Fall 2018


The Woman as Hero in Western Literature (55+)

Throughout the Western literary tradition, women have frequently been presented as strong, self-reliant iconoclasts. This course will examine how narrative artists have used the strong woman protagonist to critique and assess the consequences of the disenfranchisement of women in Western society.

We will look at strong women in the Bible, such as Deborah, Ruth and Esther. And we’ll consider Medea, Elektra and Antigone from ancient Greek drama. Shakespeare, of course, created many strong female characters, and we’ll cover those too, along with Carmen and Salome from the world of opera. In modern drama we’ll examine Racine’s Phèdre, Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and Nora Helmer, and Shaw’s Eliza Doolittle.

Note: Back by popular demand, from spring 2010.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Vancouver 6 Graham Forst $115.00 28 Register

What will I learn?

Week 1:  Introduction

The traditional concept of gender, and the role of literature in perpetuating gender stereotypes. Discussion of the work of Kate Chopin, especially The Story of an Hour, the heroines of George Eliot, and Marilynne Robinson.

Week 2:  Strong Women in the Bible

Traditional depictions of women in Hebrew patriarchy (Eve, Delilah, Potiphar’s wife, Jezebel, Salome) are contrasted with sympathetic and heroic images of women in the bible.  We will be looking at drama and opera videos.

Week 3: Strong Women in Greek Drama

The role of women in “democratic” Greece.  Background of Greek tragedy, with focus on women as tragic heroines (Medea, Phaedra, Antigone).

Week 4: Strong Women in Chaucer and Shakespeare

Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath.” Women’s roles at the time of the English Renaissance.  Focus on Kate (Taming of the Shrew), Viola (Twelfth Night) and Portia (Merchant of Venice).

Week 5: Strong Women in Opera

The genre of opera requires strong women heroes.  Focus on Strauss’ Salome, Bizet’s Carmen  and Puccini’s Tosca.

Week 6:  Strong Women in Modern drama

Background of the emerging role of women in late 19th century.  The focus will be on Ibsen’s Nora Helmer and Hedda Gabler, and Bernard Shaw’s Eliza Doolittle.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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