Possessing Women

A man from Tennessee writes Memoirs of a Geisha.  A Japanese novelist tells the story of the "comfort women" who served the Japanese army.  A tenth century courtier poses as woman writing the first woman's diary.  Poets from Byron to Robert Lowell, through Ezra Pound to Li Po, have written as though they were women, decrying their painful situations.  Is something wrong with this picture, or is "woman" such a fascinating position from which to speak that writers can hardly help trying it on for size?  In this course we will look at male literary impersonators of women, as well as women writers.  Our questions will include who speaks in literature for prostitutes--whose bodies are in some sense the property of men--and what happens when women inhabit the bodies of other women via spirit possession.  Readings will draw on the Japanese tradition, which is especially rich in such cases, and will also include Western and Chinese literature, anthropological work on possession, legal treatments of prostitution, and film.  Participants will keep a reading journal and write a paper of their own choosing.

MWF 11-12


  • EALC-017
  • COML-187

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The Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania

The Alice Paul Center for Research on Gender, Sexuality and Women

3810 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 | (215) 898-8740

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