The Female Grotesque (LIT4391.01)

Camille Guthrie

In this class, we will read prose that engages with the Female Grotesque, a subgenre of the Gothic and Grotesque in literature, art, and performance. Readers of the Female Grotesque may experience repulsion and fascination, as the genre reveals how women have been traditionally represented as both abject and ideal. Our focus will be on fiction: novels and short stories. (I cannot resist adding a few poems, as well.) In order to provide a critical framework for these texts, we will also read women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; queer theory; film studies; monster theory; philosophy; and cultural theory. In addition, we will research female performance artists. The assignments will consist of critical essays about these short stories and novels, and students will have the option to write about films, TV shows, performance art, and art. (We will not do creative writing.)

We will begin by reading about the character Sin from John Milton’s Paradise Lost and the “Squid” chapter in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. Authors may include: Margaret Atwood, Lucia Berlin, Melissa Broder, Octavia Butler, Angela Carter, Euripides, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Kim Hyesoon, Shirley Jackson, Han Kang, Clarice Lispector, Nina MacLaughlin, Flannery O’Connor, Ovid, Sylvia Plath, Mary Shelley, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Laura Sims, Miriam Toews, and Jillian Weise. The critical or personal essays, philosophy, and theory may include the following authors: Mikhail Bakhtin, Susan Bordo, Judith Butler, Bram Dijkstra, Mary Douglas, Michel Foucault, Stuart Hall, bell hooks, Julia Kristeva, Audre Lorde, Laura Mulvey, Sianne Ngai, Lorraine O’Grady, Mary Russo, Susan Stryker, and Riki Anne Wilchins.


Learning Outcomes:
• Close read and analyze a variety of short stories, poems, and critical or personal essays, representing a range of voices and styles
• Learn about the Female Grotesque; the context of the Grotesque and the Gothic in Literature; examples of gender studies, film studies, disability studies, monster theory, performance art, and queer theory.
• Write in various styles, including reading journals, critical explications, and longer, revised essays, while practicing grammar, revision, research, and citation skills
• Engage with your colleagues to create a productive writing community
• Use reflection and inquiry to create a persuasive, well-supported thesis statement
• Use the resources, including the databases, in Crossett Library
• Work collaboratively with your colleagues to revise and edit your writing
• Try new and productive habits of reading and writing



Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Interested students should submit a critical writing sample (5 pp.) via this form by November 24. Admitted students will be notified by email on November 29, 2023.
Corequisites: Students in this class are required to attend Literature evenings on most Wednesday nights, including Poetry at Bennington.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
T/F 2:10PM - 4:00PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: 4000 , All courses , Four Credit , Fully In-Person , Literature
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