This course will challenge us to consider why “bad bitches” and “nasty women” have moved to the center of our cultural imaginary. We are entranced by Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and fascinated by Amy Dunne (Gone Girl). We cheer when Arya Stark gets her man and watch, captivated, as Daenerys Targaryen burns cities to the ground (Game of Thrones). Popular opinion might call some or all of these women mad, bad, and dangerous to know—but are they also victims of the power structures they undermine? And how do they fit into a broader tradition of western storytelling? Beginning in ancient Greece and ending in the present day, we will follow the paths of vengeful mothers and crazy spinsters, husband-hunters, femme fatales and corporate harpies to ask: What is the relationship between femininity and physical or mental deviance? Do stories about powerful women uphold the status quo? And what exactly is a female sociopath—if she exists at all? Texts and screenings will include Euripides’ Medea, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the short stories of Patricia Highsmith, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and the recent HBO series Game of Thrones.
Students who wish to enroll in a section of this seminar should participate in online preregistration, which opens at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, December 12, 2016 and closes promptly at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 12, 2017.