Welcome to Teaching Modernist Women’s Writing in English

It is my pleasure to welcome teacher-scholars interested in the work of modernist women writers in English to this site:  the online hub for developing a potential volume for the MLA Options for Teaching series.  Here you will find resources related to the teaching of modernism, reflections from hopeful contributors, and an opportunity to contribute to the making of a collection that you yourself might find useful.

I encourage you to peruse the site and join the conversation.  How might you use a collection of essays dedicated to the teaching of modernist women writers in English?  How might you contribute?  What do you need for your own professional development as a teacher of modernist women writers?  What have you been thinking about based on your own practice?  Where do you see the field headed?

I look forward to hearing from potential contributors and readers:  in the comments, and in the contribution of proposals.  I also welcome any correspondence from interested authors who might like to share ideas as their abstracts take shape.


  1. I’m very interested in this area. In my undergrad modernist British surveys, I give heavy attention to women writers across the genres — poetry, essays, short story, novel. This year I’m going to add film to the mix. I would use a collection on teaching women writers to expand on my horizons on whom to teach, as well as broadening possible feminist and historical angles for teaching. Also to see how others are tackling some of the main women often selected (such as Woolf, Rhys, Mina Loy) and WWI era women poets. I also teach American women writers, especially Hurston. I would be interested in trans-Atlantic approaches, too. I use my undergraduate courses as a place to prepare some of my graduate students for teaching in this area, so that is an area I could contribute, among others, if you are still looking for potential contributors.

  2. Modernism and women’s writing are among my favorite areas. My MA thesis was on Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence and both writers had their own distinct way of modernisms. In this regard, I would be happy to see the difference among modernist women writers and their strategies. I can contribute in a comparative analysis of modernist women writers and their feminist stances in their texts, as well. Also, it would be nice to see the relationship between genre, women’s writing and modernist era not only in one culture but maybe across cultures.

    1. Thank you for your comment! The cross-cultural approach is an important one, and I’m hoping to receive proposals that show how modernist women writers in English were engaging with/responding to a globalized modernism. Pieces that work towards a definition of/teaching of “feminist form” would also be welcome!

  3. I really have a question for the editors. I had a great experience last spring teaching a Woolf seminar with a focus on critical thinking. We certainly engaged thematic and aesthetic issues, but I wonder if there’s any interest here in how this focus on critical interpretation heightens students’ thinking, reading and communication. I would also add that I think modernist texts in particular are rich for approaches to critical thinking skills such as inquiry guided learning. Is this too pedagogical an approach for this volume?

    1. In a word or two…YES there is definitely interest, and NO this is not too pedagogical an approach! I would love to see an essay that offers precisely the claim you make: that “modernist texts in particular are rich for approaches to critical thinking skills.” Such an essay would provide insight into why we teach modernist texts, the particular benefits and challenges they bring to the classroom, and the issue you raise would resonate with a wide variety of readers and teachers, I’m sure. If you’d be interested in shaping a proposal along these lines, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

  4. I have a question for the editors. I am teaching at an advanced, independent high school, and I have a really great unit that pairs Woolf and Elizabeth Bishop with the photography of Cartier-Bresson. It’s produced really thoughtful student writing. The CFP specifically mentions undergraduate and postgraduate pedagogy, but I think that this assignment would track well at an undergraduate level. Would you consider essays from high school teachers, especially considering Margie Ferguson’s call to bridge the gap between high school and university-level teaching (“K-16 education”)?

    1. I think we would be willing to consider something along these lines if the following could possibly be borne in mind: 1) the last point about bridging the gap between HS and university-level teaching is especially salient, and situating the proposal in that context I think would be welcome; 2) if the potential audience could be possibly not only HS instructors but also faculty working in English Education — is there a way to engage those teaching the teachers in the field? Otherwise, I very much like the pairing of text and the visual arts, and I appreciate you already thinking about how you might include a discussion of student writing.

  5. I’m glad Susan mentioned American writers. My courses in women’s literature and American literature address American women’s literary modernism in relation to British modernism and male modernism. I am interested in a potential contribution focusing on American writers, possibly in conjunction with the New Woman.

    Like Claire, I am interested in visual-culture approaches. I often connect visual art with literary texts and frequently assign projects in which students synthesize different forms of expression using online resources such as curated exhibits the Met’s website.

    1. These sound like they would fill a real need for the collection; I like the British-American intersections, particularly with a focus on the New Woman, an important topic that will need to be addressed. I’d encourage you to look at not only the CFP but the full proposal that was reviewed by the MLA (available for download). It might provide a helpful sense of where you might fit in.

  6. Hi there–I have a very basic question: are you interested in essays that focus on a single author (while putting her work into a broader context? Or, do you prefer essays that engage multiple writers?

    1. This is a good question. It depends on a few other factors, and an essay on a single author would not be ruled out at all just because it’s on a single author. Does the discussion of teaching that single author allow for the raising of interesting questions about the teaching of modernism, and are there broader conclusions to be drawn about that case? Has a particularly innovative pedagogy been developed that takes that author as its focus, and could suggestions be made that would allow others to try that pedagogy with other authors? (In other words, are the lessons learned from that single author applicable in other ways?) Has that single author been taught in a particularly interesting institutional context? Is that single author especially interesting because it allows for an especially fruitful intersection of theory and practice? I’ve gotten a few proposals that only deal with single authors, but elaborate an interesting and innovative teaching strategy that does not depend on that author for its implementation — the strategy could be used with other authors.

      If you’re not sure but have an idea you’d like to try out in more detail, or if you’ve got a draft on which you’d like feedback, please feel free to send it along — I’m happy to provide suggestions for revision if necessary before a proposal is submitted for final consideration.

    2. Hello,
      I’m writing a dissertation on modern anxieties in the fiction of American Women Writers (Gilman, Cather, Jewett, and ??). I’ve been carful to focus on their fiction as it relates to the social issues that caused anxiety between 1880-1920(ish) rather than on formal innovation. To that end, I decided not to use the term modernist, which I’ve noticed tends to be associated with form and avant garde philosophy.

      I’m not sure if my work would be useful to your project(s), but I am glad to hear of new scholarship happening in this field.

      1. Thanks for your comment, Genevieve. I’m hoping we’ll have some news on the status of this project soon — I think your work on social issues in early 20th century women’s writing will certainly be of interest to our contributors, some of whom are hoping to make interventions along the same lines.

  7. I am thinking about posting an abstract on teaching Virginia Woolf’s essays from a rhetorical approach, and will concentrate on those texts that focus on women writers. Would it suit the call for papers? The study is aimed at undergraduate students who are taking the Degree of Modern Languages at a Spanish State University. The essay as a genre is not much studied at universities, but the argumentative nature of the texts, especially in Woolf’s case, provides students with a lot of rhetorical arguments and figures from which they can learn to analyse and interpret both literary and non-literary discourses. They will assess the style of Woolf’s essays in a Modernist context and will also acquire tools for analysing other types of discourse.

    1. I think an abstract along the lines you are describing would certainly be worth considering. The focus on the essay as a genre, and the ways it can be used to teach not only the work of women writers but writing and discourse, would probably be of interest to many readers.

  8. I wonder how many of us teach modernist women writers in a course dedicated to women writers solely and how many of teach women writers alongside of their male counterparts in a survey or seminar format. I teach a course on modernist women writers (and contemporary women writers) and feminist theory every year–I feel fortunate that there’s a demand from the students, and our various majors and minors support such a class. But I also teach modernist women writers with the modernist men in a survey course that is formatted like a seminar, and this class is particularly fascinating to me in that the course is designed to promote dialogue about the men and women of modernism among the students. We purposely consider the dynamics inherent in canoncity, and we consider concepts from women’s studies in our framing of the authors and their works. Specifically, we think about “intersectionality,” “positionality,” and feminist “recovery” work in relation to how we approach, understand, and value texts by modernist men and women. I’ve been reworking this approach over the years, thanks to the influence of New Modernist Studies. In short, I’m curious about *how* we approach women writers in fairly traditional course offerings, as well as how students are introduced to them to begin with on different campuses.

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