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EN955 Women, Writing & British Culture 1600-2000

NB - this module will not be available  2009-10

Convenor:  Karen O’Brien (

 Spring term:  Tuesdays 4.00-6.00

Venue:  H507

 This module welcomes MA students from all Arts Faculty departments, whether taking this module for credit or auditing all or part of this module.  PhD students are also most welcome to audit this module.


 This module is a new venture, and is designed to bring together the extraordinary range of expertise that the Warwick Arts faculty has in the area of women’s writing in Britain and the British Empire in the early modern to modern periods.  It aims to introduce students to the themes and critical issues of relevance to the study of women’s writing, as well as giving a sense of the range, historical circumstances and textual transmission of writing by women.

 Each week of term (except reading week) there will be a set text (either to borrow, buy or to be given in photocopy), and a two-hour session by an expert in the field.  These sessions will introduce a period, a set text and the relevant generic and interpretative issues.  The sessions are listed below.  Also, in order to ensure continuity and to enable students to explore issues and to iron out any difficulties, the convenor will hold a series of workshops and support sessions.  Details of texts and their availability below:


1.         Conditions of Authorship for Renaissance Women (Elizabeth Clarke, English.  Text: Early Modern Women’s Manuscript Poetry, eds. Jill Seal Millman and Gillian Wright, 2005) [four copies ordered to the bookshop and two in the Library]

2.         Women and the Rise of the Novel (Karen O’Brien, English.  Texts:  Aphra Behn, Love Letters Between a Nobleman and his Sister, 1684), Mary Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Woman:  or Maria (1798) [several copies of both in  the Library - plus Penguin copies ordered to the bookshop - the Wollstonecraft comes with her other novel Mary] NB a new time for this session will have to be agreed as KO'B is away on university business this day.

3.         Women and Enlightenment in Britain (Karen O’Brien, English:  Text:  Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792, [Penguin copies ordered to the bookshop plus several editions in the Library] 

4.         Women, Politics and Philanthropy (Sarah Richardson, History.  Text:  Charlotte Bronte, Shirley, 1848) [World's Classics edition ordered to the bookshop plus copies in library].  Read particularly Vol I, chapter x, Vol II, chapters iii, v, vi, vii, viii and also Vol I, ix.  Supplementary bibliography will be given out in week 1.

5.         Cartographies of the Self:  Women’s Narratives in the Canadian Wilderness (Cathia Jenainati, English.  Text Susanna Moodie, Roughing it in the Bush, 1852) [two copies in the library, plus the Norton Critical edition ordered to the bookshop]

6.         Reading week

7.         The Domestic as Politics in Women’s Writing (Carolyn Steedman, History:  texts extracts from Warwickshire writing including Elizabeth Hands’ poetry, Kate Thompson’s fiction, and selections from George Eliot’s Middlemarch).  [Middlemarch Penguin edition in the bookshop, the rest to be supplied]

8.         Irish Women Writing:  Identity and Nation (Maria Luddy, History:  Text Somerville and Ross, The Real Charlotte, 1894) [one copy in the Library plus copies in the Bookshop].  Supplementary bibliography available in week 1, including a list of photocopies available from History Graduate Office, H343.

9.         Gender and Sexuality in Inter-War Fiction (Gill Frith, English.  Text:   Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, 1928) [Penguin copy ordered to the bookshop]

10.       Post-War Poetry and Feminist Criticism:  Sylvia Plath (Christina Britzolakis, English.  Texts, Plath, Collected Poems, Faber) [Copies ordered to the bookshop and also in the library]


Workshops and Support Sessions 

 Running parallel to the themed sessions, the convenor will run a series of workshops and essay guidance sessions.  These are designed to ensure continuity, to support students in the development of more specialised reading for their essays, and to resolve problems and difficulties. These sessions will not be open to auditors, but are compulsory for those taking the course for credit.

 All workshops and consultations will take place in H512.

Week 1:  Introductory session (one hour):  Wednesday 5.00-6.00
Weeks 6:  two-hour group workshop:  Wednesday 5.00-7.00
Weeks 8-10:  individual half-hour or more seminars for each student as they move towards essay writing.


 Each week, individual tutors will supply a subject-specific bibliography relevant to their theme and chosen primary text.  General books available in the library are:

 Patricia Crawford and Sara Mendelson, Women in Early Modern England, 1500-1720 (1998) [multiple copies]
Jacqueline Eales, Women in Early Modern England, 1500-1700 (1998) [two copies]
Olwen Hufton, The Prospect before Her:  A History of Women in Europe, 1500-1800 (1995) [two copies] 
Gary Kelly, Women, Writing and Revolution, 1790-1827 (1993) [one copy on three-day loan]
Lorna Sage, the Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English (1999)  {three copies]
Robert Shoemaker, Gender in English Society, 1650-1850:  The Emergence of Separate Sphere? (1998) [two copies]
Susan Staves, A Literary History of Women’s Writing in Britain, 1660-1789 (2007) [two copies]
Anthea Todd, Women’s Writing in English:  Britain 1900-1945 (1998) [this has been ordered to the library]
Merry Wiesner, Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe (2000) [two copies]
Helen Wilcox ed., Women and Literature in Britain, 1500-1700 (1996) [multiple copies]
Susan Zlotnick, Women, Writing and the Industrial Revolution (2001) [one copy on three-day loan]

 The Library also has the resource Women Writers Online.           


 The course will be assessed by one essay.  Students will specialise in one thematic area, but will also demonstrate, in their essays, a broad grasp of the general thematic, generic and historical issues raised by the course.  Titles will be agreed with the convenor, and essays developed in consultation with her.

  - English Literature students:  one 6000-word  or one 8000-word essay, depending upon the assessment pattern.

 - History Students:  one 5000-word essay.

 - MA for the Study of the European Renaissance students:  one 6000-word essay to focus upon topics up to 1800.

 - Students on other MA programmes should ask the convenor, Karen O’Brien to liaise with the convenor of their MA to ensure appropriate assessments are set