In 1855, American author Nathaniel Hawthorne called the female novelists of his age “a damned mob of scribbling women.” They had cornered the popular fiction market, and he wasn’t happy about it. Nineteenth-century women garnered positive reviews and earned paychecks for fiction of many sorts, and it’s only through the process of canon formation that we’ve lost sight of their many contributions to the fictional forms of our present day. This course revisits the narratives of several popular fiction genres—bildungsroman, mystery, science fiction, and short story—to examine women’s impacts over time. We’ll pair an exemplary 19th-century text with one from 20th- or 21st-century American multi-ethnic literature to discover how Latina, Asian American, and African American women writers have drawn on these models to revamp and revitalize genre fiction.
Instructor: Rachael Isom, Dept. of English & Comparative Literature