Dr. Kristi Siegel
Assistant Professor, English
Mount Mary College
2900 N. Menomonee River Pkwy.
Milwaukee, WI  53222
(414) 258-4810, #461

Women Writers: Fiction and Autobiography
Eng 349.B1 (Accelerated)
Spring 2001, Tuesdays 6:00-9:50 pm, NDH 254
Office: Fidelis 223
Office Hours: 4:00-5:50 pm Tuesday and by appointment
It's the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me

   Maya Angelou (from "Phenomenal Woman")
We American-Chinese girls had to whisper to make ourselves American-feminine. Apparently we whispered even more softly than the Americans. Once a year the teachers referred my sister and me to speech therapy, but our voices would straighten out, unpredictably normal, for the therapists. Some of us gave up, shook our heads, and said nothing, not one word. Some of us could not even shake our heads. At times shaking my head is more self-assertion than I can manage. Most of us eventually found some voice, however faltering. We invented an American-feminine speaking personality, except for that one girl who could not speak up even in Chinese school.

             -Maxine Hong Kingston,
The Woman Warrior

Dillard, Annie. 
An American Childhood.
Angelou, Maya.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Hurston, Zora Neale.
Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Kingston, Maxine.
The Woman Warrior.
Excerpts from Amy Tan, Carolyn Heilbrun's
Writing a Woman's Life, Annie Dillard's "To Fashion a Text," etc. (will be handed out in class).


Siegel, Kristi.
Women's Autobiographies, Culture, Feminism. New York and London: Peter Lang, 1999 and 2001. [This book may be available in the bookstore and will be on reserve in the library for the entire semester.]

Folder or 3-ring binder to keep handouts


Description:  "Women Writers-Fiction and Autobiography" will focus on the way women have depicted their lives in fiction, non-fiction, and what has been termed "auto-fiction."  In writing their lives, either fictionally or autobiographically, women work with or against a long tradition of literature primarily developed by men.  How does a woman write her life?  Does fiction provide more freedom for women than autobiography?  How have women been depicted in literature?  How have these depictions influenced the way women invent their lives?

What is the difference between fiction and non-fiction?  Is our memory of an event "true"?  How have women navigated the gray area between fiction and non-fiction, or even fantasy?  These are merely some of the questions we will be asking (and possibly never answering) as we explore both primary and secondary texts of women's fiction and autobiography.


to consider the ways women traditionally have been depicted in literature;
to consider how women depict themselves in fiction;
to understand the traditions characteristic in classical autobiography;
to speculate how women have both adopted and rejected the traditions of typical autobiographies;
to contemplate what challenges a women depicting her life might face (versus those a man might experience);
to look at feminist theory about women's writing;
to look at genre theory on fiction and autobiography;
to consider overarching themes and the vast richness of women's life-writing-both fictional and autobiographical.


Assignments: Readings, participation during class discussions, one panel presentation, one reaction paper, and final take-home exam.
Group work:  Throughout the semester, you will occasionally be given discussion questions and divided into groups.  Ideally, everyone in the group should participate and help when presenting the group's findings.

Grading and evaluation:

All papers must be typed. Late papers will not be accepted without prior arrangements and may be subject to a lower grade.
The grade breakdown for the course will be as follows:
             Participation                          15%
             Panel Presentation                  15%
             Reaction Paper                      25%
             Other Assignments                15%
            Take-Home Exam                   30%

Attendance:  Attendance is expected.  Even one absence in an accelerated course hampers your progress considerably.  Please contact me if you must be absent and then make arrangements to get the materials/information/notes you missed.
Reading Assignments:  This course requires reading (no big surprise there!), and it is very obvious when you aren't keeping up with the reading (I tend to get the "My feet are looking very interesting today"-look, or the bright, a`lert look at my forehead as though the answer is going to be displayed on an anatomical marquee.  Please keep up with the readings.


Note: People who point out errors on my syllabus automatically flunk the course.

Before March 13
Dillard Essay - "To Fashion a Text"

Week 1 - Mar. 13
          Fiction, Autobiography and "AutoFiction" Film Medley

Week 2 - Mar. 20
          Excerpt from book (handout)
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Film
Maya Angelou link

Week 3 - Mar. 27
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora is my Name (Film)
Zora Neale Hurston link

Week 4 - Apr. 3
           Charlotte Perkins Gilman (excerpts from
Autobiography & Herland)
           "The Yellow Wallpaper"  -  Film
            Handout ("Two Kinds" by Amy Tan)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman link
Amy Tan Link

Week 5 - Apr. 10
The Woman Warrior
Joy-Luck Club (film)
Maxine Hong Kingston link

Easter  - Apr. 17

Week 6 - Apr. 24
An American Childhood - first half - film TBA
Annie Dillard link

Week 7 - May 1
An American Childhood - second half Course review
          Take-home exam distributed

Week 8 - May 8
          Take-home tests collected and discussed-or-response journals collected.