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.