WS 491: Women's Studies in London:Women and Gender in British Life and Letters
Professor Joyce R. Ladenson
Who are/were British women? What are/were British feminisms? What influences have constructed notions of gender, race, class, ethnicity and sexuality had on British women’s lives? How has the role of empire and British nationalism influenced British women’s writing and politics? How have British women of different ethnic and racial backgrounds been represented in literature and culture and to what effects?
By focusing on an overview of the ideas and history of the British Women's Movement primarily from the 19th and 20th centuries to the present, on an overview of a selected British women writers over about the same period, and on feminist views on art and the theatre, we hope to come to some answers to these questions and to raise other questions as well. Largely by examining textual excerpts from British feminist philosophers, activists and literary writers, we should gain a general understanding of the roles, history and perspectives of British women, making comparisons with U.S. women occasionally along the way. As a cross cultural experience, this program aims to broaden and further sensitize students to an awareness and understanding of British gendered social practices. The many excursions to different cultural sites in and outside of London, and the independent study project will also deepen an understanding of the role of gender in British lives; these excursions should be regarded as cultural observations meant to entertain and to instruct--i.e., while having fun is an integral part of this experience, sharpening our powers of observation of the influences of gender in every day British life and thought and recording and thinking critically about those observations are central to this experience.
Texts: Purchase right away!
1. Course Pack (CP). Available at Budget Printing, 972 Trowbridge Rd., East Lansing, MI
48823, phone: 517-351-5060, Fax: 517-351-0050. Call Budget Printing to find out the exact
date it will be ready. If you are out-of-town, please call Budget Printing to have the Course
Pack sent to you. Their e-mail address is: BudgetPrinting22@aol.com Another phone number
given to me is 517-351-1200. If you would rather not give your credit card number over e-
mail, call and give the number and date of expiration. Also give your phone number, address
and credit card address. I think it's safest to put your order in by phone and speak to a human
2. Charlotte Bronte. Jane Eyre. Purchase any edition at your convenience in your local
bookstore. To be read before arriving in London.
3. A pocket dictionary. Since you have the option of hand writing your essays, cultural journal, presentation summaries, etc., and may not have the use of a computer spell check, a dictionary is essential.
It is also essential to get a sense of the different meanings of American and British English.
4. A spiral-bound notebook for your amateur ethnographic observations of gender in British life
(see "Cultural Journal"). You can use the same notebook for reading notes and midterm and
5. One traditional or virtual scrapbook for your collection of souvenir photos, theatre tickets and
playbills, fliers, etc. You can be as creative as you like about the size, shape, color, capacity,
etc of your scrapbook
Much of the success of this course rests with you, the student. Readings will be discussed with your help, participation and leadership, and the cultural immersion and critique will happen only with your commitment. This means taking all assignments seriously and conscientiously, taking time to read and record analyses and observations in your Cultural Journal and notebook in the midst of many temptations to do otherwise. Please use your time wisely. The amount of readings is moderate and manageable. Additional time is required for work on your Cultural Journal.
1. Reflective Essays:
Two reflective essays are required. Essay I, five to six pages, focuses on themes in the first three weeks of reading. Essay II, is in two parts and focuses on themes in the last two weeks and overall (topics will be distributed). The second reflective essay is a final essay. Both reflective essays should be a critical summary of the unit and should clarify theoretical and conceptual relationships among the readings. The midterm essay is due on July 21st, and the final essay is due August 5.
2. Cultural Journal: Daily Accounts of Gender in London Life
You should make entries in your Cultural Journal at least three times a week. These observations are a form of amateur ethnography and should be as concrete as possible. Each entry should be dated and should be at least one and one half pages; in total, the journal should be a memorable written account of your summer in London, with a special focus on the role gender plays in British culture and life. Be as specific as possible about what and whom you see and about the physical and cultural context of your observation. For instance, if you are commenting on the clothing, speech, and gestures of a group of people in a particular location, specify the location, (e.g., Trafalgar Square, Regents Park, etc.), the age, race and class (you can make a guess) of the subjects, the specifics of relevant behavior or appearance. Or, when you comment on a play or a museum visit, illustrate, in the first instance, how the playwright represents gender and, in the latter, how gendered assumptions are evidenced in the paintings and/or sculpture you observe. Indicate at some point, what conclusions you draw from each observation. We will discuss your journal observations in class and, where appropriate, tie them to our readings. Please bring journals to class every day, coming prepared to discuss your entry. Observations of class trips and visitors should be included in your journal. You should record observations about all our trips. (You may also want to include responses to and thoughts about your Independent Study as working notes toward your in-class presentation and research essay)
3. Reading Notebook (notes on readings are recommended but optional): comprised of brief, analytical responses to the readings, and at least two questions for class discussion. Entries should be made in advance of class discussion. Comparing readings as you progress through the summer will deepen your understanding of the subject matter in the course and will help compose the midterm and final essays. Consider questions such as the following: What are the central points the selection makes and what support does the author give for her/his points? What is its significance? What questions or issues does it raise or neglect? How does it compare with or relate to other course readings or class discussions?
If you choose to do the Reading Notebook, my hope is that it will be a companion and catalyst as you move through the course. It should help you reflect upon and more fully understand our readings, and it should help you feel better prepared to engage in class discussions.
You can use your Reading Notebook as well for your handwritten midterm and final essays.
4. Student-led discussion
Each student will lead a discussion on at least one of the readings, summarizing at least three major points supported by significant details, and raising in class about three discussion questions on the reading. Summary should be about one and one half pages.Written and submitted in outline or essay form.
5. Grading criteria and percentages:
Midterm Essay, 30%; Final Essay, 35%; Cultural Journal, 25%; Class Presentation, class participation, 10%
Grades are based on writing proficiency, essay coherence, research skills, depth of analysis, and critical understanding of gender in British culture demonstrated verbally and in writing through an analysis of the readings and observed and lived experiences.
Grades will be recorded by September 11 in East Lansing.
Attendance at all classes and excursions is expected and required; the only exception is illness.
7. Classroom Meetings and Trips
We meet in a University of London classroom, which is reserved for us from 9 am-12pm for the summer. We generally meet in class at 9:00a.m. We do, however, maintain flexible classroom hours since we use part, sometimes all of class time for class trips. Discussion of required texts will often be student-led, though I lecture and interject commentaries at appropriate moments. It is essential that everyone arrive in class promptly at 9:00 a.m. to allow ample time for discussion and to make announcements about scheduling.
Sunday, 7/5: Orientation – We will meet at 10:00 am in a place to be announced.
Monday, 7/6: After lunch: Trip to Parliament, while en route view the Horse Guards and catch a glimpse of #10 Downing St.(Prime Minister's residence). Then on to Parliament (both House of Commons and House of Lords).
Tuesday, 7/7: Women's Library tour. Time to be determined.
Wednesday, 7/8: Meet in class at 30 Russell Square, Room 103. Summary of course coverage and assignments, including assignment of student discussion leaders. Discussion of Grewal and Kaplan; Cynthia Enloe; and "Feminism in London: A Brief History." If time allows, begin discussion of Pugh and Caine.
Afternoon tour of Women's London by Hilary Ratcliff
Questions for First Wave readings
A. How did British women define feminism in the first wave? What were the liberal
analyses and biases of the first wave? How did the class and race backgrounds of
Women's Rights advocates influence their politics?
What contributions did early feminists make and what specifically were their
recommendations for change? Compare with the U.S. First Wave women's movement.
B. How did Wollstonecraft, Nightingale, Woolf, Cobbe, Butler, Davin and the Pankhursts define and analyze gender inequality and conformity, and what recommendations for change did each one make?
C. According to Wollstonecraft, how did women's late 18th century socialization disadvantage them and exclude them from the company of "rational" men?
Classroom Readings: First Wave British Feminism
Political History, Cultural Overview
1) "Introducing Women's Studies; Gender in a Transnational World," in
Grewal and Kaplan, An Introduction to Women's Studies, (N.Y.
McGraw Hill, 2006), pp. xx-xxii.
2) Cynthia Enloe, "Beyond the Global Victim," in Gender in a
Transnational World, pp 496-498.
3) "Women and Feminism," "Feminism in London: A Brief History"
from The Virago Woman's Travel Guide, (Berkeley, Calif.,
Book Passage Press, 1994) pp. 25-32
4) "Women and the Women’s Movement Before 1914," pp. 1-5 in
Martin Pugh, Women and the Women's Movement in Britain,
(London, Macmillan: 1992), pp, 1-5.
5) "1792-1920: Introduction," from Wendy K. Kolmar and Frances
Bartkowski, Feminist Theory,(Mt.View, Calif., Mayfield, 2000)
6) "Chronology" in Kolmar, pp. XIII-XVII
7) "Social Change and Sexual Difference in The Late 18th Century" in
Barbara Caine, English Feminism: 1780-1980,(Oxford, 1997) pp. 13-
Thursday, 7/9: 30 Russell Square, Room 103
1) Frances Power Cobbe, "Wife Torture in England," in Kolmar, pp. 81-88.
2) Josephine Butler, "Letter to my Countrymen" in Kolmar, pp. 75-80
3) Mary Wollstonecraft, from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in,
Gilbert & Gubar, The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women
(Norton, 1985) pp. 255-275
4) Carol H. Poston, "Mary Wollstonecraft and 'The Body Politic' in Maria J.
Falco, ed., Feminist Interpretations of Mary Wollstonecraft (Penn State Univ
Press,1996), pp. 85-105.
*Stroll through Regent's Park gardens; Evening outdoor dinner at Regent's Park;
Attendance at Open Air Theatre's production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of
Monday, 7/13 Visit to Florence Nightingale Museum in afternoon.
1) Florence Nightingale, excerpt from Cassandra (G&G, pp 836-844)
2)-3) "Florence Nightingale Museum" and "A Woman of Destiny," (in WTG,
4) optional: "Women in Parliament," in Olive Banks, The Politics of British
Feminism (Vermont, Edward Elgar 1993) pp. 45-65.
Tues, 7/14: Clore Mgt. Centre, Room 103
Consider: In what ways were British Victorian nationalism and imperialism reflected or resisted
by Nightingale and Davin? How was gender implicated by Victorian notions of
nation and empire?
Wed, 7/15: Clore Mgt. Centre, Room 103
Readings: Continue First Wave: Literature, History and Feminism
Consider: What were modernist images of women? How did Woolf depict the political and
literary "New Woman?"
Thurs, 7/16: Clore Mgt. Centre, Room 103
Readings: Continue First Wave: Suffrage
4) Emmeline Pankhurst, from "My Own Story," in The Suffragettes, (Routledge, 1995) pp. 279-284; 292-302
*Guest Speaker: Dr. Cheryl Law on British women journalists
. Topics for First Essay Distributed
Mon, 7/20: Independent Study on your own.
Tues, 7/21: First Essay Due; Trip to Stonehenge and Salisbury
Recommended reading: Anthony M Perks and Darlene Marie Bailey, "Stonehenge: A View From Medicine," in The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, vol. 96, Feb 2003. Perks and Bailey propose a new theory that the henge bears a resemblance to "the human vulva, with the birth canal at its center."
Wed, 7/22: 30 Russell Square, Room 103
Readings: Detour! Feminist Perspectives on Representation of Women in British and International Art
*Trips: Afternoon in The National Gallery, Velasquez' Rockeby Venus:
the female nude as Western icon. Possibly, The Portrait Gallery
Thurs, 7/23 30 Russell Square, Room 103
Readings: Women and Art (continued)
*Guest Speaker: Laura Butterfield, Unison London Regional Officer
on "British union advocacy for women"
*Trip: Tate Britain, The PreRaphaelite Brotherhood and their paintings'
representation of women and men
Consider: Western ideological notions of gender and their impact on the representation and
making of art; feminist interpretations of the female nude, from 16th century
Velasquez on through the centuries; postmodern, multicultural feminism and art;
gender representations and The Pre-Raphaelite movement.
Mon, 7/27: Independent Study on your own. Leeds Castle this week?
Tues, 7/28: Clore Mgt. Centre, Room 103
Charlotte Bronte as Literary Exemplar of 19th Century British Women Writers’ Representations of Gender: Views of Marriage, Domesticity and Romance
Consider: feminist readings of Jane Eyre and how they apply to the novel; literary resistance to
19th century gender constructions and the "marriage plot."
Wed, 7/29: Clore Mgt. Centre, Room 103
19th Century Literature (continued)
1) Bronte, Jane Eyre. Discuss another third.
Thurs, 7/30: 30 Russell Square, Room 103
Readings: Finish discussing Jane Eyre
3) Mary-Antoinette Smith, "Becoming Jane: Embedded Epistolarity in
Jane Eyre's Writing Herself into Being" in Cycnos, vol 252008,149163,
Cultural Journal and collections for scrapbooks due in class
Mon, 8/03: Last week to conduct Independent Study projects while in London.
Tues, 8/04: 30 Russell Square, Room 103
Second and Third Wave British Feminisms
1) "Afterward: From Feminism to Feminisms" in English Feminism
2) "Introduction: Mapping a Genealogy of Black British Feminism" in Black British Feminism; A Reader, Mirza, Heidi Safia, ed. (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 1-28 (my numbering)
3) Pragna Patel, "Third Wave feminism and black women's activism," in Mirza, pp.1-12 (my numbering) 4) Amina Mama, "Black Women, The Economic Crisis and the British
State," and "Violence Against Black Women: Gender, Race and State
Responses," in Humm, pp. 150-163
5) Sheila Rowbothan, A Century of Women (London, Viking: 1997)
Chapter 10: "1990-1995", pp. 548-580—recommended but optional
*Guest Speaker: Professor Alison Phipps, University of Sussex, "The
Politics of the Body" (e.g., sex work, sexual violence, HIV, abortion)
Consider: Second Wave and Third Wave issues of race, class, ethnicity, sexuality and minority
national identities; British feminist consciousness-raising and political priorities in the
seventies; issues of personal and social identity; the diversification of the British
Wed, 8/05: 30 Russell Square, Room 103
Recent feminist multicultural writing
1) Magdalene Ang-Lygate, "Charting the Spaces of (un)location; On
Theorizing Diaspora" in Mirza, pp. 168-186
2) Sarah Coleman, "Not Lost: A Jewish Feminist Atheist Meditates on
Intermarriage," in Yentl's Revenge, ed by Danya Ruttenberg, pp. 67-76
3) Shameem Kabir, "Lesbian Desire on the Screen: The Hunger," in
Lesbian Culture from Margin to Mainstream (London: Cassell, 1994),
pp. 171-193. optional
4) Buchi Emecheta from The Joys of Motherhood, "The Mother’s
Mother" (G&G, pp. 2300-2314)
Second reflective essay due.
Thurs, 8/06: 30 Russell Square, Room 103
Independent Study presentations. Last class. Farewell Banquet
Trips Out-of-London—Some Dates To Be Determined:
1) Stonehenge and Salisbury, Tuesday, July 21; all day trip
2) Oxford (possible)
3) Leeds Castle or Hampton Court
Trips Within London—Some Dates To Be Determined
1) Hilary Ratcliff's "Women's London," Wednesday, July 8, afternoon
2) Museum of London (possible first week)
3) Parliament, Monday, July 6, afternoon
4) Florence Nightingale Museum, Monday, July 13, 2:00 p.m.
5) Women's Library, Tuesday, July 7.
6) National Gallery and The Portrait Gallery, Wednesday, July 22
7) Tate Britain, Thursday, July 23
10) Victoria and Albert Museum—possible
11) Three to four plays,including Billy Elliot; The Importance of Being Earnest;others to be announced
Speakers and Tour Guides
1) Hilary Ratcliff--London Walks, Wednesday, July 8, "Women's London"
2) Laura Butterfield, Greater London Unison, "The Public Service Union;
Services for British Women," Thursday, July 23 in class
3) Dr. Cheryl Law, "British Women Journalists"
4) Speaker from The Southall Black Sisters, London Black feminist
5) Richard, London Walks, Salisbury and Stonehenge, Tuesday, 7/21
6) Dr. Alison Phipps, University of Sussex, Sociology, Director of
Women's Studies, "The Politics of the Body," Tuesday, August 4