Women in Literature: Contemporary Women’s Voices of the Atlantic Rim

Discipline: Special Topics in Literature
Instructor: Sloane
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 10:50
End: 12:05
Field Work: Day 4 - Accra - Friday, 18 October | Ghana
Prerequisites: One lower-division course in either literature or writing. Download Syllabus

Twenty-first century women write to define their identities, to participate in enduring debates, and to evolve from the past and speculate about the future. They write to explore the world, to understand themselves and their local contexts, to develop questions and to propose answers. Contemporary Women’s Voices of the Atlantic Rim writing addresses questions of sexuality, love, relationship, politics, economic realities and disparities, private or secret experience, jingoism and xenophobia. From Cuban women writing about social constructions of motherhood, sexuality, and the female body to Ghanaian women writing about post-Independence changes in family life, from South African women composing among great linguistic diversity to Brazilian women authors exploring their Portugese legacy, the 21st-century Atlantic Rim women’s literary tradition is rich and varied. But what is a woman writer? And how does it matter?

This class will start from the premise that who does the writing—who gets to speak—is important to our analyses of what gets said and how that saying is disseminated to a readership. When theorist Michel Foucault asks a central post-structuralist question in his essay “What is an Author?”—What matters who’s speaking?­­—he is implicitly questioning the importance of naming the gender, sex, and sexuality of the flesh-and-blood author. Ultimately a response to those New Critics and post-structuralist theorists who claim that who does the writing does not much matter, this class endeavors to show that the locations of writers—their sense of home, regions of experience, sense of body, self-definition, sexual identity, class, race, ethnicity, and degree of personal wealth, to name a few—indeed does matter to what is being said. To underscore the point, we will read some feminist theories that acknowledge bodies, genders, sexualities, and sex. And we will write some reader responses (Rosenblatt; Burke), understand what it means to read rhetorically, and and bring our own bodies, genders, sex, and sexualities to the table as we read course texts from around the world. We will read widely across the genres of short stories, novels, travel blogs, graphic novels, and nonfiction that have sprung up in and around contemporary cultures of the Atlantic Rim.

Students will follow their own interests in a particular tradition, country, or genre for their final project, topic defined in consultation with their professor. Both women and men are warmly welcomed to this class.

Field Work

Country: Ghana
Day: 4 - Accra - Friday, 18 October

What are women’s experiences really like in Ghana today? How do those experiences expand our understanding of global women’s experiences, theories, and our questions about them?  Asking good questions is hard work. Having read Amma Darko’s Not Without Flowers, we will have developed a sense of the bleak realities of women’s lives in Accra and other places in Ghana. Is Darko’s fiction accurate; does it relay a picture of Ghanaian women’s lives that is current today? Tentative plans are being developed to include a conversation with the author Amma Darko. By also visiting the International Federation of Women Lawyers—Ghana, Global Mamas, and perhaps the domestic violence task force at the Ghanian police department, students will not only expand their knowledge of the specifics of women’s lives in Ghana, but they will also develop a set of questions that would help them explore and understand women’s experiences anywhere. Academic Objectives: 1. To contextualize Ammo Darko’s Not Without Flowers through firsthand observations and visits 2. To deepen our understanding of the relationship between cultural contexts and women’s experience

3. To develop an understanding of how non-profits, NGOs, and government programs cooperate (or not) in improving local women’s material conditions