Fallen Women

It’s Saturday — not a day I’m usually leaping out of my bed to my computer — but today I was up relatively early putting the finishing touches to my powerpoint for Monday’s final session on my Year 2 undergraduate course Women’s Writing.  We finish up with a brief discussion of  some of the issues related to Third Wave Feminism and I’ve been dipping into Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration, eds. Gillis, Howie and Mumford (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007; 2nd ed.).  This is an excellent collection of essays, all of which have extensive bibliographies to other key recent texts on the ‘third wave’.  I’ve also delved into Suzanne Ferriss and Mallory Young’s collection on Chick Lit (Routledge, 2006).  Having developed an interest in adaptation — primarily because I’m interested in the adaptations of Sarah Waters’ trilogy of neo-Victorian novels – the Austenmania of the 1990s onwards is a kind of side angle of this for me.  I have a sense that I am going to be teaching Austen alongside her late twentieth century transformations in the future.

But back to The Victorian Vision … and this week’s session was on the ubiquitous figure of the fallen woman.

VVO Session F Screenshot

For those of you who haven’t seen the Victorian Vision Online here’s a current screenshot from this week.  If you compare this with the screenshot inserted in my very first post on this blog, back in late September, you’ll see that the ‘Menu’ on the left has grown as a folder has been added each time a VVO session takes place.  The folders contain all the necessary instructions for that week’s session, and a link to the discussion forum itself.  It should be just possible to make out that the Session F folder is open, showing the guidelines and the link to the ‘Fallen Women’s Penitentiary’ where the students post their responses to the week’s activity.

Every year I find more Victorian images of fallen women.  I show a number in class, and in particular we do an exercise in reading Victorian narrative paintings via Augustus Egg’s Past and Present trilogy (1858). I have added three images — a study for Found by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1858), Ford Madox Brown’s Take Your Son, Sir! (1857), and George Watts’ Found Drowned (1867) — to my ‘homepage’ of our Victorians space on the VLE.  I add different images each week in tandem with the week’s theme or topic.   This keeps the homepage ‘fresh’ and dynamic as the term goes on.

The main texts the class consider are Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s ‘Jenny’ and Augusta Webster’s ‘A Castaway’ which work fabulously alongside each other.  We start the discussion of each in the classroom, reading the openings of both together so the context of each of these monologues is established, but then much more detailed discussion is taken online.  Thus far, after two days, those who have posted have plenty to say.

0 thoughts on “Fallen Women

  1. Thought I would leave a little comment as I have been reading your blog each week, alongside studying on your Module, Victorian Vision.
    As a student who knows what she wants to say and then has difficulty articulating it on paper, I find these forums fantastic; as Theresa was saying in an earlier comment, the pressure is taken off by knowing you are writing for fellow students and not the lecturer. I always seem to struggle to write my assignments as the lecturer appears to require them! You would think that being in year three I would have figured this out by now, but sadly not lol!! The diversity in each of the forums has broadened my interest somewhat and I will be taking my interest further by doing Fin de Siècle next semester. In agreement with Theresa, it is not nice when students do not comment on your posts; but as a student who posts theirs on the Friday, it is quite difficult to think of something suitable for each post. I tend to comment on the posts that grab my attention and that I feel I can contribute successfully to the argument raised.
    All in all, I think the forums are great and you can interact with the weekly topics better, rather than having to write two assignments, where you have a tendency to ignore the areas you are not researching.

    • Hi Liz.
      Thanks for your comment here. I’m interested that you say feel you are “writing for fellow students and not the lecturer” in the online forums. Ultimately, of course, you are still writing for the lecturer, as I will read what you have posted and will give everyone’s posts an overall mark. But it’s interesting that you are less aware of that whilst the forums are happening and you suggest that you feel less pressure in them than perhaps with a traditional essay.

      It’s also very much my sense as the lecturer that using discussion forums throughout a course means the class engage more and more widely with the texts and issues on the course. This can only be good in my book!

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