Great Figures in American Literature:
 Kate Chopin

The Awakening and Its Contexts

ENGL A479:051
Fall 2014
Wednesdays 6:20 p.m--9:00 p.m.

A Women's Studies Minor Course
A New Orleans Studies Minor Course

Dr. Barbara C. Ewell
Loyola University New Orleans
Kate Composed
Revised March 15, 2014; all information here remains tentative and subject to change.


Though almost lost from the American literary canon in the fifty years following her death in 1904, Kate Chopin is now one of the most highly regarded (and most often read) authors of the late nineteenth century. While her 1899 novel, The Awakening, is well-known, her other fiction, including another novel and nearly one hundred short stories, are not so familiar. Moreover, Chopin inhabited historical and literary contexts that a century later are simillarly unfamiliar to many readers. This course will thus explore those contexts, both Chopin's own impressive oeuvre--short stories, poems, novels, essays--as well as some of the writers and texts and events that helped to shape her fiction: American writers like Mary Wilkins Freeman, Stephen Crane, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sarah Jewett, Williams Dean Howells as well as European writers like Gustave Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekov. We will also try to gain a better appreciation of some of the contemporary events, literary movements and issues that influenced her perspectives--from regionalism and naturalism to Darwin and Degas, from the Haymarket Riots to the Comstock Laws, from Reconstruction and the White League to the St. Louis World's Fair. We won't, of course, manage to cover all of these fascinating texts and events, but we will sample as much as we can as engage in a close reading of Chopin's fiction and that of the writers who directly influenced her--or whose own work responded to her vision.  More formally, our goals include


   Proposed Texts:
The following is a proposed list of texts and writers, but changes and substitutions may still occur. Some of these and other texts may also be available electronically. 

Disheroon, Suzanne, et al. eds. The Awakening and Other Writings. Broadview P, 2011. ISBN:9781551113494
This will be our primary text for The Awakening along with the background readings.

Other required texts by Chopin in recommended combinations may also be available:

Chopin, Kate. At Fault. [Dover, 2007] ISBN:9780486461335 [$4]
Chopin, Kate. Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie [Penguin,1999] ISBN:9780140436815 [$16]
Chopin, Kate. A Vocation and a Voice [Penguin, 1991] ISBN:9780140390780]  [$13]


Chopin, Kate.  Complete Novels and Stories. New York: Library of America, 2002. [$40] ISBN-1 931082219
Note that this text is only available in hardback; however, it contains all of Chopin's fiction.

Probable list of required texts by other writers:
Cather, Willa. A Lost Lady. New York: Vintage, 1990.  ISBN-0679728872 [$11]
De Maupassant. The Necklace and Other Short Stories. New York: Dover, 1992.ISBN:9780486270647 [$3]
Flaubert,Gustave. Madame Bovary. Mildred Marmur, trans. New York: Signet, 2001. [$6] ISBN 0451528204
Freeman, Mary Wilkins.The Revolt of "Mother" and Other Stories. New York: Dover,1998. [$2.50] ISBN 0486404285
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll's House. New York: Dover, 1992. [$1.50] ISBN 0486270629

Course Prerequisites
COMP119 or ENGL-T122 [composition] and LITC260, ENGL-T125 or ENGL-A205 or equivalent courses. in other words, this should not be your first college English course.  Junior status or permission of the instructor is recommended.

Proposed Requirements

Textual responses (25-30% of the final grade)
Each week, you will post a comment, question, or reflection (or a response to someone else's comment) on the current reading on a Blackboard forum (100-150 words: about a screenful) the day before class. Your posts will constitute a sort of online journal, reflecting your informal responses to the readings and your responses to others' comments. Entries will be graded contractually: All 16=A, 15=B, etc.

Critical writing and research
one brief (800-1500 words) essay (20-25%)
one collaborative presentation in an electronic format (prezi, wiki or website) on an assigned contextual topic or writer (20-25%)
a final research essay OR a developed wiki/website (20-25%)

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