English R1B

Reading and Composition: Genre Trouble

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
15 Fall 2017 Ripplinger, Michelle
TTh 5-6:30 262 Dwinelle

Book List

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi : Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions; Austen, Jane: Northanger Abbey; Kempe, Margery: The Book of Margery Kempe; Woolf, Virginia: A Room of One's Own

Other Readings and Media

A course reader that may include selections from: Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale,” Julian of Norwich’s Revelation of Love, and Ann Radcliff’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, among others

Films and television may include: Bridget Jones's Diary


This course will examine the complex relationships between gender and literary genre. What social and historical forces have, at various points in time, caused certain genres to be marginalized as “women’s writing” or “chick lit”? How have female authors negotiated the fact that literary activity is often implicitly, or even explicitly, gendered male? In order to get at these questions, we will consider several different historical moments and ask of each how gendered discourse relates to, informs, and perhaps even constitutes an essential component of literary authority. We will situate each literary work in relation to its own moment, but we will also ask how these works, medieval and modern alike, speak to each other. We will wonder, for instance, what the first-personal rhetorical strategies deployed in the late-medieval Book of Margery Kempe—the first autobiography written in English—have to do with the narratological innovations of Victorian women’s popular novels. We will ask how Virginia Woolf and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie each position themselves in relation to predominantly male literary traditions.

We will be thinking a lot about gender and genre, then, but our engagement with these literary works will be guided by an underlying goal, which is to focus on your writing. In order to refine the core skills of critical reading and analytical thinking—essential tools for writing insightful and persuasively argued papers—the course requires two essays and will culminate in a final research project and presentation. A peer-review process will provide added support as we approach the research paper as a cumulative series of distinct and individually manageable steps. By the end of the semester, you will have produced at least thirty-two pages of writing, including both drafts and revisions.

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