The search for love is a struggle common to all people. Yet, why must this burden fall more heavily on women? If a man sleeps around he is a “player,” but a woman who sleeps around is a “slut.” If a man stays single for his whole life he is a “bachelor,” but a woman who never marries is a “spinster” or an “old maid.” Why do these disparities exist? Why do men appear to have more sexual freedom than women? In an examination of the role of women in our society, we will read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. In our studies, we will use a feminist lens to look at what allows women to have agency, or the ability to make individual choices, and develop a positive sense of femininity apart from what men have created.
Through reading, analyzing text, and writing, students will develop their own feminist lenses. Students will hunt for clues in the literature they read by examining the power relations between men and women. In reading literature written by women, students will consider the female perspective on gender inequality and the differing demands that a male-lead society places on women. How does society reduce women’s concerns to matters of love and relationships? How do women hold other women down? How can a woman create a positive identity when constantly confronted with messages that confine her to living in the service of men? Students will answer these questions and others that evolve as the course progresses by writing Performance Based Assessment Tasks.
Socratic Seminars will give you the chance to talk about your feelings about the reading. This is your space to discuss our guiding question for the week. You will have guiding steps, but by the end of the year, you will be pros and have no problem discussing the work.
FR Sheets and stickies on the text are due on assigned days in the Course Calendar—these are necessary tools for Socratic Seminars; you cannot talk about the work unless you have actively read it. Please complete assigned readings (complete means that you have stickies and an FR Sheet) on the dates assigned.
On Friday of each week, we will write in class essays. After teaching MEAT, students will become accustomed to writing solid responses to the Socratic Seminar questions. All of this will help prepare us for the deep analytical writing needed for the PBAT.
Throughout our entire study of Their Eyes Were Watching God, we will track important characters, important metaphors, what promotes a positive female identity, and what prevents a positive female identity. We do this to answer one of our Essential Questions: What is agency? This question brings more questions that we have used to support our essential question: What allows women to make choices free of social pressure? What causes women to make choices based on social pressure? For a series of classes we organize this information on our FR Sheets to create Janie’s Path to Self-Revelation—a graphic representation of how Janie has become “full of that oldest human longing—self-revelation” (Hurston 7).
The next novel, The Bell Jar, details the trials of Esther Greenwood. Since her society causes these trials, we explore the culture that Esther lives in a bit to gain a firm understanding of the conflict of the novel. To explore her culture, we research cultural aspects of the novel and build Historical Webs based upon our findings. Some of these topics are less historical and more psychological because psychology and mental health will play a large role in the text.
The topics are: Women in the 1950s, Birth Control, Sylvia Plath, Electroconvulsive Therapy, Clinical Depression, and Julius & Ethel Rosenberg.