Men (& Women) Behaving Badly: Gender and Power in Narratives of the Self (EXPL COR 101)

Most of the “classics” or masterworks of literature assigned for this class present readers with stories that highlight social norms and values from different historic eras; yet, they do so while emphasizing a gendered (largely male) heroism that codes strength as distinctly masculine. For this reason, this course asks that we flip social norms and conventions on their heads and explore how so much of what society respects as heroic is really Men (& Women) Behaving Badly. After we begin with the more canonical, masculine selves in authors Plato and Shakespeare, we will move on to medieval and early modern women authors and thinkers, including Christine de Pizan, Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth, and Jane Austen. Finally, we will look at how the production of male and female heroes significantly shifts towards the valorization of empowerment in contemporary texts like Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad and the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. We will focus on the construction of selfhood as it varies across time, culture and the gender of the author.