English 185A - Winter, 2023

Literature by Women before 1800

Class Information

Instructor: Dolan, Frances
CRN: 45019
Time: TR 12:10-1:30
Location: 167 Olson
GE Areas: Writing Experience


This course will focus on women writing in the seventeenth century in England. We will concentrate on a handful of writers so that we can delve into their lives and work. We will particularly focus on Amelia Lanyer, Margaret Cavendish, Hester Pulter, and Aphra Behn. To the best of our knowledge, all were relatively privileged white Englishwomen. We will consider how their privilege enabled them to write, despite obstacles to women's education, literacy, and public speaking; we will also consider how they used their writing to defend and to attempt to extend their authority and range of action. We will also discuss writers who did not share this privileged status, including Phyllis Wheatley and Isabella Whitney. Reading a wide range of genres (poems, plays, early novels, and letters), we will consider these writers' mastery of conventions, formal innovations, intellectual and political engagement, and imaginative leaps. We will begin by reading Virginia Woolf's A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN and Alice Walker's "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens," in order to discuss our investments in a tradition of women's literature.

Students will practice and polish their reading, writing, and discussion skills in this class. This is will be a relatively small (30 person) course, which will require and reward attendance and participation. The two required texts ae being ordered only in physical form and will be available in the UCD bookstore.

We will rely on a custom reader in print form as well as a collection of Cavendish's works, preferably in print form.


Frequent, low-stakes, online writing (15%)
Research and editing exercises (15%)
Paper #1 15%
Paper #2 25%
Concluding reflection narrative (20%)
Class participation (10%)


Broadview custom anthology for this course
Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader, Ed. Bowerbank and Mendelson