Women Writers Around the Globe (Section 2)

3559-502:
Discipline: Modern and Contemporary Literature
Instructor: Fraiman
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 1540
End: 1655
Field Work: Day 1 | Ghana Download Syllabus

Following the path of our voyage, this course treats contemporary texts—mostly short fiction—by women from Mexico to Morocco. A guiding question will be: To what extent can we generalize about women and their concerns across national boundaries? Do women around the world seem drawn to many of the same topics, face common problems, and take similar approaches to writing about these things? Or do women’s lives, issues, and literary strategies vary widely from place to place? How do our writers think about their national identity, their place in the global economy of the twenty-first century? How would they define and what do they think of feminism? How do their works comment on such matters as growing up, family, war, history, ethnic identity, sexuality, the United States? Do their writings seem to confirm or challenge your ideas about women in other parts of the world? In addition to exploring what our texts have to say, we will also be analyzing how they say it. Using the literary critical method of close reading, we will pay microscopic attention to the formal characteristics of our works. How is a particular story narrated and from whose perspective? Where does it begin and how is it structured overall? What kinds of images and vocabularies are deployed, and to what effect?

Field Work

Country: Ghana
Day: 1

This field lab takes us to a hospital in Takoradi where we will tour a maternity ward and speak with physicians and midwives about childbirth practices in Ghana. Topics for discussion might include: the availability of pre- and post-natal healthcare for women; beliefs and practices around family planning; infant and maternal mortality rates; the role of midwives in Ghana today; the interaction of “modern” and “traditional” beliefs/ knowledge around pregnancy and childbirth; the use of anesthesia during childbirth; the availability of general gynecological care for women; the role of fathers in pregnancy and childbirth. During our visit, we will want to minimize our intrusiveness as far as possible and be respectful of patient privacy; even so, this trip will require us to be thoughtful about and sensitive to the proper limits of tourism. It also promises to be a moving experience that speaks—in a vivid and immediate way—to some of the ideas about maternity, women’s bodies, and female sexuality raised by our literary texts. Certainly it will help us think further about whether there are aspects of women’s experiences that are “universal” and to what extent a biological process, such as childbearing, is significantly shaped by cultural context.