Eng418: Women and Modernism

Writing in the introduction to her 1990 anthology, The Gender of Modernism, Bonnie Kime Scott recalls that modernism “as we were taught it at mid-century was perhaps halfway to truth. It was unconsciously gendered masculine…. Much of what … men had to say about the crisis in gender identification that underlies much of modernist literature was left out or read from a limited perspective.” If, as Scott argues, a general crisis of gender identification underlies modernist literature, then any discussion on gender and modernism (or women in it) ought to have implications for a broader definition of modernism itself. This course aims to sketch the outlines of such a definition.

Beginning with Madame Bovary, often called the “first modern novel,” and Andrea Dworkin’s critique of its gender politics, we will open the question of the modern (and its relationship to modernism) before moving on to Freud. These two texts will establish a background, as it were, for the modernists we will consider in the rest of the course; we will be moving back and forth from primary texts (including novels, poetry, and essays) to secondary ones (theories of modernism, theories of gender, theories of their interaction), carrying with us a sustained attention not simply to the gender of modernist content but also the implications of its form.

Download the Course Syllabus

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