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ENGL 4710: Topics in Gender and Literature: Romance
Spring 2013

Dr. Paula R. Backscheider
9082 Haley Center
(334) 844-9091

Required Texts:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Norton, 2001). ISBN 9780393976045
  • Natural History of the Romance by Pamela Regis (University of Penn Press, 2007). ISBN 9780812215229
  • Love Story by Erich Segal (Harper Collins, 2005). ISBN 9780060748098
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007). ISBN 9780312446475
  • The MacGregors, Daniel and Ian by Nora Roberts (Harlequin, 1999). ISBN 9780373483907
  • All for Love by John Dryden (University of Nebraska Press, 1972). ISBN 9780803253797
  • Ways of Seeing by John Berger (Penguin, 1990). ISBN 9780140135152

Course Description:

“The heart believes in the success of wild enterprises and in impossible felicities,” George Sand once wrote. This course studies texts and a few movies that describe dreams of romantic happiness, the hopes of unlikely lovers, and the idealistic or tragic ending of such stories. Surrounding the stories of such dreams are tales and studies of gender differences as complicating factors in relationships, and to counter Sand’s statement are “The Longest War,” “In a Different Voice,” and “He Said, She Said.” Romances have been considered dangerous since the modern form’s rapid rise to popularity in the eighteenth century. The genre has been accused of sending men to war, distracting them from important public responsibilities, and turning them into rapists. It has been described as giving women false hopes, of constructing their ideas of happiness and success, and, above all, of leading them to cause men trouble.

We will explore some of the ways romances inscribe gender differences and have contributed to our ideas of “masculine,” “feminine,” “pleasure,” and “happy marriage.” We will spend some time looking at how writers adapt the romance form in order to participate in social and domestic controversies. The course includes some theory, and literature will be both “high” and “mass,” but all of it will once have been wildly popular, and most of it continues to be so.


Jan. 10:  Introduction

15:  *"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry and *Marie Catherine d'Aulnoy, "The Isle of Happiness"

17:  *"Isle of Happiness" continued.  John Berger, Ways of Seeing, essays 1, 2, 3, 5.

22:  *Kristen Myers and Laura Raymond, "Elementary School Girls and Heteronormativity"; Mark Edmundson, “Do Sports Build Character or Damage It?”; *Susan Bordo, from The Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body

24: John Dryden, All for Love

29:  All for Love continued

31: *George Haggerty, "Heroic Friendship" and *Jane Barker, "The Unaccountable Wife"

Feb. 5: *Teresa de Lauretis, "The Technology of Gender"

7:  *Eliza Haywood, "The City Jilt":  Paper I due.

12: *Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid, and *John Storey, Cultural Studies and the Study of Popular Culture, 1-7 and 29-53

14:  Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

19:  Pride and Prejudice, continued. Position Presentations.

21:  Pride and Prejudice, continued, and *Catherine Carter, “Poverty, Payment, Power: Kathleen Thompson Norris and Popular Romance”

26:  Mid-term exam

28:  Field trip for paper development.

Mar. 5:  Kate Chopin, The Awakening. Position Presentations.

7:  The Awakening


19: Field trip papers and reports due.

21:  Pamela Regis, Natural History of Romance, pp.  xi-84

26:  Nora Roberts, For Now, Forever in The MacGregors, Daniel and Ian

28:  Pretty Woman (film). Position Presentations.

April 2:  Pamela Regis, Natural History of Romance, pp. 107-23, 204,207, and *Robyn Donald, “Mean, Moody, and Magnificent: The Hero in Romance Literature”

4:  Group meetings

9:  ~Jane Barker, "Love Intrigues"

11: Erich Segal, Love Story

16:  Love Story

18, 23, and 25:  Group presentations

26: Discussion of group presentations

May 1:  Exam 4:00 – 6:30

* On Canvas