Handmaids and Heroines in American Literature

ENG 150

Spring 2018

Professor Carrie Johnston

TR 11:00-12:15

Tribble A204

Course Description

In this course, we will discuss the ways women writers have narrated their experience through literary production. Beginning with Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), the class will move through literary texts in which women challenge the notions of republican motherhood and the doctrine of separate spheres. Concluding with Alison Bechdel’s “tragicomic,” Fun Home (2006), we will also analyze the ways the medium of a literary work influences its message. Ultimately, our goal is to consider women’s dynamic place in the literary canon, and the ways that women have constructed or resisted social, economic, and cultural norms through literature.

Required Texts

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home

Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I’m Dying

Cristina García, Dreaming in Cuban

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony

Introduction to the Course


Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman?”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments”

Unit 1: Women's Narratives in the 19th Century

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of Slave Girl

Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Unit 2: Borders and Boundaries

Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale

Christina García, Dreaming in Cuban

Unit 3: Whose Memoir Is It, Anyway?

Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I'm Dying

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home

Final Exam: May 9, 9:00 am


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