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Women's Studies

Explorations in Gender, Culture, and Society
Gender Studies 101 CP Browdy de Hernandez
3 credits
What does it mean when Aretha Franklin sings a line such as “You make me feel like a natural woman”? Have you ever scoffed at phrases such as “real men don’t eat quiche” or stared at a bathroom door to consider how little the icon on the door actually resembles your gender (or what might happen on the other side of that door)? This introductory course will begin with discussion and consideration of the binary gender categories we all use—men and women—but do not always question, even as we’re conditioned to accept these conventional definitions of gender and the limitations they place on our lives. Focusing primarily on the American experience over the past 50 years, we will draw on essays from the discourses of science, social science, cultural studies, feminist, and queer theory to identify where binary gender comes from, what in our culture promotes it, and why we’re so attached to these often limiting categories. In the latter part of the course we will look at gay and lesbian sexual orientations; bisexuality and queer sexuality; transvestism, transgendering, and drag, all of which challenge conventional notions of the “natural” order of human sexuality. The course will be interdisciplinary and multigenre, incorporating films, theory readings, and first-person narratives; students will produce several short analytical papers in addition to response journals, and the collaborative final written project may include a possible performance aspect as well. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once every two years. Last taught F11.
Gender and Violence I
Gender Studies 210m CP Browdy de Hernandez
2 credits
Gendered violence is epidemic in our society, even in peacetime, but it often goes unrecognized as such. When school shootings occur, for example, they are always committed by young men, but the gender of the assailants is generally passed over by the press. Where violence is concerned, women are more often the victims, men more often the actors: Almost all sexual assault is committed by men, and young men and boys are also more likely than young women to play violent video and computer games and to be attracted to violent movies and pornography. They are also more likely than girls to use violence self-destructively through suicide. Why? Can we blame it all on testosterone, as a “natural,” biological phenomenon that won’t go away no matter what we do? Or is the violent tendency of boys learned behavior that can be unlearned, or at least not taught to successive generations? What would have to change in our social relations in order for young men to grow up less attracted to (and consumed by) violence? Through film, novels, essays, and guest lectures, this class will explore the effects of violence on both genders, focusing particularly on rape, sexual assault, sex trafficking, and pornography, and looking for solutions to the global epidemic of violence. Requirements will include weekly response journals to the reading and an independent research project with an accompanying class presentation. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught S09.
Gender and Violence II
Gender Studies 211m CP Browdy de Hernandez
2 credits
This class will focus on the ways in which masculinity is linked with violence in military culture, in the media, in military academies and boot camp, and in the armed forces. We will explore how women have fit into this culture as they have slowly but steadily increased their representation in the military and what tensions have arisen as a result of their presence. We will look at the effects of war on the combatants as well as on civilian populations that come under fire, focusing particularly on the Bosnian conflict, the Iraq war, and the on-going civil wars in Africa. Readings will include Evan Wright, Generation Kill; Chris Hedges, War is Force That Gives Us Meaning; and Emmanuel Dongala, Johnny Mad Dog; as well as many shorter excerpts and essays. Requirements will include weekly response journals to the reading, and an independent research project with an accompanying class presentation. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught S09.
An Unfinished Revolution: Introduction to Women’s Studies
Women’s Studies 101 CP Staff
3 credits
Women’s studies is an approach to broadening our concept of “the human” by placing women’s experience at the center of analysis. This course investigates the ways in which women have been defined in our society, the effect of this definition on our lives, and the ways in which women see themselves. Special attention is given to issues of particular importance to young women, including eating disorders, pornography, rape, sexuality, and ideal constructions of femininity and womanhood. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once every two years. Last taught F08.
Women Write the World
Women’s Studies 213 Browdy de Hernandez
3 credits
This course will introduce students to a series of contemporary women writers, some famous Nobel Prize winners, others less well-known—all of whom have used their writing as a way to strengthen and manifest their political ideals. Drawn from different countries, cultural backgrounds, and languages, representing various facets of the interconnected global struggles for social justice and human rights, and working in a range of literary genres (poetry, fiction, essay, journalism, translation, and literary analysis), these writers provide inspirational models of the ways in which women activists have melded together their art and their politics into effective rhetorical strategies. In addition to the primary texts, we will also see a series of documentary films about the writer/activists and will consider other media women have used as activist “texts,” particularly music, art, film, and theater. Required coursework will include response journals, a midterm paper and a final paper, which will be presented to the class, and that may either combine analysis of one or more primary texts with background research on the issues involved or may take the form of an original literary activist intervention. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught S11.
Women’s Words in China, Japan, and Korea
Women’s Studies 218m CP Staff
2 credits
Women in East Asian societies have long had distinct ways of expressing their stories. The literary forms and even the very languages women used in the traditional periods were often distinctly their own, yet their writings have come to influence both male and female writers of the contemporary era. This course focuses on three autobiographical texts, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon from Japan, The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong from Korea, and Yang Jiang’s Six Chapters from My Life Downunder from China. These real women’s stories are juxtaposed against fictional work by traditional and modern authors including Murasaki Shikibu, Tanizaki Junichiro, Kono Taeko, O Chonghui, Xi Xi, Li Ang, and Zhu Tianwen. This course assumes no previous background in Asian culture. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught F08.
African Women Writing Resistance
Women’s Studies 225m CP Browdy de Hernandez
3 credits
This course will open a window onto the issues and concerns of contemporary African women writers. The primary text will be the forthcoming anthology edited by J. Browdy de Hernandez, Pauline Dongala, Omotayo Jolaosho, and Anne Serafin, which brings together women’s writing from all over the African continent in a variety of genres including personal essays, poetry, fiction, and scholarly articles, on topics including women’s gender role constraints; sexuality and health issues; the effect of armed conflict and globalized resource extraction on women; and women as agents of positive social change. In addition to this anthology, we will read selections from the 2005 anthology African Gender Studies, edited by Oyeronke Oyewumi, and possibly one full novel, depending on time constraints. We will also see selections from several documentary films. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught F10.
Women Writing Resistance in the Middle East
Women’s Studies 226m CP Browdy de Hernandez
2 credits
This two-credit course will focus on the history and contemporary experiences of women in the Middle Eastern countries through the lenses of various contemporary women writers. Topics to be discussed include Shari’ah law and other religious-based gender role constraints; honor killings; the history of feminism in the region; the effect on women of violence (domestic, civil, and international); and women’s strategies of resistance in various specific national contexts. Required readings may include: Zainab Salbi, Between Two Worlds (Iraq); Nawal El Sadaawi, selected essays (Egypt); Saira Shah, The Storyteller’s Daughter (Afghanistan); Shirin Ebadi, Iran Awakening (Iran); and selected essays from Israeli Women’s Studies: A Reader, ed. Esther Fuchs. We will also see the films Enemies of Happiness (Afghanistan) and Beyond Borders: Arab Feminists Talk about Their Lives. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught F10.
Caribbean Women Writing Resistance
Women’s Studies 270 CP Browdy de Hernandez
3 credits
This interdisciplinary course explores a series of novels, testimonials, autobiographical writings, essays, and poetry by contemporary Latina and Caribeña women writers who use writing to resist the entrenched patriarchal, imperialistic, racist, and exploitative regimes that have dominated their countries for centuries. Many of these writers have been thrust out into the Latino-Caribbean diaspora by violent forces that make differences in language and culture seem less significant than connections based on collaboration in on-going struggles for human rights and social justice. The course will draw on the disciplines of history, economics, politics, sociology, anthropology, psychology, literary studies, Latin American and Caribbean studies, and women’s studies to explore the impact of globalization on the region, the relation of women writers to male-dominated political, social, and literary movements, the intersection of politics and aesthetics, and many other issues raised by this emergent body of literature. Writers include Rigoberta Menchu, Julia Alvarez, Edwidge Danticat, Jamaica Kincaid, and Gloria Anzaldúa. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught F09.
Doing Theory: Feminist, Postcolonial, Queer
Women’s Studies 304 Browdy de Hernandez
4 credits
This upper-level gender studies seminar takes as a basic premise that theory is valuable only as it relates to and affects conditions in the real world. The course explores the politicized issues of identity, territoriality, and liminality raised by emergent theorists who work within the three broad categories of feminist, postcolonial, and queer theory, and look for intersections and conjunctures between various theorists, schools of thought, and regional applications of theory. In addition, part of our agenda will be to critique the split between the abstract language of high theory and the pragmatic language of activism, seeking to find a common ground in language and in action between these two often disjunctive discursive realms. Beginning with theories of global feminism, we will work through the theoretical questions raised by the Subaltern Studies group in India, as well as its active North American/Latin American counterpart; questions of identity and subjectivity, in language and in “reality,” raised by feminist and queer theorists; and articulations of strategic alliances across the bounds of “feminist, postcolonial, and queer” theorists and activists. Topics to be discussed include, but are certainly not limited to: Essentializing and its discontents; straight white American privilege; questions of “experience”; “Third World” feminist/postcolonial critiques of the “First World”; transnational feminism and the politics of location; feminist/postcolonial/queer critiques of academe; theoretical bases of, and practical challenges to, strategic alliances; feminist readings of postcolonial politics; envisioning new social structures and political bases of action. Theorists will include Gloria Anzaldúa, Stanley Aronowitz, John Beverly, Uma Narayan, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Chantal Mouffe, Linda Nicholson, Cindy Patton, Steven Seidman, Gayatri Spivak, and many others. Prerequisites: Junior or senior standing, or permission of the instructor.
This course is offered when there is sufficient student interest.
Last taught S08.
Women’s Studies Tutorial
Women’s Studies 300/400 Staff
4 credits
Under these course numbers, juniors and seniors design tutorials to meet their particular interests and programmatic needs. A student should see the prospective tutor to define an area of mutual interest to pursue either individually or in a small group. A student may register for no more than one tutorial in any semester. Prerequisites: Gender Studies 101 or Women’s Studies 101, and at least one other 200-level course in gender or women’s studies.