Category-Play Day 1 (Aug 29)


I. set up internet w/ syllabus projection

II. packets to hand out: $30 apiece

III. circulate sign-up sheet (and forms?)--class of 25

IV. me first--category-making

V. then Jen--syllabus review


begin w/ introductions:

name yourself and  3 words (noun or adj.) that you use to identify yourself:

categories that are imp't to you, and that you are comfortable using


break into groups of 3: go up one level of abstraction--

what are the kinds of categories that we use to name ourselves?

draw site map on board: categories and # of entries inside it


what categories did we fail to use?

conventional 6:

race (ethniticy)/class/gender/religion/sexual orientation/disability


other categories more imp't than these?

why avoid some of these? (too imp't? too scary? too obvious?)

what proportion of the categories are visible/invisible?

what proportion of the categories do we occupy willingly/unwillingly?

what proportion are "natural," imposed?

what do the categories male/female,

man/woman, gender/sexuality signify?


what categories matter most,

when we discuss our identities and those of others?


why'd I do this?

get you thinking/doing something experiential

remind you that you know quite a bit already, from your life experience

that what you know is infinitely revisable, in exchange w/ others

and that there's been lots of interesting work done in these areas,

where we can learn more....


"gender" and "sex"--

2 categories most often used to categorize people,

fix them w/ expectations, oppress them for not meeting them


anyone doing work on sex and gender these days

thinks of those categories as imbricated in matters of race and class;

hot new topic (conference last Nov. on Language and the Deaf) is disability


decided arc of the course is that

we are category-making creatures

(given our neural networks/way we are wired,

we cannot but make categories--

reading for Wed's class to show us that....)

BUT also that we can revise categories

that may have been useful to our ancestors,

once upon a time, in a different era, different culture


we will use texts like Jeffrey Euginides' novel Middlesex,

Chris Ware's graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan,

Va. Woolf's essay-collection 3 Guineas

(which argues for the direct connection between

the need for women's colleges and peacemaking)

to really push the implications of this sort of

questioning of category-making:

why we need to do it/what trouble it gets us into.....


work next week will highlight the query,

What does the category "student"

look and sound like to each of us?

What might it look and sound like?


Jen will review whole semester's game plan...







A.        First, say a few words about the Gender/Sexuality program and how this course fits in


 --  program itself and recent name change:  illustrates politics of choosing what the ³category² is and what the label includes/excludes


-- that applies to the course as well: the challenge of ³covering² feminist scholarship across disciplines.  It¹s an overwhelming task.



B.        Our choices


ą  rather than trying to just cover a little of everything that is out there,  we have chosen a structuring theme -- as Anne said, that of ³categories² and category-making. Gender politics as a key example of a larger problem of category-building. As we¹ll see in reading for Thursday, there is something inevitable and human about making categories ­ so this is not going to be a course about how to abolish the constraining categories of gender altogether or see past them. 


Rather, we want to think critically about: not just the categories (gender, sexuality, race, etc.) that exist and their content, but also how we experience or come to know them, how they are performed in daily life, how they are sustained through practice/action/talk.


And to use all of this as a basis for asking another set of questions ­ ones we will all be asking ourselves and coming to our own conclusions about. How can we engage with these categories and how they shape people¹s lives, potentially change them?  Where do make our own political commitments?  This might mean activism, this might be as simple as taking the plunge to defend a controversial point in a paper for this class. 


(point to Thorne, Lesnick, Foucault, etc. on social/institutional contexts of category-making)



ą theme of ³work² and ³play²:  in our readings across disciplines, we return repeatedly to look at how gender categories ­ and other categories of identity (race, class, sexuality) - are maintained in contexts of work/labor and in play. 


(Thorne, Lesnick, Willis, Jimmy Corrigan, etc.)


But we also use these terms metaphorically:  to think about the seriousness and power involved in the most mundane acts of category-making;


Šbut also to keep in mind the ³play² of categories, their fluidity, the potential for tinkering with them or reinterpreting them.


***And it¹s a similar kind of approach we want to try to take to our discussions and writing for the course ­ it¹s serious stuff, but we want to encourage you to jump in, take a risk, see what people think, be open to revising and getting it closer to what you really wanted to convey the next time aroundŠ.

[we¹ll be reading some pieces and autocritiques: Ortner, Rosaldo on nature/culture and universal female subordination]




ą fields we cover:  include education, anthro, lit, bio, history; 


A few full novels/essays ­ Woolf, Middlesex, Jimmy Corrigan

Ethnography/social science ­ Thorne, Willis, Foucault

and more topics:  masculinity, sexuality, class, race as repeated themes ­ not just the category ³women²



The cross-discplinary approach is perhaps most visible and important in our readings on sexuality and sexual identity, when our readings range from the novel Middlesex to readings/talk from a visiting biologist to talk about biology of sexual identity


The approaches complement one another, coming from different angles at the same problems.



Indeed, part of the idea of having this course be co-taught is that we will have a constant conversation going, not just in readings themselves but also in how we approach the readings.  Anne and I have particular disciplinary commitments that come with strengths and with blinders, and inevitably we¹ll have different takes on things.  [**TALK ABOUT OUR BACKGROUNDS]


What this means that in this class perhaps more than most, there will not be one correct line on every question we¹ll be discussing Šwe hope that you will see here lots of space to jump into that conversation, to bring in your own emerging disciplinary commitments or political commitments, or just to float ideasŠ




ą AND:  we do plan to spend some time at the end of the semester talking about the ³feminist canon², or our ³feminist mothers² ­ Anne and I will be talking about some of the work that has influenced us, and you will review some classic works, report back on them.


We are trying to do a lot here, and we'll make adjustments along the way as/if it becomes necessary.




C.        Requirements


-- Sunday postings

--on-line posting of 3 papers ą idea of speaking to a public

--discuss 2nd paper in class, present third

--book project [Anne say more about how this has worked in past, the process?]

--the ³mothers² project


--**praxis option -- ANNE


--and a fun extra:  theater ­ talk about this requirement (in addition to some talks you are recommended to attend)