Modern Women Writers [CRN 29392]

Discipline: English
Instructor: Huh
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1530
End: 1650
Field Work: Day 2 | March 1, 2018 | India
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

This course will read twentieth- and twenty-first century women’s literature, with the focus on traveling – both literally and metaphorically.  The traditional space for women was static, without much mobility, because of biological and sociopolitical factors in society: she had limited physical freedoms due to social expectations, no financial independence, and no cultural authority.  Brave women, however, broke away from their status prescribed by patriarchal social norms, which the writers in this class exemplify in a wide spectrum.  We will read an American woman writer’s presentation of Chinese women in China and America during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Asian American women writers’ traveling back to their parents’ countries, a French woman born and raised in Vietnam during the first half of the twentieth century, a black woman returning to her own town as a pariah in her townsfolk’s eyes, a Zimbabwean young girl caught between the Western school and her parents’ farm, and an Indian-American woman character in a cosmopolitan setting.  We will delve into meanings of travel for women writers and characters, from breaking away to returning.  How does travel shape or transform these women’s lives?  What is the impact on their economic status, political voices, or cultural expectations?  What is the outcome of their travel?  Writing is overall the ultimate self-preservation and presentation.  We will examine the link between the artistic quality (text) and their sociopolitical, cultural conditions (context). Toward the end of the semester, students will assess their own SAS voyage in relation to the readings from the course.

Field Work

Country: India
Day: 2
Date: March 1, 2018

Our field class will take place in Cochin, India, on March 1. With its long rich history and rapid economic growth, the present India shows a fascinating blend of the past and the present. Cochin, an international port and the hub of the Kerala area, has transformed into a metropolis. Women tend to get caught between the past and the present in rapidly changing societies, having to negotiate between traditional cultural norms and present-day, Western-influenced social practices. We will spend half of the day visiting a university for attending a class and exchanging conversations with students about their views of gender roles in India today. After lunch, we will walk around the city and interview women outside the campus. We will analyze and see whether there is any consensus and examine the sense of their identity or their position in the present India. Are there differences among women because of education, class ethnicity, age, etc? What is their view of the country vis-à-vis the rest of the world? Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day ends on a promising note for two sister characters—liberating from the social, cultural burdens imposed upon them. It will be interesting to compare the women characters in the book with real women in India in 2018.

Learning Objectives:
1. To identify changing views on gender roles, tradition, family, religion, in India
2. To enhance women’s experience of community
3. To understand the link between the artistic representation (text) and sociopolitical, cultural conditions (context)