Associate Professor of English and American Literatures
Marion Wells is a member of the English and American Literatures Department and is also affiliated with the Women and Gender Studies Program at Middlebury College. She has a BA in Classics and Modern Languages from Oxford University and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University. Her areas of special interest are early modern English and Italian Literature, classical literature, gender studies, and the history of medicine. She enjoys teaching a wide range of courses at Middlebury, including introductory courses in English literature, advanced courses in early modern literature, and courses focusing on the intersection of literary and gender studies. In 2007 Stanford University published her book on the relationship between melancholy and romance, entitled The Secret Wound: Love-Melancholy and Early Modern Romance. She is currently at work on a book on the cultural and literary representations of maternity, tentatively entitled The Nightingale’s Song: Maternal Voices in Early Modern Europe. Professor Wells lives in Weybridge with her husband, John, and their two sons, Theo and Toby.
Courses offered in the past four years.
▲ indicates offered in the current term
▹ indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]
CMLT 0101 - Intro to World Literature
Introduction to World Literature
This course is an introduction to the critical analysis of imaginative literature of the world, the dissemination of themes and myths, and the role of translation as the medium for reaching different cultures. Through the careful reading of selected classic texts from a range of Western and non-Western cultures, students will deepen their understanding and appreciation of the particular texts under consideration, while developing a critical vocabulary with which to discuss and write about these texts, both as unique artistic achievements of individual and empathetic imagination and as works affected by, but also transcending their historical periods. 3 hrs. lect./disc.
CRWR 0560 - Special Project: Writing ▲ ▹
Special Project: Creative Writing
Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014
CRWR 0701 - Senior Essay: Creative Writing ▲ ▹
Senior Essay: Creative Writing
Discussions, workshops, tutorials for those undertaking one-term projects in the writing of fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction. (Formerly ENAM 0701)
Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014
CRWR 0711 - Senior Thesis: Creative Writ. ▲ ▹
Senior Thesis: Creative Writing
Discussions, workshops, tutorials for those undertaking two-term projects in the writing of fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction. (Formerly ENAM 0711)
Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014
ENAM 0103 - Reading Literature ▲
This course seeks to develop skills for the close reading of literature through discussion of and writing about selected poems, plays, and short stories. A basic vocabulary of literary terms and an introductory palette of critical methods will also be covered, and the course's ultimate goal will be to enable students to attain the literary-critical sensibility vital to further course work in the major. At the instructor's discretion, the texts employed in this class may share a particular thematic concern or historical kinship. 3 hrs. lect./disc.
Spring 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2013
ENAM 0114 / WAGS 0114 - Reading Women's Writing
Reading Women's Writing
Why and how do women write? Does literary history reveal distinctive styles, patterns, and continuities in the works of female authors? We will begin to address these questions through our close reading of a wide variety of women's literature in English, including poetry, fiction, essays, and drama from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. Secondary readings will reflect on the concept of gender as a central organizing principle. Employing various methods of literary analysis, the course will address issues of interest to students in a wide range of disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, and history, as well as literature. 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. disc.
Spring 2010, Spring 2012
ENAM 0201 - British Lit. and Culture I
British Literature and Culture I (Origins-1700) (I)
Topic is determined by the instructor - refer to section for the course description.
Fall 2009, Fall 2012
ENAM 0204 - Foundations of English Lit. ▹
Foundations of English Literature (I)
Students will study Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Milton's Paradise Lost, as well as other foundational works of English literature that may include Shakespeare, non-Shakespearean Elizabethan drama, the poetry of Donne, and other 16th and 17th century poetry. 3 hrs. lect./dsc.
Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2014
ENAM 0302 / WAGS 0302 - Unquiet Minds:Gender & Madness
Unquiet Minds: Gender and Madness in Literature and Medicine (I)
In this course we will explore the fascinating intersection of gender, literature, and medicine from the Greeks to the present day, focusing in particular on the early modern period. We will consider why and how such diseases as melancholy and hysteria became flashpoints for anxieties about gender and sexuality in this period, turning to both literary and medical narratives to illuminate the troubled interface between mind and body in the social construction of melancholic illness. Alongside literary texts that dramatize mental illness (such as Chrétien's Yvain and Shakespeare's Hamlet) we will read sections from Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy as well as the recently published account by a 17th century woman of her own private struggles with madness. We will conclude with a consideration of contemporary texts that explore the experience of madness, including Kay Redfield Jamison's memoir An Unquiet Mind and Sarah Ruhl's Melancholy Play. In this final section we will also explore the work being done in the exciting emerging field of "narrative medicine," which brings together literature and medicine in quite explicit and strategic ways.
ENAM 0305 / LITP 0305 - Love Stories
Love Stories: Desire & Gender in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Pre 1800)
Our modern conceptions of desire, self, body and gender are informed in complex and often invisible ways by earlier narratives of love. We will investigate the conflicting accounts of love written during the medieval and early modern periods, considering in particular the relationship between the idealized notion of "courtly love" and the darker, medical picture of love as a form of madness or melancholia. Reading a variety of works including lyric, drama, romance and medical texts, we will look at the construction of gender and sexuality, the relationship between desire and subjectivity, and the gendering of certain "diseases" of love (such as hysteria) during this period. Authors to be studied will include: Chaucer, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Dante, Shakespeare, and a selection of male and female lyric poets. 3 hrs. lect./disc.
ENAM 0419 / GSFS 0419 / WAGS 0419 - Gender, Power and Politics ▹
Gender, Power, and Politics on the Early Modern Stage (I)
In this class we will explore the representation of embodiment on the early modern stage, considering as we do so how theatrical embodiment intersects with other treatments of the body in early modern culture. As we consider the representation of the gendered body on stage or in so-called "closet" dramas, we will read both early modern and contemporary theoretical accounts of gender as performance, investigating among other issues the use of boy actors, the representation of specifically "female" disorders (e.g., "suffocation" or hysteria), the performance of maternity, the portrayal of female "voice" or vocality, and the treatment of same-sex eroticism. We will also study the dramatic use of related cultural codes pertaining to betrothal, marriage, cross-dressing, and sexual slander. Primary readings will include: Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, Webster's Duchess of Malfi, Cary's Tragedy of Mariam, and Cavendish's Convent of Pleasure. Historical sources will include midwifery manuals, conduct books, medical treatises on hysteria, and legal accounts of betrothal and marriage. 3 hrs. lect.
Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2014
ENAM 0422 / WAGS 0422 - Gender, Power, and Politics
Gender, Power, and Politics on the Stage
In this course we will explore the construction of gender in modern and pre-modern culture primarily through an analysis of the theatrical embodiment of gender. We will read both early modern and contemporary theoretical accounts of gender as a performance, using Judith Butler's conception of performativity as a touchstone for our investigation. Beginning with such critical theatrical issues as the use of boy actors on the early modern English stage, the representation of specifically "female" disorders (e.g., "suffocation" or hysteria) in both medical and dramatic texts, the scapegoating of powerful female figures as witches, and the treatment of same-sex eroticism in Cavendish's early lesbian drama, we will consider how some of these issues reappear in contemporary plays, including for instance David Hwang's M Butterfly. The class will also explore the transgender themes in playwrights such as Doug Wright and Michel Marc-Bouchard. We will play close attention to other cultural products that shed light on these dramatic representations of gender, including medical texts, betrothal and marriage law, sumptuary codes, contemporary films, and contemporary marketing products that highlight the performative nature of gender. (This course satisfies the ENAM seminar requirement; this course meets the major requirement for WAGS 0400 for 2010-2011 only).
ENAM 0500 - Special Project: Lit ▲ ▹
Special Project: Literature
Fall 2009, Winter 2010, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014
ENAM 0560 - Special Project: Writing
Special Project: Creative Writing
Fall 2009, Winter 2010, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012
ENAM 0700 - Senior Essay: Critical Writing ▲ ▹
Senior Essay: Critical Writing
Individual guidance and seminar (discussions, workshops, tutorials) for those undertaking one-term projects in literary criticism or analysis. All critical essay writers also take the essay workshop (ENAM 700Z) in either Fall or Spring Term.
Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014
ENAM 0701 - Senior Essay: Creative Writing
Senior Essay: Creative Writing
Discussions, workshops, tutorials for those undertaking one-term projects in the writing of fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction.
Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012
ENAM 0710 - Senior Thesis: Critical Writ. ▲ ▹
Senior Thesis: Critical Writing
Individual guidance and seminar (discussions, workshops, tutorials) for those undertaking two-term projects in literary criticism or analysis. All critical thesis writers also take the thesis workshop (ENAM 710z) in both Fall and Spring terms.
Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014
ENAM 0711 - Senior Thesis: Creative Writ.
Senior Thesis: Creative Writing
Discussions, workshops, tutorials for those undertaking two-term projects in the writing of fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction.
Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011
ENAM 0720 - Senior Comprehensive Program
Senior Comprehensive Program
This course will include readings and discussions of a range of poems, plays, fiction, and theory from 1400 to the present. Discussion of these texts will take place in intense daily seminars, supplemented by three lectures by literary scholars. Four papers are also required, one for each week of seminars. Three informal receptions will round out the communal aspect of this culminating enterprise.
ENAM 1007 / WAGS 1007 - Into the Forest: Fairy Tales
Into the Forest: Fairy Tales and their Cultural Contexts
In this course we will study the evolving history of fairy tales from Apuleius’ Golden Ass to the present day. Beginning with early versions of particular well-known stories--including Little Red Riding Hood, The Juniper Tree, and Bluebeard--by Giambattista Basile, the brothers Grimm, and Charles Perrault, we will also focus on the Lais of Marie de France, which incorporate fairy tale elements into romance in strikingly unconventional ways. The second half of the course will focus on feminist revisions of fairy tales by Angela Carter and A. S. Byatt, whose narratives interrogate the problematic conjunction of sex and violence in these stories. A central theoretical focus throughout the course will be the representation of sex and gender in these tales. In addition to literary narratives we will also study films inspired by fairy tales, including Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro, and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline (both book and film). This course counts as elective credit towards the WAGS major or as an ENAM Pre-1800 elective. (This course is not open to students who have taken FYSE 1201).
FYSE 1201 - Into the Forest: Fairy Tales
Into the Forest: Fairy Tales from Past to Present
In this seminar we will study the evolving history of fairy tales, beginning with the earliest Western version of the Beauty and the Beast story, Apuleius's Amor and Psyche. We will consider several key stories and their variants, including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Bluebeard, focusing in each case on the cultural and social contexts that helped to shape them. Considering early versions of these tales by Giambattista Basile, the brothers Grimm, and Charles Perrault as well as feminist revisions by Angela Carter and A. S. Byatt, our critical focus will include the representation of gender and the problematic conjunction of sex and violence in these stories. In addition to literary narratives we will also study films inspired by fairy tales, including Pan's Labyrinth and Coraline. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1371 - Virginia Woolf in Context
Virginia Woolf in Context
In this seminar we will focus on the novels, essays, and short stories of Virginia Woolf, considering them in the light of her social, political, and artistic contexts and commitments. We will explore in particular the tension in her work between Victorian values and aesthetics and the progressive goals of the modernist movement. Our readings will take us from the early novels (Voyage Out, Night and Day) to the later experimental works (To the Lighthouse, Orlando, The Waves). Some of the topics central to the seminar will be Woolf’s engagement with modernism and its key figures (such as James Joyce); her treatment of gender and sexuality in her essays and elsewhere; and her struggles with mental illness. We will intersperse our reading of Woolf’s prose with consideration of some film versions of her work, and we will conclude the seminar with a reading of Michael Cunningham’s 1998 creative homage to Mrs. Dalloway: The Hours.
LITS 0710 - Senior Honors Essay
Senior Honors Essay