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Regulations & Requirements

Regulations & Requirements

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Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses

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Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies

Professors Barale, Basu (Chair), and Martin; Associate Professor Shandilya*; Assistant Professors Henderson*, Polk, and Sadjadi†.

*On leave 2017-18.

†On leave fall semester 2017-18.

On leave spring semester 2017-18.

Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies is an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural exploration of sexuality, gender, and their relationship. How are these categories constructed, understood, and reproduced in contemporary and past societies?  SWAGS is also an inquiry specifically into women’s material, cultural, and economic productions, their self-descriptions, and their collective undertakings.

Major Program. Students majoring in SWAGS are required to take a minimum of nine courses which must include SWAG 100 The Cross-Cultural Construction of Gender, SWAG 200 Feminist Theory, and SWAG 400 Contemporary Debates. The remaining electives may be chosen from SWAGS offerings. Other Amherst or Five College courses that address issues of sexuality, women, or gender may be counted toward the major only if approved by the SWAGS Department. Starting with students entering in the fall of 2015, at most three of the six elective courses may be taken outside of the SWAGS Department.

Senior majors not writing theses will satisfy the requirement for comprehensive assessment of the major  by 1) assembling a portfolio consisting of three papers written in courses for the SWAGS major; 2)  writing a five-page reflective essay on sexuality, women, and gender. The portfolio and its accompanying essay are to be submitted during the first week of April. Instructions will be distributed approximately two weeks before the due date.

Department Honors Program. In addition to the courses required for the major, students accepted as honors candidates will elect either SWAG 498D and 499 or 498 and 499D, depending on which option better accommodates the disciplines in the thesis project. The D designation indicates that a course offers double credit.

100 The Cross-Cultural Construction of Gender

This course introduces students to the issues involved in the social and historical construction of gender and gender roles from a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspective. Topics change from year-to-year and have included women and social change; male and female sexualities including homosexualities; the uses and limits of biology in explaining human gender differences; women’s participation in production and reproduction; the relationship among gender, race and class as intertwining oppressions; women, men and globalization; and gender and warfare.

Fall semester. Professor Barale.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2022

105 Women, Gender and Popular Culture

(Offered as SWAG 105 and  FAMS 377)  In this course, students will interrogate the precarious relationship between political and popular culture. As we study how politics has successfully deployed popular culture as an ideological tool, we will also consider how politics has overburdened popular culture as a vehicle of change. These broad issues will serve as our framework for analyzing black femininity, womanhood, and the efficacy of the word “feminism” in the post-Civil Rights era. We will think critically about the construction of gender, race, sexuality, and class identity as well as the historical and sociopolitical context for cultural icons and phenomena. Students will read cultural theory, essays, fiction as well as listen to, and watch various forms of media. Expectations include three writing/visual projects as well as a group presentation.

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Henderson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2019, Spring 2021

106 Realism

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019

111 Having Arguments

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

123 Greek Civilization

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2023

145 The Modern World

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2011, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019

155 Introduction to Dance Studies: Dance Performance and Theory

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Fall 2018

160 Sexualities in International Relations

Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

162 History of Sexuality in the U.S.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

200 Feminist Theory

In this course we will investigate contemporary feminist thought from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. We will focus on key issues in feminist theory, such as the sex/gender debate, sexual desire and the body, the political economy of gender, the creation of the "queer" as subject, and the construction of masculinity, among others. This course aims also to think through the ways in which these concerns intersect with issues of race, class, the environment and the nation.

Requisite: Open to first-year students who have taken SWAG 100 and upper-class students. Spring semester. Professor Sadjadi.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

202 Black Women's Narratives and Counternarratives: Love and the Family

(Offered as SWAG 202, BLST 242 [US], and ENGL 259) Why do love and courtship continue to be central concerns in black women's literature and contemporary black popular fiction? Are these thematic issues representative of apolitical yearnings or an allegory for political subjectivity? Drawing on a wide range of texts, we will examine the chasm between the "popular" and the literary, as we uncover how representations of love and courtship vary in both genres. Surveying the growing discourse in media outlets such as CNN and the Washington Post regarding the "crisis" of the single black woman, students will analyze the contentious public debates regarding black women and love and connect them to black women's literature and black feminist literary theory. Authors covered will range from Nella Larsen to Terry McMillan and topics will include gender, race, class, and sexuality.

Limited to 18 students. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Henderson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2016

203 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2024

206 Women and Art in Early Modern Europe

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2012, Fall 2014, Spring 2017, Spring 2021

207 The Home and the World: Women and Gender in South Asia

(Offered as SWAG 207, ASLC 207, and POSC 207 [SC]) This course will study South Asian women and gender through key texts in film, literature, history and politics. How did colonialism and nationalism challenge the distinctions between the “home” and the “world” and bring about partitions which splintered once shared cultural practices? What consequences did this have for postcolonial politics? How do ethnic conflicts, religious nationalisms and state repression challenge conceptions of home? How have migrations, globalization and diasporas complicated relations between the home and the world?

Omitted 2017-18. Professors Shandilya and Basu.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2019

208 Black Feminist Literary Traditions

(Offered as SWAG 208, BLST 345 [US], ENGL 276, and FAMS 379) Reading the work of black feminist literary theorists and black women writers, we will examine the construction of black female identity in American literature, with a specific focus on how black women writers negotiate race, gender, sexuality, and class in their work. In addition to reading novels, literary criticism, book reviews, and watching documentaries, we will examine the stakes of adaptation and mediation for black female-authored texts. Students will watch and analyze the film and television adaptations of The Color Purple (1985), The Women of Brewster Place (1989), and Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005) as well as examine how Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970) was mediated and interpreted by Oprah Winfrey’s book club and daytime talk show. Authors will include Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Gloria Naylor.  Writing Attentive. Expectations include three writing projects, a group presentation, and various in-class assignments.

Limited to 20 students. Priority given to those students who attend the first day of the class. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Henderson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

210 Anthropology of Sexuality

(Offered as SWAG 210 and ANTH 210) This course draws on anthropological literature to study the socio-cultural making of human sexuality and its variations. We will critically examine theories of sexuality as a domain of human experience and locate sexual acts, desires and relations in particular historical and cultural contexts. The course offers analytical tools to understand and evaluate different methods and approaches to the study of human sexuality.  We will examine the relation of sex to kinship/family, to reproduction and to romance. As we read about the bodily experience of sexual pleasure, we will explore how sexual taboos, norms and morality develop in various cultures and why sex acquires explosive political dimensions during certain historical periods. The course will explore the gendered and racial dimensions of human sexual experience in the context of class, nation and empire. How do class divisions produce different sexual cultures? What economies of sex are involved in sex work, marriage and immigration? What has been the role of sexuality in projects of nation building and in colonial encounters? When, where and how did sexuality become a matter of identity?  In addition to a focus on contemporary ethnographic studies of sexuality in various parts of the world, we will read theoretical and historical texts that have been influential in shaping the anthropological approaches to sexuality. We will also briefly address scientific theories of sexuality.  Two meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor Sadjadi.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015

220 Queer Theory and Practice

“Queer Theory and Practice” is an interdisciplinary methods course designed to complement the existing SWAG core sequence. Using theories and approaches from the discipline of performance studies, the explicit mission of the seminar is to acquaint students with the study of LGBT history, politics, and culture while also strengthening student research skills in four overlapping areas: archival research, close-reading, performance analysis, and community engagement-as-activism. Course activities include working in the Amherst College Frost Archives, the production of a performance piece, and structured engagement with contemporary LGBT activism in the Pioneer Valley and the larger world.

Requisite: SWAG 100 or similar Five College intro to gender and sexuality courses. Recommended requisite: SWAG 200, 300, 330, or 353.  Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Polk.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

224 The Century of Sex: Gender and Sexual Politics in Modern Europe

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018

238 Culture, Race, and Reproductive Health

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Fall 2018

246 Introduction to Black Girlhood Studies

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Spring 2019

279 Global Women's Literature

(Offered as SWAG 279, BLST 202, and ENGL 279) What do we mean by “women’s fiction”? How do we understand women’s genres in different national contexts? This course examines topics in feminist thought such as marriage, sexuality, desire and the home in novels written by women writers from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. We will draw on postcolonial literary theory, essays on transnational feminism and historical studies to situate our analyses of these novels. Texts include South African writer Nadine Gordimer’s My Son’s Story, Indian novelist Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss, and Caribbean author Shani Motoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor Shandilya.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2023

310 Witches, Vampires and Other Monsters

Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023

328 Science and Sexuality

This seminar explores the role of science in the understanding and making of human sexuality.  The notion of “sexuality”--its emergence and its recent history--has an intimate relation to biology, medicine and psychology.  In this course we explore the historical emergence of the scientific model of sexuality and the challenges to this model posed from other worldviews and social forces, mainly religion, social sciences, and political movements. We examine how sex has intersected with race and nationality in the medical model (for instance, in the notion of degeneration), and we look closely at the conceptualization of feminine and masculine sexual difference.  We briefly address studies of animal models for human sexuality, and we examine in more depth case histories of “perversion,” venereal disease, orgasm and sex hormones. We also compare contemporary biological explanations of sexuality with the nineteenth-century ones, for instance, the notion of the “gay gene” as compared to the hereditary model of “sexual inversion.” Course readings include historical and contemporary sexological and biological texts (Darwin, Freud, Kinsey, etc.), their critiques, and contemporary literature in science studies, including feminist and queer studies of science. This seminar requires active participation, reading an array of diverse and interdisciplinary texts and preparing research-based papers and presentations.

Limited to 15 students.  Omitted 2017-18. Professor Sadjadi.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016

329 Bad Black Women

(Offered as SWAG 329, BLST 377 [US], and ENGL 368) History has long valorized passive, obedient, and long-suffering black women alongside aggressive and outspoken black male leaders and activists.  This course provides an alternative narrative to this misrepresentation, as we will explore how “bad” is defined by one’s race, gender, class, and sexuality as well as how black women have transgressed the boundaries of what it means to be “good” in U.S. society. We will use an interdisciplinary perspective to examine why black women have used covert and explicit maneuvers to challenge the stereotypical “respectable” or “good” black woman and the various risks and rewards they incur for their “deviance.” Students should be aware that part of this course is “immersive” and consequently, students will participate in a master class that will explore how dance operates as a way to defy race, class, and gender norms.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Priority given to students who attend the first day of class. Writing Attentive. Limited to 18 students.  Expectations include a master dance class, three writing projects, a group presentation, and various in-class assignments. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Henderson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

330 Black Sexualities

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020

331 The Postcolonial Novel: Gender, Race and Empire

(Offered as SWAG 331 and ENGL 319) What is the novel? How do we know when a work of literature qualifies as a novel? In this course we will study the postcolonial novel which explodes the certainties of the European novel. Written in the aftermath of empire, these novels question race, class, gender and empire in their subject matter and narrative form. We will consider fiction from South Asia, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. Novels include South African writer J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and Caribbean novelist Dionne Brand’s In Another Place, Not Here.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor Shandilya.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020

335 Gender: An Anthropological Perspective

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018

339 Early Women Writers

Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Fall 2023

342 Women of Ill Repute: Prostitutes in Nineteenth-Century French Literature

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2015, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Spring 2023

345 Gender and Sexuality in Latin America

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2019, Spring 2021

347 Race, Sex, and Gender in the U.S. Military

Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2023, Fall 2023

353 Transgender Ethnographies

(Offered as ANTH 353 and SWAG 353) This course offers a cross-cultural study of gender transition and transgression. We will explore ethnographic studies of gender non-conforming lives in a variety of contexts around the world. Students will be encouraged to approach gender transition and gender non-conformity, and the role of the body in the production of sex and gender, through the synthesis of feminist, queer, and transgender theories. In addition to questions of appearance, body and identity, we will explore the social production of gendered roles, activities and relations across class, race, caste and religion. We will analyze the discursive and material conditions that have enabled the emergence of the category of “transgender” and its relation to other cultural categories of gender non-normative personhood. Finally, we will discuss the role of Western medical ideologies and technologies in shaping subjectivities as well as the convergence and divergence of medical diagnosis and identity. This seminar requires group student presentations during the semester and completion of an individual research project.

Requisite: SWAG 200 or its equivalent in gender and sexuality studies. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Sadjadi.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018

368 Willa Cather

In this course we will read Willa Cather's short fiction, essays, and novels with an eye to the role sexuality plays in her literary production. This course, aimed at juniors and seniors, is attentive to writing and speaking: there will be short papers, as well as a longer project that will be the subject of a class presentation.

Requisite: At least one course in gender and/or sexuality. Limited to 15 juniors and seniors. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Barale.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017

400 Contemporary Debates: Women and Right-Wing Populism

(Offered as SWAG 400 and POSC 407 [SC]) The topic will vary from year to year. A student may take this course more than once, providing only that the topic is not the same.  In fall 2017 this seminar will explore the consequences of neoliberalism, cultural conservatism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiments for women of different social and economic strata as well as women’s divergent political responses. Why have some women become prominent right wing leaders and activists while others have allied with leftist, anti-racist, and other progressive forces to fight for the rights of women and other marginalized groups? How have transnational forces influenced both forms of women’s activism? To what extent are there cross-national similarities in the impact of the far right surge on women, gender and sexuality? The seminar will draw on examples from many different regions of the world, with particular attention to India and the U.S. There will be a final research paper for this course.

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Basu.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

410 Epidemics and Society: Gender and HIV/AIDS

This seminar explores the gender dimension of the HIV epidemic in the U.S. and globally, and the role of socio-economic, political and biological factors in the shaping of the epidemic. This course encourages students to think about AIDS and other diseases politically, while remaining attentive to their bodily and social effects. We will engage with AIDS on various scales, from the virus and T cells to the transnational pharmaceutical industry, and from intimate sexual relations to the political economies of health care. We will consider the processes by which some groups of people become more vulnerable to the epidemic than others and we will read about the power dynamics involved in negotiations over condom use. Global processes that guide our investigation include the feminization of poverty, the neoliberal economic restructuring of health systems and the politics of scientific and medical research on AIDS. In addition, the course examines the role of social movements in responding to the epidemic.

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Sadjadi.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2015

452 The Earthly Paradise

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018

467 Social Movements, Civil Society and Democracy in India

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2017

469 South Asian Feminist Cinema

(Offered as SWAG 469, ASLC 452 [SA], and FAMS 322)  How do we define the word “feminism”? Can the term be used to define cinematic texts outside the Euro-American world? In this course we will study a range of issues that have been integral to feminist theory--the body, domesticity, same sex desire, gendered constructions of the nation, feminist utopias and dystopias--through a range of South Asian cinematic texts. Through our viewings and readings we will consider whether the term “feminist” can be applied to these texts, and we will experiment with new theoretical lenses for exploring these films. Films will range from Satyajit Ray’s classic masterpiece Charulata to Gurinder Chadha’s trendy diasporic film, Bend It Like Beckham. Attendance for screenings on Monday is compulsory.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Shandilya.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2019

490 Special Topics

Independent Reading Courses.

Fall and spring semester.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

498, 498D, 499, 499D Senior Departmental Honors

Open to senior majors in Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies who have received departmental approval.

Spring semester.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

Classical Civilization

138 Greek Drama

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2016, Fall 2019

Departmental Courses

239 Women in Judaism

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

Panoramic Introductions

232 Strange Girls: Spanish Women's Voices

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2016

Related Courses

- (Course not offered this year.)