ENGL-212-01 The Female Bildungsroman: Coming of Age in US Women's Literature
Spring for 2011-2012
This course will examine the bildungsroman, or novel of development, as a mainstay of U. S. women’s writing, focusing especially on texts from the last few decades of the twentieth century and on into the contemporary moment. We will also watch a number of films organized around this thematic as well. Examining narrative depictions of coming of age by a diverse group of writers and filmmakers, the course will explore ways in which gendered subjectivity is shaped by historical context and historical “memory”: indeed, many of these texts deal explicitly with issues of history, historiography, and remembrance, and depict the act of recovering some sense of the past as central to the formation (or re-formation) of personal and/or collective identity. In addition, we will examine how specific social differences of gender, race, class, sexuality, and nationality shape the narrative paradigm of “coming of age”; toward that end, we will pay special attention to coming-of-age texts and films by “ethnic,” working-class, and GLBTQ authors and filmmakers. We will also become familiar with some important critical debates about the bildungsroman as a major subgenre of the novel form, and we will read a number of contemporary critical and theoretical essays on cultural constructions of gendered subjectivity.
Some questions we will consider: how do cultural texts (visual, literary)—particularly narrative texts—both represent and constitute what we think of as gendered “identities”? What defines “coming of age” in the contemporary U. S., and how is this paradigm inflected by social differences such as race/ethnicity, class, sexuality, region, and/or nation? What are the governing, dominant “narratives” or “scripts,” psychological and/or cultural, that define female maturation, and how are these scripts inscribed, registered, engaged with, and /or contested and disrupted in the literary texts and films under consideration? Indeed, how/why do we imagine female maturation as “development,” as a continuous, linear narrative with a particular teleology (often culminating in marriage and motherhood)—and how have those expectations been shaped by literary and cultural texts? How are female embodiment and sexuality represented in these texts? How do these writers and filmmakers re-construct, and enable us to re-imagine, what it means to “come of age” in the U. S.?
Prerequisites: ENGL 040, 041, 042, or 043; or previously cross-listed Gateways from other departments.
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Spring '12: Merish L (file download)
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