Course Description & Goals

English 233 fulfills both a Thematic Sequence and the College of Arts & Sciences humanities requirement at Miami University. The formal subject of this course is “British Women Writers,” and (of course) we’ll read together texts by British women from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. First, we examine the historical period just after the French Revolution and discus the Godwin/Wollstonecraft/Shelley family tree and influence, reading the mother-Mary-Wollstonecraft-(Godwin)’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women and the daughter-Mary-Wollstonecraft-Godwin-Shelley’s Frankenstein, along with a selection of biographical and philosophical supporting texts. Then, we’ll look at elements of the supernatural and unknowable by reading George Eliot’s obscure novel The Lifted Veil and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. We’ll read Virginia Woolf’s classic A Room of One’s Own, reflecting back to Vindication and considering some more-modern British gender and feminist theories. Finally, we’ll read some re-tellings (Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Jeanette Winterson’s Weight, among other shorter works) and consider what it means to “re-tell” a story culturally and politically.

Throughout the course, we’ll keep a collaborative reading blog (welcome!). Students also develop creative/interpretive projects; author an analytical/critical essay/project; and lead class discussion once, providing a brief handout on their chosen text or author. Aside from all this though, I hope we have a whole lot of fun.

Our formal course goals are: 

  • To cultivate attitudes and skills that make reading both a pleasure and an occasion for critical reflection; to read sensitively, observe carefully and write analytically, critically and persuasively.
  • To explore and reflect upon the ways in which British women authors and thinkers have contributed to the development of (Western) culture, philosophy & literature.
  • To better understand the historical, social and cultural contexts of feminism, British literature and Western civilization.
  • To create texts that respond creatively and critically to the texts we explore; to practice our authorship.
  • To participate in open, free, thought-provoking discussion; to learn with and from others; to learn by helping others learn.

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