Notes - Tough
teacher. Tough class. Tough Broads.
Deborah Nelson doesn't consider herself a tough broad. "I suspect
it's true, but I'm ambivalent that I want it to be true," says
Nelson, an assistant professor of English language and literature
who has taught at the U of C for five years. The subjects of
her Tough Broads course this fall, however, are undoubtedly
The new course, listed under gender studies and English literature,
examines literary works by the "postwar era's 'exceptional women,'"
including Simone Weil, Susan Sontag, and Joan Didion. "They
are women who succeeded in a man's world because they were so
talented," says Nelson.
writers, most of whom came of age before feminism, posed difficult
problems for the movement, at times writing scathing criticism
against it. Nelson calls them "the exceptions who got into the
boys' club but weren't interested in changing the system."
a self-declared feminist, will juxtapose their works with those
of feminists Simone de Beauvoir, Adrienne Rich, and Audre Lorde
to explore issues such as autonomy, personal austerity, and
self-sacrifice. The class will examine another theme: suffering.
"All of these women writers are very interested in the issue
of suffering," says Nelson. As an example, she describes her
favorite "tough broad," Sontag, AB'51. "She fought breast cancer
twice, and yet during all that she was a filmmaker, a novelist,
and an intellectual writer."
course consists almost totally of discussion. The 25 students
write two papers and keep a journal of responses to the texts.
The first paper is based on one text, and the subject of the
second will depend on the class's interests at quarter's end.-