understanding of the past and the relationships between literary questions and historical ones.  Topics include the social construction of gender, the participation of writers and readers in processes of social change, the cultural work of texts, and literary activism.

    The course materials reflect multicultural interests. Although white, middle-class, Protestant writers from New England dominated aspects of the publishing industry, they did not monopolize it.  "Women writers"--in the nineteenth century, as today--are a diverse group of persons.  Consequently, the authors on the syllabus represent a variety of class, sexual, regional, racial, ethnic, and religious identities.

Course Objectives


    This class centers on discussion.  Lectures, when given at all, will be brief and informal.  Occasionally we will view films in class.  Depending on the choices you make concerning the final project, you may work collaboratively in a small group outside of class:  otherwise, all work is individual.

    We will not discuss every reading assignment at equal length in class, nor will lectures recapitulate the readings. Reading and class attendance do not substitute for one another. Students are expected to come to class having done the reading and writing assignments and prepared to contribute to discussion.

    This is not a W-class. Students will write (after reading, discussion, and research), but writing as a process will not be taught, rough drafts will not be peer edited in class, and so on. For students wishing to work on their writing skills, individual help is available from me during my office hours, as well as from the Writing Center.

Assignments and Evaluation

     Attendance and Participation will count toward the final grade.

     Weekly Questions are an important assignment for this class, given the centrality of discussion.  Once each week, students will prepare a question about some aspect of the materials under discussion.  This assignment is designed to let me know that you are keeping up with the readings and learning to engage texts critically and actively. I also hope you will learn how scholarly writing is motivated by questions.  I will collect questions before class when discussions are scheduled.  Twice (at mid-term and the end of the semester), students will resubmit their work in a well-organized packet, including a cover sheet (distributed later).

     Quizzes.  In lieu of a final exam, students will write 3 brief (7-10 pp.) take-home essays, structured around questions raised in Norton and Alexander's Major Problems in American Women's History. A handout will be given on each essay at the appropriate time, but the general questions to engage are how literary criticism contributes to an understanding of the problem being considered and what insights into the problem can be gained by a close reading of one or more literary texts. Although your approach to the quizzes will be structured by me, you do have considerable freedom in shaping your response (eg, narrowing the topic, and deciding which texts to engage).

The final grade will be distributed as follows:

Class Policies

Schedule of Readings and Activities

Week 1: Aug. 28

The Cult of Domesticity

Weeks 2-4:  Sept. 2-4-9-11-16 The Lives of Enslaved Women

Weeks 4-8: Sept. 18-23-25-30 and Oct. 2-7-9-14

Varieties of Nineteenth-Century Activism

Weeks 8-10:  Oct. 16-23-28

Week 9: No Class -- Fall Recess Oct. 21 

Women in the Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century West

Weeks 10-11: Oct 30 and Nov. 4-6

Victorian Sexuality

Weeks 12-13:  Nov. 11-13-18-20

Week 14: Nov. 27  No Class -- Thanksgiving Recess

The 'New Woman':  Suffrage and Social Reform

Weeks 14-15: Nov. 25 and Dec. 2-4 Week 16: Dec. 10 Quiz 3 is due at the time specified by the registrar's office for this class's exam period.

Return to Glynis Carr's Home Page.