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The University of Southampton

ENGL3080 Representing Women, 1890-1939: New Women, New Possibilities, Old Maladies?

Module Overview

In this module you will study a number of fictional works as well as psychoanalytical texts paying particular attention to changing images of women in differing historical and cultural contexts in the US and Europe between 1890 and 1939. Themes such as the New Woman, female subjectivity, racial identity, and female sexuality will be consolidated and developed through detailed textual and theoretical analysis. In addition, you will be analysing developments in medical discourse on gender and mental pathology, e.g. hysteria, underpinned by Freudian, contemporary feminist and psychoanalytic theory.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Historical contextual debate on issues relating to the New Woman
  • Ways in which module texts interrogate female subjectivity and agency
  • Theories relevant to female sexuality
  • Psychoanalytic concepts useful in the study of hysteria
  • Key ideas relating to Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance


Cultural representations of women shed important light on notions of female subjectivity, sexuality and racial identity in the modern world. Medical discourses on gender, mental pathology and the rise of modern feminism are just some of the pivotal histories that can be traced through images of women in this period. Works by H. G. Wells, Virginia Woolf and Sigmund Freud highlight the influences fiction, feminist criticism, and psychoanalytic theory had in moulding and recasting images of women, as they appeared in American and European cultural contexts at the turn of the century. We will study the following texts: • H.G. Wells, Ann Veronica (Penguin Classics or any other edition) [1909] • Kate Chopin, The Awakening (Oxford World Classics) [1899] • Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (Women’s Press Classics or any other edition) [1905] • Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (Penguin Popular Classics) [1929] • Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (Penguin Popular Classics)[1925] • Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight (Penguin) [1939] • Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (Virago Modern Classics) [1937] • Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper (Virago Modern Classics) [1892]

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Introductory lecture followed by small group and large discussions. This module will be taught as a double seminar (90-minute session). Teaching methods include • Weekly contextual lectures/seminars (90 minutes) • Individual consultations Learning activities include: • Taking notes in lectures and seminars • Individual study and research • Contributing to seminar discussions • Working as part of a group to lead a seminar

Wider reading or practice30
Follow-up work50
Preparation for scheduled sessions50
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Charles Bernheimer (ed.) (1990). In Dora's Case. 

Kate Chopin. The Awakening. 

Jane M. Ussher, Jane M (1991). Women’s Madness: Misogygny or Mental Illness?. 

Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Herland. 

Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The Yellow Wallpaper. 

David Rubinstein (1996). Before the suffragettes: women's emancipation in the 1890s. 

Virginia Woolf. Mrs Dalloway. 

Joy James, (ed.) (2000). The Black Feminist Reader. 

Sally Ledger (1997). The New Woman Fiction and feminism at the fin de siècle. 

Virginia Woolf. A Room of One’s Own. 

Maroula Joannou (1995). "Ladies, please don't smash these windows”: women's writing, feminist consciousness and social change 1918-38. 

Edith Wharton. ‘Souls Beloved’. 

Elizabeth Abel (1996). Virginia Woolf and the Fictions of Psychoanalysis. 

Zora Neale Hurston. Their Eyes are Watching God. 

H.G.Wells. Ann Veronica. 

Delia C. Konzett (2002). Ethnic Modernisms: Anzia Yezierska, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Rhys, and the aesthetics of dislocation. 

Lisa and John Forrester (eds) (2001). Freud’s Women. 

Sigmund Freud. In Dora’s Case. 


Assessment Strategy

The group will be given clear guidance and advice in seminars prior to beginning your assessed work, and there will be opportunities for you by individual appointment with the tutor to discuss your research for your assessment. The first piece of coursework will require you to analyse the work of one writer, and will enable you to demonstrate your knowledge of and responsiveness to relevant secondary sources in a sustained, clearly illustrated argument. The second piece of coursework will allow you more scope and enable you to focus on two or three texts to explore specific literary, thematic and/or theoretical issues.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1640 words) 40%
Essay  (2400 words) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2400 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Primary texts

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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