If you could go back to college, but this time armed with age and experience, how would you confront the books that once rocked your world?
I set out to answer this very question a few years ago, returning to my alma mater to re-enroll in a class on feminist texts. At that point I had already been out of school for more than a decade. I was married. I was mother to a young child. Yet, after my daughter was born, I found myself reaching out to the great books of feminism that had influenced me so profoundly as a young woman; these books formed my touchstone. Becoming a parent, for all its wonder and excitement, was also a time of confusion and vulnerability. Re-reading the feminist classics helped me to find my way through this transitional period in my life, as I figured out my new roles of wife and mother. The result of my literary explorations is my book Reading Women.
Below are some of the books I discuss in Reading Women:
Adam, Eve, and the Serpent by Elaine Pagels
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
The Dialectic of Sex by Shulamith Firestone
Sexual Politics by Kate Millett
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
In a Different Voice by Carol Gilligan
Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria by Sigmund Freud
The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism by Katie Roiphe
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
I read many, many more books and articles during the course of the class than the ones mentioned above, although, regrettably, I could not include all of them without venturing into War and Peace territory. My desk drawers are still jammed with the marbled composition books I filled with my scrawled notes and observations, as well as several typed-up chapters that, for one reason or another, didn’t make the final cut.
Ultimately, I view Reading Women as an invitation – and an inspiration, I hope – to turn back to these books or, if you haven’t read them, to pick them up for the first time. To that end, I have included in the book’s appendix a complete reading list from the course. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with these books and always welcome any suggestions you may have for further reading.