Selected Women Writers Post-1900

ENGL 223/3.0

woman's hands writing on a typewriter


While women have a well-established "literature of their own” (Elaine Showalter’s phrase) and no longer need to prove its existence, they continue to defend its value and necessity. The aim of this course is to explain whether and how a distinct female voice, perspective, and style can be discerned in the astonishing wealth and variety of Anglophone literary traditions and why sexual difference matters in the writing and interpretation of literature.

In A Room of One's Own (1929), Virginia Woolf wonders, "Who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet's heart when caught and tangled in a woman's body?" This course introduces you to fiction, poetry, and drama by twentieth-century and twenty-first century women writers who have sought both to "measure" and to heal the division between poet's heart and woman's body that Woolf so eloquently describes. First, we will concern ourselves with the global diversity of feminine Anglophone literary traditions across categories of genre, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, and geography. Second, we will explore how women writers adapt and alter masculine literary influences to both scandalous and sobering effect. Finally, we will consider how literature by women offers a unique and often dissident perspective on the radical social, economic, psychological, scientific and technological, and cultural transformations of the modern and contemporary world. Throughout the dissemination of this course, pertinent reference will be made to aural, oral, visual, and digital cultural production by women as well as to significant moments of collective struggle.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe the impact of 20th and 21st Century women writers on the development of the Anglophone literary canon.
  2. Discuss the features of feminine literary traditions across cultures, geographies, and histories, noting both what is unique and what is common to those traditions.
  3. Explain how women writers respond to their historical, social, and cultural contexts and, in turn, evaluate the influence of such contexts within their work.
  4. Investigate the acts of acknowledgement, resistance, and defamiliarization through which women writers (re)write the masculine literary canon and re-invent feminine identities.
  5. Analyze the relationship between form and content in works by women writers through the literary interpretation of poetry, prose, and drama – addressing the use of tropes, genres, style, and voice to communicate themes.
  6. Apply frameworks and concepts drawn from a selection of feminist literary theory to enhance critical essays on the interpretation of texts by women writers.


Winter 2023
Course Dates
Delivery Mode


15% - Discussion Activities (3 x 5%)

  • Music Search
  • Feminist Literary Criticism
  • Six-Sentence Essay

20% - Close-Reading Assignment  
30% - Term Essay  
35% - Proctored Final Exam

**Evaluation Subject to Change**

Proctored Exams

  1. You may choose to write your exam(s) online using Examity proctoring services where you will be charged the additional $100 exam fee to your SOLUS account;
  2. You may choose to write your exam(s) in-person on Queen’s campus in Kingston where you will NOT be charged the additional $100 exam fee

Students enrolled in at least one on-campus course are expected to write all their proctored exams on-campus during the scheduled exam time. 

Instructor Information

Heather Evans (

Textbook and Materials

ASO reserves the right to make changes to the required material list as received by the instructor before the course starts. Please refer to the Campus Bookstore website at to obtain the most up-to-date list of required materials for this course before purchasing them

Required Textbook:

  • The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Traditions in English, 3rd Edition, Volume 2, by S. Gilbert and S. Gubar, editors.

Time Commitment

While 10-12 hours a week is reasonable time commitment for most students please consider that the time required to read and respond to literary texts varies greatly according to your personal situation.

It is best practice to read literary texts twice.  For assignments, try to read the text 3-4 times. This affords the ability to communicate not only what the story, poem or play is about, but how the text tells its story or communicates its perspective, and why its style or diction or point of view alters conventional ways of seeing the world and our place in it.

In short, you should not only be able to paraphrase the text, but to use literary vocabulary to describe its most significant features. Reading a text more than once allows you to build on or challenge first and hasty impressions; the correct use of literary terms adds depth, substance, and nuance to your interpretation and shows that you respect the literariness of the text.