In this course, we will study five of the most famous and canonical women writers who have written in English: Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Toni Morrison. As we read these authors’ works, we will consider the texts alongside the peculiar cultural prominence of the writers themselves, from Jane Austen’s recent selection as the face of the British ten-pound note to Toni Morrison’s multiple appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show. As women writers serve as icons, symbols, and objects of fascination, we will ask how these perceptions of what it means to be a “woman writer” obscure, illuminate, and skew our understanding of women’s literary works.
Texts will include Pride and Prejudice, A Room of One’s Own, Mrs. Dalloway, The Bell Jar, and Beloved, along with selected poems by Dickinson and Plath. We will also watch several films based on the writers’ lives, including Becoming Jane, The Belle of Amherst, The Hours, and Sylvia.