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Week 6A--Co-designing the Remainder of the Course

Anne Dalke's picture
This Tuesday, we will spend our class session figuring out together what we want to be reading together for the remainder of the semester. You might want to look over the range of possible texts I've assembled, and take a quiz that will tell you which western feminist icon you are, as well as spending some time reflecting on the nudges supplied both by Paul Lauter and Flora Shepherd. Then, before you come to class, post here your own suggested menu items, and an explanation of the logic (presumptions? assumptions? politics? aesthetics? hopes? fears?) that underlie your choices. I am very much looking forward to the feast!
Mary Clurman '63's picture

Womyn of the future

It might be nice to come up with a genuine "definition" of sexuality -- is it possible? Maybe that's a male/elitist viewpoint, that there could a single definition. But I think each of us may have to define gender for herself -- that is, with little concern for what another's gender may be but a serious examination of one's own. And I don't mean mine in particular, but know that I love male companionship, am a mother and grandmother, married twice, am now in (a fairly impossible but often fun) long-term M/F relationship, but have often wondered about a F/F sexual relationship, never having gotten close enouigh to one to break the inherent (for my generation) barriers. So I continue to wonder. And now I wonder if the readings could help me develop, if not a single definition for my own path, at least a set of working definitions that would get me through the final 20 or so years on Earth.

I'm also realizing for the first time that lesbianism may be -- is it? -- a steppingstone to a fuller understanding of womynly potential. Suddenly I see it as a sci-fi proposition, that the womyn of the future might be what is today defined as a lesbian -- objective, not M/F centered. Maybe that will be the resolution of the current male image crisis: men will accept their feminine as we accept our masculine (it was never all their fault, we acceded to the hierarchy).

I think I'll vote for Hillary!

Mary Clurman '63

Mary Clurman '63's picture


You all are so far ahead of me -- right, where have I been?

I think I've been living the life instead of reading about it -- too bad not to have done more of both.

It's been great out here reading ahead -- never got to do that in class; and having the time to re-read the tough parts. I remember re-reading so much of Kant in Phil. 101 and STILL not understanding it. At least now I get it. I wonder how undergrads manage. Do you feel that what you are reading reflects your experience, that it helps you with life? From here, this course is the first I've ever attended that seemed actually DESIGNED to relate to (my) life.

But maybe some of that lack is due to the fact that I left after soph year (to attend art school, -- BMC did not do Fine Arts then). People who stayed on got deeper into their studies, bit the bullet and chose majors, followed through. I have only recently learned to follow through -- to start and pursue and complete. I'm sorry I missed the kind of exchange of ideas that goes on in Anne's class, where individual students bring so much experience to the discussion.

And maybe some of it is because there's been a shift in the teaching viewpoint, from lecture to discussion? Does that happen in classes besides this one? If it's not just Anne, -- and maybe it isn't because I think BMC does now have Fine Arts, -- has the curriculum/teaching method kept up with the spirit of feminism that emerged just about when I left, in 1961? Bravo Bryn Mawr, if so (not just praise but recognition of courage!).

Mary Clurman '63

Anne Dalke's picture

co-constructed syllabus

Dear Friends,

Please look @ our newly revised syllabus @
and provide additional feedback here. There are a few more details (how will we watch the film? what poetry do we want to read? when do we want to do our own final performances?) that we'll need to work out together, but I think this is good-enough to go.For starters, you can access the essays by Sor Juana & de Beauvoir on-line; I'll order copies of the books by Canon, Butler and Truong, and copies of the plays, from the BMC Bookshop, in the hopes that they will be available when you get back from break. What else?

gail's picture

I am Gloria Anzaldua

I loved the lyricism of her essay we just read.  I loved that she did not allow herself to be defined by "standing angry on the opposite bank" of the white majority. She and we  must define ourselves positively and proudly.

I am honored to have turned out to be Gloria.

gail's picture

No Clue

I must confess that I know few of either Lauter or Anne's author references and suggestions.  Where have I been all my life? The only literary canon I have is the European white male traditional one! I am so excited to discover "our" canon of writers in the second half of this course.
Pemwrez2009's picture

surprise surprise----i am Judith Butler!

I am judith Butler surprise surprise


as for class I would love to see works of audre lorde as well as cherrie moraga, gloria anzaldua, jay prosser, more from susan stryker, lesie fienberg, and judith butler...intersex theory would be increadible as well!

Anne Dalke's picture


"menus" for remainder of the semester, proposed by 5 separate groups,
working together in class:

I. RACE: Latin Studies (Juana Ines), Allen

SEXUALITY & GENDER EXPRESSION: Butler, Feinberg (Stone Butch Blues)

PHYSICALITY: Abortion, Disability Studies

ART: Poetry, Photography (?)

MARRIAGE OF VALUES: Marxism, Institution of...

AGE OF AROUSAL: The Odd Woman, Performance


II. a) de la Cruz, Rigoberta Menchu

b) Jane Eyre

c) Wide Sargasso Sea

d) Cherrie Moraga

e) de Beauvoir

f) Judith Butler

g) trans (Orlando?)

h) Jane Asten.....

i) Age of Arousal


III. a) Second Sex

b) Poetry (Rich, Plath, Dickinson, Lorde)

c) Handmaid's Tale

d) Alice Walker

e) Latina texts

f) Middlesex

g) Transgender theory

h) Paula Vogel

i) Odd Women

j) Age of Arousal


IV. a) le Beauvoir

b) Butler sexuality

c) Trans/Intersex (Jay Prosser, Leslie Feinberg, 8 Sexes)

d) Women & Materialism (Dacia Maraini, postcolonialism)

e) Disabilities Studies, Abortion, Life politics

f) Poetry (Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, more)

g) TechnoLust/Alien

h) Race Moraga, de la Cruz)

i) Age of Arousal


V. a) The Second Sex

b) Judith Butler

c) Adrienne Rich (cumpulsory heterosexuality, lesbian feminism)

d) Leslie Feinberg

e) Womanism (bl hooks, Walker)

f) Latina Feminists

g) Disability Studies

h) Feminist Art

i) Age of Arousal

Sor Juana, De Beauvoir


1. de la Cruz
de Beauvoir

2. "Paris is Burning"/Butler & hooks' essays

3. Kindred

4. The Book of salt

5. poetry: Stein/Rich/Lorde/ED?

6. plays: Wasserstein,Vogel

7. our performances & Age of Arousal

sarahcollins's picture

Special of the day?

Even though I got Virginia Woolf, who is probably considered a bit behind the times, I'd like to read more contemporary essays, since I'm curious about what responses have been made to the authors we read in our first month, and also the texts that explore gender as a social construct. I'm interested in the whole difference question, too, because it seems like a pretty serious dividing point among feminists. Feminist poetry would be great to explore, and I like the idea of reading the Wide Sargasso Sea or the Handmaid's Tale so I could see better if I agreed with Spivak and Schweickart's interpretations.  

Rhapsodica's picture

Hmm... although I tend to

Hmm... although I tend to be a little wary of the validity of online quizzes, especially ones composed of so few questions, I find the results of this one to be quite interesting. Apparently, I am bell hooks... which seems fitting, since Anne recommended that I look into womanist theology (the basis of which seems quite similar to her ideas) as a way of starting to explore the questions I raised in my web paper. In addition, I realized that I read an article by bell hooks a few weeks ago in my education class... which was more about education than feminism, as can be expected, but towards the end of this particular excerpt, she does talk about how, to her, "the feminist classroom was the one space where students could raise critical questions about pedagogical process," so... I think her readings might be quite relevant to the concepts we're exploring, as well as perhaps... how we're going about exploring them?

I also want to add my support to those who are asking for more Cixous-style readings as opposed to those in Spivak's style. I have nothing against Spivak, and believe that texts such as hers are definitely important for us to study, but I personally find Cixous' ideas and ways of approaching them to be more interesting & relatable... and would like to read more about the relationships between feminism, identity, the body, sexuality, etc.

I like the idea of reading some works belonging to the feminist literary canon (ie. Jane Eyre), partially because I'm not familiar with them and would like to be, but also because I think it would be interesting to examine them ourselves after reading about how other critics have interpreted them.

I also really love the idea of reading feminist poetry -- that was one of the options on Anne's list of ideas that seemed especially exciting to me. In addition to that idea, I'd like to also suggest looking at more feminist art. I personally found it interesting to start off the course looking at the Sojourner Truth plate (and The Dinner Party in general), and would like to explore more feminist art... perhaps corresponding with time periods of literature, etc. that we end up reading from?

If art does sound like a good idea to anyone... I had coffee this afternoon with a friend who graduated from BMC in 2006, and she gave me a list of feminist artists that she thought might be interesting to consider... though I haven't really had a chance to look into many of them yet. One artist she mentioned that I am slightly familiar with is Cindy Sherman, some of whose work can be seen here... and an author she suggested is Linda Nochlin, one of whose articles can be found here (I haven't read the whole thing, but the bits I've picked up do seem quite relevant to some of our discussions). I can type up the rest of the list if anyone is interested.

So, basically, I guess I'd like to head in the more artsy-literary-ish direction. I still think we should focus on the political aspects of feminism, definitely, but that it would be interesting to do so while looking at different kinds of texts (or even things that aren't texts, like photographs and other works of art, or films).

There were other ideas mentioned in this thread that I liked as well, and I would elaborate more if I weren't so tired at the moment, but... suffice it to say that I would not be disappointed to go in any of the directions people have suggested so far!

kwheeler's picture

I'm Kathleen Hannah! One of the few I've actually heard of...

I have to admit that like Elizabeth319, I have little to no previous experience with reading feminist texts and therefore can't really recommend too many, but I’ve reacted very strongly to the text we’ve read so far and definitely have a thirst for more. Of what’s already listed on the syllabus, I’m particularly interested in reading Gilman’s Herland and after a talk I attended at Haverford this evening titled “You only think You Know Me: Passing as a Social Phenomenon in Prominent Hollywood Films” I would also be interested in reading Nella Larson’s Passing,so please don’t take those off the plan!

After having being told by Spivak and others about what we shouldn’t be reading, I’d really like to read something they might approve of! Perhaps a novel written from the perspective of a woman that’s not influenced by imperialism or hegemony? That is, assuming that one exists. And also assuming (probably wrongly) the existence of an intrinsically feminine form or perspective of writing. Maybe I just need to read some Judith Butler.

I guess my first insight to what feminist theory might look like was reading Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self by Susan J. Brison for my "Violence, Terror and Trauma" course last semester. It’s a personal narrative of recovery from sexual assault; I found the book truly inspiring and would definitely recommend it. I’m not sure how it would fit into the context of the course, though it does look very relevant to the session on Rape, Violence and Torture at the Gender, War and Militarism Conference that Flora brought up (which looks very cool by the way).

hslavitt's picture

I like the idea of The

I like the idea of The Second Sex. Also, Germaine Greer is hard and I'd love to read her in this class. I'd really like to read some short stories that fir in with the theory we've been reading. I'm not a huge fan of scifi, but I think A Handmaid's Tale is a scifi-y book that everyone would enjoy and Atwood is an interesting writer. I'd love to read some "3rd Wave" stuff...books like Manifesta that address the more current cultural aspect of feminism (rap music, the beauty industry etc.). I think it would be imprtant to at least touch on lesbian feminism like Adrienne Rich. I think we should also consider reading Vindication of The Rights of Women. I've also heard that Christine de Pizan is an interesting parody type thing that adresses the literary steretypes of women. Maybe an Austen novel would be fun.
llauher's picture


Frida Kahlo

Certainly not whose name or picture I was expecting to pop onscreen, but I don't object! I really don't have a firm grasp on the study of feminism or its history, apart from I (I'll admit it...) learned on wikipedia. I feel myself learning, although sometimes I find myself leaning against what we're reading and saying. I sometimes feel I have a Utopian view of feminism and gender; that is to say, sometimes I can't help but feel that we've achieved the goals our foremothers strove for. I think my upbringing and the Bryn Mawr bubble intertwine to cause these feelings. I've been taught to push controversy and dissent aside. I'm glad I'm learning that it's acceptable to disagree and be dissatisfied.

Acknowledging these feelings has made me want to face them head-on and defy them. Therefore, I would most like to focus on sexuality and intersex/transgender material in the next portion of our class. I feel I have been shying away from subjects that cut too close, but I really want to use this course as a way to build my own view of feminism, and understand how it affects me personally. Stryker, Butler, and Anzaldua all call to me as potential authors to focus on in these discourses.

YJ's picture

"Homesick with Nowehere To Go" (10/4/07 Class Summary)

For last Thursday's class, we began by returning to some previous readings and themes. We first re-examined Cixous' notion of "generous feminism" and looked at the sculptures one alumni had made representing her interpretation of this concept. We then learned of Ann's problem with this notion, who made a very important point about what it means to be generous in this context-do normally introverted women experience a greater hardship in being more "generous" than normally extroverd women? We were left wondering if we can construct a feminism that embraces diversity with equal (or no) costs to women?

We then returned to Johnson's reading and the previous (and ongoing) class debate on the issue of the personal vs. the political. An important question Flora raised was "What is our shared goal for the class?" Professor Dalke responded with her own question: "Do we have to have a shared goal?"

We broke up into smaller groups to discuss the two readings which each half of the class had done and then held a discussion in which we spoke as the author of the text we had read. Harder said than done. We seemed to have a better grasp on what Anzaldua was saying about the idea of a "feminist home." For her, this home embraces ambuguity and allows a diversity of perspectives, allows a greater freedom. She also speaks of the undefinable boundaries within the self. Ultimately, she is saying that there is a home for the feminists (re: the border between the States and Mexico)

We seemed a bit more confused about the Martin & Mohanty reading but what we took away ultimately was that what is needed is an "irreconcible tension." The authors were referencing Edward Said who said that in order to be truly "intellectual" one needs distance from one's subject-you need to feel that homelessness, to lack attachment. We ended class learning that Martin & Mohanty complicate Said's claim because while we do need this "intellectual distance" we also need things like politics, space, and freedom to do the work of feminism.

gail's picture

Same subject

It seems to me that the two essays were two sides of the same issue- white majority and a minority perspective.
Flora's picture

menu items

My choice in menu items, this evening, is rather selfish. I have two criteria for choosing topics:
Flavor: It must be something I'm interested in.
Variety: It must be something I have not discussed in depth in another academic setting.

Here are my suggestions:
ONE: A class trip to one of the fantastic-looking presentations at this Gender, War and Militarism Conference. Some of the highlights on the program for me include:

Session 6: Gender, War, Media
Chair: Katherine Sender, Assistant Professor of Communications, Annenberg School, UPenn
1. Matters of Life and Death: Debating Militarization and Gender in the New Eritrea, Victoria Bernal, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
2. A Fresh Crop of Human Misery: Representations of Bosnian "War Babies" in the Global Print Media, 1991-2006, R. Charli Carpenter, Assistant Professor of International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh
3. Fireman Fetishes and Drag King Dreams: Queer Responses to September 11, Deborah Cohler, Assistant Professor of Women' s Studies, San Francisco State University

Session 4: Rape, Violence, Torture
Chair: Heather Sharkey, Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, UPenn
1. Rape as Marker and Erasure of Difference: Darfur and the Nuba Mountains (Sudan), Sondra Hale, Professor of Anthropology and Women' s Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
2. Wars of Attrition: How Men Get Away with Rape, Liz Kelly, Professor of Sexualized Violence and Director of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, London Metropolitan University
3. The Body as Border, Julie Mostov, Associate Vice Provost for International Programs and Associate Professor of Politics, Drexel University
4. Variation in Sexual Violence during War: The Relative Absence of Sexual Violence by some Non-state Actors, Elisabeth Jean Wood, Professor of Political Science, Yale University and Research Professor at the Santa Fe Institute

My logic for the inclusion of each lecture in the conference is different. But, I generally find it important to be exposed to a wide variety of intellectuals doing interesting work. My hope is that these discussions will be as good in person as they look on paper. The variety of topics in this conference is breath-taking to me. I don't want to miss it. I am a bit concerned about the fact that the majority of conference presenters work as professors at American Universities, possibly reducing the diversity of the type of work being presented. But despite that possible limitation, I still think a visit to the conference would add a very different and I think useful experience to our coursework.

TWO: An in depth (1-2 weeks) survey of womanist writers. Perhaps this could include, as Anne suggested to me earlier, a comparison with bell hooks' feminism? I find it incredibly important that womanist texts, especially their valid critiques of certain 1st & 2nd wave feminist assumptions, be included in our study of feminism criticism.

THREE: An in depth (1-2 weeks) survey of feminist work in disabilities studies. I know that this is an incredibly vague suggestion since so many texts could fall into this category. Sadly, I am not as familiar with them as I'd like to be. I only know that the talks at a Disabilities Studies conference I attended at Haverford last spring helped me understand concepts of the body and agency more than any previous text. And, as far as I can tell, these texts are often not included in any sort of mainstream canon.

There are other topics, of course, I'm interested in reading about. But these are the first three that popped into my head and wouldn't go away.

I also want to briefly record my reaction to Lauter. I loved the last two sentences of his essay. But I had so many, many difficulties with how he GOT there. I couldn't help but bristle at his anecdote about feminists not critiquing properly; his essay, even though I enjoyed much of the content, seemed to be saying: Oh there you go again, silly female feminists. I know you're trying to do your feminism. But just listen to (masculine) me and I'll tell you how to do it right. I wished that Lauter had reflected on the possible resonances behind his masculine privilege while writing.

Also, I don't get what's wrong with Spivak. I kind of enjoyed her writing style.

Flora's picture


also, I was Emma Goldman in the quiz. I don't know that this result is a terribly accurate representation of my feminism, but there it is. I certainly can relate to the quote often attributed to Goldman: ""If I can't dance I don't want to be in your revolution."



YJ's picture

Where To Go Next

I was also Angela Davis. Interesting, since I don't consider myself so "communist" and maybe not so into the "black power" movement either. I was pretty surprised as I was sure I'd get someone like Susan B. Anthony, not really sure why.

Anyway, one thing I've really enjoyed about this course is the diversity of readings we've done and I would like to see that continue. It might be interesting to mix it up during the 2nd half of the course by throwing in different types of texts, like a film or play (the "Age of Arousal" one looks really interesting...) and doing some more poetry as well. It'd be interesting to see how the message changes (or doesn't change) depending on the medium in which it's presented as well as how it changes (or doesn't change) for the reader of the "text."

I was intrigued by the idea of reading "Wide Sargasso Sea" since I read it long ago but didn't really understand it so it'd be nice to be able to return to it with a better frame of reference.

Readings focusing on other perinent issues of feminsim like sexuality and class would add another dimension to the class so reading about transgender and intersexuality may nicely complicate even more our conception of "feminism" and what it means to be a "feminist." I think it also makes sense considering we've already looked at the interaction of ethnicity and race with feminism.


Ann Dixon's picture

Deirdre McCloskey

There are so many possibilities to choose from -- good luck in deciding what to read in the immediate future.

A book that I would recommend you read sometime in your life is Deirdre McCloskey's memoir, Crossing.  A brilliant woman who writes with insight and humor, she grew up and lived as Donald until s/he was middle-aged. Her story and courage have been inspiring to me.


smigliori's picture

So we're already taking the first step, but...

Alright, so, I suppose since everyone else is mentioning their results, I might as well throw in that I got Judith Butler. While I hate to follow along with what everyone else does, this helps me segue nicely into the fact that I really think we should read Judith Butler, and once we've made at least a small foray into her work, what has been said since she first wrote Gender Trouble (though I'd be happy to read Butler even if it wasn't that specific text). Reading Paul Lauter and his archaic idea that "the social experiences and the cultures of women and men diverge at significant points" served to make me even more frustrated with the age of the texts we've been reading (73).

I can understand Lauter's argument on some level. Yes, we are currently living in a society that believes in a binary construction of gender and since gender is a social construct it makes sense that there could be some difference due to societal indoctrination as far as the way situations are viewed by each gender. However, when he makes statements such as "the application to women's art of principles and standards derived almost exclusively from the study of men's art will tend to obscure, even hide, and certainly undervalue what women have created", he seems to be suggesting that there is some inherent difference between women and men other than those which society has created (73). However, I am immediately reminded of Butler's question and answer in Imitation and Gender Insubordination: "What, if anything can lesbians be said to share?" "There is no necessarily common element among lesbians, except perhaps that we all know something about how homophobia works against women--although, even then, the language and the analysis we use will differ." (14,17) If a group which shares both gender and sexuality has little in common, how could a group which shares merely gender have so much similarity?

The works we have read so far have given us a small but useful basis in feminist theory. However, I would argue (as I started to do in my Web Paper) that the syllabus has been mislabeled. The works we have already read are themselves not "contemporary" to us as a class. Since we have both alumnae who graduated long before any of these texts were written, and students who were barely learning to walk, if even born, at the same time, the definition of contemporary needs to be reconsidered. I think that this gives us an obligation to consider as contemporary those texts which are most relevant to current trends in feminist theory. While I realize even Butler's work was published in the early 90s, I feel it would be useful to see what has been written in the past 10-15 years. What has been said by those who have had time to process and digest those writers who have questioned the validity of the gender binary?

I believe Susan Stryker is a good first step in studying the work of someone who actually is contemporary, but I don't believe that this one foray into that which has been written since I learned how to read is enough. Yes, going back and studying that which was written before anyone still alive began their existence is useful, but there are so many classes out there where students can take the opportunity to look at texts in a feminist light. I challenge you to find a class in the English department where you can't look at texts from a feminist perspective, even just in your own papers. Why can't we take this one to look at something new?

Mary Clurman '63's picture

more contemporary writings

Yes, yes! I have been dismayed at the historicity (? - age) of the texts. They all seem so dated, but maybe that's OK, they are the foundations; now we can move on. But our discussing them (or your doing so in class) brings a totally contemporary viewpoint; what's missing is the formalization of the contamporary viewpoint, which we'd get in current feminist theory, right? Let's do it!

ndegeorge's picture

I got Kathleen Hanna when I

I got Kathleen Hanna when I took the quiz. Funny, I never saw myself as a punk rocker...

Anyway, on to what we should read. I would also like to talk about Simone de Beauvoir. I actually bought The Second Sex awhile ago and never got past page 40. But she's definitely one of the big names that I would like to have under my belt.

Other than that I think I would like to read literature written by women, admittedly works that are part of the feminist "canon." I don't want to continue on dismissing the canon (as many of the articles we read would have us do) before I am familiar with it. So perhaps more Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Edith Wharton, the Brontes or Jane Austen... I have not read Jane Eyre or any Jane Austen other than Pride and Prejudice. Makes me feel like a bad feminist... just kidding. But I would like to try.

Anonymous's picture

Frida Kahlo!

Apparently, I am matched to Frida Kahlo, who was a Mexican painter during the first half of the 20th century, although her artwork didn't really become popular until the 70's.

At any rate, I, like Elizabeth319, am not really familiar with the study of feminism, however, I was really interested in Brook's poem that brought a huge discussion on about abortion. For some reason, that really just sparked an interest. Perhaps it was the underlying political tension or just...the feminist poetry idea. Maybe some of Emily Dickinson's work would be interesting, especially because I have studied her, but by no means from a feminist point of view.

Also, upon looking at the list of ideas and various type of works we could potentially look into, intersex really caught my eye. I have read Middlesex and it was an incredibly fascinating read. Maybe we can look into similar types of work. It'd be interesting to analyze it with a different point of view than what I had when I read it way back when.

jrizzo's picture

The other Jessica is the other Simone

My sister feminist icon is also Simone de Beauvoir.  I've been looking into the French/Existentialist feminism and I'm completely intrigued.  I think The Second Sex would be a great place to start, but we could also look at de Beauvoir's fiction, or the work of other artists working out of the same place... though I wouldn't be able to name any other names just yet.  I think it's very valuable to be able to study a writer's art, as well as her non-fiction. I also very much enjoyed Cixous, and at first I thought it might be nice to do a lot of de Beauvoir-esque work and Cixous-esque work together, since they're sort of from the same world, but I'm realizing that since Cixous comes out of postmodernism with all these fascinating ideas about tearing down what's been established, I think I would prefer to first see what has been established, and given the varying levels of experience in the class, I think it would be a good idea to start a little farther back .

 Other than that, I'd like to read literature, "feminist texts," learning why we might identify something as a feminist novel or play, etc.  But I think it would also be a great experience to take an author traditionally bashed as a sexist, a D.H. Lawrence or someone (though I've never been able to figure out where the sexism is in his work) and give a feminist reading... whatever that means. 

One Student's picture


I got Judith Butler; excellent, a postmodernist and queer theorist!


Much as I enjoy theory, I’d like to focus on non-fiction. If there is theory, can it be art-related? We’ve talked about voice; could we talk about gaze? Though I know this is an English course …My quiz results were telling indeed, and I’d prefer more recent theory to classics of feminist theory. I’ve never read anything by bel hooks, and I wouldn’t mind using this as an opportunity to do so. Same for Cherrie Moraga. I’d rather try to write in the Native American style than to read more of it.


I think that science fiction should always be on the feminist/queer menu. Scifi is speculative, it gives a writer (and zir readers) the opportunity to ask ‘what if’? Quite often, those ‘what if’ questions are about culture and society: family structure, the nature of gender, power relations, religion etc. (Not all scifi is like this, of course). Two writers whom I’d like to see be considered are Ursula K. le Guin and Octavia Butler.


(One of Butler’s short stories, “Bloodchild”, made many readers think it was about slavery, because Butler is African-American; but according to her, it’s a love story and a coming of age story and a story about two different species learning to coexist because they need each other; it’s also a story she wrote because she wanted to write about a man becoming pregnant for the sake of love.)


(One reviewer on says: “She [le Guin] currently writes like the wise old crone she is, no longer "like a man", which readers may or may not appreciate.” Discuss …)


I think that getting outside the canon is important; not just The Canon, but also feminist, queer, and other canons. I’m not sure how canonical The Left Hand of Darkness (le Guin) and Kindred (Butler) are; they’re part of my canon, at any rate, and my impression is that Left Hand at least is fairly widely known.


I also think Orlando by Virginia Woolf would be interesting to use (and btw the movie adaptation is *gorgeous*). The Female Man by Joanna Russ, now that I think about it, contains a conception of a black swan society: when I was reading it, I wished I’d grown up on Whileaway, if only because of their education system, and because of the way they all keep busy. Lady Oracle, Surfacing, and The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood have been recommended to me. Oh, and How To Supress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ, which is non-fiction.

Mary Clurman's picture

re: writing as others, "feeling like a man"

I too, thought of writing in the Native American mode. What a great idea, to cast oneself in another mold, to see if one can see as others see. FYI, I came up as Angela Davis -- what a shock!

You also mention LeGuin "no longer writing like a man," and Anne briefly mentioned a text, I believe, on menopause. I was amazed, during menarche, to have the sudden revelation that now I felt "like a man." I think what I meant was that I felt free, far more so than ever in my life, although I had never consciously thought of myself as other than free. But this was an epiphany, from nowhere (it came during a T'ai Chi class) -- it was a physical as well as intellectual revelation, if that makes sense!

EMaciolek's picture

First of all - I'm Angela

First of all - I'm Angela Davis (the third woman in history to appear on the FBI's most wanted list). That's awesome. And now I definitely want to know more about her. Funny how that works.

Anyway, for the remainder of the course I have some ideas:

I was at work the other day and this guy was reading American Psycho and was reading passages aloud (which were of course immensely disturbing) but then he told me that it was actually a feminist text, which doesn't make any sense to me. Now I really really want to read it, and in the event that it actually is a feminist text I think it'd be really interesting to read/discuss in class. Potentially a bit over the top for some though.

And I would LOVE to read Middlesex for class. I read it on my own and it blew my mind, now I'd love to read it again in an academic setting.

Feminist films would also be really interesting. Not documentaries, per se, but films meant for art's sake.

I also agree with Elizabeth319 in that I don't want anymore Spivak-esque pieces, but definitely more along the lines of Helene Cixous.

matos's picture

I'm Angela Davis, that's pretty badass

Since I'm Angela Davis, it's somewhat appropriate that my major goal is questioning the status quo, ie the "feminist literary canon". Like Jessica, I'm new to the study of feminism or feminist study. I'd like to examine why and how certain texts become "feminist". This is also why I like the idea of reading Jane Eyre and then Wide Sargasso Sea.

And personally, I'd like to read the suggested Latina feminist texts because I think that's an area that's looked over alot in academia.

One Student's picture


What do you mean by 'overboard'? I'm not being combative, I'd just appreciate it if you'd clarify so that I'm not making assumptions.
Elizabeth319's picture

Jessica ahemm Elizabeth319 is Simone de Beauvoir

Well I took the Feminist Quiz and I most closely resembled Simone de Beauvoir. Of course, I had NO idea who she was so I googled her to find out some more. At least the results of the test made it sound like she was a spunky controversial woman of the 20th century AND only 6% of the test takers got that same result! Maybe we could check out The Second Sex than since that was her big hit. I am hesitant though to start naming any possible books as I am truly new to the study of feminism. It is my first Feminist specific class and first Gender and Sexuality class so far. I suppose I would group myself almost as the exact opposite of Flora as she has taken so many classes and knows her stuff! I can’t deny that intimidates me a tad, but that is my weakness.


When we were discussing Paula Gunn Allen’s, “Kochinnenako in Academe: Three Approaches to Interpreting a Keres Indian Tale”  I found myself relating to Paul Lauter when he wrote, “I found myself, reluctantly, painfully, being drawn back into the tortured style of graduate school competition: ‘Can you beat this?’”  I really enjoyed Allen’s essay, but I felt the class discussion went too far. I felt drawn back like Lauter as the analysis continued because I felt as though the competition was on the rise and with the rise of competition lead one stretch of an analysis to a greater stretch. I am still not sure how we got to the idea that in order to really follow Allen’s idea there cannot be the word “I” in writing or in language. So with all of that said I thought I would be interested in one or two more Native American writings but I fear a repeat of the other discussion.


Moving on, please no more Spivak styled pieces but I am definitely interested in more Helene Cixous types of writing. It may be the psychology major in me but I really enjoy reading topics on feminism focused on the self and body. This is not to disregard however my interest in incorporating politics into feminism. I always related feminism to liberalism, but there are politically conservative women that would also consider themselves’ feminists or maybe share the similar beliefs if not wanting to be labeled as a feminist: right? The bullet that has the Abortion Rights readings is what sparked my interest in conservative feminism. I am also open to some exploration of the intertwining subjects of sexuality and politics, but would not want the class to become overly focused on politics because of an issue that Paul Lauter mentioned. “Are there other worlds of art out there whose nature, dynamics, and values we fail to appreciate because we ask the wrong questions or don’t know what questions to ask? Or maybe shouldn’t simply be asking questions?” Sometimes I have felt that our class discussions went overboard, but that seems to be a pattern I noticed at Bryn Mawr. I suppose that is just a pet peeve of mine and not something that is negative as it does challenge us to think further.