Office Hours: M 2-4, W and by appointment
IT Donovan, Josephine. Feminist Theory: The Intellectual Traditions
FTB Price, Janet and Margrit Shildrick. Feminist Theory and the Body
This course explores feminist theories, beginning with historical contexts and moving into contemporary applications in both academic and personal spheres. I use the plural theories because there is a wide variety of feminist theories, some of which compete with and even contest one another. Our goal is to tread through competing theories, read them critically, and make informed judgments on their soundness and applicability.
Good theories raise good questions. For example: Why does feminist theory matter? How does feminist theory change the nature of research in the Academy as a whole? How does feminist theory influence the lives of everyday people? Feminist theory developed largely in the West. How must it change when looking at the world from a more global perspective? These are all good questions for us to think with, mull over, and use to gain additional insights into the nature of human experiences.
This course will be conducted as a seminar with an emphasis
on student participation through class discussions and commentaries on the
readings, and with a minimal amount of lecture.
Attendance is required, and students are expected to have completed the
required readings prior to class in
order to participate in discussion. As a 400-level seminar, you must have some
background in Women’s Studies or permission before taking this class. Students
with disabilities should request that Disability Resources staff send a
100-94 A 76-74 C
93-90 A- 73-70 C-
89-87 B+ 69-67 D+
86-84 B 66-64 D
83-80 B- 63-60 D-
79-77 C+ 59-0 F
Grades will be distributed as follows:
Reading Commentaries (8) 25%
Take-home Exams (2) 30%
Research Paper 25%
Abstract and Bibliography 5%
Class Participation 10%
Presentation of Research 5%
These are weekly reflections on readings that are due in class, starting with Week 4. Comments must be typed, double-spaced, 2-3 pages long, and engage the readings in a way that demonstrates that you have read, understood, and thought coherently about them. You are required to bring two copies of your comments to class each week: one to hand in and one to share in class during discussion. Comment papers will not be returned to you. Eight weekly comment papers (out of a possible 11) are required. While this gives you some latitude on which commentaries you turn in, they are due in class on the day of the assigned readings. No late comments will be accepted without written medical excuse or prior approval. Keep a copy of all of your work—either on disk or in paper form.
As scholars we need to become fluent in the language of theory and to be able to write and talk about complex concepts in both specialized and ordinary language. The readings and the commentaries are an important part of this learning process. Read the materials carefully and critically. Give yourself plenty of time. Reread. Think about what the author writes and what the implications are for the author’s ideas. What is the author’s point? Do you see any problems? Do the author’s ideas apply to all women or just some women? Are they connected to a particular cultural or historical framework? Does the material generalize or essentialize the subject in some way? How can this be avoided? Does this material apply in any way to the lived experiences of women? To yourself? How does this material illuminate (or obscure) the experiences of women?
Do NOT give me a simple summary of the reading; it will be returned to you with zero points earned.
The exams require critical reading and analysis of assigned materials and refer to information presented in lectures and discussions. Each exam is about 4-5 pages in length and must be typed double-spaced, using normal margins and a 12 point font. Exams are graded for both content and clarity of argument. In other words, you are graded on how accurately and completely you answer the question as well as on how you present your answer. Points are deducted for poor organization, lack of coherent argument, and poor grammar and punctuation. Proofread and spell check. Late essays will be penalized one point per business day, unless you have a written medical excuse or documented family emergency.
The research paper should critique or explore some aspect of
feminist theory. It will be graded on both content and clarity: the quality and
organization of materials gathered, including the statement of your problem and
thesis; on the consistency of your argument and your use of materials to
document your statements; on the clarity of your presentation, and on your
general level of effort. It must be
10-12 pages (undergraduates) or 15-20 pages (graduates) long, typed
double-spaced, spell checked, and proofed for grammar and punctuation. You may
footnote using the
You will turn in a written proposal or abstract by the 9th week and an annotated bibliography by the 11th week of class. These are worth 5% of your grade. The abstract should be a concise summary of your research plans, clearly identifying the problem you will be investigating long before the paper is due at the end of the semester. The abstract must be 1-2 pages in length, double-spaced, spell checked, and proofed for grammar and punctuation. You must include books and journal articles in your bibliography. I will not accept a paper based exclusively on websites. Go to the library. Early.
Class Schedule (Modified as Needed)
8/23 Welcome, Introductions
Syllabus, requirements, expectations
8/30 Overview: What is feminist theory? Keywords, concepts, categories
FTB, 1.1, Schiebinger, Londa. “Theories of Gender and Race,” pp. 21-31.
9/13 The Cult of True Womanhood and the Enlightenment Challenge
FT, pp. 56-75, Sections 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Comment Paper 1, Week 4
9/20 Cultural Feminism: Woman as the Essence of Nature/Nurture
FT, Sections 17, 46, 74, 76
Comment Paper 2, Week 5
9/27 Woman as Body
Spelman, Elizabeth. “Woman as Body: Ancient and Contemporary Views.”
Birke, Lynda. “Bodies and Biology.”
Simmonds, Felly Nkweto. “My Body, Myself: How Does a Black Woman Do Sociology?” Marshall, Helen. “Our Bodies, Ourselves: Why we Should Add Old Fashioned Empirical
Phenomenology to the New Theories of the Body.”
Comment Paper 3, Week 6
10/4 Woman as Laborer
Engels, Gilman, Hartmann
Comment Paper 4, Week 7
•Take-home Exam, due in class 10/4
10/11 Challenging Binary Oppositions
FT, Sections 31, 40, 41
Beauvoir, Firestone, Murray
Comment Paper 5, Week 8
10/18 Riding the Second Wave and Beyond
FT, Sections 33, 34, 36, 56, 57
Friedan, NOW, Millett, Frye, Lorde
Comment Paper 6, Week 9
•Abstract due, 10/18
10/25 Woman as Sexual Objects/Subjects
FT, Sections 55, 59, 60, 78, 81
Comment Paper 7, Week 10
11/1 Woman as Sexed Body(ies)
Hammonds, Evelynn. “Toward a Genealogy of Black
Female Sexuality: The Problematic of Silence.”
Segal, Lynne. “Body Matters: Cultural Inscriptions.”
Creed, Barbara. “Lesbian Bodies: Tribades, Tomboys, and Tarts”
Hallberstam, Judith. “F2M: The Making of Female Masculinity.”
Findlay, Heather. “‘Freud’s Fetishism’ and the Lesbian Dildo Debates.”
Comment Paper 8, Week 11
•Annotated Bibliography due 11/1
11/8 Women and Science
Jordanova, Ludmilla. “Natural Facts: A Historical Perspective on Science and Sexuality.”
Fausto-Sterling, Anne. “Menopause: The Storm before the Calm.”
Martin, Emily. “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles.”
Comment Paper 9, Week 12
•Take-home Exam due in class, 11/8
11/15 Women, Violence, and Religion
Hawley, John Stratton, ed. 1994. “Introduction,” in Fundamentalism and Gender, pp. 3-46.
Balmer, Randall. 1994. “American Fundamentalism: The Ideal of Femininity, in Fundamentalism
and Gender, pp. 47-62.
Comment Paper 10, Week 13
11/27 Break Week. No Classes.
11/29 Fundamentalism and the Control of Women
FTB, Section 5.3,
Brown, Karen. 1994. “Fundamentalism and the Control of Women,” in
Fundamentalism and Gender, pp.
Malti-Douglas, Fedwa. 1995. “Faces of Sin: Corporal Geographies in Contemporary Islamist
in Religious Reflections on the Human
Body, ed. by Jane Marie Law, pp. 67-75.
Comment Paper 11, Week 15
12/13 I will be in my office from 11-12 for discussion or for you to pick up any essays, exams, or other assignments that you may not have already retrieved.