In December, I officially reached the halfway mark of my graduate studies at Georgia State University. Full-time students often complete their degrees, including their thesis, within two years. However, I am a part-time student with a very full-time business to run, so I’m just entering the second half of my studies this winter. I’m still trying to be okay with that, especially since my grandmother keeps asking me, “How much longer until you finish school for good?”. I always feel like I’m going to be in school forever, when really I only just started 18 months ago. But I digress.
I’m a literary studies grad student. This semester I’m taking a class on feminist literary theory. There was no such thing as a feminist literary theory class when I studied English in high school or college in the late 80s and early 90s. This makes sense now that I know that second wave feminism and a critical study of literature from the feminist perspective only gained traction in the 1970s.
Growing up, I had a negative view of feminism. While I can point to no one event or sedimentary evidence that led me to this belief, I thought that feminists were troublemakers who wanted to be men. While I remember tedious lesson plans every year about the American Revolution and the Civil War, I can only remember spending one day in U.S. history class discussing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and only then because the teacher was finishing a unit on the Constitution. Only in the past few years have I learned of the great sacrifices that early feminists made on my behalf. Feminism was a political and social movement that found its voice in the pages of Ms. magazine and other feminist presses that emerged in the 70s.
Still, women are not equal to men, certainly not in the United States. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, yet a study on the status of women just released by The Shriver Report shows that while women make up half the U.S. workforce, they’re still only earning 77 cents to every man’s dollar. We featured a story here on Southern Spines about musician Amy Andrews touring the country to raise money for the endangered independent feminist bookstore. I’m really lucky that the nation’s oldest independent feminist bookstore is located here in Atlanta. Charis Books & More turns 40 this year and still provides important services to our community.
Just two classes in, I’m enthusiastic to learn more about feminist literary theory. Below are the books on my required reading list for class. This doesn’t represent all the critical essays that we’ll be reading, and certainly isn’t a comprehensive reading list, but it’s a nice smattering for one semester. If you are interested in buying a copy of one or more of these feminist titles, I encourage you to order the book online from Charis Books & More using one of the links under the gallery of book covers.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Quicksand by Nella Larsen
A History of Feminist Literary Theory, edited by Gill Plain and Susan Sellers
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf