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Introducing Feminism into the Classroom: A Syllabus On Women Writers Who Challenge Societal Structures Through Literature

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If literature is meant to challenge students by presenting them with different worldviews, then how can secondary and post-secondary educators construct a syllabus that encourages students to consider the implications of those worldviews? How can we design a course that invites students to consider what specific authors or characters may be trying to highlight about society through their unique perspectives? For example, how might we ask students to think about the ways in which women writers and their “outcast” female characters have challenged patriarchal structures at different points in history?

As a future English teacher, I’m someone that believes in the potential of literature to act as a window into our society at different periods in time. Even though literature consists of fictional stories, those imaginary worlds were created by people who were very real. Therefore, analyzing how those authors chose to depict their fictional characters can help us to better understand the social barriers and ideologies that existed during the specific historical periods they lived in, and comparing several novels side by side can help illuminate how those social constructs have shifted over time. For women writers in particular, the barriers they address in their novels may range from a lack of respect for female authorship to suffocating gender roles, and everything in between.

 

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