English 185A - Winter, 2024

Literature by Women Before 1800

Class Information

Instructor: Wallis, Wally
CRN: 23431
Time: TR 9:00-10:20am
Location: Wellman 7
GE Areas: Writing Experience


In this course, we will examine various writings by women from the Renaissance through the Restoration (approximately 1500-1700). Through a range of texts--including poetry, drama, speeches, treatises, and letters (among others)--we'll consider the richness and complexity of these works and investigate how they demonstrate these writers' array of knowledge, contributions to rhetoric, skill in negotiating (adhering to and strategically breaking) formal conventions, vigorous participation in contemporaneous sociopolitical conversations, awareness of and responses to systems of oppression, and imagined alternatives for being and living in the world. Proceeding in a loosely chronological fashion, we will analyze texts covering diverse topics: religious devotion, sacrifice, and prophecy; how women in power negotiated gender[ed] politics; perspectives on virginity, chastity, marriage, motherhood, and kinship; gender/genre play; how women writers negotiated their [lack of] privilege; alternatives posed to the sexual and marriage economies; and the role of gender in the representation of indigenous people and land.


Discussion Posts: 15%
Paper #1 (3-4 pages): 25%
Paper #2 (7-9 pages): 40%
Final Exam: 20%


Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader, ed. Sylvia Bowerbank and Sara Mendelson
Early Modern Women?s Writing: An Anthology, 1560-1700, ed. Paul Salzman