This course will examine a long legacy of cultural fascination with domestic space and its iconic caretaker, the housewife. We will discuss literary texts and films that feature housewives as protagonists – from Euripides to Virginia Woolf to the present. Our task will be twofold: we will work to appreciate, on the one hand, how texts engage with a longstanding (and ongoing) feminist critique of the tethering of women to domestic labor; on the other hand, we will try to understand why the housewife endures as a key aspect of the fantasy of “the good life.” As the class progresses, we will also think critically about the norm of the housewife as a historical marker of class and racial distinctions. What can literary representations of housewives tell us about the aspirations and assumptions surrounding our everyday lives – in the past and in the present?
This is a writing-intensive course, and we will explore all of these issues as a means of refining writing skills. Students will write and re-write a number of essays, and writing “workshops” will occur on a regular basis. The final portion of the course will be spent on developing research skills, and will culminate in a research paper on one of the texts we have studied.
Required texts (available at Cal Student Store: 2560 Bancroft Way)
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (trans. Lydia Davis)*
Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House (trans. McFarlane and Arup)*
Eurpides, Medea (trans. Oliver Taplin)*
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
David Rosenwasser & Jill Stephen, Writing Analytically
*Students must acquire the indicated translation of the text.
Course Reader (available at Zee Zee copy; 2431 Durant Avenue [Sather Lane])
Emily Dickinson, “She rose to his requirement, dropped” “I’m wife; I’ve finished that”
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Women and Economics (excerpts)
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (excerpts)
John Milton, Paradise Lost (excerpts)
Sarah Ahmed, The Promise of Happiness (excerpts)
Required Film Screenings (exact time and place to be announced)
Douglas Sirk, Imitation of Life
Todd Haynes, Safe
Mabou Mines, DollHouse (excerpts in class)
Chantal Akerman, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (excerpts in class)