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Critical Feminist Studies: An Introduction

Critical Feminist Studies: An Introduction
English 193 Bryn Mawr College
Anne Dalke
Fall 2012, TTh 12:45-2:15
English House Lecture Hall

Generous Feminism,
by Gail Chavenelle, BMC '67

On-Line Forum

Class Notes

Web Papers

Instructions for
Checklist &

  Final Portfolio

“…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 in the first third of the course to questions of biology, as they are figured in transgender and intersex; in the second to questions of culture, as they are represented transnationally and internationally; and in the third to questions of the curriculum, as they are explored in transdisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity.

Once a week, students will be expected to post short responses to these readings on-line, on Serendip’s Exchange. In a series of four more formal writing projects, students will also become conversant with the current scholarly work being done in the field of gender and sexuality; figure out which of the discipline-or-subject-specific sources might be most useful in developing your own particular stake in these conversations; and define the critical questions you want to pursue. A total of twenty-five pages of writing will be required by semester’s end; the length of each individual project may vary, based on your interest and ambitio

Evaluations: In my experience, grading hinders the kind of open and productive interactions on which effective education depends. Accordingly, I will comment on, but not grade, your individual assignments during the course of the semester. You will receive grades at the end of the course that reflect my evaluation of your engagement with the course, the progress you have made in becoming a better inquirer, and the level of sophistication you have reached in your thinking, talking and writing. (Here are previews of the checklist and final portfolio on which I will base that evaluation.)

Working Schedule

Week 1: Transformation
1. Tues, Sept. 2
Welcome to the potluck
By 10 a.m. on Thurs: post on-line your thoughts about my invitation to our potluck,
about Sojourner Truth's representation there,
and/or Woolf's invitation to contribute three guineas...

Thurs, Sept. 4
Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas. 1938; rpt. New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1966.

We will "meet" electronically each weekend; please post some reflections on Serendip by 5 p.m. each Sunday.

Weeks 2-5: Trangender and Intersex

2. Tues, Sept. 9
Guest Visitor: Paul Grobstein, What's Biology Got to Teach Us About Gender and Sexuality?
Diversity and Deviance: A Biological Perspective

Thurs, Sept. 11
By 10 a.m. every Thursday morning: post on course forum
Jeffrey Eugenides. Middlesex. New York: Picador, 2002. Book One.

3. Tues, Sept. 16
Middlesex, Book Two.

Thurs, Sept. 18

Middlesex, Book Three.

4. Tues, Sept. 23

Middlesex, Book Four.

Thurs, Sept. 25
Guest Visitor: Katie Baratz

Growing Up "Intersex," Going on Oprah. Haverford College News Room.

Shedding Light on Intersex. The Oprah Winfrey Show. September 21, 2007.

Welcome to Parents. Handbook for Parents. DSD Guidelines. Consortium on the Management of Disorders of Sex Development. Intersex Society of North America. March 25, 2006.

5. Tues, Sept. 30
Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Reshaping, Rethinking, Redefining: Feminist Disabilities Studies. Barbara Waxman Fiduccia Papers on Women and Girls with Disabilities. 2007.

Thurs, Oct. 2
Guest Visitor: Pemwrez09

Reprinted in The Transgender Studies Reader. Ed. Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle. New York: Routledge, 2006 (in chronological order):

Suzanne J. Kessler and Wendy McKenna, "Toward a Theory of Gender" (1978): 165-182.

Judith Butler, "Doing Justice to Someone: Sex Reassignment and Allegories of Transsexuality" (2001): 183-193.

Kate Bornstein, "Gender Terror, Gender Rage" (1994): 236-243.

Susan Stryker, "My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix--Performing Transgender Rage" (1994): 244-256.

Patrick Califia, "Manliness." 434-438.

Arthur Robinson Williams, My Right Self.

If you haven't met w/ me yet this semester, make an appointment to do so.
Paper #1: 5-pp. due on-line by 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3.
What has been transformed in your thinking?
Where do you need to go to learn more about this question?
Where is it taking you?

Weeks 6-7: The Transitional and Interstitial

6. Tues, Oct. 7
Afsaneh Najmabadi."Truth of Sex." January 12, 2005.

Marilyn Hacker. Canzone. Desesperanto: Poems 1999-2002. New York: Norton, 2003.

Gertrude Stein. "Lifting Belly." Bee Time Vine and Other Pieces, 1913-1927. The Yale Edition of the Unpublished Writings of Gertrude Stein. Vol. 3. Ayer, 1953.

Thurs, Oct. 9
Monique T. D. Truong, The Book of Salt. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

Oct. 14-16: FALL BREAK

7. Tues, Oct. 21
The Book of Salt, continued

Weeks 7-10: The Transnational and International
Thurs, Oct. 23
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
8. Tues, Oct. 28
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.

Thurs, Oct. 30

Biddy Martin and Chandra Talpade Mohanty. “Feminist Politics: What’s Home Got to Do with It?” Feminist Studies/Critical Studies. Ed. Teresa de Lauretis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986. 191-212

Russell Leong. "Home Bodies and the Body Politic" and Dana Takagi, "Maiden Voyage: Excursion into Sexuality and Identity Politics in Asian America." Asian American Sexualities: Dimensions of the Gay and Lesbian Experience. Ed. Russell Leong. New York: Routledge, 1996. 1-35.

9. Tues, Nov. 4
Guest Visitors: Tamarinda Figueroa and Ingrid Paredes

Cherríe Moraga. "The Breakdown of the Bicultural Mind." Names We Call Home: Autobiography on Racial Identity. Becky Thompson and Sangeeta Tyagi, eds. New York & London: Routledge, 1996. 230-239

Paula M.L. Moya. "Postmodernism, 'Realism,' and the Politics of Identity: Cherríe Moraga and Chicana Feminism." Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures. Ed. M. Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade Mohanty. New York: Routledge, 1997. 125-150.

Thurs, Nov. 6
Gayatri Spivak, "Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism." The Feminist Reader: Essays in Gender and the Politics of Literary Criticism. Second Edition. Edited Catherine Belsey and Jane Moore. New York: Blackwell, 1989. 148-163.

10. Tues, Nov. 11
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.

Thurs, Nov. 13
Nancy Scheper-Hughes. “M(O)ther Love: Culture, Scarcity and Maternal Thinking” and "Our Lady of Sorrows." Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil. Berkeley: University of California, 1993. 341-373, 400-406.

Paper #2: 5 pp. due on-line by 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14.
Focusing on the Local:
what gender-related issues interest you most in one particular site in the world?
How are they being represented?
How might those representations be altered?
What interventions are needed

Weeks 11-14: Transdisciplinarity

11. Tues, Nov. 18
Peggy McIntosh. "Interactive Phases of Curricular Re-vision: A Feminist Perspective." Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, 1983.

Thurs, Nov. 20
James Sosnoski. “ A Mindless Man-driven Theory Machine: Intellectuality, Sexuality and the Institution of Criticism.” Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism. Ed. Robyn Warhold and Diane Price Herndl. New Brunswick, NY: Rutgers University Press, 1997. 33-50.

Jacques Derrida. "Women in the Beehive: A Seminar." Men in Feminism. Ed. Alice Jardine and Paul Smith. New York: Metheun, 1987. 189-203.

12. Tues, Nov. 25
Anne Dalke and Elizabeth McCormack. "Synecdoche and Surprise: Transdisciplinary Knowledge Production." Journal of Research Practice. 3,2 (2007). Article M20.

(see also Dalke, Grobstein and McCormack, Exploring Interdisciplinarity)

Thurs, Nov. 27: Thanksgiving Break

13. Tues, Dec. 2
Guest Visitor: Jessy Brody

Susan Stryker, "My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix--Performing Transgender Rage." 1994; rpt. The Transgender Studies Reader. Ed. Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle. New York: Routledge, 2006: 244-256.

Thurs, Dec. 4
Ross Kauffman & Zana Briski, dirs. Born into Brothels. Red Light Films. 2005. 83 minutes.

Paper #3, due on-line by 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 8: How might feminism be better represented?
Re-design the curriculum for this course, this/another program, your department, the college (requirements?); re-think modes of argumentation or class dynamics; play with alternative ways of writing/representing.

14. Tues, Dec. 9
Poems selected by the class, with attention to the gendering of language....

FINALE: Translation


All work due by 12:30 p.m. Friday, December 19, including portfolio
and final 12-pp. research paper (expanding on your earlier work,
or on another topic of your own choosing
To print off all your
forum comments, logic in; type
select "printer-friendly version" (@ top) and print.

Class Roster