“It Is Better to Speak": One Hundred Years of Women Writing for Change (MSON) (Literature Elective; US)

Spring; Grades 11–12 (occasional 10th, at the recommendation of home school administrator)
Prerequisite: None
Taught by: University School of Nashville

In her poem “A Litany for Survival,” Audre Lorde writes, “when we speak we are afraid / our words will not be heard / nor welcomed / but when we are silent / we are still afraid / so it is better to speak.” In this course, we will read the words of women writing over the last century to highlight the injustices experienced by women in their societies and to envision a world in which women could find a more equitable place. Recognizing the intersectional nature of women’s experience, we will be sure to read work by women from different backgrounds, paying attention to the way that factors such as sexual orientation, economic class, ethnic identity, or religious affiliation may distinguish one woman’s experience from another’s. We will begin with foundational nonfiction texts such as Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” and Alice Walker’s “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens,” then move on to fiction, poetry, and plays by writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Tsitsi Dangaremba, Isak Dinesen, Gwendolyn Brooks, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lord, Muriel Rukeyser, Margaret Atwood, Joy Harjo, Carol Ann Duffy, Caryl Churchill, Maxine Hong Kingston, Gish Jen, and Octavia Butler.


In response to their reading, students will have the opportunity to write not only expository essays analyzing the texts that we read, but also personal essays founded in their own experiences. Interested students may also choose to explore the possibilities of creative expression by writing their own poems or short stories.

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