Writing Women and Strange Monsters (MLF3069)

StaffProfessor Fiona Cox - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesMLF2001 ‘French Language, Written and Oral’ or equivalent
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module will study contemporary women's writing and, in particular, the feminist drive towards reworking classical myth and fairytale that became an international phenomenon at the end of the twentieth century. Through close analysis of three works by Marie Darrieusecq, Sylvie Germain and Monique Wittig we shall examine models and theories of cultural transmission, while deepening our understanding of developing trends in contemporary women's writing.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of the selected primary texts, and an understanding of their significance in the broader literary and cultural contexts in which they were produced.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 2. After initial input from the course tutor, apply and evaluate critical approaches to the material under analysis independently
  • 3. Argue at length and in detail about an aspect of the topic, supporting the argument with evidence from the text and with opinions from secondary literature
  • 4. Use a range of literary and critical terminology, applying it to independently researched material as well as to material introduced by the course tutor
  • 5. Access and use critically printed and, where appropriate, electronic learning resources identified as useful by the course tutor; find independently and evaluate critically other relevant resources
  • 6. Analyse texts in a variety of genres and styles, showing awareness of their relation to the social, historical and generic context in which they were written, and present the results orally and in writing
  • 7. Use available resources to investigate a given aspect of the subject, and make recommendations for further study to the rest of the group
  • 8. Using recommended bibliographical tools, present a critical bibliography giving a balanced overview of an aspect of the subject

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Undertake independent researches on the basis of a taught course
  • 10. Manage own learning time and learning activities with minimal guidance from course tutor
  • 11. Adopt a critical approach to the selection and organisation of a large body of material in order to produce, to a deadline, a written or oral argument of some complexity
  • 12. Using bibliographical material provided, select, plan and carry out a programme of study leading to an essay/presentation on a chosen topic, to a specified length and deadline

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction: Overview of a contemporary female response to classical mythology. Which texts/ mythical characters do women writers respond to? Are there national characteristics?
  • Germain, L’Enfant Méduse. (Lecture and Seminar) Medusa as monster/ heroine. The themes of petrification and metamorphosis.
  • Orpheus, Eurydice and the Underworld in L’Enfant Méduse. (Seminar) Using myth as a means of negotiating hell.
  • Wittig and lesbian writing. Rewriting Dante’s Inferno as a lesbian journey through a mythical San Francisco. The influence of Cocteau.
  • Silence and song in Virgile, Non. the transformation of monsters into heroines.
  • Hell and the Holocaust in Virgile, Non (Seminar) On their journey through a classical hell ‘Wittig’ and her guide encounter the worst forms of torture and exclusion that humans can visit on each other. Wittig’s novel, written at the end of the twentieth century, is haunted by the century’s worst atrocities.
  • Darrieusecq, Truismes. What issues does Darrieusecq raise in penning a feminist metamorphoses at the turn of the millennium?
  • Darrieusecq, Truismes. How does Darrieusecq present the question of truth and falsehood (‘truisms’) against the backdrop of contemporary French society? Is a reworking of myth effective as allegory?
  • Conclusion and overview: Different shapes taken by the same myths in the hands of different writers. Examination of a female appropriation of a patriarchal tradition. How do myths mean differently at the end of the twentieth century?

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching55 x 1-hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1010 x 1-hour seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Tutorial
Guided Independent Study134Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Formative essay750 words1-12Feedback sheet, feedback session

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1003000 words1-12Feedback sheet, feedback session

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-12Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary texts:

  • Marie Darrieusecq, Truismes (Paris: Folio, 1998)
  • Sylvie Germain, L'Enfant Méduse (Paris: Folio, 1991)
  • Monique Wittig, Virgile, Non (Paris: Minuit, 1985)

Secondary texts: 

  • Bacholle Michèle ‘L’Enfant Méduse de Sylvie Germain ou Eurydice pendant deux éclipses’ in Religiologiques 15.1 – Orphée et Eurydice: mythes en mutation, 1995.
  • Cixous Hélène, Le Rire de la Méduse et autres ironies (Paris: Broché, 2010). Includes both 'Le Rire de la Méduse' and 'Sorties' 
  • Cocteau Jean, Orphée (Film) 
  • Cox Fiona, Sibylline Sisters - Virgil's Presence in Contemporary Women's Writing (Oxford:OxfordUniversity Press, 2011) 
  • Duffy Jean H., ‘Monique Wittig’ in Tilby Michael (ed.), Beyond the nouveau roman – Essays on the Contemporary French Novel (New York/ Oxford/ Munich: Berg, 1990), pp. 201-228. 
  • Garber Marjorie and Vickers Nancy K (eds), The Medusa Reader (London: Routledge, 2003) 
  • Goulet Alain, Sylvie Germain – OEuvre romanesque: Un monde de cryptes et de fantômes (Paris: Harmattan, 2006) 
  • Hewitt Leah D., Autobiographical Tightropes (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1990) 
  • Hughes Alex and Ince Kate (eds), French Erotic Fiction- Women's desiring Writing 1880 -1990 (Oxford: Berg, 1996) 
  • Leonard Miriam and Zajko Vanda (eds) Laughing with Medusa - Classical Myth and Feminist Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006) 
  • Komar Kathleen L., ‘The Communal self: Re-Membering Female Identity in the Works of Christa Wolf and Monique Wittig’, Comparative Literature, Vol. 44, No 1, (Winter, 1992), pp. 42-58. 
  • Lively Genevieve 'Surfing the Third Wave: Postfeminism and the Hermeneutics of Reception’ in Martindale Charles and Thomas Richard (eds), Classics and the Uses of Reception (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), 55-66. 
  • Moi Toril, Sexual/Textual Politics - Feminist Literary Theory (New York and London: Routledge, 1985) 
  • Rabinowitz Nancy Sorkin and Richlin Amy (eds), Feminist Theory and the Classics (New York and London: Routledge, 1993) 
  • Rich Adrienne, When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-vision’, College English 34/1 (October 1972), pp. 18-19. 
  • Sellers Susan, Myth and Fairy Tale in Contemporary Women’s Fiction (Hampshire,New York: Palgrave, 2001) 
  • Steiner George, In Bluebeard’s Castle – some notes towards the redefinition of culture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1971) 
  • Wittig Monique, 'On ne naît pas femme', Questions Féministes, 8 (May, 1980), pp. 75-84

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date

February 2012

Last revision date