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Notes Towards Day 1 (Tuesday, 9/3): Who Are We? What Do/Don't We Know? What Do We Want to Know? How Are We Going to Learn It?

Anne Dalke's picture

I. (2:25) Welcome to Critical Feminist Studies!

Who we are matters,

to one another and to our shared course of study.
We will use our time together,
 to explore together what we don’t know.

We will do this in public:
keeping one another company,
helping each other along.

So let's get started....

II. Form a wagon wheel (to "roll" after every third question):

1) if you were an imaginary (literary, filmic, gaming) character, who would you be? (humanities)

2) if you were a life form other than human, what might it be? (science)

3) if you were a (non-organic) structure, what might that be? (social science)


4) what is your name and preferred pronoun?
(tell each other all the pronouns you’ve ever heard of )

5) what is year and your major/area of interest?
how much (and how?) does it intersect w/ gender and sexuality studies?

6) what work (classes, activism, projects?) have you already done in this arena?
what work might you like to do?


7) what questions do you bring to this course?

8) what particular issues would you like us to address in this class?

9) what areas of the world would you like us to focus on?


some pedagogical questions: 
10) what ideas do you have, about how we might go about having these conversations?

11) is there anything that you are afraid to talk about/worried about our talking about?

12) what get-acquainted question should I have asked, but didn't?

II. (2:45) Re-order as a single circle: welcome (again) Critical Feminist Studies...
Anne Dalke/English Dept/offering intro-level class in feminism/
intro to gender and sexuality studies concentration/
not intended for jrs, srs who have done work in this area (leave now!)

what have you learned so far....?!? any surprises? (what have you taught...?!?)

Our shared working assumptions?
(share some of the pedagogical conversation you had?)

My belief in education as a collective endeavor,
our shared responsibility for each other's learning...
using our time together,
not to showcase what we already know,
but to explore together what we don’t.

We will do this in public:
keeping one another company,
and learning by the mistakes we are making.
We will also experiment with
forms of presentation,
using images, sound,
and less linear structures…

III. (3:00) Our overfull "syllaship" is on-line
you should bookmark this, and check it in preparation for every class;
it will change as the semester goes on, so be sure to "re-fresh" each time you go back.
I'm going to review a lot of material now that you'll be using for the course;
all of it is available/verifiable from this homepage.

For instance: you’ll have reading-or-viewing to do for each class;
you should buy/rent/check out/share six book-length works;
the rest of the material will be available via active on-line links from the syllabus.

Some of the reading will be on-line; and all of your writing will be.
We'll be using a "digital ecosytem" called Serendip, which is on the internet:
this is not Moodle, not closed, but open to, and readable by, the world--
and discussable in class (starting point for most class meetings....).
Learning to be a public intellectual, thinking out loud.

We will be meeting virtually each weekend in this inbetween space,
our on-line/class forum @

By 5 p.m. tomorrow, and by the same time every Sunday evening thereafter,
you will post a comment in that space, reflecting on our
discussion from the week before, or anticipating what's upcoming
(more deliberate than speaking in class, less formal than written work:
excellent place for showcasing revisionary thinking).

This informal writing is background/preparation/warm-up/frequent source
for your more “formal” writing assignments, which will also
take the form of four "web events," due once/month
(3 5-pp. web-projects, a final 10-pp. web-extension of one of these).
I'll also want to have (@ least) 2 conferences with you about your writing.

To access the readings and post your reflections, you will need to
register for a Serendip account. DO THIS TONIGHT; THE PROCESS IS NOT AUTOMATED.

What is (probably) distinct about this course is the form of evaluation:
I will not grade any of your individual projects. At the end of the semester,
you will complete a portfolio of all your work, and evaluate yourself.
The checklist of my expectations are all on-line
(this is not mysterious: come prepared to all the classes and conferences,
contribute in-person and on-line, post your web events on time,
be responsive to instruction, engaged in the conversation...).

Questions about any of these details of "course-keeping"?

reminder that links to all these pages--on-line course forum,
syllabus, instructions for posting, a growing file of my "talking notes"
for class--are available as links from our course home page @

Immediate assignments:

By 5 p.m. tonight, register for a Serendip account.
[give out registration code]
give some time to selecting your user name:
how do you want to represent yourself in this on-line conversation
about gender and sexuality/critical feminist studies?
Also create an avatar for yourself
(asking, again: how do you want to appear on-line?
what sort of persona do you want to project?--
this can be revised as the semester goes on...)

By 5 p.m. Wednesday, log on to our on-line course conversation, and introduce yourself
to the group, by expalining the image you've chosen:
what does it say about who/how you are in this conversation/this world?
how important are gender and sexuality in that representation?

BE SURE TO TAG YOUR AUDIENCE AS "Critical Feminist Studies 2013" @

We'll start Thursday's class by re-introducing and reading "ourselves";
by classtime on Thursday, also look @ Rhea Ewing's Fine: A Comic About Gender,
and read Kathy Acker's 8-pp. essay, "Seeing Gender."
Acker says, "When I was a girl, I ran into the world of books,
the only living world I, a girl, could find. I never left that world."

Come to class with a story, to lay alongside hers,
of the "books you ran into" en route to "seeing gender"...
we'll share the books have been important to you, in understanding
(yours, and the way the world divvies up this category).
We'll talk, too, about the differences between books and comics, words and visuals...

IV. (3:30) This is a class, in other words, about questions of representation:
of ourselves, others, the world we all share...
and how these representations might be altered.

I've divided the course into 3 sections; the first is called "Engendering Ourselves":
we'll work our way through Kate Bornstein's New Gender Workbook,
read two graphic novels (by Marjane Sartrapi and Neil Gaiman)
for their representations of gender, and also participate
in a workshop w/ the visual artist Laura Swanson, who will help us make (anti-) self portraits,
which will form the basis for your first paper/web-event.

Section II is called "Engendering Our Institutions": we'll spend those weeks
thinking about the logic/rationale of women's colleges, and the pressure
put on that category by the increasing visible politics of both transgender and of disability;
we'll focus in particular on the intersections of queer, transgender, and disability theory,
hear a lecture by a queer disabled theorist, Ellen Samuels, and read Eli Clare's memoir, Exile and Pride;
your second web-event will explore how institutional structures might be re-made around intersectional identities.

Section III is called "En-gendering (un-binding?) the Future of 'Women'":
it includes a range of
material that doesn't problematize the category of woman, but describes the problems of people
who inhabit it: inviting you to think further about activism, and about how your own evolving/emerging understandings of the mutability of gender and sexuality might lead us to re-shape
the world in which we live-and-work in.

We'll hear a lecture by a feminist economist;
read two more novels, by Gayl Jones and Monique Truong;
and more theory, by Judy Butler and Wendy Brown;
and you'll create a third web-event, on "feminism unbound"
(intentionally vague/open topic....)

To conclude the semester, we'll do a teach-in, showing each other what we've learned,
each of you will expand one of your 5-pp. projects into a 10-pp. (equivalent) one, and
then review and evaluate the web-portfolio you've created over the course of the term.