Private Struggles: Female Rebellion In a Man’s World
Our theme will survey the role of women as daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers across a wide body of literature representing multiple literary genres. In the first half of the course we will analyze two plays that explore the conflict between female autonomy and patriarchal values: “Antigone” by Sophocles interrogates the consequences of fierce devotion to family at the expense of the State and “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen explores how women responded to and escaped domestic confinement during the Victorian era. In the second half we will examine modernist representations of the evolving role of women after the Great War by reading select Katherine Mansfield short stories that expose patriarchal culture in an attempt to bring clashing gender priorities to the fore, followed by a cinematic exploration of the negative consequences of extreme self-identification with the domestic function as evidenced in the nineteen thirties Hollywood film by director Dorothy Arzner entitled Craig’s Wife. We will end in the fifties with Alice Munro’s short story “Boys and Girls” about a young girl’s resistance to womanhood, addressing women’s challenge to develop beyond their gender role.