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Dr. Catherine Decker

English 336

Fall 1995

Women Writers


Course Description (General)

In this class, students read and analyze literary works by women. Special emphasis is placed on recognizing and discussing the texts' treatments of and relationships to historical and contemporary issues that deal with women's lives. Students will be evaluated by classwork, a midterm, final, and a minimum of ten pages of typed writing. Classwork may involve taking quizzes or giving oral presentations on assigned topics. Homework may involve writing short paragraphs on various topics.

Course Description (Specific)

This section of women writers will focus women's novels written at the turn of the eighteenth century into the nineteenth. During this time period, some of the fundamental aspects of modern life were emerging--including the dominance of capitalist industry, the separation of public and private life, and the notion that individuals have moral autonomy. The leading novelists of this time were women who were both more highly praised and paid than their male counterparts. We will read not only one of the enduring classics of Jane Austen and a novel by Mary Wollstonecraft, the famed feminist, but also works by other women of the period that were the "blockbusters" of their day and outsold both Austen and Wollstonecraft. We will focus intently on the legal, economic, and social oppression of women in these novels, and the ways in which the novels promote modifications of social rules that will improve women's conditions in the private home, on the job, and upon the public streets. In class discussion these issue will be connected to the present conditions of American women. We will look as well at the power of female friendships and networks in the novels and the ways in which the authors establish themselves as moral guides for the reader. We will learn some of the key ways in which literary critics approach the analysis of novels. You will write two papers of five to seven pages analyzing one or more women's novels.

Course Objectives

1. To read and understand several key novels by women writers.

2. To write two clear, coherent, concise, and grammatically correct papers which analyze the texts.

3. To examine the texts in relationship to sex and gender.

4. To learn how to relate texts from a different period of time to their historical context and to contemporary issues and conditions.

5. To improve one's ability to think, speak, and write about literary texts.

6. To learn several methods of analyzing novels.

Required Texts

1. Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. Ed. Anne Eprenpries. New York: Penguin, 1972.

2. Burney, Fanny. Cecilia: Or, Memoir of an Heiress. Eds. Peter Sabor and Margaret A. Doody. The World's Classics. New York: Oxford UP, 1988.

3. Charriere, Isabelle de. Letters of Mistress Henley. New York: MLA, 1994.

4. Porter, Jane. Thaddeus of Warsaw. Rev. ed. Bentley's Standard Novel Series 4. New York: AMS P, 1831.

5. Radcliffe, Ann. A Sicilian Romance. Ed. Alison Milbank. The World's Classics. New York: Oxford UP, 1993.

6. Wollstonecraft, Mary. Maria; Or, The Wrongs of Woman. New York: Norton, 1994.

Required Work

1. Read all six of the required novels. Introductions and notes to some of the novels will also be required reading (this material is including in the editions that are required).

2. Attend all classes, unless you have an illness or an emergency.

3. Write topic proposals and outlines for your two papers. Write two papers totalling between them a minimum of 5,000 words that are original analyses of women's novels. These papers must have clear, well-supported thesis statements and be written in clear, concise, grammatically correct prose formatted according to the Modern Language Association Style Sheet.

4. Participate in class discussions of the novels.

5. Study for and take a midterm and final examination upon the reading and material presented in class sessions.

6. Take any in-class quizzes.

7. If assigned an oral presentation, prepare your material and present it to the class in a clear, slow speaking voice. Be prepared to answer student questions about your presentation.

8. Write any assigned paragraphs for homework in clear handwriting, skipping every other line. These may also be typed if you wish. Be sure to cite any sources used. Proofread your homework for grammar and style.

Class Policy

If you are delayed for any reason and arrive late for class, please enter quietly and sit down. Bring to every class your notebook, handouts, and the novels that are listed as the topics of discussion in the class schedule below. A paperback dictionary is also a useful book to bring to class. If some problem prevents your from completing your reading or homework, do not stay home from class.

Grading Policy

Class Participation, Quizzes, Homework, and Oral Presentations 20%

Paper One 20%

Paper Two 20%

Midterm 20%

Final Exam 20%

Attendance Policy

Note that course objectives three, four, and six will be done almost entirely in the classroom. Note as well the percentage of the grade that is based on class participation, quizzes, and oral presentation. Be aware also that the midterm and final will test material which will be presented orally in class.

Late or Missed Assignment Policy

Students must take the midterm at the assigned time or make arrangements to take it at another time before the day of the midterm. Student who have not made such arrangements and miss the midterm will fail it, unless they can prove an extreme emergency unexpectedly prevented them from coming to class that day. Students have one week to make arrangements with me to make up missed homework, oral presentations, quizzes, and papers. I will set an alternative due date, or, in some cases, an alternative assignment to make up the missed work. No late penalty will apply, but students should be aware that they may not find the alternative assignment as congenial to them as the original. If students do not contact me within one week after the missed work, I will give them an F for that assignment. If the new due date is missed, the grade for that assignment will be an F.

Academic Honesty

Any time you turn in work to me, you must make clear if any number of words--even only two words--are taken from someone else's writing. You must also indicate if you have used another person's ideas. I will teach you how to indicate from where you have copied these words or taken any ideas. Any use of another's work (whether exact wording or ideas) that is not clearly labeled by the use of quotation marks, parenthetical citation, a footnote, or an endnote, is plagiarism. Typical punishments for plagiarism include failing the assignment or the course. Occasionally, plagiarism results in expulsion from college.

Non-Discrimination Policy

Any harassment or discrimination on the basis of any of the following is a violation of a person's civil rights and will not be tolerated in this class: race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, gender, marital status, persons with disabilities, and medical condition, Vietnam Era Veterans, and sexual orientation.

How to Get Help

Please come talk to me during my office hours if you feel you are confused or need to discuss any aspects of this course. If you have another class during my office hours, please talk to me before or after class about making a personal appointment. Leave messages for me with the English Department, if you are not able to come to class and need to arrange a meeting. Be aware the college offers other support services that you have a right to use--consult the college handbook for specific information.


Tentative Class Schedule

9/21 Introduction

9/26 Letters of Mistress Henley (read "Note on the Text, p. xxix and the text, pp. 3-42; after reading this you may wish to read the introduction, pp. xi-xxii which is not required reading)
Key Issues: The Choice of a Husband; The Wife's vs. the Husband's Rights to Control House Decor, the Servants, the Wife's Clothes, Breast Feeding, and the Education of Children

9/28 Cecilia (read all of Book One and the first five chapters of Book Two; feel free to read ahead)
Key Events: Married Man Plots Against Cecilia; The Vices of High Society; The Poor Abused by the Wealthy; A Masquerade Party; A Duel

10/3 Topic Proposal for Paper One Due/Cecilia (read from Chapter Six of Book Two, "A Family Party" to the end of Book Four, Chapter Three, "A Reproof")
Key Events: Female Friendship; Plans for Happiness; The Miser; The Snob; Three Potential Husbands; Falling in Love; Emotional Blackmail; How Much is a Life or a Promise Worth?

10/5 Cecilia (read from Chapter Four of Book Four, "A Mistake," and all of Book Five)
Key Events: Marriage Proposals; Rivals For the Man She Loves; Buying a Wife; A Death

10/10 Outline of Paper One Due/Cecilia (read from Chapter One of Book Six, "An Antique Mansion," to the end of Book Seven, Chapter Seven, "An Event")
Key Events: Family Duty vs. Love; Love vs. Money; A Marriage Proposal, A Wedding

10/12 Cecilia (read from Chapter Eight of Book Seven, "A Consternation," to the end of Book Nine, Chapter One, "A Wrangling")
Key Events: A Broken Engagement; An Illness; A Tale of Sex, Violence, Prostitution, and Suicide; A Death; A Man Attempts to Earn a Living; The Clash of Four Approaches to Life

10/17 Cecilia (have the novel finished)
Key Events: A Broken Marriage; A Wedding; A Duel; Insanity

10/19 The Wrongs of Woman (read from Chapter 1 to the end of Chapter 15)
Key Events: The Mad House; A Romance; An Illegitimate Child; Child Abuse; Rape; Abortion; Prostitution; Women's Work; Philanthropy; Adultery; Pandering; A Fugitive Wife

10/24 Paper One Due/Midterm Preparation/The Wrongs of Woman (read from Chapter 16 to the end of the novel)
Key Events: Escape; A Trial; Multiple Endings

10/26 Midterm

10/31 A Sicilian Romance (read pp. 1-2 and Chapters One through Eight)
Key Events: The Narrative Frame; The Mystery of the Southern Part of the Castle; A Stepmother's Jealousy; Love; A Forced Marriage; An Escape Attempt; A Wound; Imprisonment; A Pursuit; Banditti; Female Friendship; The Abbey

11/2 Topic Proposal for Paper Two Due/A Sicilian Romance (read the rest of the novel)
Key Events: A Nun's Tale; Abate vs. Marquis; A Rescue; Another Rescue; The Marquis' Secret; Murders

11/7 Northanger Abbey (read Chapter 1 through 19)

11/9 Northanger Abbey (read the rest of the novel)

11/14 Outline of Paper Two Due/Thaddeus of Warsaw (read Chapters One through Six)
Key Events: An Abandoned Wife; An Attempted Royal Assignation; A Battle; No Quarter; A Friend

11/16 Thaddeus of Warsaw (read Chapters 7 through 14)
Key Events: The End of Poland; A Mother's Dying Wish; Poverty; Illness; A Robbery

11/21 Paper Two Due/Thaddeus of Warsaw (read Chapters 15 through 25)
Key Events: Lost Friends; A Rescue; A Job; Sexual Harassment; An Abused Wife

11/28 Thaddeus of Warsaw (read Chapters 26 through 37)
Key Events: Women in Love; Vices in High Society; A Sexual Proposition; A Death; An Arrest; Prison; A New Job

11/30 Exam Preparation/Thaddeus of Warsaw (read the rest of the novel)
Key Events: A Reunion; A Rescue; A Death; An Illness; Family Secrets Exposed; Marriages

12/7 Final Exam 10 am