Women who see through walls: reading list

Sufi mystic Rābiʻa
This semester I am teaching an Emily Balch seminar at Bryn Mawr. The Balch seminars are named for Bryn Mawr alumna Emily Balch, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for her work with the  Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Balch was a member of Bryn Mawr's first graduating class in 1889.

Poet Marilyn Nelson sees “pearl-necked viruses [and] winged protozoans” in the dust she sweeps away, eighth century Sufi mystic Rābiʻa grounded her visions in pails of wash, medieval abbess Hildegarde of Bingen mused on the evolution of  plants and animals, while crystallographer Kathleen Lonsdale unraveled the inmost secrets of molecules at her kitchen table.  In this seminar we will explore the ways in which women writers have seen through the walls of their ordinary worlds and exposed the invisible realities beneath. What can we learn about how to grapple with what we cannot see?

The growing reading list:

  • Dusting, Marilyn Nelson. From Magnificat, published by Louisiana State University Press, 1994.  Hear Nelson read a snippet as part of On Being with Krista Tippett (begins at 22:09 through 27:45) 
  • The Copper Beech, Marie Howe. From What the Living Do, W. W. Norton & Co., 1997. 
  • Agrawal, Roma. Built: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures. Bloomsbury USA, 2018. (The introduction, Force, Clay and Idol chapters)

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