Summer 2005

The Third Woman


06/27/2005 - 08/10/2005
Tuesday & Thursday 01:00 PM - 03:30 PM

285 Court Street

How are "Third World" women, both in the First World and in the Third, represented and understood by others? How do they represent and understand themselves? Analyzing images such as the Orientalized woman, the exoticized/eroticized woman, the earth mother, the debased and exploited laborer, or the witch/temptress, we will study how these representations developed historically, questioning how they persist and how they are resisted. Studying films, still images, and written texts, we will compare western views of Third World women with their representations of themselves.

Beginning with images from the popular media, such as magazine advertisements and book covers, which represent the "other" woman as exotic and erotic, we will examine how such advertisements contribute to representations of the first world woman's sexuality and virtue. Selected short stories from Africa, the Caribbean, and India, as well as excerpts from travel writers like Lafcadio Hearn and Florence Nightingale, will introduce some of the major issues in our discussion: are third world women objects for our delighted or lascivious contemplation? Or are they the objects of our pity and social concern? Or are they something else entirely? Some writers from Africa and India, like Ama Ata Aidoo of Ghana and Lalithambika Antherjanam, ask how oral cultures can be represented in print, while others ask about how we can learn to listen to women in cultures where they are traditionally silenced.

We will pursue these issues as we go on to study these sources: the scholar Malek Alloula, who, in The Colonial Harem, considers the influence of the French postcard industry around the 1920s on the relationship between the European colonizer and the colonized woman; the representations of Josephine Baker, who moves between the U.S. and France, in such films as Zouzou or The Princess Tamtam, which complicate the idea of the exotic "primitive" woman and add to our understandings both of colonialism and of how third women attempted to manipulate representation to their own benefit. Within the French colonial world, Euzhan Palcy, a woman filmmaker from the Caribbean island of Martinique, gives us an image of the all-sacrificing, all-nurturing mother in her film Sugar Cane Alley. George Bernard Shaw, the master satirist and social critic, uses the idea of the "primitive" woman to parody Voltaire's Candide and thereby contributes to notions of the "noble savage." Rabindranath Tagore's Devi, turned into a movie, poses questions of the traditional role of woman in religious belief and practice, and like Anita Desai's novel Fire on the Mountain, questions the nature of women's power in society, asking what it might mean to be a woman in a nonwestern society and to be "modern."

Students will be responsible for six response papers (1-2 pages each), one class facilitation, two essays (3-4 pages each), and a final paper or project (5-6 pages).

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Indira Karamcheti B.A., M.A., Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara) is associate professor of English and American Studies. Her teaching and research interests include postcolonial literature and theory, the literature of the South Asian diaspora, and the writing of ethnic and racial minorities in the U.S. She has written on such authors as Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai, Simone Schwarz-Bart, and Aime Cesaire. Click here for more information about Indira Karamcheti and click here for more information about her work.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Malek Alloula, THE COLONIAL HAREM (University of Minnesota Press), Paperback

Maryse Conde, I, TITUBA, BLACK WITCH OF SALEM (Ballantine Books), Paperback

Buchi Emecheta, THE JOYS OF MOTHERHOOD (Heinemann), Paperback

Keri Hulme, THE BONE PEOPLE (Penguin), Paperback

Jamaica Kincaid, LUCY (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Paperback

Arundhati Roy, GOD OF SMALL THINGS (Harper Trade), Paperback

Nawal El Saadawi, WOMAN AT POINT ZERO (Zed Books), Paperback


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