The mad woman’s vision: creation and destruction in women’s writing from Frankenstein to Housekeeping

Course NameLocationDurationDateTime
Mad Women: Creation & DestructionCity Lit Covent GardenEleven weeks19.9.17- 5.12.172:45-4:45

Course Dates: 19/09/17 – 05/12/17
Time: 14:45 – 16:45
Location: City Lit-Covent Garden
Facilitator: Toby Brothers

Please visit the City Lit website for registration& further information


The female realm is traditionally imaged as domestic and nurturing; narrative space gives room for a very different perspective. Using works by Mary Shelley, Jean Rhys and Marilynne Robinson, we will explore the uncanny interwoven with the empathic.


This course will develop ideas and understanding around the questioning of the domestic and traditional constructs and how this impacts female identity.

There is renewed interest in Mary Shelley’s classic. The recent National Theatre production  peeled back the layers of the block-headed, bolted monster and gets down to Mary Shelly’s original concern: what is the relationship between the created and the creator? The form of the story also draws the reader into the entangled and unlimited relationship between the Creature and its creator as we move through narrators to get to the frozen final confrontation. We will discuss, among other themes, the question of adult male friendship and how Victor’s tragedy is one of arrogance and solitude. The philosophical questions the book raises continue to be absolutely pertinent to our time.

Wide Sargasso Sea offers a modernist retelling of a cultural icon. Jane Eyre has always held readers’ imagination: Charlotte Bronte presents her heroine as fiercely independent in a world where there is no place for a free-thinking female. The hidden, voiceless character of Mr. Rochester’s first wife, who even in her silence greatly impacts Jane’s story, has caught the attention of critics and other writers. Jean Rhys, an early Modernist writer, chose to explore Bertha Rochester’s history in her brief but crystalline work, Wide Sargasso Sea. The text is not only a brilliant deconstruction of Brontë’s legacy, but is also a damning history of colonialism in the Caribbean.

In Marilynne Robinson’s haunting first work, each line is carefully crafted and ice-sharp. Through Ruth’s narration we learn more about the impermanence of things- people, places, home- and watch her struggle to adulthood with the awareness that nothing stays in place. There is a freedom found here- and this book reveals profound possibilities in a spare world.