The Rhetoric of Girlhood: Fiction, Film, and Nonfiction

Independent Study with Katherine Wilcox (Senior, English)

Dr. Chidsey Dickson

Fall 2007



We will study the modern representation of girlhood in several genre.



 ‘Girl’ Lit

Maxine Hong Kingston The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (Graphic Novel and just-released film)

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Laura Ingles Wilder, Little House on the Prairie

Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

Monica Ali, Brick Lane

 ‘Girl’ Film

 Siddiq Barmak, Osama

Mike Leigh, Life is Sweet

Welcome to the Dollhouse


The Slums of Beverley Hills

Ghost  World

Don’t Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrl (DVD available:


Rhetoric on or by ‘Girls’ (or Grrls)

Sarah Bilston, The Awkward Age in Women’s Popular Fiction, 1850-1900 (electronic book available thru the library)

Mary Pipher, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

Janet Carey Eldred and Peter Mortensen Imagining Rhetoric: Composing Women of the Early United States

Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future

Anita Harris (ed), All About the Girl: Culture, Power and Identity

Choose 2-3 girl zines from


Schedule of Assignments

Overview: We’ll read  novels in Sept, the nonfiction in October (and watch the films) and then in November talk about the two projects: research and outreach.

Set up a blog and put your journal entries there, sending me a link on Sundays.

We’ll meet Sept 24 for the first time face-to-face from 3-4pm (my office) and what you’ve read and written

Sept 7 Introduction and Skim several chapters in The Awkward Age in Women’s Popular Fiction, 1850-1900 (available online via the library). Also, selections from Harris.

Sept 14 Woman Warrior  and Little House

Sept 21 Persepolis and Blue Eye

Sept 28 Virgin Suicides and Brick Lane. Also selections from Baumgardner and Richards.

Oct 5 Osama and Life is Sweet

Oct 12 Imagining Rhetoric (chapters 2, 3, and 4) and Reviving Ophelia (passem)

Oct 19 Riot Grrl DVD and 2-3 girl zines from parcell press

Oct 26 Heathers and Welcome to the Dollhouse



Semester Grade

Blog Entries (600 words minimum per entry) 30%

Research Project 30%

Outreach Project* 20%

Final Reflection (letter to me) 20%


*basically, some kind of intervention in the lives of girls in Lynchburg. It could be a one day (Saturday) workshop you do on girl lit for the moms of teenage girls. We can discuss other ideas.