Courses

WGSS 101(F, S)Introduction to Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies

This course is designed to initiate you into the pleasures, pains and perplexities of critical thinking about gender and the situations of women across the globe. We will survey a wide variety of writers and issues--historical and contemporary, theoretical and practical. Above all, the course is intended as an exploration of the tremendous diversity of thought contained under the general rubrics of feminist and gender studies and a vehicle for developing skills in writing and research as well as analytical tools for further work in the field. The goal is not to bring about a specific point of view, but rather to learn to analyze issues critically using the methods and frameworks that feminist theory and queer theory have developed as academic disciplines. [ more ]

WGSS 102(F)West Africa through Women's Voices

This writing-intensive course explores West African history through texts composed and performed by women of the region from the thirteenth century to the present. By examining a variety of sources--oral tradition, legal records, women's popular songs, Islamic pedagogical verse, personal correspondence and novels--we will consider how women's experiences challenge dominant narratives of history that have often excluded them. The course will explore the extremely varied lives of individual women in West Africa: those who have served as powerful political leaders, but also those who paid dearly for contesting political authority; those who have played central roles in the daily life of their communities as well as those who have been excluded; those women who have transgressed expected gender roles alongside women who have embraced them. [ more ]

WGSS 105(F)American Girlhoods

The image of the girl has captivated North American writers, commentators, artists, and creators of popular culture for at least the last two centuries. What metaphors, styles of writing, ideas of "manners and morals" does literature about girls explore? What larger cultural and aesthetic concerns are girls made to represent? And how is girlhood articulated alongside and/or intertwined with other identities and identifications, such as race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality? These are some of the issues we will explore in this course. [ more ]

WGSS 110 TThe Veil: History and Interpretations

Last offered Spring 2016

This tutorial will consider the history and the changing meanings of the veil (hijab) and its many manifestations (e.g. burqa, chador, niqab), starting with the earliest religious traditions and the status of women in Islamic law. We will then proceed to examine imperialist and orientalist representations of gender in the Middle East, the rise of Islamic feminism and finally consider the emergence and return of the veil in recent years in the Middle East, North America, Asia and Europe. [ more ]

WGSS 113(F)The Feminist Poetry Movement

Feminist poetry and feminist politics were so integrated in the 1960s and 1970s in America that critical essays on poets, such as Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde, appeared in the same handbook that listed such resources for women as rape crisis centers and health clinics. This course will map the crucial alliance between feminist politics (and its major cultural and political gains) and the feminist poetry movement that became a major "tool" for building, organizing, and theorizing second-wave feminism. In order to track this political and poetic revolution, we will take an interdisciplinary approach that brings together historical, critical, and literary documents (including archival ones) and visual products (through the Object Lab of the Williams College Art Museum) that recreate the rich context of the period and help us consider the important social nature of aesthetic production. At the center of the course will be writings of major poets of the period, as well as anthologies and feminist periodicals that published their work and created a significant forum and shared space for women to articulate the politics and poetics of change. These periodicals and anthologies will also help us track the diversity of the feminist poetry movement and its intersection with issues of race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality. Ultimately, we will want to consider how poetry serves as an important tool for thinking through questions of power and injustice and what role it plays in creating necessary imaginative space in the world for expression, critique, and change. [ more ]

WGSS 119 T(S)Asian American Femininities

This tutorial will introduce students to the intersections of feminist studies and Asian American studies by reading Asian and Asian American literature (read in English) that centers female-identified characters. This course will consider the historical and persistent structures of patriarchy, heterosexism, nationalism, imperialism, war, and globalization through the framework of gender and sexuality studies. Students will read short excerpts of feminist theoretical works, selected with the idea of making scholarly texts more approachable to first- and second-year students. No previous experience with feminist theory or Asian American studies is presumed or required. [ more ]

WGSS 132(F)Black Writing To, From, and About Prison

This introductory course considers the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans as it is represented on the page. Keywords for meditation and analysis include blackness, gender, prison, justice, freedom, and abolition. Each reading and class discussion will aid students in developing rigorous and nuanced understandings of these terms. Course texts will include letters from Angela Davis's edited collection If They Come in the Morning, autobiographies like that by Malcolm X, poetry by Ericka Huggins and Huey Newton, as well as critical interventions by scholars like Nikki Jones, WEB Du Bois, and selections from Eric Stanley and Nat Smith's edited collection Captive Genders. We will also look at contemporary groups organizing around the question of prisons and justice including Critical Resistance, BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100), and TGIJP (Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project). [ more ]

WGSS 138 TSpectacular Sex

Last offered Spring 2018

From Beyonce's Super Bowl halftime show to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, spectacles captivate us. Spectacles may be live shows, media events, or even everyday performances ranging from interactive advertisements to viral video sensations. But what are the uses of spectacle? Why are some compelling while others fall flat? How do spectacles control society or maintain social norms? And, importantly for our purposes, how does spectacle shape gender in society? Or from another angle, how does sexuality infuse spectacle? This tutorial introduces students to theories of spectacle ranging from the ancient Greeks to Marxist-inspired thinkers in the 20th century. In particular, we will examine how feminist thinkers have contributed to this literature and how theories of spectacle relate to questions of gender and sexuality. Our weekly readings focus on pairings of theoretical readings with writing on popular cultural examples and case studies. Some possible topics include sporting events, charity ad campaigns, music videos, political events, and social media. [ more ]

WGSS 152The Fourteenth Amendment and the Meanings of Equality

Last offered Fall 2017

For more than a century, the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution has served as the principal touchstone for legal debates over the meaning of equality and freedom in the United States. This course explores the origins of the 14th Amendment in the years immediately following the Civil War, and examines the evolution of that amendment's meaning in the century that followed. Central themes in this course include the contested interpretations of "due process," "privileges and immunities," "equal protection," and "life, liberty or property"; the rise, fall, and rebirth of substantive due process; and the battles over incorporating the Bill of Rights into the 14th Amendment. We will pay particular attention to how debates over the 14th Amendment have shaped and been shaped by the changing meanings of racial and gender equality, and how the 14th Amendment has transformed the promise and experience of American citizenship. This course will be part of the Object Lab, a hybrid gallery-classroom, in which we will work in collaboration with the WCMA staff to select and analyze works of art that speak to and illuminate the themes of equality and freedom that are at the heart of this course. One major assignment will involve creating a course-specific installation that puts works of art in conversation with the court cases that we are studying. [ more ]

WGSS 154History of American Feminisms

Last offered Spring 2018

This class takes a historical approach to the development of feminist movements and ideas in the United States. Moving from expressions of women's rights in the 18th century up to the present, the class will examine how diverse groups of women organized for and understood the goal of women's equality. It focuses especially on the breadth of women's mobilization and the ways that race, class and sexuality intersected with political movements over time. Historical case studies and documents--including written analyses, films and popular media--will highlight major areas of agreement and disagreement between activists from a broad range of political perspectives, including conservative feminism, labor feminism, womanism, Third World feminism, transnational feminism, and queer/lesbian feminism. [ more ]

WGSS 177(F)Gender and Sexuality in Music

This course explores key themes in the expression of gender and sexuality through music. It draws from primarily 21st century examples, across cultures and genres, ranging from pop boy bands to Indian bhangra dance to the musical avant-garde. Themes will include: communicating gendered ideals, dance and embodiment, transgressive performances, biography and subjectivity, intersectionality, music and sexual violence, and marketing. We will explore the ways in which ideas and identities related to sex and gender are formulated and mobilized in music's performance and consumption. Inevitably, issues of sound and stagecraft intersect with factors such as race, age, and class further inform these experiences. Students will consider their own processes of identifying and interpreting expressions of gender and sexuality in sound and movement, and contemplate the role of culture and society in informing those interpretations. [ more ]

WGSS 200Nordic Lights: Literary and Cultural Diversity in Modern Scandinavia

Last offered Spring 2014

Mythologized as the land of the aurora borealis and the midnight sun, Scandinavia's five distinct nations--Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland--are often mistakenly associated with blond-haired and blue-eyed uniformity. Modern Scandinavia, however, is a place of great social and cultural diversity. From medieval Viking sagas to contemporary Nordic rap, the Scandinavian literary tradition is rich in tales of global exploration, childhood imagination, sexual revolution, and multicultural confrontation. Through readings of nineteenth-century drama, twentieth-century novels, and twenty-first century cinema, we will investigate a wide range of issues on class, ethnicity, and identity, including the indigenous reindeer-herding Sami people, Danish colonialism and the Greenlandic Inuit, Norwegian collaboration and resistance during World War II, and Nordic emigration (to North America) and immigration (from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East). Discussion will also focus on Scandinavia's leadership in gender equality and sexual liberation, Scandinavian political isolation and integration (into both the UN and the EU), and the global effects of Nordic pop (ABBA to Bjork), glamour (Greta Garbo to Helena Christensen), technology (Volvo to Nokia), and design (IKEA to H&M). Readings to include works by Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, Hans Christian Andersen, Karen Blixen, Astrid Lindgren, Halldor Laxness, Reidar Jonsson, and Peter Hoeg. Films to include works by Ingmar Bergman, Lasse Hallstrom, Bille August, Colin Nutley, Lukas Moodysson, Josef Fares, Tomas Alfredson and Tomas Vinterberg. All readings and discussions in English. [ more ]

WGSS 201War and Resistance: Two Centuries of War Literature in France (1804-2016)

Last offered Fall 2017

In 1883, Maupassant called on his fellow war veterans and writers to join him in speaking out against warfare and violence, crying "Let us dishonor war!" From the Gallic Wars against Caesar (during the first century BC) to the recent terrorist attacks in France (at the opening of the twenty-first century), the French literary tradition is rich in texts that bear witness to war and speak out against its monstrous inhumanity. While war literature in France can be traced back to ancient and medieval texts on Vercingetorix, Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, and Joan of Arc, this course will focus specifically on literary representations of war during the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries, from the Napoleonic Wars, to the First and Second World Wars, to the Algerian and Cold Wars, and the "War on Terror." Discussions will examine the impact of war on soldiers and civilians, patriotism and pacifism, history and memory; the implications of war as invasion and conquest, occupation and resistance, victory and defeat; the relationship of war to gender, sexuality, and ethnicity; and the role of war in colonialism and genocide. Readings to include novels, short stories, and poems by Balzac, Stendhal, Hugo, Rimbaud, Daudet, Maupassant, Zola, Cocteau, Wiesel, Duras, Camus, and Fanon. Films to include works by Resnais, Renoir, Carion, Jeunet, Malle, Angelo, Pontecorvo, and Duras. Conducted in French. [ more ]

WGSS 202(F, S)Foundations in Sexuality Studies

This course will offer an introduction to the burgeoning interdisciplinary field of sexuality studies in part through examining historical, legal, literary, filmic, cultural studies, sociological, and popular texts, as well as work done under the umbrella of queer theory. It explores the role of race, class, religion, science, region, and nation in the construction of modern gender and sexual identities and in the lived experiences of dissident genders and sexualities. We will examine a range of issues, including histories and strategies of resistance; transgender and intersex theory and activism; critiques of the white racial hegemony of lesbian and gay studies; the consequences of gay marriage; the politics of AIDS and its theoretical implications; globalization and sexuality; the rise of queer visibility and its relation to commodity culture; and recent conceptualizations of homonormativity. The goal of the course is not to achieve any kind of political or intellectual consensus, but to have rigorous debate over some of the key issues in queer studies. [ more ]

WGSS 203(F)Chicana/o Film and Video

Hollywood cinema has long been fascinated with the border between the United States and Mexico. This course will examine representations of the U.S.-Mexico border, Mexican Americans, and Chicana/os in both Hollywood film and independent media. We will consider how positions on nationalism, race, gender, identity, migration, and history are represented and negotiated through film. We will begin by analyzing Hollywood "border" and gang films before approaching Chicana/o-produced features, independent narratives, and experimental work. This course will explore issues of film and ideology, genre and representation, nationalist resistance and feminist critiques, queer theory and the performative aspects of identity.Through a focus on Chicana/o representation, the course explores a wide spectrum of film history (from the silent era to the present) and considers numerous genres. [ more ]

WGSS 205Gender and Economics

Last offered Spring 2018

This course uses economic analysis to explore how gender differences can lead to differences in economic outcomes, in both households and the labor market. Questions to be covered include: How does the family function as an economic unit? How do individuals allocate time between the labor market and the household? How have changes in family structure affected women's employment, and vice-versa? What are possible explanations for gender differences in labor force participation, occupational choice, and earnings? What is the role of government in addressing gender issues in the home and the workplace? How successful are government policies that primarily affect women (e.g., comparable worth policies, AFDC/TANF, subsidization of child care)? The course will focus on the current experience of women in the United States, but will place these gender differences in a historical and cross-cultural context. [ more ]

WGSS 207 TShe Speaks in Color: Examining the 'Color Complex' in Toni Morrison's Writings

Last offered Fall 2016

The practice of colorism, or skin color discrimination, is very familiar to people of color globally. Often described as intra-racial racism, colorism within the Black American context is part of the colonial legacy of institutionalized slavery where the vestiges of white supremacy have created color castes among Blacks that still, to this day, have serious consequences for those on the darkest end of the color spectrum. The impact of this practice is far-reaching, influencing everything from romantic partnering, economic and educational attainment, and perceptions of beauty, attractiveness, and criminality. Although the vast majority of colorism scholarship is empirically based, there is much that we can glean from a literary investigation of this practice by analyzing the works of renowned writer, theorist, and folklorist Toni Morrison. Her work is particularly useful in examining issues of skin color, as this topic has been persistent yet underexplored in Morrison's writings. Employing the methods of literary and rhetorical criticism, this tutorial will investigate five Morrison novels, The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), Love (2003) and God Help the Child (2015). In our discussions of each text, we will examine the problem of the "color complex" at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class and sexual violence, and how the characters manage these overlapping issues. We will bring the novels into conversation with social science articles on the practices of colorism in daily life. Because the tutorial blends different kinds of investigations into colorism, it will equip first year students with tools to critically engage and interrogate fictional literature; help them identify the real and nuanced ways that color discrimination affects Black communities; and consider how Morrison, one of our foremost writers, bridges literary creativity with ethnographic observation. [ more ]

WGSS 209Poverty in America

Last offered Fall 2017

Although some protest that the U.S. is heading toward European-style socialism, social welfare programs in the U.S. differ in important ways from those in other wealthy and democratic nations. This course focuses on the adoption and development of policies to address poverty and inequality in the U.S. The issues we will explore include: What is poverty, and how do Americans perceive its dangers to individuals as well as the political community? What economic, historical, and sociological theories have been advanced to explain poverty? Why has the U.S. adopted some approaches to reduce poverty but not others? What enduring political conflicts have shaped the U.S. welfare state? [ more ]

WGSS 210Culture and Incarceration

Last offered Fall 2011

This seminar examines incarceration, immigration detention centers, and the death penalty from historical and contemporary perspectives. Students will study and examine interdisciplinary texts as well primary sources (legislature and criminal codes and writings by the incarcerated). The emphasis will be on the study of social attitudes concerning ethnic groups, gender/sexuality and class as they pertain to a "penal culture" in the United States. [ more ]

WGSS 211Gender in the Global Economy

Last offered Fall 2011

This course will present a feminist economic analysis of the global economy, and some of the urgent issues facing women in poor countries. The course will start by developing theoretical resources: these will include feminist critiques of economics theory, work on care labor and the shifting boundaries between markets, governments and households, theories of household bargaining, and discussions of intersectionality and difference. Then we will discuss a series of interlinked issues which may include the contradictory effects of structural adjustment and its successors; the informal sector and the 'invisible assembly line'; the economics of sex work and global sex trafficking; microcredit; the economics of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. We will finish by looking at community-based activism, non-governmental organizations, and the possibilities for first-world/third-world alliances. [ more ]

WGSS 212(S)Ethics and Reproductive Technologies

In her groundbreaking book, The Tentative Pregnancy, Barbara Katz Rothman writes that "[t]he technological revolution in reproduction is forcing us to confront the very meaning of motherhood, to examine the nature and origins of the mother-child bond, and to replace--or to let us think we can replace--chance with choice." Taking this as our starting point, in this course we will examine a number of conceptual and ethical issues in the use and development of technologies related to human reproduction, drawing out their implications for such core concepts as "motherhood" and "parenthood," family and genetic relatedness, exploitation and commodification, and reproductive rights and society's interests in reproductive activities. Topics will range from consideration of "mundane" technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), prenatal genetic screening and testing, and surrogacy, to the more extraordinary, possibly including pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), post-menopausal reproduction, and post-mortem gamete procurement. Background readings include sources rooted in traditional modes of bioethical analysis as well as those incorporating feminist approaches. [ more ]

WGSS 213 T(S)Race, Gender, and the Alien Body: Octavia Butler's Science Fiction

Science fiction is a genre well known for its ability to envision new realities, and Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006) is among the most highly regarded science fiction writers. Butler's uncanny ability to imagine the future anew and to merge those ruminations with her experiences as an African American woman provide powerful commentary on--and often disrupt--modern understandings of race, gender, and human embodiment. We will explore questions such as: What role does 'gender' play in Butler's fiction? How does Butler's treatment of the 'alien' cause us to reconsider what it means to be human? How does Butler incorporate `race' and the concept of 'other' into her fiction, and how do these techniques help us situate contemporary discussions of a post-race society? We will examine the relationship between Butler's visions for the future and what her narratives of future worlds invariably suggest about the present. We will read key texts including the best-selling text Kindred (1979), the haunting dystopian novel Parable of the Sower (1994), the popular vampire text Fledgling (2005), and the collection Bloodchild and Other Stories (1996). We will also explore contemporary engagement with Butler's work including the relationship between the main character from her book Dawn (1987), and Henrietta Lacks, the African American woman from whom the immortal cell line (HeLa) used for medical research derives. This tutorial will engage Octavia Butler's work broadly, and with particular attention to how the concepts 'race,' 'gender', `alien' and 'body' are interrogated in her writings. [ more ]

WGSS 214(F)From Putin to Pussy Riot: Discourses of Post-Soviet Gender

Before 1991, Russians typically appeared in the Western media as macho villains in the nuclear arms race or a James Bond film. Today, however, news from the Former Soviet Union often sounds like a bizarrely gendered media stunt. Russian president Vladimir Putin has been photographed topless while fishing on vacation in Siberia, while the feminist punk-rock collective Pussy Riot protested Putin's regime by performing in day-glo balaclavas in Russia's largest cathedral. This course examines related post-Soviet media spectacles in the attempt to understand the Western press's fascination with Russia, as well as key social trends defining the post-Soviet era. We will focus on the ways in which gender and sexuality have come to mark post-Soviet culture and discourse as different from those in the West. In addition to Vladimir Putin and Pussy Riot, we will consider the so-called crisis of masculinity in post-Soviet Russia, the trafficking of women from the Former Soviet Union, the Ukrainian feminist collective Femen, the Eurovision Song Contest, and the 2013 legislation in the Russian Federation banning homosexual propaganda among minors. We will try to understand how concepts, such as feminism, tolerance of sexual minorities, and performed gender, have been deemed dangerous in the post-Soviet East at the very time they have attained normative status in the West. All readings will be in English, and all films with have English subtitles. [ more ]

WGSS 215Ways of Knowing: Music, Movement, Memory

Last offered Fall 2017

This interdisciplinary seminar proceeds from the premise that the body knows. Ongoing colonial modernity is rooted in a racialized hierarchy: the "civilized" life of the mind vs. the "primitive" instincts of the flesh. According to this binary, the body is marked as irrational, sinful, outside of the archive. The body cannot know because the happenings of the body are ephemeral: unlike documents, they don't last. In this course, we will subject this logic to close scrutiny. As performance scholar Diana Taylor asks, "Whose memories, traditions, and claims to history disappear if performance practices lack the staying power to transmit vital knowledge?" In this course, we look to music, movement, and other repertoires as ways of knowing, remembering, and world-making. How does embodied knowledge travel across time and space? How have performance practices served as modes of what Ashinaabe cultural theorist Gerald Vizenor calls "survivance" (survival + resistance) for indigenous, nomadic, queer, and colored communities. Case studies include: the Middle Passage and the syncretic birth of the Blues in the Americas; nomadism, the nation-state, and the migration of Romani music; and the evolution of queer ball culture. Students will engage with a variety of texts (verbal, sonic, visual, kinesthetic) and respond to them critically not only through writing and discussion, but also through their own performance practices. [ more ]

WGSS 216Ancient Christianity on Gender and Sexuality: Legacies and Prospects

Last offered Fall 2017

This course will examine a set of case studies from ancient Christianity and contemporary literature that address topics in gender and sexuality, such as the masculinity of Jesus; portraits of Mary Magdalene as leader and prostitute; desire, marriage, and celibacy; gender and violence in martyr narratives; the sex/gender of God; and sexual slander of heretics and Jews. We will consider social and theological intersections with feminist, masculinity, and trans* studies. [ more ]

WGSS 218(S)Gender and Sexuality in the Neo-slave Narrative

Hortense Spillers has noted that ex-slave Harriet Jacobs, "between the lines of her narrative, demarcates a sexuality that is neuterbound" and we live with the aftermath of her observation. "Ungendering," one of the transformations undergone by bodies subjected to the Middle Passage, is one of the keywords that forms the foundation for a conversation about slavery, gender, and sexuality. Throughout this course we will wrestle with the questions: How does the designation "slave" rupture, reify, or expand our understandings of sexuality and gender? What conditions have necessitated the neo-slave narrative form? Texts include slave narratives such as those by Mary Prince and Frederick Douglass and neo-slave narratives such as Octavia E. Butler's Kindred, Jewelle Gomez's Gilda Stories, and Jordan Peele's Get Out. [ more ]

WGSS 219 T(F)Women in National Politics

This tutorial focuses on the writings and memoirs of black women who have shaped national politics through civil rights and human rights movements in the 21st century. Women studied include: Fannie Lou Hamer, Barbara Jordan, Shirley Chisholm, Angela Davis, Ella Baker, Kathleen Cleaver. [ more ]

WGSS 222Women on the Verge

Last offered Spring 2018

From the early twentieth century to the present day, the radical changes in the lives of Spanish women have clearly reflected the tug of war between progress and tradition in recent Spanish history. The dramatic upheavals in Spanish politics have marked and transformed the lives of women to such a great extent that one can often gauge the political and social climate of any given historical moment by considering how the role of women was defined by the law, the Catholic church, education, and other social and political institutions. Using literary and historical texts as well as films and graphic materials, this course will look at the transformations in the public and private lives of Spanish women during the following periods: the turn of the century, the Second Republic, the Spanish Civil War, the Franco years, and the transition to democracy. [ more ]

WGSS 224(S)Sexuality and Seduction in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century France

In 1857, both Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal were put on trial for sexual indecency and "crimes against public morality." In 1868, Le Figaro attacked Zola's novel Therese Raquin as "putrid literature" for its depiction of adultery, murder, and scandalous sexuality in nineteenth-century Paris. A century later, Gide, Proust, Colette, and Duras continued to shock French readers with their extraordinary novels on male and female homosexuality, intergenerational lovers, and biracial relationships. In this course, we will examine a broad range of issues on sexuality and seduction in nineteenth- and twentieth-century French literature, including eroticism and desire, love and betrayal, marriage and adultery, prostitution and fetishism, gay and lesbian identities, cross-dressing and gender representation, exoticism and colonial (s)exploitation. Readings to include novels, shorts stories, and poems by Chateaubriand, Constant, Duras, Balzac, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Zola, Maupassant, Barbey d'Aurevilly, Gide, Proust, Colette, Duras, and Guibert. [ more ]

WGSS 225Gender and Sexuality in Asian American Theater

Last offered Fall 2017

This class begins with the premise that intersectional and interdisciplinary studies of gender and sexuality need to be, and in significant ways already are, in conversation with Asian American studies and theater. How might contemporary Western discourses of masculinity and heterosexuality, for example, depend upon theatrical constructions of Eastern sexual alterity? How have Asian American artists managed and critiqued historically gendered and sexualized stereotypes (e.g., hypersexual Dragon Lady, virginal Lotus Blossom, asexual Charlie Chan) through theatrical intervention? This seminar will closely read dramatic literature written by Asian American artists, as well as engage scholarship in Asian American gender and sexuality studies and performance studies. We will read the work of playwrights including Ayad Akhtar, Ping Chong, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Velina Hasu Houston, David Henry Hwang, Young Jean Lee, Diana Son, Lauren Yee, and Chay Yew. [ more ]

WGSS 226(S)Gender and the Dancing Body

This course posits that the dancing body is a particularly rich site for examining the history of gender and sexuality in America and beyond. The aim of the course is to explore ideas related to gender and sexuality as prescribed by dominant cultural, social, and religious institutions, and how dance has been used to challenge those normative values. We will examine a wide range of dance genres, from stage performance to popular forms to dance on television, with particular attention to the intersections of race and class with gender. This is primarily a discussion-based seminar course but will also include attendance at live performances, film screenings, and discussions with guest artists. No previous dance experience required. [ more ]

WGSS 228Feminist Bioethics

Last offered Fall 2016

In this course we'll explore the ways in which feminist approaches to moral thinking have influenced both the methodology and the content of contemporary bioethics. The first portion of the course will address the emergence of the "Ethics of Care," critically assessing its origins in feminist theory, its development within the context of the caring professions, and its potential as a general approach to bioethical reasoning. The second portion of the course will use feminist philosophy to inform our understanding of the ways in which gender structures the individual's interactions with the health care system. To do this we'll explore topics that might traditionally be considered "women's issues" in health care, such as medicine and body image (e.g., cosmetic surgery, eating disorders), reproductive and genetic technologies, and research on women and their health care needs. In addition we'll also look at feminist analyses of topics that traditionally have not been regarded as "gendered," such as resource allocation and end of life issues. [ more ]

WGSS 230Gender, Sexuality, and Global HIV/AIDS

Last offered Fall 2017

The global pandemic of HIV/AIDS is now entering into its fourth decade. Throughout this history sexuality, gender and race and inequality have played a central role in the spread of the virus, and its apparent entrenchment in certain communities. This class will use a gendered, interdisciplinary perspective to investigate the pandemic's social, economic and political causes, impact, and conundrums--the problems it poses for scholarship, activism, public policy, and public health. Issues discussed will include the role of transaction sex and economic structures in both susceptibility to HIV and vulnerability to its impact; stigma and its challenges for HIV prevention, testing and treatment uptake; the role of positive youth in the next stages of the pandemic; and the evolving expressions of biopower in the global AIDS response. The class will look at examples of successful policies and activism as well as the failures, corruption and complacency that have characterized the global pandemic. There will be a particular geographical focus on experiences in the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa. [ more ]

WGSS 232Approaches to Media Studies: Analyzing Mediated Difference

Last offered Spring 2017

Media's influence in 21st century life is pervasive, and encompasses visual, sonic, and discursive formats.This course introduces students to a variety of qualitative approaches to the study of contemporary media. Simultaneously, we will explore questions of ethno-racial identity, gender, and sexuality. Structured around a series of hand-on exercises designed to provide experience in the areas of textual analysis, in-depth interviews, virtual ethnography and participant observation, this class will provide students with interdisciplinary training that enhances their understanding of everyday media and its interaction with multiple categories of identity. This course is a comparative Ethnic Media Studies class that encourages students to employ media as a lens for theorizing the intersections between ethno-racial identity, gender, and sexuality. We review materials focusing on a wide range of minoritarian communities. [ more ]

WGSS 233(F)Chemical Intimacies

This is a research seminar that understands human-chemical entanglement in relationship to environment, sexuality, geography, ecology, and capacity. It doubles as a research class in which students choose a project of chemical intimacy to investigate as their own through the course of the semester. In the first half, we will together read and discuss forms of human-chemical entanglement, whether a matter of industrial pollution, pharmaceutical use, habitual intoxication, gendered self-care or enhancement, or built environment; the goal is to achieve a broad sensibility for the concept as well as a familiarity with thinking biochemically and biopolitically about living bodies, while consistently registering questions of race, gender, class, sexuality, disability, and more. In the second half, each participant will choose and research a historically and geopolitically specific scenario of chemical entanglement, while 1) considering the political, legal, cultural, and labor contexts of the case; 2) exploring relationships between "actual" and "represented" (protest slogans or visual productions in the case of environmental justice activism, for example); 3) examining other research questions germane to their site of interest and their chosen discipline of study. We will take one field trip to a local site. [ more ]

Taught by: Mel Chen

Catalog details

WGSS 234Masculinities

Last offered Spring 2012

What does it mean to be a man? This course approaches masculinity in its various forms as a culturally constructed category and as an achieved aspect of social identity. We will look at characteristics of manhood as they are imagined cross-culturally: man as warrior, lover, husband, father, protector, provider, disciplinarian, abuser; we will look at how manhood is variously achieved and how it can be lost; and we will look at forms of masculinity as they articulate with modes of sexuality and gender. The course will make extensive use of cinema in exploring these themes. [ more ]

WGSS 235(F)Innovation, Gender, and Sustainable Development

Technological innovation is vital for communities, businesses and nations seeking to adapt to a globalized, competitive world. But any innovation also has impacts on all three dimensions of sustainability: the ecological, the economic, and the social. For example, such impacts may either exacerbate or mitigate gender inequalities. This course uses a gender studies lens to study innovation in the development of sustainable practices in the present and for the future. We will look at the impact of gender stereotypes on innovation, including the co-construction of gender and technology. Since the course is taught by a visiting scholar from Sweden, a particular focus will be the EU's policy of "Gender Mainstreaming" which requires all proposed policies to be assessed for their impact on gender inequality. The course looks at technical development as necessary and valuable, while investigating power relations and taken-for-granted views embedded in the particular forms it takes. The course will rely largely on analysis of case studies, and students will be encouraged to apply the analytic tools of the course to develop US-based case studies of their own. [ more ]

Taught by: Maria Uden

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WGSS 237(S)Queer Drama

This seminar course is a deep dive into the richly dissonant dialogue between queer lives and live performance. How have queer artists shaped and reshaped the field of theatre and performance over time? How has drama, in turn, shaped the landscape of queer life? What inventions and innovations might we attribute to the evolution of "queer"? We will look to the work of artists such as Tennessee Williams, Tarell McCraney, Taylor Mac, Reza Abdoh, Sharon Bridgforth, Virginia Grise, and many others as we seek to map the messy topography of queer performance. [ more ]

WGSS 238Science, Gender and Power

Last offered Spring 2013

This course considers debates in feminism about the relationship between science, gender and power in politics. On the one hand, shifting ideas about gender have influenced the development of the sciences through history: for example, some feminists argue that science has historically been premised upon a view of women as objects, not subjects, of knowledge. On the other hand, shifting ideas about science have strongly influenced the development of feminist theory and practice: for example, debates about reproductive rights are often couched in terms of a conflict between reliable scientific knowledge of embryos, STDs, etc. and an unscientific, patriarchal worldview. Do science and technology serve to transform or reinforce power imbalances based on gender, race, and sexuality? Should feminist theory embrace objectivity and model itself upon scientific procedures of knowledge production? Or should feminists reject objectivity as a myth told by the powerful about their own knowledge-claims and develop an alternative approach to knowledge? What is "objectivity" anyway, and how has this norm changed through history? What kinds of alternatives to objectivity exist, and should they, too, count as "science"? Rather than treating science as a monolith, we will endeavor to understand the implications of various sciences--as practiced and envisioned in various, historically specific situations--for gender and politics. Readings may include texts by Rene Descartes, Andreas Vesalius, Londa Schiebinger, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Helen Longino, Nancy Harstock, Sandra Harding, bell hooks, Donna Haraway, Mary Hawkesworth, and Octavia Butler. [ more ]

WGSS 239History of Sexuality

Last offered Spring 2018

Is sexuality an immutable aspect of who we are or is it socially constructed? How have people understood sex and sexuality throughout history? Why does religion have any say in the sexual lives of individuals and society? What are sexual transgressions and why are they punished? Is sex a commodity that can be exchanged for money? Is sex political? This course will explore these questions through a historical approach, focusing in particular on the shifting understanding of sex and sexuality across historical time and different geographical regions. In investigating the category of sexuality, this course will push us to consider three key questions: 1) Is sexuality a useful category for historical analysis, 2) how have our assumptions regarding sexuality and sexual ethics taken shape and changed over time and 3) how do social, cultural, political, and economic conditions affect changing meanings of sexuality. Historical studies will be read in conjunction with different theoretical frameworks about sexuality. Reading historical accounts of sexuality alongside theoretical pieces will allow us to consider how historians construct an argument and the influence of theoretical frameworks in shaping scholarship. Some of the theorists we will read in the course include: Michel Foucault, David Halperin, Afsaneh Najmabadi, Valerie Traub, and Carla Freccero. [ more ]

WGSS 240Performing Masculinity in Global Popular Culture

Last offered Fall 2017

This course examines popular cultural contexts, asking what it means to be a man in contemporary societies. We focus on the manufacture and marketing of masculinity in advertising, fashion, TV/film, theater, popular music, and the shifting contours of masculinity in everyday life, asking: how does political economy change the ideal shape, appearance, and performance of men? How have products - ranging from beer to deodorant to cigarettes -- had their use value articulated in gendered ways? Why must masculinity be the purview of "males" at all; how can we change discourses to better include performances of female masculinities, butch-identified women, and trans* men? We will pay particular attention to racialized, queer, and subaltern masculinities. Some of our case studies include: the short half-life of the boy band in the US and in Asia (e.g., J/K-Pop), hip hop masculinities at home and abroad, and the curious blend of chastity and homoeroticism that constitutes masculinity in the contemporary vampire genre. Through these and other examples, we learn to recognize masculinity as a performance shaped by the political economy of a given culture. The course includes a field trip to a drag performance in Northampton. [ more ]

WGSS 241 T(S)Sex and Gender in Ancient Greece and Rome

From the household to the marketplace, from sacred spaces to the political arena, sexuality and gender shaped a broad range of attitudes and actions in the ancient Mediterranean world. This course investigates a variety of discourses and practices around sexuality and gender in ancient Greece and Rome with the aim of promoting students' capacity to evaluate claims and dismantle false assumptions about the continuity of the "classical" past with contemporary norms and values. We will carefully analyze, contextualize, and compare a variety of texts, including selections from tragic and comic drama, epic and lyric poetry, handbooks, epitaphs, novels and biography in order to better understand how gender and sexuality were expressed, experienced, and regulated in Greece and Rome. Our emphasis will be on ancient texts, but selections from contemporary criticism and theory will enrich the methodological frameworks through which we approach the primary sources. [ more ]

WGSS 242(S)Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Islam

The figure of the Muslim woman is an object of intense scrutiny in Western society. Claims that Muslim women are oppressed and the incompatibility of Islam and feminism abound. This course will consider women and gender roles in the Islamic tradition and how Muslim women have interpreted and negotiated these discourses. We will explore questions of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality across various historical periods as well as through contemporary Muslim feminist scholarship and literature (including film and novels). We will begin with insights into the politics of representing Muslim women, exploring how Muslim women are depicted in popular culture and media and ask the crucial question: do Muslim women need saving? We will then explore: how Muslim women have claimed religious authority through scriptural interpretation; how they have negotiated their position in Islamic law both historically and in contemporary Muslim societies; and the lives of pious women in Sufism--the mystical tradition of Islam. We will conclude with Muslim feminist scholarship and recent works on Islamic masculinities. Throughout the course, emphasis will be placed on the diversity of interpretations in Islam around women, gender, and sexuality and on Muslim women's own articulations about their religious identity and experiences. Some of the topics covered in this course include: marriage and divorce, slavery, modesty and veiling, and homosexuality. [ more ]

WGSS 243(F)Islamic Law: Past and Present

From fear of the Shari'a to its implementation in so called "Islamic countries," Islamic law is perhaps best associated with draconian punishments and the oppression of women. Islamic law is ever present in our public discourse today and yet little is known about it. This course is designed to give students a foundation in the substantive teachings of Islamic law. Islamic law stretches back over 1400 years and is grounded in the Quran, the life example of the Prophet Muhammad, and juridical discourse. Teetering between legal and ethical discourse, the Shari'a moves between what we normally consider law as well as ethics and etiquette. The course will explore four key aspects of the law: its historical development, its ethical and legal content, the law in practice, and the transformation of Islamic law through colonialism and into the contemporary. Specific areas we will cover include: ritual piety, family and personal status law, criminal law, and dietary rules. [ more ]

WGSS 244 T(F)Actually Existing Alternative Economies

Capitalism has a way of constricting our imaginations so that we come to believe the only possible form of economic institution is one based on profit seeking, competition and individualism. However movements in countries including Brazil, France, Canada and Spain--and now parts of the U.S.--are demonstrating otherwise. Theorists, practitioners and social activists are adopting labels including 'Solidarity Economy' and 'New Economy' to group together economic activities based on ideals of human provisioning, social justice and environmental sustainability. They point out that many of these activities are already taking place and are often crucial to our lives, but are rendered invisible by economic theory. In the words of Brazilian popular educator and economist Marcos Arruda, 'a solidarity economy does not arise from thinkers or ideas; it is the outcome of the concrete historical struggle of the human being to live and to develop him/herself as an individual and a collective.' Feminist geographers Julie Graham and Katherine Gibson developed practices of 'mapping' local economies with communities in Australia and Western Massachusetts in ways that bring to light the invisible resources and practices of provisioning and solidarity, and challenge what they describe, drawing on the work of feminist theorist Sharon Marcus, as a 'script' of local helplessness to resist the 'rape' of their economies by the forces of global capitalism. Do these proposed discursive practices actually present realistic possibilities for producing sustained economic change? In this tutorial we will learn and debate about some of the activities being named and built under the label of solidarity economy, such as the networks of worker-owned cooperatives in Mondragon, Spain, the growth of local currencies and time exchanges, fair trade organizations and different ways of organizing care work. We will look at some of the history and debates around worker-owned cooperatives, ranging from Victorian England through African-American experiences throughout the 20th century and examples in post-Independence Africa, to the recent establishment of Cooperation Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi. The ILO has argued that co-ops are a particularly appropriate form to African development. Is this plausible, and what role might they play in AIDS-affected communities? Why has the recent U.S. growth of the solidarity economy been so concentrated in communities of color, and how is it gendered? We will visit some examples in New York or Boston. [ more ]

WGSS 246 TIndia's Identities: Reproducing the Nation,Community and Individual

Last offered Fall 2017

This course considers India's contradictory legacy as a booming Asian democracy and fragile society built upon deep and enduring divisions. Why is India's growing population so often described in terms of multiple identities or fragmenting oppositions -- Hindu/Muslim, rich/poor, high caste/outcaste, male/female? What are the historic roots and ongoing causes that produce structural violence around these axes of difference? We pay particular attention to key moments (Partition, communal riots in Gujarat in 2003, Hyderabad in 1990, Delhi in 1984), and places (Punjab, Bengal, Jammu & Kashmir) for our analysis of how religion, gender, and caste intersect to produce a landscape of communal violence, social hierarchy, and fragmented subjectivity in India today. We are as interested in discourses and practices that shore up these binaries as well as the third terms that attempt to transcend or diffuse them. For instance, we look at how Buddhism is and is not a middle path between Hindu/Muslim conflict in Indian Kashmir. Our course readings include ethnographic, sociological, and historical analyses, as well as oral histories and popular media. [ more ]

WGSS 247Introduction to Native American and Indigenous Studies

Last offered Fall 2017

What does it mean to acknowledge the literal land we stand upon--in Williamstown and beyond--as the occupied territory of indigenous peoples? This course strives to answer that question by offering an introduction to the histories, politics, knowledges, and arts of indigenous peoples across the Americas and Native Pacific. Foregrounding the ways in which indigenous peoples have resisted, refused, and reimagined ongoing histories of settler colonialism, we will survey scholarship in the interdisciplinary field of Native American and Indigenous Studies. By analyzing such scholarship alongside a range of primary sources--including historical documents, literature, film, visual art, music, and social media--we will examine the complex interweavings of indigeneity, race, gender, and sexuality. Throughout the course, we will discuss topics of both past and present importance, such as environmental justice, cultural representation, and self-determination. [ more ]

WGSS 248 TCarmen, 1845 to Now

Last offered Fall 2017

The story of the gypsy femme fatale Carmen has endured for over 150 years. In Western culture she exemplifies the seductive, exotic, independent, and forbidden woman who drives an upstanding man to a life of crime and finally murder. This course explores a broad array of treatments of this archetypal narrative, starting with Prosper Merimee's 1845 novella on which Bizet based his beloved 1875 opera Carmen. We will consider various staged and film versions of the opera itself, including Francesco Rosi's stunning 1984 movie, and discuss various other film transformations of the story, from DeMille's 1915 silent film through Hammerstein's 1954 all-black musical Carmen Jones, to the MTV version A Hip Hopera of 2004. Comic approaches will also be assessed, from Charlie Chaplin's Carmen Burlesque of 1915 through Spike Jones' 1952 Carmen Murdered! and The Naked Carmen of 1970. We will explore remarkable dance interpretations ranging from Carlos Saura's 1983 flamenco version through David Bourne's choreography in his 2001 gay reading called The Car Man. [ more ]

WGSS 249Body Politics in South Asia: Gender, Sex, Religion, and Nation

Last offered Spring 2015

This course examines the relationship between body, gender, sex, and society in South Asia, using three countries and religions---India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, and Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam---as its foil. The course uses the body as a lens by which to unpack South Asian discourses that link body and sexuality with nation, community, and population. In particular, it explores a South Asian sociology that links individual and social bodies in ways that occasion solidarity as well as social suffering, violence as well as communal cohesion. How do bodies come to signify the purity or prosperity of the nation or community and with what social or discursive effects? We begin by unpacking foundational theories of the body as proposed by Mauss, Foucault, Douglas, and Bourdieu in order to better understand how local discourses of the body help produce gender and other social hierarchies in South Asia. By considering how the human body can serve as a map for society and vice versa, we examine both classical discourses and modern institutional practices of the body including the temple, the monastery, the mosque, and the mendicant, as well as bodily practices such as yoga, celibacy, sex work, and new reproductive technologies. We also analyze how the body has served as a symbol of nation, community, and social health. Throughout, we are interested in the cross-cutting effects of gender and sex in perpetuating structural hierarchies and social suffering around the body in South Asia. [ more ]

WGSS 250 TGender, Sexuality and Modern Performance

Last offered Fall 2016

This interdisciplinary tutorial explores aspects of gender, sexuality, performativity, race, class, and representations of the body in modern theatre and performance in America. While attention will be given to the still understudied role of women in the arts, we will focus primarily on the transsecionalities of social identities under interrelated systems of oppression. Close analysis of works by dramatists--such as Adrienne Kennedy, Caryl Churchill, Wendy Wasserstein, Ntozake Shange, Tony Kushner, Naomi Iizuka, Paula Vogel, Suzan-Lori Parks, David Henry Hwang, Tarell McCraney, Gina Gionfriddo, and Taylor Mac--will occur alongside consideration of works by artists such as Karen Finley, Ron Athey, Tim Miller, E. Patrick Johnson, and Young Jean Lee. Our approach to this varied material will be comparative and will be enriched by readings of critical works by writers such as: Judith Butler, bell hooks, Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, Eve K. Sedgwick, Jill Dolan, Jose Esteban Mu?oz, David Roman, and Donna Haraway. [ more ]

WGSS 251Arab Women Memoirs: Writing Feminist History

Last offered Fall 2015

This course reviews selected autobiographical writings by Arab women writers from the wave of independence in the 20th century to the contemporary Arab uprisings, passing through all the transformations that globalization and the technosphere have instigated. We will examine the role that first-voice narrative plays in shaping literature, history and thought, while providing a space to reclaim cultural, social and political agency. Focusing on the different articulations of self-representation, our discussion will address how these women reflect on the shifting discourses of identities, gender, nationalism, religion, feminism, sexuality, politics, borders and their histories. Questions we will address include: How did these memoirs contribute to the development of Arab feminist consciousness? In addition to the memoirs, we will look at women's blogs and watch films that focus on first-person narrative to discuss related topics, such as, visual testimonies, virtual political participation and feminist resistance in the technosphere. Required texts may include: Fadwa Tuqan (A Mountainous Journey: An Autobiography), Fatima Mernissi (Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood), Leila Ahmed (A Border Passage: From Cairo to America--a Woman's Journey), Fadia Faqir and Shirley Eber (In the House of Silence: Autobiographical Essays by Arab Women Writers), and Jumanah Haddad (I Killed Scheherazade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman), as well as critical essays and selections from autobiographical writings that reflect the diversity of Arab women in the Middle East and the diaspora. [ more ]

WGSS 252Modern Women Writers and the City

Last offered Fall 2015

Ambivalence has always been a vital part of literary responses to city life. Whether they praise the city or blame it, women writers react to the urban environment in a significantly different way from men. While male writers have often emphasized alienation and strangeness, women writers have celebrated the mobility and public life of the city as liberating. We will look at issues of women's work, class politics, sexual freedom or restriction, rituals of consumption, the conservation of memory by architecture, and community-building in cities like London, New York, Berlin, Paris. We will examine novels and short stories about the modern city by writers as diverse as Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Anzia Yezierska, Ann Petry, Jean Rhys, Marguerite Duras, Margaret Drabble, Ntozake Shange, Verena Stefan and Jhumpa Lahiri and Edwidge Danticat. We will consider theoretical approaches to urban spaces by feminists (Beatriz Colomina, Elizabeth Wilson), architectural historians (Christine Boyer) and anthropologists and sociologists (Janet Abu-Lughod, David Sibley, Michael Sorkin). Several contemporary films will be discussed. All readings in English. [ more ]

WGSS 253Art in the Age of the Revolution, 1760-1860

Last offered Fall 2017

A social history beginning with art of the pre-Revolutionary period and ending with Realism. Major topics include changing definitions of Neoclassicism and Romanticism, the dramatic impact of the revolutions of 1789, 1830, and 1848, the monarchies and republics framing the Napoleonic Empire, the shift from history painting to scenes of everyday life, and landscape painting as an autonomous art form. We will also consider proscriptions and controversies in art-making and representation during this period.The course stresses French artists such as Greuze, Vigee-Lebrun, David, Ingres, Delacroix, Gericault, Corot, and Courbet, but also includes Goya, Constable, Turner, and Friedrich. [ more ]

WGSS 254(F)Manet to Matisse

A social history of French painting from 1860 to 1900, beginning with the origins of modernism in the work of Courbet and Manet. Among the topics to be discussed are the rebuilding of Paris under Napoleon III; changing attitudes toward city and country in Impressionist and Symbolist art; the impact of imperialism and international trade; the gendering of public spaces, and the prominent place of women in representations of modern life. The course addresses vanguard movements such as Impressionism and Post-Impressionism and the styles of individual artists associated with them, as well as the work of academic painters. [ more ]

WGSS 255"Disease" in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

Last offered Fall 2016

From early modern anxieties about China's status as the "sick man of Asia" to contemporary concerns regarding the prospect of transnational pandemics, "diseases" and their related stories have played a critical role in making and contesting individual psychologies and Chinese modernity in the 20th and 21st centuries. Actual diseases, from tuberculosis to AIDS, constitute not only social realities that trouble political and popular minds in their own right; but further provide powerful metaphors for exploring issues of human rights, national identity, and transnational circulation. This course examines how Chinese literature in the 20th and 21st centuries writes and visualizes "disease"--a universal human experience that is nevertheless heavily bounded by culture and history. Specifically, we examine the cultural and social meaning of "disease"; the relationship between diseases on the one hand, and the politics of body, gender, and class on the other; we ask how infectious (sexual) disease, and mental illness are defined, represented, and understood in both male and female writers' analytical essays and fictional writings in the 20th century; we examine how metaphorical "diseases," such as infectious cannibalism and fin-de-siecle "virus," are imagined and interpreted by key culture figures ranging from the founding father of modern literature (Lu Xun), to the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature (Mo Yan), to the "Second New Wave" film director of Taiwanese Cinema (Tsai Ming-liang); and we explore how Freud's psychoanalysis and post-Freudian psychotherapy are "practiced" in literature circulated in both print and internet cultures. Throughout the course, we will focus on the interplay between literature canons (fictions, essays, and dramas) and popular media and genres: blockbuster cinemas and art house films, popular novels, photographs and posters, etc. [ more ]

WGSS 256(F)Buddhism, Sex, & Gender: #MeToo Then and Now

This course considers the feminist voices that have been part and parcel of Buddhist practices, texts, and institutions for most of its 2500-year history. We will conduct a historical genealogy of Buddhist voices that illustrate the fluid and disruptive role of sex, gender, caste, and class in relation to individual behavior and social relations. How did the Buddha's inner revolution produce a set of practices that both reject and reinforce existing binaries and social hierarchies of sex and gender, and with what effects? We will trace a feminist voice that decries harassment, assault, and systemic sexism within Buddhist communities from the first female disciples (Theri) of the Buddha to the current #MeToo era of embattled toxic masculinity. Along the way, we explore a literary canon that contains misogyny and 'she devils' alongside a rich tapestry of female divinities, transgender fluidity, and female liberation. We pursue and intersectional analysis of Buddhist traditions and texts by considering the multiple forms of social hierarchy--gender, sexuality, race, and class--that Buddhism has attempted to transcend. We begin by considering three women in the Buddha's life-his mother (Maya), his stepmother/aunt (Gotami), and his wife (Yashodhara)--as well as the tales of the first enlightened Buddhist women whose topics include prostitution, patriarchy, sexism, and pathetic husbands, as well as their own decaying bodies and beauty. Our next theme is the myriad ways that gender is both produced and deconstructed in Buddhist discourses on enlightenment and the human body. Our final theme considers a range of monastic memoirs, including a Buddhist black nun who left Harvard to take ordination in Thailand, and a Dutchman who studied Zen Japan. We close by examining the current debates in the U.S. and Asia that seek to combat systemic racism, sexism, and casteism in Buddhist traditions. [ more ]

WGSS 258Black Women in African American Literature and Culture

Last offered Fall 2017

This course surveys constructions of black womanhood from the nineteenth century to the present through readings of texts by and about black women. In this course, students will trace how black womanhood became central to uplift ideology and the making and sustaining of black communities in the post-Reconstruction, Harlem Renaissance, and Black Power eras. We will read works across a broad historical spectrum to identify the ways different writers wrestle with race and gender using literary tropes, such as the "tragic mulatto," in different social contexts. We will also engage a range of forms, including an essay (Patricia Hill Collins's "Mammies, Matriarchs, and Other Controlling Images"), a choreopoem (Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf), and socio-political propaganda (the "Black is Beautiful" movement). This course will end with a consideration of the way writer and producer Issa Rae engages with contemporary ideologies of black womanhood in the HBO series Insecure. [ more ]

WGSS 259 TAdultery in the Nineteenth-Century Novel

Last offered Spring 2017

In this tutorial, we will read four novels written between 1850 and 1900, all of which focus on the figure of the adulteress: Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1856), Lev Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (1873-77), Leopoldo Alas y Ure?a's La Regenta (1884-85), and Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest (1894). For each week of class, students will read one of these primary texts, as well as a selection of secondary literature that will allow us to understand, over the course of the semester, how and why the adulteress played a key role in the cultural imagination of Europe during this time. All works will be read in English translation. [ more ]

WGSS 260(S)Power, Feminist-Style

This course examines one of the most important concepts in the analysis of sex and gender and efforts to envision sexual and gender justice--the concept of power--from multiple feminist perspectives. At the core of feminism lies the critique of inequitable power relations. Some feminists claim that power itself is the root of all evil and that a feminist world is one without power. Others portray the feminist agenda as one of taking power, or of reconstructing society by exercising a specifically feminist mode of power. In this course, we will look at feminist critiques of power, how feminists have employed notions of power developed outside of the arena of feminist thought, and efforts to develop specifically feminist ideas of power. Along the way, we will ask: Are some concepts of power more useful to feminism? Can certain forms of power be considered more feminist than others? How can feminist power be realized? Thinkers we will engage include Judith Butler, bell hooks, Catherine MacKinnon, Hannah Arendt, and Gloria E. Anzaldua. [ more ]

Taught by: Greta Snyder

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WGSS 261(S)The Saint and the Countess: Lost Voices of Medieval Women

Very few female voices from the Middle Ages are audible today; most of the music, poetry, and other writings that survives reveals the creativity and expresses the attitudes of men. This course will explore the experiences and viewpoints of medieval women through the lens of the poetry and songs of two exceptional 12th-century figures: the German abbess Hildegard of Bingen, whose long and immensely productive life was shaped by the requirements of monastic culture; and the French Countess of Dia in Provence, whose elusive life and works exemplify the dynamics of aristocratic court culture. We will ask how these and other musical women active in both the sacred and the secular spheres (such as the nun Birgitta of Sweden, and Queen Blanche of Castile) negotiated their places and made their voices heard within the patriarchal society of their time. We will examine the ways in which these contrasting environments informed the different outlooks, ideas, and aesthetics expressed in the words and music of their songs. Along the way we will critically assess how these lost voices have been recreated to speak to us today through recordings and film. [ more ]

WGSS 262(S)Gender and Conflict in International Relations

This course explores gender dynamics in modern conflicts from the perspective of civilian societies, state militaries and non-state armed groups. The course will look at gender roles, relations, and symbols, throughout different phases of conflict including the precursors to conflict, during a conflict, and finally in the aftermath of active conflict. We will examine contemporary security debates related to gender including violent extremism, women in the military, and post-conflict reconstruction. We also look at case studies from several regions including Uganda, El Salvador, Sierra Leone, and Northern Ireland. Gender, in this course, will be used as a lens to understand different identities in conflict and expectations for women, men, boys, and girls, as well as examine femininities and masculinities. The course will use literature from scholars in the field of gender and conflict but will also include literature on conflict that does not have a gender perspective, with the aim to encourage students to add their own gendered analysis or questioning of current theories of conflict in international relations. [ more ]

Taught by: Phoebe Donnelly

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WGSS 264(F)Bodies, Genders, and Sexualities in the Early Christian World

What does it mean to be a woman or a man? To have body? A gender? A sexuality? In this course we will explore the ways in which bodies, genders, and sexualities were experienced and described in Mediterranean antiquity. Ancient experiences of and ideas about bodies, genders, and sexualities were often very different than those of the contemporary world. Nevertheless, because Greek and Roman antiquity and Christian beginnings often function as the imagined origins of "Western" (or European and American) "civilization," these ancient ideas about bodies, genders, and sexuality, maintain an out-sized presence in current debates about the "normal" body, gender practices, and the contour of sexuality. With a focus on early Christianity, the course seeks, on the one hand, to introduce students to the early history of Christianity through an inspection of its pluriform discourses on the meaning and regulation of bodies, genders, and sexuality, even as it keeps an eye toward the modern legacy of these ideas. On the other hand, the course gives students the opportunity to be introduced to key questions and theories in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies through the study of early Christianity and its environs. [ more ]

WGSS 267(F)Performance Studies: An Introduction

Since the 1980s, performance studies has emerged as an interdisciplinary field of inquiry, with origin tales in theater and anthropology, in communications and philosophy. What might theorizing "performance" as mode, analytic, and object of study have to offer scholarship in the interdisciplinary humanities? In this seminar, we will read texts formative of performance studies, paired with multimedia performance examples, where performance speaks to staged theatrics as well as the presentation of everyday life. We will ask, how are race, gender, sexuality, and nation produced as the effects of legal, political, historical, social, and cultural scripts? And--an important partner question--how do discourses and practices of race, gender, sexuality, and nation in fact produce legal, political, historical, social, and cultural effects? This seminar is an introduction to performance studies, an interdisciplinary field in conversation with theater studies, gender studies, anthropology, philosophy, literary theory, visual studies, dance studies, ethnic studies, queer theory, and postcolonial studies. Students will study and experiment with performance while reading theoretical texts to grapple with concepts including ritual, restored behavior, performativity, mimicry, liveness, the body, objecthood, archive, movement, matter, and affect. [ more ]

WGSS 269(F)Staging Race and Gender

This course will examine the role of theatre in staging understandings of race in the United States, particularly where ideologies of race converge with ideologies of gender. We will begin with the minstrel show, the most popular form of live entertainment in the 19th century, and end with Marcus Gardley's Black Odyssey, a 21st century production of a black man's coming into consciousness amid violence and war as well as divine protection. We will consider the role of live visual media in producing, reifying, and challenging discourses of race and gender across various historical periods. Through our pairing of drama in text and film, we will interrogate how meaning around racialized bodies has been made through performance practices on the stage that inform everyday life. Dramatists will include Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson, Langston Hughes, Ntozake Shange, Amiri Baraka, and Suzan-Lori Parks. In our attempt to locate and extend our notions of theatre in the contemporary era, we will explore episodes from such popular television series as Queen Sugar, This Is Us, Atlanta, and The Chi. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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WGSS 272Sex and the Reproduction of Society

Last offered Fall 2014

Why is reproduction such a controversial subject in society today, especially in areas of medicine, culture, and religion? And why is the reproductive body subject to such highly ideological and yet contradictory types of practices and discourses across the globe? This course seeks to examine the myriad ways that societies police the range of practices surrounding reproduction--including fertility, conception, pregnancy, birth, abortion, and motherhood. We will pursue a comparative analysis of reproduction across major societies and cultures, through an in-depth look at specialized topics such as the new reproductive technologies, the medicalization and ritualization of obstetrics in America, the continuing controversies over abortion across the globe, and the ongoing debates about the rise of women and the 'End of Men'. Throughout the course, we remain focused on the cultural, social, and medical construction of birth and reproduction more generally. To this end, we explore the varying ritual and medical practices that surround reproduction in different cultural contexts, from high tech to low tech settings and societies. We will deconstruct the process of human reproduction through readings culled from a variety of cultures and disciplines including anthropology, medicine, religious studies, sociology, and gender and sexuality studies. [ more ]

WGSS 274 T(S)'As If Her Mouth Were a Weapon': Jamaica Kincaid

This course explores the work of the internationally renowned author Jamaica Kincaid. We will wrestle with her commentary on concepts and conditions such as death; the afterlife of slavery and colonialism; family relations; love, romance, their absence and their entanglement with hatred; and illness. We will pay particular attention to character and author navigation of negative affects and the blurred boundaries between fiction and autobiography. Course texts include Annie John (1985), Lucy (1990), The Autobiography of My Mother (1996), My Brother (1997), Mr. Potter (2002), and See Now Then (2013). They will be examined through the lenses of race, gender, sexuality, class and citizenship and aided by supplemental readings. This course will explore the power that structures and determines or constrains labor and citizenship status; abortion, reproduction and mothering; memory, literacy and archival production; and more. [ more ]

WGSS 279Erotic, Grotesque, Sublime: Ghosts and Monsters in East Asian Religion and Popular Culture

Last offered Fall 2016

"Ghosts and monsters" (Chinese yaoguai, Japanese yokai, Korean yogoe) have long figured prominently in East Asian cultural history. In medieval East Asian chronicles, wrathful demons attacked the imperial palace, ghosts haunted abandoned temples, and shape-shifting foxes infiltrated the bedrooms of royal concubines. These creatures persisted into the modern era when nineteenth century tabloids reported the existence of demon-foxes, giant serpents, and vengeful spirits. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, monsters began crossing over into the realm of fiction, and Japanese, Chinese, and Korean popular novels and films continue to crawl with images of traditional dark beasts. The opening contention of this course is that ghosts and monsters signify deviancies from "the normal" as it is constructed in a given culture and time period--they often come to represent transgressions of nature, gender, sexuality, race, morality, or to subvert distinctions such as those between human and animal, man and woman, animate and inanimate, present and past, or living and dead. This course will analyze East Asian ghosts and monsters in their historical cultural context, thinking about how they come to embody particular cultural fears and desires. We will use a range of East Asian materials in translation--including folktales, medieval bestiaries, short stories, and films, alongside a heavy dose of theory including works by feminist scholars Julia Kristeva, Ilka Quindeau, Susan Sontag and various others who attempt to understand the monstrous and the uncanny. Students will undertake an extended research project on a ghost or monster of their choice and locate it in its broader cultural context. Doing so should put us in a position to explore central themes, such as the connection between the grotesque and the erotic, the cultural performance of gender, the social construction of illness, the trauma of memory, the commodification of the supernatural, and the boundaries of the human. [ more ]

WGSS 283(F)Black Queer Looks: Race, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary African-American Film

In this course we will foreground questions around visibility and memory. We will explore representations of Black queer bodies in experimental, documentary and narrative film. This course will engage foundational texts from Black Queer Studies. We will pair texts with film in order to examine the various relationships between art and scholarship. You will also be asked to think about yourself as a filmmaker. We will screen films such as Looking for Langston (Isaac Julien, 1989), The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye, 1996), U People (Olive Demetrius and Hanifah Walidah, 2009), Tongues Untied (Marlon Riggs, 1989) and Litany for Survival (Ada Gay Griffin and Michelle Parkerson, 1995). Throughout the course we will evaluate the different ways filmmakers represent Black queerness on screen. The goal is to think about the possibilities and limitations of representation and visibility. Each of you will be asked to facilitate a class discussion. You also will be required to do weekly critical response papers. In lieu of a final paper you will create a detailed proposal for a short film that "represents" some segment of Black queer living. [ more ]

WGSS 301(F)Sexual Economies

This course examines various forms of sexual labor around the world in order to better understand how gendered and sexual performances are used in a variety of cultures and contexts for material benefit. Our topics include "traditional" forms of sex work such as street prostitution, pornography, and escorting as well as other forms of sexualized performances for benefit such as stripping or camming. We also discuss current issues and debates about discourses of "sex trafficking." Course readings come from a range of fields, but focus most heavily on anthropology, sociology, American studies, and gender studies. The readings for this class will frequently foreground the lived experiences of sex workers from a variety of nations, races, classes, religions, and backgrounds in order to explore the broader social implications of our subject matter. The format is largely discussion-based, with short lectures supplementing the reading with summaries of current scholarly and activist debates. We will have either guest speakers or a field trip to hear from people working in various commercial sex sectors. [ more ]

WGSS 302(F)Social Construction

"Social construction" can often seem like the great collegial insight. By now, you've all heard that categories such as race, gender, and sexuality are in some sense not part of nature, but instead are created and maintained socially or culturally. The idea of social construction has been vital to critical race theory and queer theory, and, in this course, we will push ourselves into philosophy of science to see whether or not these same insights apply to everything. If we know that "Whiteness," "heterosexuality," and "masculinity," for instance, are all socially constructed, we will ask if the same is true of "electrons," "money," "the solar system," and "climate change." Can it be that all of our reality is socially constructed? Or does social construction have limits? If so, what are they? We will also ask more fundamental questions, such as: What does it mean to say something is socially constructed? How does social construction relate to claims that an aspect of the world is "real" or "not real?" Is social construction a theory about language, power, culture, societies, human perceptions, or the limits of science? What kind of political, ethical, ontological, or epistemological work do theories of social construction do? We will begin with different accounts of the social construction of race, gender, and sexuality. In the second part of the course, we will dig deeper into philosophical debates about social construction as such. Then we will explore constructionism about natural science. In the last part of the course, we will change gears and explore look at cutting-edge work in the theory of social science aimed at explaining the construction and ontology of social worlds. The class will culminate in a project in which students will put their social construction theories into practice. [ more ]

WGSS 304 TRebels and Conformists: Postwar Germany from The 'Economic Miracle' to the Fall of the Wall

Last offered Spring 2017

In postwar West Germany, a thorough examination of the Nazi past took a backseat to economic recovery and repairing the country's international standing, whereas to some extent the reverse was true for the East. An authoritarian democracy, an emphasis on consumerism and the qualitatively different experiences of younger generations led them to question whether the Federal Republic was a restoration or a new beginning? In the East, the cold war led to an increasingly Stalinist interpretation of communist principles, while communist ideals were upheld as an antidote to Nazism and the new materialism. This tutorial will cover a wide range of social protest as reflected in literature and film of the two Germanies: critical responses to the Holocaust in the two countries, the 1968 student revolution, anti-capitalist terrorism by the Baader-Meinhof gang, the feminist and gay rights movements, reformers and repression under Ulbricht and Honecker in the GDR, minority rights and environmental activists. Authors will include: Peter Weiss, Die Ermittlung, Heinrich Boll, Und sagte kein einziges Wort, Gisela Elsner, Riesenzwerge, Emine Sevgi Ozdamar, Das Leben ist eine Karawanserei, Volker Braun, Unvollendete Geschichte, Alice Schwarzer, Der kleine Unterschied und seine gro?en Folgen, Christian Kracht, Faserland, Thomas Brussig, Wasserfarben. Films may include: Gerhard Klein, "Berlin-Ecke Schonhauser," Ulrich Plenzdorf, "Die Legende von Paul und Paula," Rainer Werner Fa?binder, "Angst essen Seele auf," Reinhard Hauff, "Messer im Kopf," Uli Edel, "Der Baader- Meinhof Komplex," Margarethe v. Trotta, "Das zweite Erwachen der Christa Klages," Heiner Carow, "Coming Out," Hans Weingartner, "Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei." [ more ]

WGSS 306Queer of Color Critique: Race, Sex and Urban Life

Last offered Spring 2015

This seminar is an introduction to queer of color critique, a field of scholarship that seeks to intervene in the predominantly white canon of queer studies. We will examine the history of this line of critique, beginning with Black and Chicana feminisms and extending into present day issues and activism highlighting intersectionality, exploring how and why QOCC became a necessary intervention into the then still emerging field of queer studies. Our texts include scholarly works as well as science fiction novels, plays, films, diaries, and graphic novels. Methodologically, we draw on many fields of study, including anthropology, literary studies, feminist studies, and ethnic studies. We focus primarily but by no means exclusively on US contexts, paying particular attention to the role that urban environments have served for queer communities of color. Topics include: feminisms of color, inter-racial desire and fetishization, orientalism and colonial fantasy, black queer science fiction, transgender subjectivities, and the political economy of sexual desire. A key feature of this course will also be the inclusion of numerous and diverse authors to appear on Skype or in person to answer questions about their work as we read it in class. [ more ]

WGSS 308(F)Thinking Diaspora: The Black Atlantic and Beyond

Water imagery has been central to black diasporic culture since its beginnings in the Middle Passage---suggesting imprisonment, isolation, escape, ancestral communion, and death, for example. This course wrestles with the significance of water in diasporic literature--how it endures, how it has diminished, how it slips away from us. Black diaspora theory was revolutionized by Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic, which urged us to consider more deeply the role of the ship, the routes, and the roots entailed in the formation of diasporic consciousness. This course aims to expand students' theoretical skills as we discuss cornerstone and cutting edge texts of diaspora theory, with an emphasis on theories that work with the relationship to water, such as those by Jacqueline Nassy Brown, Omise'eke Tinsley. and Vanessa Agard-Jones. Primary texts will include The Big Sea by Langston Hughes, Sugar and Slate by Charlotte Williams, Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, and more. [ more ]

WGSS 309Everyday Life in Literature and Film

Last offered Spring 2013

To bring the all too familiar everyday to our attention, artists and writers have made it strange. What happens when we view everyday life from elsewhere? While everyday culture has often been experienced as repressive and alienating in modern Western societies, a new importance assigned to everyday life made it liberating in Japan during the twenties and in contemporary China. The contours of the everyday are delightfully vague, and it always exceeds theorizing. For instance, is its privileged place the street or the home? Is it lived largely in institutions that regulate our daily lives, or is it lived between and outside them? Everyday objects and commodities like the potato, the postcard, the car, clothes, housing, etc., will be analyzed. Fiction by Leo Tolstoy, Franz Kafka, Georges Perec, Manil Suri, Ha Jin, and Banana Yoshimoto. Films by Chantal Akerman, Pedro Almodovar, Benoit Jaquot, and Pierre Jeunet. Art projects that transform the everyday will also be discussed, including those of Sophie Calle, Mary Kelley, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and Christine Hill. Short theoretical excerpts from Freud, Kracauer, Goffman, Lefebvre, de Beauvoir, Friedan, Debord, Foucault, and Bourdieu. All works not originally in English will be read in English translation. [ more ]

WGSS 310(F)Womanist/Black Feminist Thought

This course explores the genealogy and development of black feminist and womanist thought. We will investigate the expansion of womanist thought from a theologically dominated discourse to a broader category of critical reflection associated more commonly with black feminism, analyze the relationship between womanism and black feminism, and review the historical interventions of black feminism. As critical reflections upon western norms of patriarchy, heterosexism, and racism, womanism and black feminism begin with the assumption that the experiences of women of color--particularly black women--are significant standpoints in modern western society. Through the examination of interdisciplinary and methodological diversity within these fields, students will be introduced to key figures including Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Katie Cannon, and will engage materials that draw from multiple fields, including, but not limited to, literature, history, anthropology, and religious studies. Fulfilling the EDI requirement, this course will explore how womanism/black feminism can be a bridge for empathetic understanding of diverse experiences, and will examine the varied social, political, and historical contexts that led to the formulation of womanism/black feminism as a tool to critique power and privilege. [ more ]

WGSS 311Theorizing Shakespeare

Last offered Spring 2018

For complex reasons, Shakespeare has always revealed as much about those who speculate on him as the speculators have revealed about him. In this course, we will engage a few plays in considerable depth: The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet and Antony and Cleopatra. But we will also use these works as a means to engage some of the most compelling trends in recent critical thought, including cultural theory and post-Marxist analysis, political theology, deconstruction and rhetorical theory, psychoanalytic thought and theories of gender and sexuality. In some instances, we will look at applied criticism, in others we will simply place a theoretical work alongside a play and see what they have to say to each other, for instance, what would a Shakespearean reading of Jacques Lacan look like? [ more ]

WGSS 312An American Family and "Reality" Television

Last offered Spring 2016

An American Family was a popular documentary series that featured the Loud family from Santa Barbara, California, whose everyday lives were broadcast on national television. The series generated an enormous amount of media attention, commentary, and controversy when it premiered on PBS in 1973. Today, it is regarded as the origin of so-called "Reality TV." In addition to challenging standard rules for television programming, the show challenged social conventions and asked viewers to think seriously about family relations, sexuality, domesticity, and the "American dream." Documenting the family's life over the course of eight months, the series chronicled the dissolution of the Louds' marriage and broadcast the "coming out" of eldest son Lance Loud, the first star of reality television. In this class, we will view the An American Family series in its entirety, research the program's historical reception, and analyze its influence on broadcast and film media, particularly on "reality" television. A final 16- to 20-page research paper will be prepared in stages, including a 6- to 8-page midterm essay that will be revised and expanded over the course of the semester. [ more ]

WGSS 313(F)Gender, Race, and the Power of Personal Aesthetics

This course focuses on the politics of personal style among women of color in an era of viral video clips, the 24-hour news cycle, and e-commerce sites dedicated to the dermatological concerns of "minority" females. With a comparative, transnational emphasis on the ways in which gender, sexuality, ethno-racial identity, and class inform standards of beauty, we will examine a variety of materials including commercial websites, histories, personal narratives, ethnographies, sociological case studies, and feminist theory. Departing from the assumption that personal aesthetics are intimately tied to issues of power and privilege, we will engage the following questions: What are the everyday functions of personal style among women of color? Is it feasible to assert that an easily identifiable "African American," "Latina," "Arab American" or "Asian American" female aesthetic exists? What role do transnational media play in the development and circulation of popular aesthetic forms? How might the belief in personal style as activist strategy challenge traditional understandings of feminist political activity? [ more ]

WGSS 314(S)The Social Ecology of Racial and Gender Inequity

Why the political furor over monuments? What would a feminist city look like? Does gentrification promote racial justice? This course trains your focus on space and place, asking you to take a socioecological perspective on race and gender. In it, we examine how ideas about race and gender shape space as well as how the location, demographic composition and design of cities, neighborhoods, parks, and uncultivated spaces reinforce ideas about race and gender and racial/gender power relations. What is distinctive about this perspective, as compared with other analytical lenses through which we approach race and gender, and what is its value? What does a socioecological perspective suggest about the efficacy of different types of efforts to facilitate greater equity in social relations? [ more ]

Taught by: Greta Snyder

Catalog details

WGSS 315Paris on Fire: Incendiary Voices from the City of Light (1830-2015)

Last offered Spring 2018

During the 1830s, Balzac described Paris as a "surprising assemblage of movements, machines, and ideas, a city of one hundred thousand novels, the head of the world," but also characterized the French capital as a "land of contrasts," a "monstrous wonder," a "moral sewer." Similarly, writers from Hugo to Zola have simultaneously celebrated Parisian elegance and condemned the appalling misery of Paris's urban poor. Since 1889, Paris has been feted as the "City of Light" for its Enlightenment legacy, its Eiffel Tower modernity, and its luminous urban energy, captured in countless paintings, photographs, and film. However, Paris is also the historical site of revolution, resistance, and riots. From revolutionary revolt (1830, 1848, 1871), to wartime resistance (1870, 1914-18, 1940-44), to reformist and race riots (1968 and 2005), Paris has repetitively sparked with incendiary passion and political protest. As fires raged during the riots in 2005, many heard the echo of Hitler's ominous 1944 question, "Is Paris burning?" and asked: why was Paris burning again at the dawn of the twenty-first century? And following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015, many wonder what lies ahead for the City of Light. To answer these questions, we will examine the social, political, and literary landscape of Paris during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from urbanization and modernization, to occupation and liberation, to immigration and globalization. Readings to include poetry, short stories, and novels by Hugo, Balzac, Baudelaire, Maupassant, Verne, Zola, Apollinaire, Colette, Duras, Perec, Rochefort, and Charef. Films to include works by Clair, Truffaut, Godard, Minnelli, Clement, Lelouch, Luhrmann, Kassovitz, Besson, and Jeunet.Conducted in French. [ more ]

WGSS 316Feeling Queer and Asian

Last offered Spring 2018

This advanced undergraduate seminar focuses on concepts, queries, and methodologies at the intersections of Asian Americanist critique, queer theory, and affect theory. How might we come to understand Asian gender, sexuality, and racialization less through a language of being or meaning, as through feeling? How do Asian/American discourses rely upon languages of gender and sexuality, and how might queerness depend upon Asianness? How might these theories identify, complicate, and call forth more expansive or alternative practices of belonging? The class will read theories including national abjection, racial melancholia, disaffection, queer diaspora, and homonationalism, as well as engage Asian American literatures. [ more ]

WGSS 317The New Woman in Weimar Culture

Last offered Fall 2017

This course explores the figure of the New Woman, a professional, political, independent, and modern woman, that rises in Germany right at the end of World War I and thrives during the Weimar Republic. Acclaimed as the epitome of Weimar Modernity, the New Woman is nevertheless greeted with great ambivalence: whether a liberated and emancipated woman for some, or a dangerous and promiscuous woman loathed by others, she is perceived as threatening to the patriarchal order. A closer look at artworks by Otto Dix, Christian Schad, and Hannah Hoch, films by Fritz Lang and Georg Wilhelm Pabst, poems by Gottfried Benn, Else Lasker-Schuler, and Kurt Tucholsky, novels by Erich Kastner, Vicky Baum, and Irmgard Keun, as well as plays by Frank Wedekind and Bertolt Brecht, will provide a more precise picture of the New Woman's various incarnations, ranging from actresses (Marlene Dietrich), singers (Margo Lion and Claire Waldorf), and dancers (Anita Berber) to prostitutes, and suggest that the New Woman serves as the vessel of male anxieties and represents the contradictions of modernity. Taught in German. [ more ]

WGSS 319Gender and the Family in Chinese History

Last offered Fall 2017

Although sometimes claimed as part of a set of immutable "Asian values," the Chinese family has not remained fixed or stable over time. In this course, we will use the framework of "family" to gain insight into gender, generational, and sexual roles in different historical periods. Beginning in the late imperial period (16th-18th Centuries), we will examine the religious, marital, sexual, and childrearing practices associated with the "orthodox" Confucian family. We will then explore the wide variety of "heterodox" practices in imperial China, debates over and critiques of the family system in the twentieth century, and configurations of gender and family in contemporary China. [ more ]

WGSS 320Dangerous Bodies: Black Womanhood, Sexuality & Popular Culture

Last offered Spring 2015

Whether presented as maternal saints, divas, video vixens, or bitches, black female celebrities navigate a tumultuous terrain in popular culture. This course considers the ways that black female celebrities such as Oprah, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Janet Jackson, and Michelle Obama negotiate womanhood and sexuality, and the popular landscapes through which we witness that negotiation. It also engages contemporary black feminist scholarship, which most frequently presents the presentation of black female bodies in popular media forms as exploitive. We will review historical stereotypes of black women in popular media forms, discuss the history of the "politics of respectability" within black culture, engage black feminist responses to these types, and examine theoretical approaches to assess social constructions of womanhood and sexuality. We will also consider provocative questions relevant to discussions of contemporary black sexual politics: Should we view these women as feminists? Are they merely representatives of cultural commodification and control of black women's bodies? Do these women best exemplify the reiteration of problematic characterizations? Are they positive models for demonstrating female empowerment, agency, or "fierceness?" This course explores the histories of representation of black female figures in popular culture, and in so doing, troubles contemporary considerations of black womanhood and sexuality. [ more ]

WGSS 322 TIntroduction to Critical Theory

Last offered Spring 2018

"Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason-that is the motto of Enlightenment." Thus the 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant exhorts his contemporaries to muster the courage to cultivate their capacity for reason. Modern faith in the prospects of universal human dignity, rational autonomy, the rights of man, individual liberty, democracy, open scientific inquiry and social and political progress depend upon it. Yet in 19th and 20th centuries we find the promise of Enlightenment tempered by the rise of nationalism and the persistence of racism, sexism, genocide, terrorism, and religious extremism as well as the emergence of wars of mass destruction, environmental degradation, and the potential for manipulation of populations by consumerist mass media. Can the promise of Enlightenment be redeemed? In this tutorial we begin with short readings by Kant, Hegel and Marx, key sources for critical social theory in the 20th century. Possible topics may include: alienation, authoritarianism, "pathologies of reason," and reification, as well as recognition, the idea of socialism, and progress. Possible other figures read may include: Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin, Jurgen Habermas, Nancy Fraser, Amy Allen, Noelle McAfee, Judith Butler, Elizabeth Grosz, Michel Foucault, Jean Baudrillard, and Gilles Deleuze, Georgio Agamben, Frantz Fanon, Edward Said and Achille Mbembe, as well as current critiques of neoliberal capitalism. This tutorial will be adapted for WGSS students seeking to meet a theory requirement. [ more ]

WGSS 324(S)Indigenous Women's History

What would it mean to locate indigenous women and their stories at the heart of American history? This advanced junior seminar course answers this question by centering the lives of indigenous women from the pre-colonial period through the present. We will discuss both the historical importance of these women's lives, as well as the methodological and ethical concerns that arise through the historiographic recovery of their stories. We analyze both canonical figures--such as La Malinche, Pocahontas, and Sakakawea--as well as lesser known historical actors, political leaders, writers, and artists. [ more ]

WGSS 325Television, Social Media, and Black Women 'Unscripted'

Last offered Fall 2017

Nene Leaks, Shonda Rhimes, Oprah Winfrey, Kerry Washington and now Lavern Cox and Melissa Harris-Perry have become common household names. Whether from the television shows they star in, the TV shows they have created, or the social media presence they have developed--these women continue to influence and shape popular culture. In this course we will situate Black women as creators and contributors to popular culture as a whole, but specifically through television (scripted and "unscripted") and social media. We will begin by covering the history of Black women in television. This historical approach will then lead us to examine selected TV episodes, and investigate social media pages of Black actresses, television producers, and the fans of these shows. The aim of this course is to analyze the ways in which Black women continually shift the popular culture paradigm and how they serve as key players determining what is indeed popular. [ more ]

WGSS 326 TQueer Temporalities

Last offered Spring 2017

Birth, childhood, adolescence, college, adulthood, career, marriage, family, mid-life, old age, death, afterlife. How are all these facets of being human imagined as stages in time, as axes on certain progressive lines that delineate human social relations? How do we experience and represent time, and what factors might account for both our experiences and our representations? What are some of the ways that people experience and mark the passing of time? What are some of the different ways that people have made sense of time and themselves in time? How have our conceptions of time and our demarcations of lifecycles shifted historically? How do people whose experiences do not align with dominant cultural social stages negotiate ideas of lifecycle and timing? Especially for individuals and peoples who have been denied self-representation and narratives of place, how do competing notions of time, history, space, and location get negotiated? In this course, drawing from within the broad corpus of queer theory (including theorists such as Gloria Anzaldua, Elizabeth Freeman, J. Halberstam, and Jose Esteban Mu?oz) we will examine some non-linear, non-normative, and interruptive approaches to making sense of time, space-time, and self within time. [ more ]

WGSS 327 TFoucault

Last offered Fall 2014

This course begins with a brief introduction to some of Foucault's early writings but focuses on a close reading of a selection of middle and late texts that have become central to debates about the significance of his work such as: Discipline and Punish, The History of Sexuality (vols. 1-3), and selected interviews and course lectures. We examine debates in the Foucault literature about freedom, power, ethics, and the nature of critical theory. [ more ]

WGSS 328Austen and Eliot

Last offered Fall 2017

Austen and Eliot profoundly influenced the course of the novel by making internal consciousness crucial to narrative form. In this course we will explore Austen's innovative aesthetic strategies and the ways in which Eliot assimilated and transformed them. By placing each writer's work in its political and philosophical context--in Austen's case, reactions to the aftermath of the French Revolution, in Eliot's, to the failed mid-century European revolutions and the pressures of British imperialism--we will consider how each writer conceives social and historical exigencies to shape comedies and dramas of consciousness. Readings will include Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion; Eliot's The Mill on the Floss, The Lifted Veil; and Daniel Deronda; selected letters and prose; and critical essays. [ more ]

WGSS 329Sexuality and US Literatures of the 19th Century

Last offered Spring 2017

If homosexuality and heterosexuality, as it is commonly argued, only came into being as legible identities at the end of the nineteenth century, what constituted "sexualities" before that? This course will explore how sexualities were expressed, regulated, denied and embraced "before identity" through reading closely some of the most central literary and cultural works of the period alongside a set of methodologically and theoretically diverse critical works that engage this query. Some questions we may explore include: What counts as sex and why would that be important to understanding a work of literature? What effect does race, ethnicity, gender, class and other differences make on sexual expression and regulation? How does literature itself represent, theorize, and respond to discourses of desire? Authors whose works we may explore include Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass,Harriet Jacobs, Henry James, Herman Melville, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

WGSS 330Race, Gender, and Performance from Literature to Social Media

Last offered Spring 2016

How can contemporary performance expand ideas and practices of belonging in the United States, as figured through race, gender, and sexuality? This spring course will begin with readings of dramatic literature including Suzan-Lori Parks's Venus, David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, and Young Jean Lee's The Shipment to analyze literary and staged performance, then continue to discussions and readings on the performance of everyday life via the work of performance artists including Adrian Piper, Nao Bustamante, and Yoko Ono. We will develop shared vocabulary and methodologies of performance studies, including readings by scholars including J.L. Austin, Judith Butler, and Jose Esteban Mu?oz. This course will engage foundational texts to performance studies and offer an interdisciplinary approach to scholarship in gender and sexuality studies, critical ethnic studies, and performance studies from the 1970s to the present. This course recognizes a suspicion for diversity discourses that universalize human experience and asks: how do we resist normativizing forces without reinforcing the regulating logics of those forces? [ more ]

WGSS 331(S)Queer Europe: Sexualities and Politics since 1850

This course explores the construction, articulation, and politics of queer sexual desire in Europe from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. By placing queer sexualities in their broader social and political context the course examines the ways in which sexuality has become central to questions of identity, personal and national, in modern European society. Topics include: women's "friendships" in Victorian Britain; the role of the new science of sexology in specifying various "sexual perversions"; the rise of sexual undergrounds in the context of European urbanization; the birth of campaigns for "homosexual emancipation"; attempts to regulate and suppress "deviant" sexualities, especially under the fascist regimes in the 1930s; the effects of the postwar consumer revolution on the practices of sexual selfhood; the postwar "sex change" debates; the politics of 1950s homophile organizing and the 1970s Gay Liberation Movement; and recent debates about migrant queer identities in an increasingly multicultural Europe. The course will focus primarily on experiences in Britain, France, and Germany, but Italy and Russia will also be the focus of some meetings. Readings will be drawn from sexological texts, political tracts, memoirs, and the writings of recent historians. Several films will be screened and will also be central to our discussions of the changing meanings of sexual selfhood in modern European societies. [ more ]

WGSS 332Postwar Britain: Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Change, 1945-1990

Last offered Spring 2016

A major theme in British historiography is the enormous social change that has taken place in Britain since the end of the Second World War. In the 1950s, sociologists argued about the extent to which postwar affluence was leading to the "embourgeoisement" of the working class; in the 1960s, the advent of the so-called "Permissive Society" witnessed the flourishing of a new culture of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll; in the 1970s, the feminist and gay movements challenged gender roles that earlier had seemed so secure; in the 1980s, Thatcherism sought to halt the nation's apparent terminal decline, repudiating much of the progressive legislation of earlier decades by turning the clock back; finally, throughout this period successive waves of immigration appeared to many to challenge the cultural homogeneity of white Britain. This course will explore these themes, addressing the question of what it meant to be "postwar" in Britain, charting the gradual emergence of a new politics of class, gender, race, and sexuality in Britain that made the nation in 1990, at the end of the postwar period, a radically different place from what it had been in 1945. In attempting to make sense of these complex changes, we will consider a variety of documents and works by recent historians, along with a dozen films, which students will be required to view outside of class. [ more ]

WGSS 333The Nineteenth-Century British Novel

Last offered Spring 2018

In nineteenth-century Britain, the novel took on the world. Shaking off its early disrepute, and taking advantage of growing literacy and innovations in production and distribution, it achieved in this period an unrivalled synthesis of mass appeal and aesthetic ambition. Its representational aspirations were breathtaking: attempting to comprehend in its pages the dizzying complexity of new social, political, and economic structures, as well as to delineate in finest detail the texture of individual lives and minds. In an age obsessed with the social, it engaged directly with the most compelling social issues of the day, including industrialization and the gap between rich and poor, the role of women, nationalism and imperialism, and more broadly, the very nature of historical change itself. But it did so, for the most part, by telling fine-grained stories of ordinary men and women, people trying to make a living, worrying about their families and their neighbors, facing illness and death, and falling in--and sometimes out of--love. Since so many of these stories of everyday life are familiar as, we will work hard to focus on what is strange and specific about the fiction of the nineteenth century, while also recognizing the roots of much that is modern in our own culture. We will also take seriously their social ambitions, looking especially at the ways they formulate, promote, and contest their readers' understanding of themselves as subjects and agents of an ongoing social history. [ more ]

WGSS 334Islam and Feminism

Last offered Fall 2017

This course examines the relationship between feminism and Islam, focusing particularly on Islamic feminist scholarship. We will take a genealogical approach to our study of Islamic feminism tracing the different discourses that have informed and shaped the field. The first part of the course will begin with a critical examination of orientalist and colonial representations of Muslim women as oppressed and in need of liberation. We will then explore Muslim responses so such critiques that were entwined with nationalist and independence movements. This historical backdrop is critical to understanding why the question of women and their rights and roles become crucial to Muslim self-understanding and Islamic reform. The second part of the course will focus on major intellectuals and thinkers who have influenced Islamic feminism. Finally, the last part of our course will explore the breadth of Islamic feminist literature, covering the following themes: 1) feminist readings of scripture; 2) feminist critiques of Islamic law; and 3) feminist theology. [ more ]

WGSS 337(S)Race, Sex & Gender in Brazil

The course introduces students to anthropological literature of Brazil as well as Brazilian novels and films. Its focus is on understanding the history and contemporary culture of Brazil through attention to racial justice, including the country's unique history and legacies of slavery in comparative context. It also examines questions of gender, including the history of feminism in Brazil and current debates related women's equality such as Brazil's abortion laws, domestic violence, sexual tourism, and job opportunities for women. Lastly, we also examine LGBT history in Brazil and dive into writing about queer culture there. NOTE: The seminar will include a mandatory spring break trip to Rio de Janeiro, during which time students will visit important historical sites, museums, and relevant cultural attractions. They will also meet collectively with faculty members from several universities and NGOs to learn about the research and projects our Brazilian hosts are engaged in. Students also have their own individual exploratory research projects there related to social justice, which are integral to the seminar. These form the basis of their final research paper. Students should also be aware of the physical demands of the trip, which include extensive walking, some hiking, and exposure to summer heat and the elements in the Atlantic Rainforest. Thanks to the Global Initiatives Venture Fund, the cost of the trip is covered for all students enrolled. [ more ]

WGSS 338(S)Latina/o Musical Cultures: Sounding out Gender, Race, and Sexuality

In this class we will investigate a wide variety of Latina/o popular musical and dance forms, with particular emphasis on questions of gender, sexuality, and ethno-racial identity. Employing interdisciplinary materials and approaches, this course focuses on the sonic and visual analysis of contemporary Latina/o popular music and the identities of its producers, performers, and audiences. We will focus on the following questions, among others: How are the various facets of Latina/o identities expressed through popular music and dance? In what ways do gender, sexuality, and ethno-racial identity inform the performance and interpretation of particular Latina/o musical forms? What unique role does sound play in our understanding of popular music and identity? [ more ]

WGSS 339(S)Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination

This course will examine social psychological theories and research that are relevant to the understanding of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. We will take a variety of social psychological perspectives, emphasizing sociocultural, cognitive, personality, or motivational explanations. We will examine the impact that stereotypes and prejudice have on people's perceptions of and behaviors toward particular groups or group members and will explore a variety of factors that tend to exacerbate or weaken this impact. We also will consider some of the sources of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination and some of the processes through which they are maintained, strengthened, or revised. In addition, we will examine some of the effects that stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination can have on members of stereotyped groups, as well as some implications of the social psychological research findings for issues such as education and business and government policies. A major component of this course will be the examination of classic and ongoing empirical research. [ more ]

WGSS 340(S)Elizabeth Bishop in the Americas

Elizabeth Bishop has emerged as one of the most important poets of the 20th century. She is admired not only for her dazzling mastery of the craft but also her adventurous life as a world traveler. Her more than two decades living in Brazil and translating the culture and literature of that country for a North American audience, for instance, make her life and work a rich focal point for cross-cultural study. At the center of the course will be Bishop's stunning meditations on childhood, memory, travel, lesbian sexuality, gender identity, ecology, and race and class in the U.S. and Brazil. We will look at how Bishop intertwines personal and global historical encounters in order to raise serious ethical questions about our shared history of conquest and sense of place in the Americas from the 16th century to the Cold War period of the twentieth. What is ultimately at stake in our claiming of a "home"? We also read a number of the writers in North and South America who were closely connected to Bishop, from Robert Lowell and Ernest Hemingway in North America, to Pablo Neruda and Clarice Lispector in South America. Ultimately, we study how craft, poetic process, and an ethical eye on the world can open up the study of poetry and poetics in the 21st century. [ more ]

WGSS 341Cinematic Representations of Work and Migration after the Wall

Last offered Fall 2017

The increased flow of migrants from East to West and from South to North into the center of Europe and the simultaneous tightening of restrictions against illegal migration have brought to the forefront issues of labour, gender, and precarity, citizenship and cultural belonging. We will analyze feature films and documentaries that trace the changing face of work and migration, with an emphasis on flows from countries the former east bloc and Africa to Europe. We will discuss negative effects of globalized capitalism, such as the monetization of feeling and personal relations (Harvey), the concept of intensification and the disembodied state (Nealon and Foucault), but also ask what new opportunities might arise, and for which groups. We will study the depiction of manual labour, illegal migration, women as caregivers, Internet marriage, sex work, and the migrant as a raced and othered body. Theory by Dina Iordanova and William Brown, Ewa Mazierska, Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, Jeffrey Nealon, Lara Agustin, Angela Melitopoulos, Lauren Berlant and Mieke Bal. Films will likely include: Illegal, Working Man's Death, NordSud.com, Lichter (Lights), Code Unknown, The Flower Bridge, Occident, Since Otar Left, Losers and Winners, Whore's Glory, Le Havre and Time Out. [ more ]

WGSS 342American Genders, American Sexualites

Last offered Spring 2017

This course investigates how sexual identities, desires, and acts are represented and reproduced in American literary and popular culture. Focusing on two culturally rich periods--roughly 1880-1940 (when the terms "homosexual" and "heterosexual" came to connote discrete sexual identities), and the contemporary context of the "postmodern" 21-century--we will explore what it means to read and theorize "queerly." Among the questions we will ask: What counts as "sex" or "sexual identity" in a text? Are there definably lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer or transgender writing styles or cultural practices? What does sexuality have to do with gender? How are sexual subjectivities intertwined with race, ethnicity, class, and other identities and identifications? Why has "queerness" proven to be such a powerful and sometimes powerfully contested concept? We will also explore what impact particular historical events, such as the rise of sexology, the Harlem Renaissance, and the emergence of a transgender movement have had on queer cultural production. Readings may include works by the following authors: Butler, Cather, Diaz, Ferguson, Fitzgerald, Foucault, Freud, Hammonds, Hughes, James, Larsen, Lorde, Mu?oz, Rich, Rodriguez, Sedgwick, and Stein, and as well as screenings of contemporary videos and films. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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WGSS 343 T(F, S)Representations of Racial-Sexual Violence from Enslavement to Emancipation

This tutorial examines representations of and resistance to racial-sexual violence in American society, from colonial America to contemporary US culture. Interdisciplinary texts cover history, politics, literature, film, feminist studies, American studies, lgbtq and ethnic/black studies. Books include Southern Horrors; Intimate Matters; Scenes of Subjection; Trauma and Recovery; The Delectable Negro; At the Dark End of the Street; films include Birth of a Nation; Bush Mama; To Kill a Mockingbird. The primary focus is on racial and sexual vulnerability to violence and mobilization for freedom from the 18th-21st centuries. [ more ]

WGSS 345 TShakespeare's Women

Last offered Spring 2017

Shakespeare's plays portray a remarkably wide range of female characters from serving women to queens, from innocent, subservient young women to powerful authoritative adults. His plays explore female friendships, parents and children, love affairs and marriages, male actors playing female roles and female characters playing male roles. Looking closely at five plays--Twelfth Night, Much Ado Nothing, Hamlet, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra--we will examine the ways in which attitudes toward female stereotypes, sexuality, gender, subjectivity, social norms and performance evolve as Shakespeare's poetic style and dramatic technique mature, and the genre shifts from comedy to tragedy. [ more ]

WGSS 348(S)Women, Men and Other Animals

In this seminar, we will together learn to be "animal critics." We will explore ways in which human groups and interests, particularly in the United States, have both attached and divorced themselves from other animals, considering such axes as gender, race, ability, and sexuality as key definitional foils for human engagements with animality. What are the "uses" of "animals" for "us," and precisely who is this "us"? How and when are some willing to see themselves as animal--indeed, under what political conditions do they embrace it? What is the history of unique, often asymmetric, interdependencies between human animals and nonhuman animals? How do actual lives of humans and non-human animals merge and clash with the rhetorics and visualities of human animality? We will examine both "everyday" animality and the forms of animality that stand out only today in retrospect, in their exceptionality, or upon reflecting on structures of privilege. We will build a critical animal studies vocabulary from a range of readings in science, philosophy, art, feminism, indigenous studies, critical race, geography, fiction, film, rhetoric, history, activist movements, disability studies, postcolonial studies, and examine both visual and narrative cultural production. [ more ]

Taught by: Mel Chen

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WGSS 352Mystic Spirituality in Black Women's Social Justice Activism: Brazil-USA

Last offered Spring 2018

This course examines the meanings and manifestations of mystic spirituality in the lives and work of selected Black women artists/activists in the USA and Brazil. The writings of Lucille Clifton (poet), Rosemarie Freeney Harding (activist and counselor) and Makota Valdina Pinto (activist and Candomble ritual elder) are key texts for our exploration of the uses of mystic sensibilities and Afro-Atlantic ritual traditions--such as dreams and visions, prayer, divination, sacred dance, healing rites and other forms of unmediated intimate encounter with the sacred--as resources for creativity, community organizing, self-care and as aspects of political and social critique in African American and Afro-Brazilian contexts. The methodology of the course blends historical, literary and womanist approaches in an investigation of the conjunctions of spiritual practice and activism in the experience of women in the Afro-Atlantic diaspora. [ more ]

WGSS 353The Brontes

Last offered Fall 2016

Around 1845, three sisters in a remote town in Yorkshire effectively converted their father's humble parsonage into a family writers' colony. In 1846, each published her first novel--two of which would go on to become major classics. Within 8 years, all three sisters were dead, but by then they had produced seven of the most formally innovative, socially challenging, original and powerful works in English fiction. We will read them all, from Charlotte's best-selling love story, Jane Eyre, to the underrated Anne's brilliant and disturbing anatomy of an abusive marriage, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, to Emily's singular masterpiece Wuthering Heights, as well as their poetry and selections from the voluminous fantasy fiction they created together as children. We will also read Elizabeth Gaskell's acclaimed 1857 Life of Charlotte Bronte, "the first full-length biography of a woman novelist by a woman novelist", which began the process of making the Brontes the cult figures they remain today. Reading these works together in the bicentennial year of Charlotte's birth, we will consider how their shared efforts helped all three sisters to push through boundaries few other women writers had dared to challenge. In a similar spirit of collaboration, we will mix critical and creative writing in our responses to these works. [ more ]

WGSS 361 T(F)Writing about Bodies

The goal is to think about describing bodies from a variety of disciplinary approaches and genres of writing. Its focus is on living bodies, or bodies that were once alive, with an emphasis on bodies that move i.e., performing bodies--actors, dancers, singers--and what makes them unique. We will also consider objects associated with bodies, and the ways they are animated, including how they are animated when the person who had them dies. The course is meant for juniors, seniors, and graduate students who wish to analyze bodies from different disciplinary formations--art, theatre, literature, anthropology, philosophy--and who have a particular interest in writing. We will read scholarly writing, fiction, New Yorker profiles, as well as memoir/autobiography, and take each as a model through which to write about a person or an object redolent of a person. Among possible readings: Roland Barthes on cultural theory and representation; Claudia Rankine and Robin Coste Lewis on black bodies; Tamar Garb on portraiture; Elaine Scarry on the body in pain; Joan Acocella, Hilton Als, Judith Thurman and other writers on the arts; Judith Butler and Peggy Phelan on the performative body; Marvin Carlson and Terry Castle on haunting; and Bill Brown and Mark Doty on things. In addition to readings, assignments include performances at the '62 Center and works on view at WCMA, as well as selected tapes of live performances as well as films and selected tapes of live performances. [ more ]

WGSS 363(F)Transnational Activism: Practice, Problems, Ethics

As more and more people, goods, ideas, and health hazards circulate across borders, transnational institutions and organizations proliferate, and problems recognized as regional or global intensify, there is both increasing need and opportunity for transnational activism. In such a context, it is vital to understand how activists have engaged peoples around the world and/or have influenced transnational institutions, as well as to attune oneself to the ethical and practical difficulties associated with this kind of activism. This course examines the different forms that transnational activism takes and how transnational activists have advanced their goals. We also look into why and how transnational activists' efforts have failed, focusing in particular on the issue of neo-imperialism and the problems created by the "white savior." Orienting our exploration is the following question: what is the relationship between ethics and efficacy in activism that crosses borders? What does "ethical" transnational activism look like, and can it also be effective? While focusing especially on the role of transnational activism in combating sex and gender-based inequities, we will also engage with activism that targets the other axes of oppression with which sex and gender-based oppressions are inextricably entwined. [ more ]

Taught by: Greta Snyder

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WGSS 368Arab Women Writers: Remapping Urban Narratives

Last offered Fall 2017

In "The Lover of Blue Writing above the Sea," (1995) a poem written to console a lover after the death of his beloved, Syrian poet, Ghada al-Samman, pens: "If you are sad and burn the edge of my book/I shall come to you/like the genie in my grandmother's Damascene stories..." As these lines imply, the fantastic grandmother's Damascene stories have the power to equally amend broken hearts and restore memories of loss. In this course, we will adopt "the grandmother's Damascene stories" as a conceptual metaphor that guides our line inquiry into the intersection of Arab women's narrative and the city. We will read novels and short stories by Arab women writers about cities and capitals in the Arab world and the diaspora. The goal of this course is not only to familiarize students with prominent Arab women novelists, such as Hoda Barakat, Radwa Ashur, Liana Badr, Raja'a Alem, Alia Mamdouh, and Ahlam Mosteghanemi, among others, but also to introduce them to the literary and visual cartography of Beirut, Granada (via Cairo), Ramallah, Mecca, Baghdad, and Constantine, respectively. We will also read short stories about other cities in the world, such as New York, Paris, London, Buenos Aires and Tokyo among other world metropolis. Questions we will address include: How does the city appear as a protagonist? How do Arab women novelists represent nationhood, modernity, memory, love, war, sexuality and religion, among other themes, in their construction of urban narratives? How do these narratives map an Arab feminist metropolis? How do Arab women writers represent cities beyond the Arab world? To answer these questions, we will also look at Arab women's blogs and watch films that focus on the city as a site for spatial articulation of national histories, popular revolutions, and feminist public spheres. [ more ]

WGSS 371(F)Medicine, Pathology, and Power: An Ethnographic View

How do medical anthropologists examine and interpret health, disease, and illness today, in order to elucidate the biosocial determinants of health and health-seeking behaviors? We are particularly interested in how medical anthropologists employ ethnographic techniques including interviewing, surveys, and observant participation/participant observation--also known as as 'deep hanging out.' Through experiential inquiries, we investigate the systemic health inequalities that are produced by socio-economic hierarchies, while paying particular attention to the most marginalized and vulnerable groups. Through the semester, students pursue their own individual, fieldwork-based projects on campus with students & staff. Our goal is a better understanding of the limits and strengths of ethnographic inquiry as we explore the challenges of collaborative research into health and inequality in a local world structured by diverse forces, actors, and motives. We consider how medical anthropologists: tell stories that describe and influence the ways that patients and providers respond to a dialogic quest for health and well-being within a world structured by social inequality and suffering; interpret the biological, socio-cultural, and behavioural determinants of health at individual and population levels and seeks to mitigate the ways that health inequities are produced by social inequality and unequal access to health resources; understand biomedicine and other medical systems as scientific and cultural discourses that project their own rationalities and biases even as they try to improve health outcomes. [ more ]

WGSS 376(F)Sex, Gender, and the Law in U.S. History

This course explores how the law in America has defined and regulated gender and sexuality. We will evaluate how the law has dictated different roles for men and women, how sexual acts have been designated as legal or illegal, and the ways that race, class, and nationality have complicated the definition and regulation of gender and sexuality. We will examine how assumptions about gender and sexuality have informed the creation and development of American law, contested interpretations of the Constitution, and the changing meanings of citizenship; We will consider how seemingly gender neutral laws have yielded varied effects for men and women across race and class divides, challenging some differences while naturalizing others. Finally, we will examine the power and shortcomings of appeals to formal legal equality waged by diverse groups and individuals. Throughout the course, we will consider the various methodologies and approaches of the interdisciplinary field of legal history. Topics to be covered will include the Constitution, slavery, marriage, divorce, custody, inheritance, immigration, sexual violence, reproduction, abortion, privacy, suffrage, jury duty, work, and military service. [ more ]

WGSS 379Black Women in the United States

Last offered Spring 2017

As slaves and free women, activists, domestics, artists and writers, African Americans have played exciting and often unexpected roles in U.S. political, social, and cultural history. In this course we will examine black women's lives from the earliest importation of slaves from Africa and the Caribbean through to the expansion of slavery, the Civil War, freedom, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movements, and up to the present day. Consistent themes we will explore are the significance of gender in African American history and the changing roles and public perceptions of black women both inside and outside the black community. We will read and discuss a combination of primary and secondary sources; we will also consider music, art, and literature, as well as more standard "historical" texts. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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WGSS 380(F)Freedom Dreams, Afro-Futures & Visionary Fictions

In this course we will examine the various ways Black scholars, artists, & writers use science fiction and visionary fiction to imagine freedom and new world orders. We will focus on the role of history, particularly slavery, in the Black radical imagination. "Freedom" is the keyword throughout the course. We will grapple with the various and sometimes conflicting meanings and uses of freedom as it relates to blackness, gender, sexuality, class and ability. We will explore multiple forms of scholarship and cultural productions, including film, music, novels, short-stories, art, poetry, and other academic texts. All students will be asked to discover and develop their writerly voices through various critical, creative, experimental and performative assignments. [ more ]

WGSS 386Latinas in the Global Economy: Work, Migration, and Households

Last offered Fall 2017

An increasingly global economy, from 1945 to the present, has affected Latinas in their home countries and in the United States. The garment industry, one of the first industries to go global, has relied extensively on Latina workers in their home countries and in the United States. Domestic work, a traditional field of women's work, also crosses borders. Challenging the myth that labor migration is a male phenomenon and that women simply follow the men, this course explores how the global economy makes Latinas labor migrants. What impact has the global economy and economic development had on Latinas' work and their households in their home countries? How have economic changes and government policies shaped Latinas' migrations and their incorporation in the changing U.S. economy? How have Puerto Rican, Mexican, Cuban, Dominican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan women confronted the challenges created by a globalizing economy and balanced demands to meet their households' needs? [ more ]

WGSS 389(F)Fiction of Virginia Woolf

"Let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness. Let us not take it for granted that life exists more fully in what is commonly thought big than in what is commonly thought small" ("Modern Fiction"). Virginia Woolf's fiction represents a self-conscious and highly experimental challenge to the conventions of Victorian and Edwardian fiction, in an effort to re-center the novel on lived experience. This course will explore the evolution of the innovative fictional forms by which she tried to bridge the gap between the experience of consciousness and its representation in language. We will also consider the links between Woolf's concern with in the fluidity of consciousness and her interest in gender fluidity and androgyny. We will read most of the major novels, probably including The Voyage Out, Jacob's Room, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, The Waves, and Between the Acts, together with selected short fiction and critical essays. [ more ]

WGSS 396Modern Pleasure

Last offered Fall 2015

This course investigates modernist imaginations of pleasure, both sensual and aesthetic, with a particular focus on the ways that modernism's formal strategies might facilitate queer representations of pleasure, intimacy, and desire. In tandem with our discussion of literary form, we will consider the crucial role that visual media, music, and community spaces, like Harlem's cabarets and Natalie Barney's sapphic salon, played in the collaborative production and transatlantic circulation of modernism. Authors likely to be studied include Oscar Wilde, Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Nella Larsen, Radclyffe Hall, and James Baldwin. We will read the work of sexologists and situate modernist literature in relation to early 20th-century scientific conversations about human sexuality and the nature of pleasure. Queer and feminist theory will accompany these texts and provide a framework for our analysis of modernism's queer pleasures. [ more ]

WGSS 400A History of Family in Africa

Last offered Spring 2017

The family is the center of private life, but it has also been a topic of constant discussion and contention in Africa. In this class we will examine how political upheavals and economic pressures have changed the concept of the family and the role it plays in various African societies. We will also consider the changing views of gender, race, age, class, and sexuality on the idea of family. [ more ]

WGSS 401(F)Senior Seminar: Rethinking the Public: the Arts Take on Neoliberalism

Western neoliberalism is a predatory excrescence of late capitalism that overvalues competition, transferring the laws of the market to human relationships. It deliberately creates instability not only in the economic sphere but, more generally, in the social collective by encouraging dangerous risk-taking, fomenting crises and cementing systemic inequity, while suggesting to those under its sway that they are corporate 'entrepreneurs of self.' This model of self-management also extends into the sphere of intimate relationships. Of course, because predatory neoliberalism heavily favors a white investor model and is premised on white norms, the racialized body is considered a priori subaltern and subservient. Humanistic and artistic approaches (while not per se immune or outside of neoliberal constraints) effectively polemicize against neoliberalism, and suggest practices that resist its technocratic mindset. Looking at literature, cinema, and critical theory from a range of regions and disciplines, we will focus on Europe and the United States. Moreover, we will ask how forms of neoliberalism affect different regions of the world: Southeast Asia, Russia? Where and how can solidarity be reimagined beyond identity politics? Where is the boundary between animal and human in the neoliberal collective? [ more ]

WGSS 404Before We Were Queer: Gay and Lesbian Lives before 1990

Last offered Spring 2015

Reclaimed by activists in the 1990s as an expression of defiance and pride, the word queer has come to be identified with a wide range of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identities, as well as entire fields of intellectual theory, popular culture, and political engagement. The past 25 years of queer studies, media, and activism (1990-2015) have led to unprecedented visibility and great advances for many LGBT people, especially in North America and Western Europe: from breakthroughs in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, to victories for Gays in the Military, Employment Non-Discrimination, and Gay Marriage in 16 US states and another 16 countries around the world. For many, however, this new era of queer life during the past 2 decades has eclipsed the time before, when those who were pejoratively labeled as queer struggled with homophobic discrimination, isolation, and violence, by seeking one another out in major cities, specific neighborhoods, underground bars, and in the narrative spaces of novels and films. As a result, many young people born after 1990 are largely unaware of these struggles that predate their lives, the internet, and social media; and several LGBT leaders worry that this has left many 18-25 year olds with a false sense of security, a decreasing interest in political engagement, alarming new rates of sexually transmitted infections, and a growing disinterest in queer social spaces beyond the virtual. In this course, we will explore the literary, cinematic, and cultural history of gay and lesbian lives before the 1990s, and consider what has been gained and lost. Topics to include the early twentieth-century isolation of the closet, (1890s-1950s), the formation of clandestine gay and lesbian communities during and after World War II (1940s-60s), the Stonewall riots and the first decade of Gay Liberation (1969-1979), and the devastating losses and community responses to AIDS (1979-1995). [ more ]

WGSS 405Sr.Sem:Sexual Rights,Gender Equality, and Religious Liberty: Conflicts in Law, Culture, and Politics

Last offered Spring 2016

Legal systems, political leaders, religious groups, and social movements, have generated and responded to conflicts and perceived conflicts between religious freedom, gender equality, and sexual rights in a variety of ways over the past twenty-five years. This course will consider these conflicts in a comparative context, and will examine when, why, and how appeals to religion, tradition and/or culture have been used to carve out exceptions to otherwise generally applicable laws. [ more ]

WGSS 408Senior Seminar: Nineteenth-Century French Novel: Desperate Housewives and Extreme Makeovers

Last offered Spring 2017

In 1834, Balzac wrote that "Paris is a veritable ocean. Sound it: you will never know its depth." The same can be said of the French nineteenth-century novel and its boundless ability to echo the past and illuminate the present. From the Romanticism of Stendhal and Hugo, and the Realism of Balzac and Flaubert, to the Naturalism of Zola and Maupassant, the novel became a forum for examining illicit sexuality, institutional misogyny, social injustice, criminal passions, revolutionary struggles, and Parisian pleasures in nineteenth-century France. Characters such as the imprisoned housewife Emma Bovary, the reluctant revolutionary Jean Valjean, the social-climbing lover Julien Sorel, the ambitious undergraduate Rastignac, and the domestically-abused Gervaise became synonymous with France's turbulent social and political landscape from the 1830s to the 1880s. And as recent film adaptations make clear, these desperate housewives and extreme makeovers continue to haunt our twenty-first century present. Reinterpreted by such actors as Gerard Depardieu, Isabelle Huppert, Uma Thurman, Claire Danes, and Jennifer Aniston, the nineteenth-century novel continues to sound out the scandalous and sensational depths of our own century. Readings to include novels by Balzac, Stendhal, Hugo, Flaubert, Maupassant, Zola. Films to include adaptations by Clement, Berri, August, Arteta, Lelouch, Chabrol. Conducted in French. [ more ]

WGSS 409Transnationalism and Difference: Comparative Perspectives

Last offered Fall 2016

In the age of satellite television, e-mail, and mobile applications such as WhatsApp and Skype, transnational living has rapidly emerged as the norm as opposed to the exception. However, what does it really mean to "be transnational"? How are the lived experiences of transnational individuals and communities shaped by categories of difference such as gender, ethno-racial identity, sexuality, and class? What impacts do the growing number of transnational citizens and residents in the U.S. have on our understanding of "American" identity in the local, national, and global contexts? In this interdisciplinary, comparative course we will analyze recent theories regarding the origins and impacts of transnationalism. Particular attention will be paid throughout the semester to the interplay of gender, ethno-racial identity, sexuality, and class in connection with everyday transnational dynamics. The broad range of case studies examined includes China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Middle East. [ more ]

WGSS 412Graphic Sex: Queer Ethnographic Writing

Last offered Spring 2018

This seminar examines recent and canonical work in queer anthropology, exploring how different cultures construct sexual and gender identities and subjectivities, and what happens when dominant paradigms such as the Euro-American LGBT model become enmeshed in globalization, late capitalism, and consumerism. We begin with a series of case studies highlighting alternative gender and sexual formations in various cultures around the world, emphasizing how these seemingly "authentic" local categories are themselves the products of historical shifts, colonial relations, and political economy. We also examine how these categories overlap, conflict with, subvert, or syncretize with the increasingly global category of "gay." In addition to reading queer ethnographies, we will also learn the methods required for doing ethnography ourselves, including interviewing techniques, participant observation, writing thick description, data analysis, and editing. [ more ]

WGSS 420(S)Senior Seminar: The Drag of Black Masculinity

In this seminar, we will study the evolution of Black masculinities through cultural, social, and political movements from 19th century to the present. This course engages Black feminist thought, Black masculinities studies, queer theory, and performance studies. We will examine the relationship and constitutive nature of masculinity and femininity. How is blackness always already gendered? How is gender always already racialized? What are the effects of these gendering and racializing practices on Black bodies, spaces, and places? We will trouble the relationship between manhood and masculinity by examining the ways in which masculinity can move across various kinds of bodies. By examining representations and presentations of Black masculinities, we will pursue questions such as: How has dominant society attempted to define Black masculinity? In what ways have Black people undermined these narratives and redefined themselves? How do racial stereotypes about Black men's sexuality inform representations of Black masculinities? Can we/should we be moving beyond heteropatriarchy and gender binaries? What is the future of Black Gender? By reading critical and creative texts, viewing films and engaging other kinds of media, students will hone their critical theorization skills. [ more ]

WGSS 451Ideal Bodies: The Modern Nude and Its Dilemmas

Last offered Spring 2014

Since the nineteenth century, the female nude has been so dominant that the very term "nude" has come to stand for the female body. This course looks at both male and female nudes from the time of the French revolution to the present in order to order how and why this gendering occurred. We will explore the ways in which certain types of bodies have been defined in opposition to the white western ideal, and thereby exoticized and marginalized. Our prime focus is the work of David, Ingres, Courbet, Gericault, Manet and Renoir but more popular nineteenth-century images as well as selected works by artists working in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries will be discussed. [ more ]

WGSS 452Women in America, 1620-1865

Last offered Spring 2014

This course will explore the diversity of American women's experiences from the colonial era through the Civil War. We will pay particular attention to the roles women filled--as slaves, nuns, housewives, mothers, and workers, as well as depictions of women as witches, paragons of virtue, and urban consumers. In our reading of historiography and primary texts we will analyze the ways in which literacy and artistic culture as well as geopolitical events shaped women's lives. As we study works of history, we will also read modern works of feminist and race theory to further our understanding of connections between ideology and practice, between narrative and argument. [ more ]

WGSS 453(S)Women, Gender, and Social Movements in U.S. History

This seminar is devoted to researching and writing a substantial research paper on some aspect of U.S. women's or gender history, with a particular focus on social movements. Social movements organized around gender issues and identities have been significant sources of social and political change in U.S. History. Drawing on online archival collections of personal letters and diaries, published writings, organizational records, and oral histories, students will research an individual, social group, organization, event, or movement that invites them to explore that particular subject in depth, while also considering some of the following issues and questions: the different strategies, tactics, and ideologies used for organizing and movement building across the political spectrum; the ways that gender has united and divided grassroots movements; how and when it has been useful for women to act through women's groups versus other types of organizations; the ways that ethnicity, race, religion, and class have been resources for organizing and coalition building; how social movements have shaped and been shaped by larger political and economic developments; the ways that various gendered identities have served as both agents and objects of political and social change; and the relative importance of formally organized politics versus less formal strategies to effect political change. [ more ]

WGSS 468(S)Practicum in Curating: Visual Art for a Garden

This course aims to develop the wide range of skills needed to realize an art exhibition in a botanical garden (here specifically an exhibition at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota in winter/spring 2019) including 1) research on the artist (TBD) and the concept, the focal works of art, auxiliary objects that do not require climate control (e.g. photographs and other works on paper), social history and other methodological frameworks, including gender, sexuality, class, and race; 2) writing requests e.g., loans, rights; and 3) preparations for the press release, wall texts, wall labels, audio guide, and programming for the exhibition. Students may have the opportunity to participate in a WSP in situ the following year on the final stages of production. [ more ]

WGSS 491(F)Honors Project: Women's & Gender Studies

Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies honors project. [ more ]

WGSS 492(S)Honors Project: Women's & Gender Studies

Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies honors project. [ more ]

WGSS 493(F)Senior Thesis: Women's & Gender Studies

Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies senior thesis. [ more ]

WGSS 494(S)Senior Thesis: Women's & Gender Studies

Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies senior thesis. [ more ]

WGSS 497(F)Independent Study: Women's & Gender Studies

Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies independent study. [ more ]

WGSS 498(S)Independent Study: Women's & Gender Studies

Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies independent study. [ more ]