English 590: Feminist Theory and Gender Studies

This course will examine debates from feminist theory and gender studies that offer some insight into the ways that gender has left its mark on literary history and culture. We will also actively engage with the questions facing feminist theory and womenís studies about the nature and possibility of the category "women."

Required Texts

Virgina Woolf, A Room of One'sOwn
Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics
Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism, ed. Warhol & Price-Herndl
Toni Morrison, Sula
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble
Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1
Frances Burney, Evelina
differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies (Women's Studies on the Edge, Fall 1997)


Framing the Questions

25 Introduction:  Scott, "Women's Studies on the Edge: Introduction" and Yee, "The 'Women' in Women's Studies,"(differences). Some on-line essays that pursue similar questions include: 30  Woolf, A Room of One'sOwn


1 A Room of One'sOwn, Alice Walker, "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens," ** Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics,introduction, The Body Beautiful (in class).

Reading response #1 due.

8 Moi, ch. 1-3, Gilbert and Gubar, "Infection in the Sentence," (F)

Feminism and/vs. Psychoanalysis

13  Moi, ch. 4, 5 Lacan from Feminine Sexuality,**
15  Lacan cont., Start Sula
Lacan can be a challenge.  The following sites may help a bit:
20 Sula, (Toni Morrison) Cixous, "Laugh of the Medusa," (F), Moi ch. 6. (Helene Cixous)
22 Kristeva, "Women's Time," (F) Moi ch. 8. (Julia Kristeva)

27 Irigaray, "This Sex Which is not One," (F) Moi ch. 7.  Pope and Swift poems, Salvaggio from
Enlightened Absence.**

29 Mulvey,  "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," (F) and "Afterthoughts"**.

Reading response #2 due.


4 Film TBA, Humm from Feminism and Film**.
6 Frankenstein, Sedgwick from Between Men (F).

11 Frankenstein, Collings, "The Monster and the Imaginary Mother."
13 Auslander, "Do Women's + Feminist + Men's + Lesbian and Gay + Queer Studies = Gender Studies?" (differences)  Butler, Gender Trouble, ch. 1.

Historical Considerations

18 Butler, Gender Trouble, ch. 2-3.(Judith Butler)
20 Butler, Gender Trouble and responses from The Psychic Life of Power, ** Garber, "Cross Dressing, Gender, and Representation: Elvis Presley"**

Reading response #3 due.

25 Belsey, "Constructing the Subject," (F) Scott, "Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis"**
27 Foucault, The History of Sexuality , vol. 1.


1 Foucault, History of Sexuality cont., Fielding, The Female Husband**
3 Finish History of Sexuality,  Fordyce, Gisborne, and Burney "Directions" excerpts (Evelina)

8 Evelina ,Newton, "Power and 'The Woman's Sphere,'" (F) excerpt from Pateman, The Sexual Contract.**
10 Evelina,Armstrong, "Some Call it Fiction" (F)

15 Evelina,McKeon, "Historicizing Patriarchy" **

Reading response #4 due

Class, Race, Nation

17 Donna Haraway, "A Manifesto for Cyborgs."**

22 Hennessey, "The Materiality of Discourse: Feminism and Post-Marxism."**
24 Barbara Smith "The Truth That Never Hurts: Black Lesbians in Fiction in the 1980's" (F) Elizabeth Abel, "Black Writing, White Reading: Race and the Politics of Feminist Interpretation." (F)  Morrison, "Recitatif"**

Prospectus due

29 Spivak, "Three Womenís Texts and a Critique of Imperialism." (F)


1  Mohanty, "What's Home Got to Do With It?" Sanchez, "Discourses of Gender, Ethnicity, and Class in Chicano Literature." (F)

6 Brown, "The Impossibility of Women's Studies," Martin, "Success and Its Failures" (differences)
8 "The Edge. Interview" (differences)

Course Requirements

The work that we will do together this semester depends on your active contribution to the class. Participating in class means showing up on time, being prepared to discuss the reading, and being willing to take part in class activities. I canít stress enough how important your participation is to your grade.  As part of your class participation, I encourage you to bring in items from newspapers, issues from other books you are reading, or images from popular culture that relate to the course materials. Weíll reserve a few minutes at the beginning of every class for this exchange of information.

The response papers may address any selection from the reading and any points from class discussion. The goal of the response is to explore an idea or text that interested you. These short, two-page papers will give you a chance to make a more composed response to the material and also help you feel your way toward a final paper topic. The final paper will be a place to synthesize ideas from the course and determine what you found most helpful in the range of theories we will survey. You will need to prepare a prospectus for the final paper and seek out at least one professional conference where you would like to present your work. Weíll discuss the paper in more detail as the end of the semester approaches, but my hope is that we can organize a small "mini-conference" at the end of the semester, a plan which is contingent on the size of the class.

To get you started on the first response paper, you might want to consider your own working definition of feminism and how that comes to bear on literature or writing about literature in your academic career. Examine some of the moments in texts from the first unit of the course that support your definition, as well as some that complicate your definition or simply donít fit it.

We will choose a film to study in September as a class. While I want to make sure that we have a sound project at hand, I am very interested in the films, past or current, that you find most relevant to issues of gender and sexuality.

Breakdown of the grading system:

Class participation:    30%
Reading responses:   40%
Final Paper:               30%


The following sites offer various kinds of information, all of which have the potential to be helpful. The content on these sites varies from time to time, so please let me know if you encounter technical problems or content errors.