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Chopin: The Awakening

 
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  • About this Lecturer

About this Course

In this course, Professor Helen Taylor (University of Exeter) explores Kate Chopin's 1899 novel, The Awakening. After a brief introduction to the writing of the American South, the course begins proper with a discussion of Kate Chopin herself – her upbringing and education, her marriage and children, and her career as a writer. After that, in the third module, we think about Chopin's literary influences – authors such as W. D. Howells and Mary Wilkins Freeman from the States, and such as Gustave Flaubert and Leo Tolstoy from Europe. In the fourth module, we turn to the critical reception of The Awakening, a novel which was more or less forgotten after it was first published in 1899, but which re-emerged in the 1960s and 70s thanks to the work of Per Seyersted and the Woman's Press. In the following five short modules, we look in more detail at specific aspects of the novel – love and marriage in the fifth module, the setting of the novel in the sixth, motherhood and children in the seventh, the idea of Edna as an artist in the eighth, and the imagery of sleeping and waking in the ninth. In the tenth module, we consider the presentation of adultery in the novel, before moving on in the eleventh module to think about the novel's highly controversial ending.

About the Lecturer

Helen Taylor FRSA FEA is Emerita Professor of English. In 2011 she was elected Honorary Fellow of the British Association of American Studies for her distinguished contributions to the subject. Having taught English and American literature and Women's Studies at the universities of Louisiana State, West of England, Bristol and Warwick, she moved to Exeter in 1999 where she was Head of English and University Arts and Culture Fellow.

She has published widely on American southern literature and culture, and is also known for feminist critical articles and editions, as well as engagement with radical pedagogy. Her books include Gender, Race, and Region in the Writings of Grace King, Ruth McEnery Stuart, and Kate Chopin (1989), Scarlett's Women: Gone With the Wind and its Female Fans (1989, translated into Finnish and Japanese), with Richard H. King, Dixie Debates: Perspectives on Southern Cultures (1996), Circling Dixie: Contemporary Southern Culture through a Transatlantic Lens (2001) and The Daphne du Maurier Companion (2007). In recent years she has published on the transatlantic historical and cultural significance of the Storyville District of New Orleans, 1897-1917, as well as the post-Hurricane Katrina cultural revival of New Orleans. Her most recent book is a British Film Institute Film Classic on Gone With the Wind (2015).

She served on the AHRB 2000-2003 as Convenor of the AHRB Postgraduate Panel, and was a member of the RAE 2008 American Studies and Anglophone Area Studies Sub-Panel. She has programmed for, and been on the Boards of, several literature festivals. She is the Director of Liverpool Literary Festival, 2016.