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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Marianne T Stecher
GWSS 462
Seattle Campus

Isak Dinesen and Karen Blixen

The fiction of Isak Dinesen (pseudonym for Karen Blixen) reevaluated in light of current issues in literary criticism, particularly feminist criticism. Close readings of selected tales, essays, and criticism. Offered: jointly with SCAND 462.

Class description

This course is an opportunity to study some of the “masterpieces” of Danish writer Karen Blixen (1885 – 1962), who published in English as “Isak Dinesen.” We will read Out of Africa (1938) and selections from Seven Gothic Tales (1934), as well as tales from other collections, such as “Sorrow Acre” and “Babette’s Feast.” A selection of Karen Blixen’s essays will give insight to her views on gender and other significant issues of her day. Finally, we will consider a number of different critical approaches to her work, including feminist and postcolonial theory, as well as eco-criticism and even animal ethics. Students will be encouraged to develop their own observations on the texts in short, non-graded “response letters.”

Student learning goals

To gain a knowledge of the literary work and contributions of Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) in cultural, historical, literary, and post colonial contexts.

To develop vocabularies for the study of gender, women, and sexuality in literary fiction and critical theory.

To exercise literary analysis and interpretative skills for discussing and writing about fiction, through a study of various literary genres.

To develop the skills of inquiry-driven research and scholarship.

General method of instruction

Method of instruction is student-centered and active. Lectures and structured small group discussions are also part of the instructional method. The presentation of the material and the assignments are inquiry-driven. A number of exercises are also specifically designed to foster the development of the skills of research and scholarship.

Recommended preparation

The course is geared for advanced undergraduates and graduate students in Humanities and Social Sciences, including European Studies, Scandinavian Studies, Women Studies and related fields. 1. Course Pack (AVE) additional texts by Dinesen. 2. Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass 3. Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), Seven Gothic Tales (selections) 4. Isak Dinesen, Daguerreotypes and Other Essays.

Class assignments and grading

Assigned reading; active participation in class discussions class; response papers; original term paper; final in-class essay exam.

10% Prepared participation in class discussions. 20% Four short response papers. 50% Term paper. 10 pages. 10% Midterm, in-class essay. 10% Final, in-class essay exam.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Marianne T Stecher
Date: 03/31/2013