ENGL 261: Women’s Literature

Class Program
Humanities Lecture,
Credits 5 Lecture Hours 55
This course begins by asking the questions “What is Womens Literature?” and “Why study Womens Literature?” Reading a variety of genres (poetry, fiction, & nonfiction), students will engage with intersecting expressions of womanhood across identities as they learn about the many ways women have empowered themselves, individually and collectively, to participate a society and a history that had long excluded them. Students increase their critical reading and thinking skills while learning to critique the limits of traditional literary canons, or what represents “great” writing. By encountering all different kinds of women's literature across several centuries and across the globe, we become better versed in the many experiences that define “womanhood” and thus become more inclusive readers and thinkers.


Completion of ENGL099 or ENGL100 a 2.0 or higher or placement into ENGL& 101.
Quarters Offered
Course Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to demonstrate the following knowledge or skills:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to define women’s literature and its role in advancing women’s voices and challenging literary canons of the past.
  2. Demonstrate women writers’ contributions to social movements and the way that women’s roles in society have evolved historically.
  3. Identify the historical role that access, opportunity, patronage, and privilege played in women’s ability to write and publish and how those roles have changed or stayed the same.
  4. Recognize how women writers present similar or differing concerns depending on the writers’ race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, gender expression, religion, and location.
  5. Make sense of the tensions between empowerment and collusion that women writers navigate when expressing their identities.
  6. Effectively communicate knowledge of the texts studied, the authors, and literary and social movements that produced them, with attention to the way race, ethnicity and economic status affect the way women communicate through writing.
  7. Use textual, critical, social, or historical analysis to identify main themes and significant passages in literature written by women and how those themes relate to current social or political issues.
Course Content Outline
  1. The course will situate the selected texts within their historical context and can either be taught chronologically (with an emphasis on the changes and consistencies over time) or thematically (where students would examine two or more texts within a thematic unit and compare / contrast the different author’s unique perspectives on that theme).
  2. Throughout the quarter, students will engage with key issues, questions, and debates in Women’s Literature, both historical and contemporary. The goal is to encourage deeper understanding about what it means to identify as a woman and to ask questions that help us explore identity in general. Some questions to explore:
    • Should we learn what it means to be specifically a woman or do we broaden our perspectives about what it means to be simply human when we read women’s literature?
    • Can a person without the “normal” physiological characteristics of a woman provide insights into women’s lives?
    • What does that even mean, to write “like a woman”?
    • Questions like these are central to our work in this class and to the benefits we gain by working through these questions together.
  3. Discussion of the selected texts will go beyond plot-summary and evaluating the merits of the narrative. Instructors may choose to direct discussion toward elements of theme, characterization, authorship / reflection (for nonfiction texts), or the use of literary devices like point of view, tone, structure/fragmentation, and figurative language.
Department Guidelines

Grades will be established through consideration of essays, quizzes and/or exams, presentations, multi-media projects, and participation.

PO4 should be assessed: Students will be able to recognize or articulate personal/interpersonal aspects of, or connections between, diverse cultural, social, or political contexts.

PO5 should be assessed: Students will be able to solve problems by gathering, interpreting, combining and/or applying information from multiple sources.