British Fiction By Women, 1985-Present

In a paraphrase of the heroine of Muriel Spark’s novel Loitering with Intent, Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003), writes, “I went about my way rejoicing, thinking how wonderful it is to be a woman and a writer at the end of the twentieth century.” In this spirit, this seminar surveys acclaimed female voices in late twentieth-century and contemporary British fiction. We will focus in particular on these recent authors’ formulation of the Bildungsroman (novel of education), representations of sexual identity, and the dynamics of power in marriage and intimate relationships. We will also explore how these artists craft the acts of writing and the interpretation of narrative. Authors and texts may include A.S. Byatt (Possession), Jeanette Winterson (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit), Jhumpa Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies), Janice Galloway (The Trick Is to Keep Breathing), Zadie Smith (On Beauty), Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones’s Diary), Penelope Fitzgerald (The Blue Flower), Rachel Cusk (Saving Agnes), Penelope Lively (Moon Tiger), and Anita Brookner (Hotel du Lac). Besides consistent active contributions to discussion, assignments will include a class presentation, a short paper early in the semester, and a long essay (12+ pgs.) at the end of term. No midterm or final exam.
Oscar Wilde once wrote that all women eventually turn into their mothers, and that was our tragedy. But need the relationship between mother and daughter be tragic? The romance as well as the antagonisms between mothers and daughters has been beautifully addressed by some of the best writers of our time! In this course, we'll be examining the ways in which writers have represented the relationships between mothers, who are also daughters, and daughters, who see a possible future in their mothers. How does this first relationship inform what it means to be a woman? We'll start by examining a few influential myths regarding mothers and daughters: the stories of Persephone and Demeter, Snow White and her (step) mother, and Clytemnestra, Iphigeneia, and Electra. We'll then read contemporary literature alongside the work of feminist psychoanalytic theorists such as Nancy Chodorow and Luce Irigaray in order to gain an understanding of the complexity of these relationships. Writers may include: Angela Carter, Toni Morrison, Rita Dove, Edith Wharton, Kirsty Gunn, Virginia Woolf, Anne Sexton, Tanith Lee, and Amy Tan. We may also watch the film Lovely and Amazing.

TR 3:30-5


  • ENG/THAR-290

W 5:30-8:30



  • ENGL-290

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