Rationale: WWO Paper and Presentation Project

Deborah Uman, St. John Fisher College

Read the assignment discussed below here.

St. John Fisher College is a small liberal arts college with a strong focus on professional programs. The English department includes 14 full-time faculty, including one medievalist and one early modernist. Our literature concentration requires students to take three literary surveys (two British and one American), and this requirement is partly linked to state requirements and tests for students double majoring in Adolescent Education. Given these realities, our Early English survey focuses primarily on traditional canonical authors and we rarely have the chance to offer a class in early literature that features women writers. Although the newer anthologies, including Norton and Bedford, include many more female authors than they have in the past, the gender imbalance is still difficult to avoid. Requiring students to use the Women Writers Online database allows them to see the breadth of women writing during the time period. Studying their writings encourages students to think about the lives of women in a more nuanced way and provokes important questions about canon formation as well. I designed this project as a group assignment that includes presentations to give the class the chance to learn about more women writers than I can fit on the syllabus and to give students the opportunity to follow their own interests and generate questions with their peers.