Section 1: Thursdays 6:30-9:10 PM

Professor: Molly Ferguson
Due to the recent popularity of books (and films) like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, the image of the unreliable narrator in your mind may likely have a woman’s face attached to it. A stereotypical view of women is that they are emotional rather than rational, inconsistent rather than steady, and that they think in a circular rather than linear way. This notion paves the way for the idea that women are not to be trusted, or further still, that their word in a court of law is less reliable than a man’s. With that negative judgment in mind, we will read works of literature that feature women characters as unreliable narrators, who may or may not be telling us the whole story. Using our primary texts and some secondary readings, the course probes the following questions:
  • are ALL narrators unreliable?
  • what types of unreliability are there, and how are they signaled in narrative?
  • is unreliability gendered?
  • can unreliability can be recuperated for women as a strategy of withholding that gives them agency?
  • do male and female writers characterize women’s unreliability differently?
We will read about several types of unreliable women: madwomen, alcoholics, children, criminals, and liars. Your own response to these narrators will be shaped by the author’s narrative techniques, as well as your ability to read “between the lines” at what is not being said in the texts. Course work will include a close-reading paper, group work, a presentation, and a longer paper.