Five American Women Writers 1890-1940

Ref: C2420763

In this course we will read and discuss a selection of American texts written by women at the end of 19th and beginning of 20th centuries: Sarah One Jewett's stories in 'The Country of the Pointed Firs' about the inhabitants of the decaying fishing villages of Maine; Willa Cather's 'O Pioneers!' about immigrant farming life on the prairies; Edith Wharton's account in 'The Custom of the Country' of her beguiling heroine's attempts to rise in New York society; the passionate sonnets of the feminist activist, Edna St Vincent Millay; the African American author, Zora Neale Hurston's novel 'Their Eyes Were Watching God' with its lyrical exploration of Janie Crawford's struggle for independence. In our discussions we will compare and contrast the different ways in which these writers present the female experience in a changing society.

Course aim

To explore works by five American women writing at a time of great change in American society and of women's role within it.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • Students need a level 2 qualification in English to join this course

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Contribute to discussion.
  • Identify and explain a number of the themes of American literature by women of this period.
  • Compare and contrast the presentation of female characters in the texts studied.
  • Analyse literary texts in a critical way, illustrating arguments with specific examples.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • The texts to be read will be: Sarah Orne Jewett 'The Country of the Pointed Firs' Willa Cather 'O Pioneers!' Edith Wharton 'The Custom of the Country' Edna St Vincent Millay 'Poems' Zora Neale Hurston 'Their Eyes Were Watching God'

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here

Download full course information sheet

Five American Women Writers 1890-1940


This course is funded by the Greater London Combined Authority but is also open to residents of other areas.

As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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