The Woman in the Mirror
with Mary Cregan
Offered in partnership with the New-York Historical Society
Monday, May 20, 2019

Looking for books on women in the British Library, the narrator of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own discovers a troubling reality: there are almost no books about women that are not written by men. Woolf pokes fun at an imaginary scholar, Professor von X, who is hard at work on “his monumental work entitled The Mental, Moral, and Physical Inferiority of the Female Sex.” Women’s history was largely a history of silence, of absence from the record.

Ninety years on, much has changed, as memoirs by women find eager audiences and museums slowly increase their collections of art by women. This master class will explore women’s self-representation by looking at the work of several writers and visual artists. We will read sections of memoirs by Jesmyn Ward (Men We Reaped) and Mary Karr (The Liars’ Club) and look at the work of photographers Vivian Maier, Carrie Mae Weems, and Zanele Muholi, and painters Frida Kahlo and Paula Modersohn-Becker.

Mary Cregan is the author of The Scar: A Personal History of Depression and Recovery, a memoir and cultural history of depressive illness and its treatment. She is an adjunct lecturer in English at Barnard College.



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Photos by Pat Swain.


Readings assigned by Mary Cregan:

Cregan, Mary. The Scar. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2019.

Garner, Dwight. “Through Five Men’s Lives, a Memoirist Illuminates Her Own.” The New York Times, September 17, 2013.

Torres, Richard. “In ‘Reaped,’ 5 Lives That Are Far More Than Just Statistics.” NPR, September 17, 2013.

Ward, Jesmyn. Men We Reaped. 2nd ed. New York: Bloomsbury, 2014.

Ward, Jesmyn. “My True South: Why I Decided to Return Home.” Time, July 26, 2018.


“To spend a day with like-minded individuals who understand my fatigue, what inspires me, and the challenges I face in the classroom, feels so affirming. We created a sense of community by reading and then reflecting on passages together–texts that were equally rich in meaning, emotional depth, and intellectual content. It was very special to engage with an author that I admire and respect.” – Christine Grenier, West End Secondary School


Master Class Fellows