M/W/F 12:00-01:00 210 Dwinelle Instructor: Erin Bennett
“A woman’s body does a thousand different things, toils, runs, studies, fantasizes, invents, wearies, and meanwhile the breasts enlarge, the lips of the sex swell, the flesh throbs with a round life that is yours, your life, and yet pushes elsewhere, draws away from you although it inhabits your belly, joyful and weighty, felt as a greedy impulse and yet repellent, like an insect’s poison injected into a vein.”
-Elena Ferrante, The Lost Daughter
For this course, we will explore texts that elaborate on motherhood as a multidimensional experience and that challenge the idea of the archetypal mother, a woman who supports and nurtures her children, often at the expense of her individual identity. As we interpret these works, we will consider questions including, but not limited to the following: What does it mean to be a mother? At what cost does one become a mother? What does one lose and what does one gain? How do literary and theoretical texts portray the ways in which a mother negotiates her multiple identities as woman, as partner, as laborer, as mother, as sexual being, as individual? What role does society play in shaping one’s identity as a mother? How do societal expectations work to censor a mother’s articulation of her experience? What kinds of mothers exist other than biological mothers? How do the concepts of “othermothering” and community mothering play into the idea of motherhood in these texts? Can acts of violence and of abandonment also be considered acts of love? How do these texts complicate the archetypal maternal figure?
We will consider a selection of texts, including film, that span across time, geography, and genre. We will read scholarly articles as well as works of literature. As this is a Reading and Composition course, one of our primary goals will be to build and to refine your ability to construct a cogent analytical argument about a literary text and to support your argument using textual evidence. You will write a total of 36 pages that will consist of various formal writing assignments throughout the semester. You will read 100-150 pages of literary and scholarly texts per week.
Possible Course Texts:
Allison, Dorothy – Bastard Out of Carolina
Almodóvar, Pedro – All About My Mother and Volver (films)
Atwood, Margaret – The Handmaid’s Tale
Bechdel, Alison – Are You My Mother?
Crialese, Emanuele – Respiro (film)
Claudel, Philippe – I’ve Loved You So Long (film)
Euripides – Medea
Ferrante, Elena – The Lost Daughter
Guadagnino, Luca – I Am Love (film)
Marazzi, Alina – For One More Hour with You (film)
Morrison, Toni – Beloved
O’Reilly, Andrea – selections from Maternal Theory: Essential Readings
Pasolini, Pier Paolo – Mamma Roma (film)
Polanski, Roman – Rosemary’s Baby (film)
A note on the material:
In this course, we will explore sensitive topics that include sexual abuse, racial violence, drug addiction, and suicide. Reading and thinking in depth about these issues can be emotionally taxing and triggering for some. I include this warning not to discourage you from taking the course, but to make sure that you are as informed as possible about its content. This being said, I want to emphasize that it is perfectly reasonable and expected to have an emotional response to the texts that we will analyze. It is my intention that the classroom will serve as a safe space in which to acknowledge and to express these emotional responses, while simultaneously functioning as a site of academic rigor. To this effect, please consider that to be a contributing member of our class community entails showing the utmost respect for one another.
A note on self-care:
If you find the material or the class discussion to be upsetting and would like extra support, please feel free to talk to me about additional self-care resources if you feel comfortable doing so. In addition, I encourage you to contact the Tang Center’s Counseling department. You can schedule an appointment by calling 510-642-9494 or by visiting their website: https://uhs.berkeley.edu/counseling/appointments. Here is the hotline rape crisis hotline for the Bay Area (the organization is called BAWAR: Bay Area Women Against Rape): 510-845-7273. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. A more comprehensive list of mental health and social services resources is on bCourses under “Files” and is included in the course reader.