The content of this unit, designed for use in both 10th and 12th grades, will explore woman’s role, status, self-image, and history in literature written by women. The proposed framework will serve two main purposes: 1) to help students gain an awareness of the effect of history on literature, and 2) to help students comprehend the female literary tradition.
An eclectic model of instruction will be employed in this unit. Lectures, class discussions, small group discussions, panels, paragraph writing, short paper writing, journal keeping, and audio-visual presentations will be used to fulfill content objectives.
Emphasis on the twelfth grade level will be on the British woman writer and the emergence of the literary woman. It will be pointed out that, “feminine, feminist or female, the woman’s novel has always had to struggle against the cultural and historical forces that relegated women’s experience to the second rank.”
Emphasis on the tenth grade level will be on the British woman’s American counterpart, whose values, role models, lifestyles, and literary traditions emerged from a distinctly British background.
Preceding the lecture that will be used to introduce the historical framework for both British and American women writers, students will explore some of their preconceived notions of male/female roles and stereotypes which pervade society. We hope this exploration will raise students’ consciousness and motivate learning. To facilitate student awareness of sex role stereotyping and the exclusion of women from traditional study in virtually all forms, three separate strategies will be used.
On the first day of this unit, before any announcement of the unit’s components is made, students will be asked to name ten prominent figures in history. These lists will be shared and an inclusive list will be compiled. This will also give the students a chance to demonstrate some of their historical background. Students will then be asked to name writers whose works they have read or heard of. Again, a large list will be compiled and a kind of literature review will follow. The success of this strategy relies heavily on the exclusion of women’s names from both of these lists. A discussion of why this might be will ensue, and some generalizations will be made. These might include: women have historically been excluded from most fields of work outside the home; those women who have made contributions are excluded from textbooks we study; women’s history has been somewhat different from men’s history, and their concerns have not been taken seriously. It is hoped that these discussions will help students ponder the issue of women’s powerlessness and exclusion from society’s mainstream.
Students will then be assigned as a second strategy an exercise entitled “Ring Around the TV Set—Women in Television Commercials,”2 as outlined in TABS. They will be asked to take down the words of two television commercials that feature females and/or their presumed concerns and will be asked to describe the action that takes place on the screen. The lesson assumes that television is a powerful source of sex role models and that programs and commercials are accepted by most people, especially young viewers, without conscious evaluation and without an awareness of the impressions such messages make. The aim is to make the student more conscious of the image of women in TV commercials and to encourage more critical viewing.
The implications of the settings, the activities, and the types of products will be discussed. Students will, for example, see that in some commercials, a woman persuades a man to use a certain product; in others a man persuades a woman. They will compare the methods of persuasion used by men and women. They will describe the problems of men and women in commercials and the solutions to those problems. They will then evaluate what the commercial says about women and about men.
The student-centered discussions following these strategies should provide a natural transition to the lecture material.