English R1A

Reading and Composition: Wild Women in America

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Fall 2016 Bondy, Katherine Isabel
MWF 2-3 138 Morgan

Book List

Morrison, Toni: Sula; Robinson, Marilynne: Housekeeping; Rowlandson, Mary: The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

Other Readings and Media

Course reader with selections of documents pertaining to the Antinomian Controversy, the Salem Witchcraft Trials, & the Seneca Falls Convention, along with works by Anne Bradstreet, Phyllis Wheatley, Judith Sargent Murray, Margaret Fuller, Mary Prince, Harriet Jacobs, Emily Dickinson, Sojourner Truth, E. Pauline Johnson, Zitkala-Sa, and others. 

Mandatory screening of Robert Eggers’ The Witch (2015).  


Wild women come in all shapes and sizes: spiritual prophets, melancholic captives, alleged witches, radical reformers, reclusive poets, cunning runaways, intimate rivals, and meditative drifters are just some of the alluring, often challenging, figures we will explore in our survey of American history and literary form. Since its colonial beginnings, American society has been in turn vexed, enchanted, and upended by the presence of transgressive and law-breaking females, both fictional and historical. With a particular eye to the relation between femininity and form, we will read a wide array of women-authored prose and poetry spanning the first three centuries of the nation’s existence. Our inquiries will include, but not be limited to: female spirituality, prophecy, and revelation; gender reform, politics, and early activism; Native American writing and rights; questions of authorship, popularity, and canonization; sentimentality and sympathy; slavery and black womanhood; motherhood and kinship; domesticity and its experimentations; the potentials of female friendship; women and non-human relations. In our final turn to the twentieth-century with Toni Morrison’s 1973 Sula and Marilynne Robinson’s 1980 Housekeeping, we will shift these questions into a more contemporary moment as we continue to wonder: what difference do women make in American literature?

The authors in this course will unanimously challenge and destabilize our expectations, literary and otherwise. We will therefore spend the semester learning how, as readers and thinkers, to respond critically, creatively, and compassionately. This is a writing intensive course: you will be expected to produce 32 pages of writing in total, which will take the form of weekly reading responses, short essays, and longer revisions. Beyond sharpening basic critical writing skills through the development of strong close reading practices, our objective will be to discover how to incorporate literature’s language into our own—to echo it, converse with it, and expand upon it.

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