Warrior Women in Literature, History, and Popular Culture
A warrior, one who engages in combat, is typically conceived of as male. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a warrior as “a fighting man” and “a valiant or an experienced man of war.” When a warrior breaks from this male default, she is not merely a warrior, but a woman warrior, a virago, an Amazon, or a G.I. Jane. Despite being thought of as uncommon, women have fought as long as there has been war, and legends of such warriors have been with us since antiquity.
In this class, we will study how these women have been represented in literature, including myth, novels, short stories, film, epic poetry, opera, comics, and television. We will supplement this literature with nonfiction essays, historic documents, and documentary film. Unsurprisingly, we will approach these texts through the lens of gender and women’s studies, meaning that we will both analyze the depiction of gender roles in these texts as well as put the histories and experiences of women in the center of our studies.
Topics pursued will likely include: superhero(ine)s, sword maidens, amazons, female-separatist societies, cross-dressing, cyborg razor girls, valkyries, women martyrs, and the history of women in combat. Readings may include or excerpt: The Aeneid by Virgil, The Book of Judith and the epic poem “Judith,” A Narrative of Mrs. Charlotte Clarke, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Ring Cycle by Richard Wagnar, “The Black God’s Kiss” by C.L. Moore, The Legend of the Condor Heroes by Jin Yong, Amazons of Black Sparta, The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, Alana: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce, Mulan, The Bandit Queen of India by Phoolan Devi, episodes of Xena Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wonder Woman, and The Invisible War.
Because this is a W-credit course, you should expect to write 10-15 pages of graded out-of-class writing. This will likely be met through three short papers, one of which you will revise and expand into a 5-7 page final paper. Other assignments may include: discussion board posts, peer facilitation, peer review, and in-class quizzes. Because class meetings will be student-centered and discussion-based, in-class participation will be a significant portion of the grade.