Women in Literature: Reading through the Lens of Gender

Women in Literature: Reading through the Lens of Gender

Women in Literature: Reading through the Lens of Gender

Women in Literature: Reading through the Lens of Gender

Synopsis

This unique reference offers alternate approaches to reading traditional literature, as well as suggestions for expanding the canon to include more gender sensitive works. Covering 96 of the most frequently taught works of fiction, essays offer teachers, librarians, and students fresh insights into the female perspective in literature.

Excerpt

Women in Literature: Reading through the Lens of Gender contains ninety-six essays examining literary representations of femininity and masculinity. In collecting these essays, we wish to explore how writers spanning time and place have conceived gendered aspects of the self, as characters navigate the complex psychic and social worlds they inhabit. Our goal is to provide examples of how fictional texts, both canonical and new, can be approached freshly by putting at the center of analysis girls’ and women’s different perceptions, their distinct predicaments, and their varied experiences.

The whole notion of a canon conveys a supposed universal standard of excellence embodied in a list of certain texts; that designation is passed down from generation to generation, conveying prestige and assuring literary stature. In the majority, these “great books” represent mainly what men of educational privilege have most valued as writers and readers. As a result, the canon marginalizes at least half the human experience. Yet, teach these texts we do, often with ambivalence—fondness and admiration edged with discomfort about bias and stereotypical representations. Responding to this dilemma, the essays gathered here offer feminist analyses of images and themes, revealing the customary yet profound significance of gender in our lives.

While most of the essays in this volume explore the best-known and most often taught novels and plays, others introduce less well-known titles that offer positive female role models and new insights into culturally diverse women’s situations. Librarians and teachers will be interested in seeing how these new titles can lend balance to the traditional curriculum. Each essay includes within it suggestions for teaching that can heighten students’ aware-

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