New Course: Femininity, Domesticity, and Literature

In an interview with the magazine Believer in 2014, the Irish poet, Eavan Boland remarked: “I was a woman in a house in the suburbs, married with two small children. It was a life lived by many women around me, but it was still not named in Irish poetry. I’ve often said, … that when I was young it was easier to have a political murder in a poem than a baby.”

In this new course, taught by Dr. Karin Berkman, we will consider how women writers actively create a place for their experience in literature. We will examine constructions of femininity in literary texts and in seminal critical texts, with particular reference to the ways in which these relate to domesticity and motherhood. We will focus on representations of the home as a site of feminine experience, and on the complex delineations of the home as both a place of restriction and of liberation. We will trace the changing, often courageous representations of motherhood in women’s writing, studying both affirmations of motherhood and refusals of the imperative of motherhood. We will analyze the influence of race, class, and sexual orientation on conceptions of domesticity. While the focus of this course is poetry, we will also read essays, short stories, and life writing relating to our subject