By Bria Isaacson, News Writer

A good man is hard to find, as Flannery O’Connor knows too well, and so Asbury University’s English department will offer a literature class focusing exclusively on women.

This class, which will be offered for the first time next semester, is called “American Women Tell It Slant.” The name emphasizes the unique perspective, styles and subject matter of female literary artists throughout the centuries, from Emily Dickinson and Katherine Anne Porter to Marilynne Robinson, who published a novel last year.

Dr. Erin Penner, who is set to teach this course, said that these unusual styles and subjects push readers to “think carefully about what we consider interesting and why.”

This course is currently classified as a Special Topics Seminar, which Penner said gives her the chance to focus more than usual on specific works and themes.

“One of my goals is that students see that writing can take a lot of different forms,” said Penner, “and to help those in the class trace a link between the literary canon and their own writing and reading through these writers who, in nearly all cases, were not expected to write at all!”

This class is exciting for many English majors and for junior Shelby Lawhorn, who created the Academic and Institutional Matters (AIM) committee proposal for this class. Lawhorn believed this class was essential to balance the English curriculum.

I value perspective, and I can see that both the ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressee’ [people groups] reveal truth.

“Female authors have shaped literature just as much as male authors, and I believed that the English department whose students are over 60 percent female — needed to reflect that undeniable truth,” Lawhorn said.

In order to get this proposal passed, Lawhorn researched, created a petition and met with professors to gain support. Lawhorn also had to find a specific use for this class in terms of credits.

“You can’t make a class out of thin air. It has to fill a need,” Lawhorn said. “When I was creating the class, I originally thought it would be just another elective, but I learned that credit hours are set in stone. If you want a new class, it has to take the place of something else.”

Penner says the women’s literature class can be taken as a substitute for American Novel for English major students. This substitute is a way for the English department to offer more poetry in their English major requirements, as the women’s literature class will include discussion of many female poets, such as Emily Dickinson.

The class has been met with a positive response from both department faculty and students. Sophomore Faith Neece says she will be will be taking this class as part of her literature minor.

“For high school and even for Literature and Culture class here, I’ve never read a book by a woman,” Neece said. “I’m so excited to be exposed to a new breadth of literature that I’ve never been exposed to before. I’m taking advantage of this opportunity.”

Despite the fact that this is a women’s literature course, women are not the only ones interested in taking the class. Junior Adam Burge, an English and Ancient Languages major, would like to take the class, but cannot fit into his schedule.

“What I love in literature is seeing different perspectives. A lot of what we read is white male and European,” said Burge. “I value perspective, and I can see that both the ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressee’ [people groups] reveal truth.”

Sophomore and English major Daniel Kozar will be taking the class next semester. He’s looking forward to studying Emily Dickinson and Flannery O’Connor, especially, and is excited that Penner will be teaching it.

“Dr. Penner is phenomenal at presenting underexposed demographics, such as female and minority authors,” said Kozar.

Female authors have shaped literature just as much as male authors

Penner is expecting there to be about 15 to 20 students, both males and females, in the class next semester, though 50 students signed a petition to urge Asbury to create this class, according to Lawhorn.

Regardless of numbers, professors, students, males and females alike, are all excited to welcome this women’s literature class to Asbury University.