For your First-Year Writing (FYW) or FYW Workshop course, you will choose from one of three rubrics: Legacy of the Mediterranean, The Americas, and Women & Culture. Within those rubrics, each class and each instructor has a special focus. For example, Professor Breyer's "Legacy of the Mediterranean: The Present Past" is a little different from Professor Lynn's "Legacy of the Mediterranean: Border Crossings." Most readings still overlap, with some exceptions.

As you make your choice, remember that these courses are not literature survey courses or introductory courses to a particular discipline -- for example, a Women & Culture syllabus will not attempt a comprehensive overview of women's and gender studies in the way that an "Intro to Women's and Gender Studies" course might. Rather, you can think of the subtopics as thematic threads to explore as you work on your writing skills.

Click the tabs on the lefthand menu for individual course descriptions and tentative reading lists for each section.


Women and Culture

“Re-vision—the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction—is for women more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival.” Adrienne Rich, “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision.”

This course offers a revisionist response to the constraints of “the canon,” wherein women are often portrayed as peripheral characters, their power confined to the islands of classical witches and the attics of Romantic madwomen. The Women and Culture curriculum challenges traditional dichotomies that cast gender as an essential attribute rather than a cultural construction, and interrogates the categories of both “woman” and “culture” themselves. No two syllabi are exactly the same, but works studied in the fall term readings include Hymn to Demeter; Ovid, Metamorphoses; Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book; Marie de France, Lais; Kebra Nagast; Shakespeare, sonnets; Beauty and the Beast; West African Bride Myth; and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, selected poetry. Spring term readings include Milton, Paradise Lost; Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women; Luisa Valenzuela, selected stories; Eliza Haywood, Fantomina; Lady Hyegyong, The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong; Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights; Emily Dickinson, selected poetry; Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway or A Room of One’s Own; Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens; and Yvette Christiansë, Castaway. Critical scholarship sources include Sara Ahmed, Gloria Anzaldúa, Judith Butler, Laura Mulvey, and Michel Foucault.


Legacy of the Mediterranean

“Custom and authority are no sure evidence of truth.” Isaac Watts, Logic; or the Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry After Truth (1802)

Where do our (often unconscious) assumptions about our world and our place in it come from? This course explores key intellectual moments in the literature of the Mediterranean world, whose ideas gave rise to the structures governing much of the Western world today—structures that sustain and perpetuate ideas about power, authority, gender, and morality that influence our lives in ways both visible and invisible. We read these texts, primarily imaginative literature, to see how they reify, comment upon, resist and/or imagine alternatives to existing social and ideological structures; reading in this way allows us to consciously name and examine how ideology both shifts over time and, in vital ways, remains constant, inviting us to question the myth of progress at the heart of canonicity. No two syllabi are exactly the same, but works studied in the fall include Homer, The Odyssey; The Homeric Hymn to Demeter; Euripides, The Bacchae; Virgil, Aeneid; Dante, Inferno; Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales; Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe; and Shakespeare. Works studied in the spring term include Milton, Paradise Lost; Voltaire, Candide; William Wordsworth (selected poetry); Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Darwin, Marx, and Freud (selected essays); Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness; T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land; Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse; Zora Neale Hurston, Of Mules and Men and Their Eyes Were Watching God; Toni Morrison, Beloved; and Nella Larsen, Passing. Critical scholarship from a variety of traditions (feminist, queer, post-colonial) and thinkers (bell hooks, Christine Froula, Edward Said, Karen Horney, Toni Morrison) allows us to interrogate these texts and the traditions they support, complicate, challenge etc.


The Americas

This course transcends traditional and arbitrary distinctions separating Caribbean, North, South, and Central American literatures. The Americas emerge not as colonial subjects but as active historical and aesthetic agents. Emanating from what might be called the geographical site of modernity, American literature is characterized by unprecedented diversity and innovation. In addition to classic novels, short stories, and poetry, this multicultural curriculum features works ranging in scope from creation accounts to autobiographies, as well as indigenous genres including captivity and slave narratives that belie New World declarations of independence. No two syllabi are exactly the same, but works studied in the fall term include the Popol Vuh; William Shakespeare, The Tempest; Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, selected poetry; Phyllis Wheatley, selected poetry; William Apess, A Son of the Forest; Esteban Echeverria, “El Matadero”; Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie; Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Written by Himself; Herman Melville, Benito Cereno. Spring term readings include Mark Twain, Puddn’head Wilson; Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; José Marti, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, selected poetry; T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land; Pablo Neruda, The Heights of Macchu Picchu; Machado de Assis, Dom Casmurro; William Faulkner, “The Bear”; Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude.