Party Girls: Feminist Fiction Up Till Dawn, 1815 - 2015

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This course is no longer being offered.

Course Description

“This is the luxury of a large party, one can get near every body and say every thing.” This provocative line from Jane Austen’s Emma begs the question: why do we throw, attend, and obsess over parties? From strategizing invite lists to picking out the perfect dress, from rehearsing banal small talk to repeating scandalous gossip, from the nervousness of getting ready to the glamour of making an entrance—the party has been and continues to be a narrative centerpiece in literature and film.

This course will examine the trajectory of “the party” as a crucial framework in feminist fiction. Focusing on texts that are explicitly interested in the everyday life of female-bodied characters, “Party Girls” interprets the event of the party as an entryway into an academic conversation about gender, sexuality, modernity, popular culture, and everyday experience. Additionally, we will learn to approach, examine, and respond to canonical literary and cultural theorists—including Sigmund Freud, Betty Friedan, and Judith Butler—as they enrich our understanding of the themes and texts in question.

Potential texts & films include:

Emma, by Jane Austen (1815)
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin (1899)
“The Garden Party,” by Katherine Mansfield (1922)
Mrs Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf (1925)
Passing, by Nella Larsen (1929)
“The Disinherited,” by Elizabeth Bowen (1934)
Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann (1966)
Party Girl (1995, film)
Clueless (1995, film adaptation of Emma)
200 Cigarettes (1999, film)
Carol (2015, film)

Close reading will be taught not just as an approach to literature, but as a fundamental analytical tool for interacting with culture, politics, and media. This course is designed to teach students how to introduce their voices into an academic conversation. Students will learn how to closely read primary texts, summarize arguments, and evaluate critical sources. By developing students’ abilities to analyze a series of diverse texts alongside each other, this course will develop crucial skills for college-level coursework.

Prerequisites: None


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEEL0997
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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