Women in Mediterranean Literature

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Course Information
Women's Studies
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 



Study of the images of women in the works by women and men writers from Spain, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco. Texts will be examined in search for the changing role of women characters and women writers in Mediterranean literature from Romanticism to our days.  Special attention will be paid to the relations between  literature and cultural, political and sexual manifestations in modern Mediterranean societies and to the boom of women writing in the literary panorama of Spain and South Mediterranean countries such as Morocco, Algeria and Egypt. Readings will be drawn from fiction (both long and short), drama and criticism. When possible, literary discourse will be confronted to and contrasted with other visual discourses on women.

Attendance policy: 

Attendance is mandatory for all IES Abroad classes, including course related excursions. Any exams, tests, presentations, or other work missed due to student absences can only be rescheduled in cases of documented medical or family emergencies. If a student misses more than three classes in any course 3% of the final class grade will be deducted for every unjustified student absence. Six absences in any course will result in a failing grade.

Learning outcomes: 
  • Assess their own position before discrimination due to gender and sexuality. Become aware of their own biases, prejudices and privileges.
  • Outline and discuss the most salient issues regarding Images of Women in Spanish Literature and in that from other South Mediterranean cultures (such as Algeria, Egypt and Morocco)
  • Apply a feminist resisting reading/viewing to the texts read/ films watched.
  • Appraise the relevance of the relationship between gender and literature and its practical application to the analysis of texts.
  • Debate the applicability of the feminist toolbox (and more specifically "feminist close reading strategies")to the study of the chosen written/visual texts.
  • Transfer knowledge from the course to their experience of current issues in the feminist agendas both of Spain and the USA
Method of presentation: 

Sessions will typically consist of brief introductions of salient issues by the instructor and seminar discussion on the students’ informed critical opinion about the assigned texts. As sessions go by, the instructor will promote the autonomy of students by asking volunteers to coguide discussions or do short presentations on specific issues.

You can get a book with all course readings at the photocopy shop. Please be aware that The Back Room can be downloaded from the moodle platform (see unit 5 on moodle).

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Class attendance and participation - 25%
  • Written assignment - 30%
  • Mid-term examination - 20%
  • Final examination - 20%
  • Volunteer Presentations/co-guided discussions - 5%





Session 1 Introduction to course contents, teaching methodology and form of assessment.    
Session 2

What is “Gender Studies”?

What is “feminism”?

Women’s studies, feminism and gender studies.

The body, maternity, identity, sexuality and violence.

Silences and voices.

Submisions and resistances, negotiation of power, power relations.

Exiles, citizenship.

Session 3 Feminist literary criticism and the controversial literary canon.

The canon and its exclusions.

A brief introduction to feminist literary criticism, art and culture: history of the relationship between feminism and literature. Is there a language for women?

The representation of women in literature and the visual arts; images of women in literature.

Women writing and writing about women. Silences in literature. The author/narrator complicities. Women as the subject and women as an object.

Women readers and reading about women.

Glover, David and Cora Kaplan. Genders. New York : Routledge, 2000.

Moi, Toril. Sexual/Textual Politics. London: Routledge, 1985.

S. Gilbert and S. Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic.

Virginia Woolf  “A Room of One’s Own”

Session 4

The image of women in Spanish Romanticism.

Men and women writers.

The evanescent domestic angel in Gustavo Adolfo Becquer and José Zorrilla.

Women writers in the context of their European contemporaries.

Gustavo A. Becquer: Rhymes and Legends

José Zorrilla: Don Juan Tenorio

Readings of extracts from the works by Rosalía de Castro, Mary Shelley and Jane Austen

Session 5

From realism to the fin de siècle.

The triumph of the street devil over the domestic angel.

Viewing: One episode and clips from Mario Camus’s adaptation of Benito Pérez  Galdós: Fortunata y Jacinta.

Session 6

Women in the works by Federico García Lorca

Motherhood, sexuality and repression.

The House of Bernarda Alba/ Yerma/Blood Wedding


Carlos Saura’s adaptation of Blood Wedding

Nuria Espert’s adaptation of The House of Bernarda Alba

Session 7

From the postwar to the post-Franco years. Women writers looking at social changes

The search for a language of their own.

Women images and new literary techniques.

Spanish politics and Feminism.

Home, Kinship and women bonding.

The Women “Parnasus”:  re-inventing the canon.

Carmen Martin Gaite: The Back Room

Adelaida García Morales: The South

Viewing: Victor Erice's adaptation of The South

Session 8

Subversion and sexuality in contemporary Spanish women’s writing.

The search for Identity.

Looking for the self and sexual liberation.

Passages from Almudena Grandes’s The Ages of Lulu, The Wind from the East, The Frozen Heart.

Session 9

Individual tutorials.

Preparation for exam and first discussion on essays. Exact time to be arranged with each student.  
Session 10

Mid-term test

Session 11

Exam revision

Session 12

Women’s voices on the other side of the Mediterranean.

Women in Egyptian literature.

Women in Arabic literature:

Patriarchal impositions and inequalities.

Body politics.

The veil and the oppression of traditions.

Religion and fundamentalism.

Political silences and voices.

Exiles and migrations.

Women in Egyptian literature:

Women self-portraits.

Women and Islam.

Prostitution and body politics.

Nawal-El Saadawi: Woman at point Zero.

Session 13

Women writers in Algeria and Morocco

New images for a new millenium.

Women’s limits and prisons: the veil and the harem.

Arab women’s “westernization.”

Assia Djebar: A Sister to Scherezade.

Fatima Mernissi: Dreams of Trespass: tales of a harem girlhood (extracts)

Session 14

Individual tutorials

Preparation for final exam and final discussion on essays.  
Session 15

Final exam



Required readings: 
  • Glover, David and Cora Kaplan. Genders. New York : Routledge, 2000.
  • Moi, Toril. Sexual/Textual Politics. London: Routledge, 1985.
  • S. Gilbert and S. Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic.
  • Virginia Woolf  A Room of One’s Own
  • Gustavo A. Becquer Rhymes and Legends
  • José Zorrilla Don Juan Tenorio
  • Extracts from: Rosalía de Castro, Mary Shelley and Jane Austen
  • The House of Bernarda Alba
  • Yerma
  • Blood Wedding
  • Carmen Martin Gaite The Back Room
  • Adelaida García Morales The South
  • Passages from Almudena Grandes’s The Ages of Lulu, The Wind from the East, The Frozen Heart
  • Nawal-El Saadawi Woman at point Zero.
  • Assia Djebar A Sister to Scherezade.
  • Extracts from: Fatima Mernissi Dreams of Trespass: tales of a harem girlhood