Women Short Stories

“You must read some of these books!” was one of the favorite statements of Prof. Sybil Oldfield. I met her in 1994 when she was giving a lecture on Women Short Stories of the New Literatures in English at the University of Munich. I still remember her and what she tried to teach us in this university course. 

Sybil Oldfield was born in London in 1938, and brought up in New Zealand where she took her degree in English, German and History and started her academic teaching carreer at the tender age of 19. Later she was chosen for a post at the University of Sussex teaching the inter-disciplinarian fields of Englisch and History where she tought topics like English Civil War and Literature or the French Revolution and English Romanticism. In the 1990s she primarily tought courses on women´s writing and the lesser known female “heroines” in the struggle for women´s  liberation. She described herself as “a humanist feminist. A femininst beacuse I´m a humanist.”

In the first “test” she confronted us students with five short texts (fiction, poems) where we were asked to find out if the author was male or female. The result was that we guessed not more than 50% right.

This lead to her second favorit question when it comes to analysing literature. It would be irrelevant if a text was written by a man or a woman.

“The only thing that really counts is:

What do you feel when you read this?”

The legendary Women Short Stories reading list:

  • Alice Munro, “Boys and Girls”, “Red Dress 1946” both from Dance of the Happy Shades
  • Alice Munro, “Princess Ida” from Lives of Girls and Women
  • Janet Frame, “Swans”, “The Bull Calf” from You Are Now Entering the Human Heart
  • Margaret Attwood, “Significant Moment in the Life of My Mother”, “Unearthing Suite”, from Bluebeards Egg
  • Eudora Welty, “A Worn Path”, from A Curtain of Green
  • Toni Cade Bambara, “Raymonds Run”, “The Lesson” from Gorilla, My Love
  • Ama Ata Aidoo, “The Late Bud” from No Sweetness Here
  • Bessie Head, “Witchcraft”, “Waiting for a Rain God” and “The Collector of Treasures” from The Collector of Treasures
  • Nadine Gordimer, “Letter from his Father” from Something Out There
  • Fay Weldon, “IND AFF – or Out of Love in Sarajevo”
  • Mary Lavin, “Happiness”
  • Anita Desai, “The Accompanist” and “The Farewell Party” from Games at Twilight

You must read some of these books!