Contemporary Feminist Literature

“It's not a woman's job to get smaller and smaller and take up less space until she disappears so the world can be more comfortable.”
—Glennon Doyle Melton

“For me, the process of embodying confidence was less about convincing myself of my own worth and more about rejecting and unlearning what society had hammered into me.”
—Lindy West

“The higher you go, the fewer women there are.”
—Wangari Maathai

Woman and child on a dock

What does it mean to be a feminist, and what does it mean to be a feminist in the context of contemporary America? This course is a study of contemporary literary and visual texts by prominent women and non-binary writers and sociologists whose work examines and engages questions of female identity, societal constructs, and societal issues, and the contemporary female experience. As such, all assigned texts will be works published, produced, or otherwise conceived within the past five years, with many released in these past twelve months. Through close reading and analysis, students will discuss and explore the ways contemporary women are shaped through society, culture, and our intersectional identities, and how these identities—including class, race, age, size, aestheticism, and sexual orientation—inherently form and influence feminist discourse. Through close reading and analysis, students will discuss and explore the ways contemporary women are shaped through society, culture, and our intersectional identities, and how these identities—including race, age, size, socioeconomic class, ability, aestheticism, gender identity and sexual orientation—inherently form and influence feminist discourse. The writers, artists, and activists we’ll study over the duration of the semester include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Rebecca Solnit, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Leslie Jamison, Lacy M. Johnson, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Kerry Howley, Lidia Yuknavitch, Claire Vaye Watkins, Lauren Slater, Kelly Sundberg, Marissa Alexander, Terese Marie Mailhot, Sequoia Holmes, Chanel Miller,  Itoro Bassewy, Cameron Dezen Hammon, Molly McCully Brown, Andrea Long Chu, Holly Whitaker, CJ Hauser, Kate Bolick, Rebecca Traister, Geneva Reed-Veal, Lindy West, Ashley Graham, Sarah Viren, Torrey Peters, Whitney Thore and Monica Lewinsky. This class aims to educate and increase social awareness of feminist issues in all citizens and, above all, prepare students to be active and contributing citizens within their local, national, and global communities. This course features readings by women and non-binary authors, LGBTQIA+ authors, and writers from a variety of diverse backgrounds, including African American, Latino, and Native American voices; I believe this is an integral feature of a contemporary American literature class, and I welcome any additional recommendations or suggestions you may have for future iterations of this course.