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Critical Feminist Studies: An Introduction

Anne Dalke's picture

Generous Feminism by Gail Chavenelle, BMC '67,
on site in English House, Fall 2007


English/ Gender &
Sexuality Studies 193
Bryn Mawr College, Spring 2012
TTh 12:45 PM—2:15 PM
English House Lecture Hall

Anne Dalke

Our Course Forum

Our Password Protected File

    Notes Toward Class Discussions

Our Web Events #1, 2, 3 & 4

Our Teach-In, In Images!

Sign-Up Sheet for "Setting the Scene"

Preparing checklists  & final portfolios

Instructions for Weekly On-Line Postings

“…feminism has already made a difference….On the other hand, that difference has opened up and brought into view the energies of contradiction hidden inside the unsayability of what feminism has now given voice to. Once women begin to speak, we begin to differ with each other….literature is important for feminism…as the place where impasses can be kept and opened for examination, questions can be guarded and not forced into a premature validation of the available paradigms. Literature…is…a mode of cultural work, the work of giving-to-read those impossible contradictions that cannot yet be spoken." (Barbara Johnson: The Feminist Difference: Literature, Psychoanalysis, Race and Gender, 1998)

Not monolithic, prescriptive, conformist or singular, contemporary feminist theory covers a wide range of perspectives and approaches, which this class will showcase. The texts we will examine will focus on, but not be limited to, those that address the matters of reading and interpreting literature. We will also be attending to broader theoretical and political concerns, in an attempt to define the questions which contemporary feminisms raise and the different answers with which feminisms reply. Asking always about the possibilities of transformation, we will attend to local and global dimensions of feminism, to questions of both biology and culture.

Course Requirements:
Bi-weekly attendance and participation in class
13 on-line reflections on our discussions/assigned readings/related topics
Three 4-pp. web events
A final in-class reflection, 12-pp. web-event, self-evaluation and portfolio.

Reading Schedule

Day 1 (T, Jan. 17)
Welcome to the potluck!

Day 2 (Th, Jan. 19)
Christina Rossetti.  "Goblin Market." 1862;  rpt. as Project Gutenberg Ebook.

5 p.m. Sun, Jan. 22: post on-line some "ruminations" about the food you've been fed so far: what are your thoughts about my invitation to our potluck, and/or about the "fruit-call" Laura and Lizzie heard?

Day 3 (T, Jan. 24) 
Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas. 1939;  rpt. Mariner, 2006; also on ebooks@Adelaide. 2009.

Day 4 (Th, Jan. 26)
Three Guineas,

5 p.m. Sun, Jan. 29: post your on-line reflections about Woolf's invitation to contribute three guineas....

Day 5 (T, Jan. 31) 
Tamar Lewin. "'Sisters' Colleges See a Bounty in the Middle East." Global Classrooms. The New York Times. June 3, 2008.

Marjane Satrapi. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. New York: Pantheon, 2003

Day 6 (Th, Feb. 2)
Marjane Satrapi. Persepolis 2 : The Story of a Return. New York: Pantheon, 2005.

Richard Oppel. "Female Suicide Bomber Kills 15 in Iraq." The New York Times. June 23, 2008.

Alissa Rubin. "Despair Drives Suicide Attacks by Iraqi Women." The New York Times. July 5, 2008.

8 p.m. Fri, Feb. 3: first 4-pp. web event, exploring a question
that has arisen for you, from our conversations so far... what do you
not yet know about feminism, which you'd like to learn more about?

Day 7 (T, Feb. 7)
Gayatri Spivak, "Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism." Critical Inquiry 12, 1 (Autumn 1985). 243-261. Available through JStor and also in our passworld protected file.

Day 8 (Th, Feb. 9)
Mahasweta Devi. “Breast-Giver.” Trans. Gayatri Spivak. In Other Worlds. New York: Routledge, 1988. 222-240.

Gayatri Spivak. "A Literary Representation of the Subaltern: A Woman's Text from the Third World." In Other Worlds. New York: Routledge, 1988. 241-268 (both in our passworld protected file as SpivakBreastGiver).

Day 9 (T, Feb. 14)
Ross Kauffman & Zana Briski, dirs. Born into Brothels. Red Light Films. 2005. 83 minutes.

Day 10 (Th, Feb. 16)
Afsaneh Najmabadi."Truth of Sex." January 12, 2005.

Marilyn Hacker. "Canzone." Desesperanto: Poems 1999-2002. New York: Norton, 2003. Available on Poetry Friday.

Gertrude Stein. "Lifting Belly." Bee Time Vine and Other Pieces, 1913-1927. Ed. Rebecca Mark. Rpt. Naiad Press, 1989  (in our password-protected file).

Day 11 (T, Feb. 21)
Monique T. D. Truong, The Book of Salt. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

Day 12 (Th, Feb. 23)
The Book of Salt
, continued

5 p.m. Sun, Feb. 26: post on-line a proposal for the remainder of our semester's work together. Begin with a paragraph or two of a mid-semester evaluation of how we're doing in learning together: what's working? What needs working on? What should we keep, of our shared practices? What might we change up? Turn then from questions of "form" to those of "content": What other genres, geographies, forms of gender and sexuality studies would you like to explore, if the remainder of the class were an independent study? What do you recommend our exploring together? Why? How action-based or action-directed do you want our work to be?

Day 13 (T, Feb. 28)

Peggy McIntosh. “Interactive Phases of Curricular Re-Vision:  A Feminist Perspective.” Working Paper No. 124. Wellesley College Center for Research on Women. 1983. 1-33. Available through Education Resources Information Center.

On-line and in-class discussion about our own curricular re-vision.

5 p.m. W, Feb. 29: respond on-line to two of your classmates' proposals,
trying to nudge us as a group toward some consensus...

Day 14 (Th, Mar. 1): Discussion, continued....until a decision is made!

8 p.m. Fri, Mar. 3: second 4-pp. web event, exploring
the connections between various forms of feminist thinking in different geographical locations.


The Remainder of the Syllaship is co-constructed-->

Day 15 (T, Mar. 13)

Jeffrey Eugenides. Middlesex. New York: Picador, 2002. Books One and Two.

Day 16 (Th, Mar. 15)
Middlesex, Books Two and Three.

Day 17 (T, Mar. 20)
Middlesex, Books Three and Four.

Day 18 (Th, Mar. 22)
Kate Bornstein, My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Day 19 (T, Mar. 27)
My Gender Workbook, continued
Post on-line three words you want to understand better,along w/ a short story (for each) of why...

Day 20 (Th, Mar. 29)
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Introduction, Chapters 1-3, 14. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. New York: Knopf, 2009. xi-xxii, 3-60, 233-254 (in our password protected file).

Half the Sky Movement

Women Hold Up Half the Sky exhibition and review

She's the First (Bryn Mawr's cupcake sale....)

Day 21 (T, Apr. 3)
Live Nude Girls Unite! (Video). Dir. Julia Query and Vicky Funari. First Run/Icarus Films, 2000 (70 min.): streaming from Netflix and on reserve in Canaday.

Day 22 (Th, Apr. 5)
bell hooks. Chapters 1, 7, 9, 11, 17, 19. Feminism is For Everybody: Passionate Politics. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2000. 1-6, 37-43, 48-54, 61-66, 100-104, 110- 118 (in our password protected file).

Day 23 (T, Apr. 10)
The Undefeated
, dir. Stephen K. Bannon. ReelzChannel. March 11, 2012.

Game Change, dir. Jay Roach. HBO. March 10, 2012 (a clip).
Try also

Sarah Palin on BitchMedia.

Day 24 (Th, Apr. 12)
Michael Kimmel, “Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity." Privilege: A Reader. Ed. Michael Kimmel and Abby Ferber. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2003. 51-74.

Chris Ware. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. New York: Pantheon, 2000.

Day 25 (T, Apr. 17)
Jimmy Corrigan, continued….

Day 26 (Th, Apr. 19)
Helen Horowitz,  “A Certain Style of  ‘Quaker Lady’ Dress” and “Behold They Are Women!” Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women’s College From their Nineteenth-Century Beginnngs to the 1930s. New York: Knopf, 1984. 105-133 (in our password protected file).

Alissa Quart. When Girls Will Be Boys. New York Times Magazine. March 16, 2008.

aybala50. The Inside: History of women at Bryn Mawr College. Serendip. February 3, 2012.

8 p.m. Fri, Apr. 20: third 4-pp. web event, exploring ....?

Day 27 (T, Apr. 24)
Judith Halberstam, “Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies.” In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. New York: New York University Press, 2005.  1-21 (in our password protected file).

-----. "Shadow Feminisms: Queer Negativity and Radical Passivity. The Queer Art of Failure. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011. 123-145 (in our password protected file).

Day 28 (Th, Apr. 26)
Teach In!
Join with several other students to share your reflections on your experiences over the semester, encouraging, in a provocative and entertaining way, further exploration on the part of others in the class.

12:30 p.m. Fri, May 11:  12-pp. final web-events, checklists, portfolios, and self-evaluations due on-line.

Note to Self: Next Time 'Round use
Wendy Brown. "Chapters 6-7: "Feminism Unbound: Revolution, Mourning, Politics" and 'The Impossibility of Women's Studies." Edgework: Critical Essays on Knowledge and Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005. 98-135.

Additional Resources

Classism vs. Feminism --> Gender, Body Image and (M)TV

Discussion about sexual assault and choice

It Gets Better--Love, Pixar--and response

National Young Feminist Leadership Conference (March 31-April 2, 2012)