Course Overview & Objectives

Modernism is widely recognized as an aesthetic movement of multiple geographic, temporal, linguistic, and cultural locations—but where, in effect, is the gender of modernism? This course examines how the creative lives of modernist women writers were defined, enabled, and sustained by transcending rigid constructions of national identity to embrace a global frame. Many modernist women writers led global lives—literally, by spending time in multiple countries and cultures, and/or ideologically, by refusing to subscribe to a single national logic. Writers like Gertrude Stein, H.D., Djuna Barnes, and Zora Neale Hurston were mobile and fluid: living in and traveling to different places at different times in their lives; their understandings of gender as well as their writerly practices were shaped by the various cultures that they experienced. We will explore the historical changes that allowed for these women writers to move about as they did. On the flip side, we will carefully consider how their life choices reflect a radical feminist praxis in which they boldly challenged patriarchical constructs of normative gender roles. Furthermore, in light of their global outlooks, we will examine how these  authors’ literature depicts and complicates modernist conceptions of gender.


  • analyze modernist women writers’ literature and biographical texts in light of their global frame—particularly in relation to questions of feminism and aesthetics
  • examine historical and current scholarly debates about and critical reception of primary texts
  • develop critical thinking, reading, and writing skills through a series of assignments: presentations, mid-term essay, and final essay / project
  • establish a firm understanding of the central features of modernism in relation to national and global context as well as gender