Female Biography

Schools of Public Engagement: BPATS

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Degree Students
Female Biography
Fall 2024
Taught By: Gina Walker
Section: A

CRN: 17250

Credits: 3

Since the ancients, “Biography” was gendered male, assumed to be by and about public men. Newly recovered evidence allows us to trace the equivocal evolution of women’s life-writing that has always struggled to extend the gender of biography. We examine women's representations in various media, including textiles, from many cultures to consider how biography and autobiography reflect, refract, and resist the persistent historical misogyny that continues to thwart female authority. We track searing accounts of female enslavement from the Middle Eastern harem to the American South; consider new feminist commentary about the silencing of global queens from post-Biblical time to the present; learn about the lives of female spiritual teachers around the globe who were martyred for their subversive influence like the Hindu Khona and Hildegard of Bingen. In the Western early modern tradition, we interrogate the 15th-century "confession" of Christine de Pizan in which she imagines a subversive City of Ladies; read barely veiled autobiographical writings of early modern women like the poet Anne Askew; 17th-century author and scientist Margaret Cavendish; the enslaved Phillis Wheatley; and political theorist Mary Wollstonecraft. We read a sampling of Mary Hays' groundbreaking Female Biography (1803), which reveals how women's reputations have been calibrated by their compliance or resistance to sexual norms. We conclude with recent forms of biography by and about women that reveal the distinctive qualities of producing a woman’s life as integral to the struggle to secure female autonomy in women’s public, as well their private, lives. A key component of the course is producing an original biographical entry on a previously unknown or under-researched woman for The New Historia, an online platform and laboratory of feminist historical recovery (

College: Schools of Public Engagement (NS)

Department: BPATS (BPAT)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: Online - Synchronous

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: September 9, 2024 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: November 17, 2024 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Open*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 2:42am EDT 6/14/2024

Meeting Info:
Days: Wednesday
Times: 1:55pm - 3:45pm
Building: Online Course
Room: 999
Date Range: 8/28/2024 - 12/4/2024