Studies in Women and Literature

L378 — Spring 2019

Jennifer Fleissner
Days and Times
2:30 - 3:45p TR
Course Description

Topic: “The American Female Bildungsroman”


This class focuses on young women's growing-up stories, or Bildungsromans, written by American novelists from the late eighteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries. Focusing on this broad span of time will allow us to identify crucial ways in which plots for women change and, perhaps even more surprisingly, stay in many ways the same over the course of American literary history. Differentiating the books we read will require us to attend to the development of specific genres of fiction that become popular at distinct moments in that history (for example, the sentimental novel of seduction in the late eighteenth century; the romance in the mid-nineteenth; realism and naturalism in the late nineteenth; modernism in the twentieth). Recognizing how things also stay the same will require us to identify key features of the young heroine's struggle that persist across multiple genres and periods of time.

We'll read writers including Susanna Rowson, Elizabeth Stoddard, Harriet Wilson, Theodore Dreiser, Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, Anzia Yezierska, Nella Larsen, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Course requirements will most likely include regular short writing responses as well as a longer final project, a midterm, and a final.