Studying Gender in Literature

To think about literary texts in history through a particular lens gives new perspectives, experiences, and opportunities to readers. English 4360 with Dr. Erin Goss does just that, only this particular lens hones in on contemporary questions of what gender is and how genders are distinguished from each other in the present as well as the past. The class is typically taught by Goss; a large portion of her research is done not only on 18th and 19th British literature, but also on race and gender studies and the histories of feminism. The class is not a class on how to become a feminist,  how to do “it,” or even to give the patriarchy a bad wrap. It is simply to talk about history and help track change in the way historical texts are read through specific gender lenses. The class cannot help but be political, but what class isn’t on some inherent basic level? English 4360 is just a class that wears it forward on its sleeve according to Goss. There are parameters for civil discourse, a maintained level of protection and professionalism for all students that is monitored in order to create a healthy class discussion. All of this is prioritized as a way to further understand the complex questions of what it means to be a woman, man, or to identify as neither in the 21st century. In these discussions, no individual is asked to speak as a representative of their identity category. The class encourages diversity and different perspectives as a way to promote the idea that the purpose and the way in which older literary texts are read have changed. There is more to the audience than the typical white male; other ways of understanding history do exist.

The class is similar to a socratic seminar, where you come to class with the readings completed, and the class time is used as a discussion of the text. Texts include published works by Virginia Woolf, Mary Wollstonecraft and other scholars of the 20th and 21st centuries. One important aspect of the class is the large independent research component. Each student will pick a term text to look at and research over the course of the semester and look at it through these questions of gender. To prospective students from Goss, she would just like you to come in with an open mind, and gain new perspectives about how to read literature.