Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies
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Amherst College Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies for 2012-13

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 Shandilya.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

104 Learning Conditions

(Offered as WAGS 104 and ENGL 104.)  In this course we will examine a broad variety of texts – novels and short fiction, academic essays and first person narratives – in order to critically analyze their points of view, arguments, opinions, biases, and omissions. Readings this semester will cluster around the topic of education in its broadest sense: as acts of discovery, moments of insight, and as ways of learning what a culture deems important. Authors will include Dorothy Canfield, Kazuo Ishiguro, Sarah Orne Jewett, Charles Johnson, James Joyce, Toni Morrison, Flannery O’Connor, Ngugi wa Thiong’o. This is a writing intensive course with weekly assignments.

Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Barale.

2015-16: Not offered

105 Women, Gender and Popular Culture

We will examine some of the most challenging issues about women and gender in our contemporary postmodern world, through the lens of popular culture.  We will investigate representations of women in popular and material culture in the U.S. through music, television, blogs, fiction, and advertisements.  As we interrogate some of the major theories in cultural criticism, we will use our own expertise as consumers of popular culture as an entryway for exploring the diverse roles mass-mediated popular culture plays in our lives.  Several questions shape the syllabus and provide a framework for approaching the course materials: How do familiar aspects of popular culture reveal broader cultural concerns about women and gender?  In what ways does popular culture blur the boundaries between the highbrow and the lowbrow?  What kinds of fears or anxieties about women and gender does popular culture elicit and how do we negotiate those anxieties?  Expectations include diligent reading, active participation, one presentation, two exams, and two writing projects.

Limited to 25 students.  Fall semester.  Visiting Professor Henderson.

2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2015

112 New Women in America

(Offered as ENGL 153 and WAGS 112.)  This course will examine the emergence of the “New Woman” as a category of social theory, political action, and literary representation at the turning of the twentieth century.  Early readings will trace the origins of the New Woman as a response to nineteenth-century notions of “True Womanhood.”  Discussions will situate literary representations of women in larger cultural events taking place during the Progressive Era–debates over suffrage as well as their relationship to issues of citizenship, immigration, Jim Crow segregation, urbanization, and nativism.  The course will focus on texts written by a diverse group of women that present multiple and, at times, conflicting images of the New Woman.  Close attention will be paid to the manner in which these women writers constructed their fictions, particularly to issues of language, style, and form.  Readings will include texts by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, Pauline Hopkins, Anzia Yezierska, and Sui Sin Far.

Preference given to first-year students and sophomores.  Limited to 15 students.  Omitted 2012-13.  Visiting Lecturer Bergoffen.

2015-16: Not offered

113 Art From the Realm of Dreams

(Offered as ARHA 146, EUST 146, and WAGS 113.)  We begin with a long-standing Spanish obsession with dreams, analyzing images and texts by Calderón, Quevedo and Goya. We next will consider a range of dream workers from a range of cultures, centuries, and disciplines--among them Apollinaire, Freud, Breton, Dalí, Carrington, and Kahlo--as well as others working around the globe in our own time.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Staller.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

123 Greek Civilization

(Offered as CLAS 123 and WAGS 123.)  We read in English the major authors from Homer in the 8th century BCE to Plato in the 4th century in order to trace the emergence of epic, lyric poetry, tragedy, comedy, history, and philosophy. How did the Greek enlightenment, and through it Western culture, emerge from a few generations of people moving around a rocky archipelago? How did oral and mythological traditions develop into various forms of “rationality”: science, history, and philosophy? What are the implications of male control over public and private life and the written record? What can be inferred about ancient women if they cannot speak for themselves in the texts?  Other authors include Sappho, Herodotus, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, and Thucydides.  The course seeks to develop the skills of close reading and persuasive argumentation. Three class hours per week. 

Spring semester.  Professor Griffiths.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2015

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. Texts include feminist philosopher Judith Butler's Gender Trouble, anthropologist Kamala Visweswaran's Fictions of Feminist Ethnography, and feminist economist Bina Agarwal's The Structure of Patriarchy.

Spring semester. Professor Shandilya.

2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

201 Feminism, Gender and Science

This course introduces the burgeoning field of feminist science and technology studies.  How should we theorize the relationship between race, gender, sexuality and the sciences?  How has science grown to be the center of our cultural visions and imaginations and what does that mean for our futures?  Drawing on the literature of the history, sociology and philosophy of science the course first examines some of the foundational theories pertaining to feminism, gender and science. Then, using examples from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it looks at the way science and technology are embedded within a social and historical context.  Finally, the course examines a series of modern debates and case studies relating to claims about biological differences of gender, race and sexuality, genetic technologies, reproductive biology and technologies, eugenics, environmental feminism, alternate energy, climate change, and women’s health.  Students will have flexibility in picking case studies that interest them.  This is a discussion course and students are expected to participate. One class meeting per week.

Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Subramaniam.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013

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

(Offered as WAGS 202  and BLST 242 [US].) Why does love and courtship continue to be a central concern in black women's literature and contemporary black popular culture?  Do these thematic issues signal apolitical yearnings or an allegory for political subjectivity?  We will draw on a literature, music, magazines, and film to examine what gender, race, class, and sexuality reveal about the politics of love and courtship.  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 courtship and marriage and connect them to black women's literature and black feminist literary theory.  Authors and texts covered will range from Nella Larsen and Toni Morrison to Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige. Writing Attentive. Limited to 20 students.  Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor.

Limited to 20 students.  Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Henderson.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

203 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

(Offered as BLST 203 [D] and WAGS 203.) This course focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first century texts by black women writers based in Africa and the Americas. We will consider the stylistic choices that these women writers make in response to the broad range of challenges confronting them within the modern and postcolonial contexts in which they write.  The reading list varies from year to year.  This year we will read works by Edwidge Danicat, Marie Elena John, Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Adichie and Suzan-Lori Parks.

Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Bailey.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

204 Queering the History of the Body in Empire, c. 1750-1950

Whether by categorising and experimenting on bodies, criminalising and incarcerating them or exoticising and desiring them, European imperial power operated through the body.  This course looks at how Western European empires constructed and governed colonised bodies both "at home" and in the colonies.  The course charts the ways in which ideas of masculinity, femininity and able-bodiedness changed as a result of colonial encounter.  It looks at a number of case studies, including the history of an enslaved South African woman, Sarah Baartman, who in life and death was displayed in Britain and France as the "Hottentot Venus." The course explores and discusses controversial questions in historical perspective, for example the practice of female circumcision (also referred to as female genital mutilation) during the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s.  Using queer, post-colonial and feminist theory, this class explores how changing constructions of race, class, disability and gender were used as a tool of imperial governance.  Two class meetings per week.

Fall semester. Visiting Professor Gust.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

205 The Dao of Sex: Sexuality in China, Past and Present

(Offered as ASLC 328 [C] and WAGS 205.) This survey course will focus on sexual culture in China, from pre-Qin times to the present. Using various sources such as ancient medical texts, Daoist manuals, court poetry and Confucian classics, paintings and illustrated books, movies and documentaries, as well as modern and pre-modern fiction written both in the classic and vernacular languages, we will explore notions of sex, sexuality, and desire. Through the lens of cultural history and gender studies, we will try to reconstruct the genealogy of the discourses centered around sex that developed in China, at all levels of society, throughout 5,000 years. Among the topics covered will be sexual yoga, prostitution, pornography, and sex-tourism.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Priority given to Asian Studies and WAGS majors. Others admitted to balance by class year and major. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Zamperini.

2015-16: Not offered

206 Women and Art in Early Modern Europe

(Offered as ARHA 284, EUST 284, and WAGS 206.) This course will examine the ways in which prevailing ideas about women and gender-shaped visual imagery, and how these images influenced ideas concerning women from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. It will adopt a comparative perspective, both by identifying regional differences among European nations and tracing changes over time. In addition to considering patronage of art by women and works by women artists, we will look at the depiction of women heroes such as Judith; the portrayal of women rulers, including Elizabeth I and Marie de' Medici; and the imagery of rape. Topics emerging from these categories of art include biological theories about women; humanist defenses of women; the relationship between the exercise of political power and sexuality; differing attitudes toward women in Catholic and Protestant art; and feminine ideals of beauty.

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2012-13.  Professor Courtright.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2012, Fall 2014

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

(Offered as WAGS 207 and POSC 207 [SC - starting with the Class of 2015].) 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? Texts will include Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown, Ram Gopal Varma’s epic film Sarkar and Partha Chatterjee’s The Nation and Its Fragments.

Spring semester.. Professors Basu and Shandilya.

2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2015

224 Gender Labor

In this course we will explore the intimate relations of gender and labor: both the necessary labor of genders’ production as well as the gendered organization of labor itself. In general the course will use gender to focus on contemporary concerns in the American workplace--class, ethnicity, sexuality, and race--but will also make critical comparisons with developments in other nations. The biological labor of reproduction and its intersection with the labor of production will necessarily be a constant concern in our discussions. We shall have to become familiar with certain terms: glass ceiling, glass escalator, mommy-track, affirmative action, child care, sexual harassment, welfare to workfare. We certainly might want to ask what constitutes work? But we also might need to wonder if work is done for love, is it still work?

Omitted 2012-13.

2015-16: Not offered

226 Women and the Law in Cross-Cultural Perspective

Historically the law has functioned as much to differentiate women from men as to assert their similarities. This course will explore the variety of types of laws (natural law, religious law, statute law, customary law, and the like) that have been used to regulate women’s lives and try to assess the philosophies that lie behind them. Family law, especially where it pertains to marriage, divorce, married women’s property, domestic assault, custody, and so forth, will receive special attention through a comparison of Western European and American legal traditions with Muslim shari’a law, both in the past and the present. The course will look closely at the law and law enforcement as they pertain to female sexuality, and assess issues to do with women criminals as well as women as victims of specific types of criminal acts such as rape. It will examine what happens to women when (a) legal structures break down, as in war, and (b) when “the law” becomes a tool of racial, ethnic, religious, sexual or gender repression. Finally, it will address the extent to which “changing the law” succeeds as a strategy for empowering women by looking at several key legal campaigns involving women in both Western and non-Western settings.

Sources will include religious writing (such as the Book of Leviticus from the Bible and the second and fourth surahs of the Qur’an), transcripts of court cases from a variety of times and places, historical writings on adultery and prostitution, biographical accounts of female criminals, and contemporary discussions in various media pertaining to the human rights of women and sexual minorities. Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2012-2013. Professor Hunt.

2015-16: Not offered

228 Feminist Performance

(Offered as THDA 228 and WAGS 228.)  The Women’s Liberation Movement dramatically affected the American social and intellectual climate of the 1970s. In art, as in education, medicine, and politics, women sought equality and economic parity as they actively fought against the mainstream values that had been used to exclude them.  Performance art proved to be an ideal match for the feminist agenda--it was personal, immediate, and highly effective in communicating an alternate view of power in the world. Artists explored autobiography, the female body, myth, and politics, and played a crucial role in developing and expanding the very nature of performance, consciously uniting the agendas of social politics with art. This class will take us from Yoko Ono’s performances of "Cut Piece" and the Judson Dance Theater's proto-feminist experiments of the 1960s to the radical guerilla-style performances of the 1970s and beyond, where the body was the contested site for debates about the nature of gender, ethnicity and sexuality. We will be looking at works that were not polite demands for legislative change, but raw and sloppy theatrical displays and ecstatic bonding experiences that managed to be at once satirical and celebratory, alienating and illuminating.

Fall semester.  Five College Dance Professor Valis-Hill.


2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

232 Women Writers of Spain

(Offered as SPAN 232 and WAGS 232.) Twentieth-century Spanish women writers have carved out a particular niche in the canon of Spanish literature. Often envisioned as a single entity, they have distinguished themselves as individual writers, just as their male counterparts have. In reading contemporary novels, short fiction, essays and poetry authored by women, this course will consider how one defines an escritura femenina in Spain and what, if anything, differentiates the escritura femenina as a gendered space from other modes of writing. Conducted in Spanish.

Requisite: SPAN 199, 211 or 212 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students.  Omitted 2012-13. Professor Brenneis.

2015-16: Not offered

235 Other Shakespeares: Gender, Race and Sexuality

Why do we still read Shakespeare? What relevance does Shakespeare have for us today? In this course we will think through explorations of gender, race, caste and sexuality in modern-day adaptations of Shakespearean texts and continued need to engage with Shakespeare in the present-day. We will draw on a wide variety of both filmic and literary texts from across the world. Texts will range from Merchant Ivory’s Shakespeare Wallah to South African activist-novelist Nadine Gordimer’s My Son’s Story and South Asian feminist poet Suniti Namjoshi’s Snapshots of Caliban. Students are required to be familiar with Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Othello, The Merchant of Venice, and Macbeth.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2012-13.  Professor Shandilya.


2015-16: Not offered

237 Gender and Work

(Offered as SOCI 237 and WAGS 237.)  How has the rise of working women complicated modern workplaces and the idea of work? One challenge is how to value women’s work fairly. One index of this challenge is that in workplaces across the world, women earn significantly less than men and are underrepresented in high status positions. What explains such gender gaps in the workplace? Taking an empirical, social-science perspective, this course will discuss three main aspects of gender and work. First, we will cover major theories of gender inequality, such as psychological stereotyping, social exclusion, structural barriers, and gendered socialization. Second, in learning about the sociological mechanisms of inequality in the workplace, we will expand our discussion to women’s work in the family and examine how the conflicts individuals face when trying to have both career and family influence women’s lives. Finally, we will discuss the mixed results of public policies proposed to reduce gender inequality and work-family incompatibilities and the possible reasons for those mixed results.

Limited to 20 students.  Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Mun.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014

239 Women in Judaism

(Offered as RELI 261 and WAGS 239.) A study of the portrayal of women in Jewish tradition. Readings will include biblical and apocryphal texts; Rabbinic legal (halakic) and non-legal (aggadic) material; selections from medieval commentaries; letters, diaries, and autobiographies written by Jewish women of various periods and settings; and works of fiction and non-fiction concerning the woman in modern Judaism. Employing an inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural approach, we will examine not only the actual roles played by women in particular historical periods and cultural contexts, but also the roles they assume in traditional literary patterns and religious symbol systems.

Omitted 2012-13. Professor Niditch.

2015-16: Not offered

240 Flowers in the Mirror: Writing Women in Chinese Literature

(Offered as ASLC 240 [C] and WAGS 240.)  The focus of this course will be the study of sources authored by women throughout the course of Chinese history. We will deal with a wide range of material, from poetry to drama, from novels and short stories to nüshu (the secret script invented by peasant women in a remote area of Hunan province), from literary autobiographies to cinematic discourse. We will address the issue of women as others represent them and women as they portray themselves in terms of gender, sexuality, social class, power, family, and material culture. Focusing on issues such as foot-binding, sexuality, violence, and love, in the works of writers such as Li Qingzhao and Zhang Ailing, we will try to detect the presence and absence of female voices in the literature of different historical periods, and to understand how those literary works relate to male-authored literary works. In addition to primary sources, we will integrate theoretical work in the field of pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Chinese literature and culture.

Fall semester.  Professor Zamperini.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2012

241 Fact or Fiction: Representations of Latina and Latin-American Women in Film and Literature

(Offered as SPAN 240 and WAGS 241) From La Malinche (sixteenth century) to J Lo, Latin American and Latina women have been sexualized, demonized, objectified, and even erased by narrative and visual representations. Feminist texts have interrogated and complicated sexist and stereotypical master narratives; yet, a tension remains that repeatedly places women of color on a complex stage.  In this class we will analyze the discrepancies and convergences between fictional representations of Latin American and Latina lives and their personal stories of survival, assimilation, success, and economically driven daily negotiations to make ends meet in an increasingly globalized economy. We will examine myths of femininity and beauty, learn about the conditions of sex work in the Caribbean, and explore U.S. policies such as the Good Neighbor Policy to think critically about representations of women in Latin America and the U.S.  Conducted in Spanish.

Requisite: SPAN 199, 211 or 212 or consent of the instructor.  Limited to 15 students.  Fall semester. Professor Suarez.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2014

244 Global Women's Activism

(Offered as WAGS 244 and POSC 244 [SC - starting with the Class of 2015].) Globally as well as locally, women are claiming a new voice in civil society by spearheading both egalitarian movements for social change and reactionary movements which would restore them to putatively traditional roles. They are prominent in local level community-based struggles but also in women’s movements, perhaps the most international movements in the world today. This course will explore the varied expressions of women’s activism at the grass roots, national and transnational levels. How is it influenced by the intervention of the state and international agencies? How is it affected by globalization? Among the issues and movements which we will address are struggles to redefine women’s rights as human rights, women’s activism in religious nationalism, the international gay-lesbian movement, welfare rights activism, responses to state regulation, and campaigns around domestic violence. Our understanding of women’s activism is informed by a richly comparative perspective and attention to cases from diverse regions of the world.

Omitted 2012-13. Professor Basu.

2015-16: Not offered

252 Women's History, America: 1607-1865

(Offered as HIST 252 [USP] and WAGS 252.) This course looks at the experiences of Native American, European and African women from the colonial period through the Civil War. The course will explore economic change over time and its impact on women, family structure, and work. It will also consider varieties of Christianity, the First and Second Awakenings and their consequences for various groups of women. Through secondary and primary sources and discussions students will look at changing educational and cultural opportunities for some women, the forces creating antebellum reform movements, especially abolition and feminism, and women’s participation in the Civil War. Two class meetings per week.

Fall semester.  Professor Saxton.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

253 Women's History, America: 1865 to Present

(Offered as HIST 253 [US] and WAGS 253.) This course begins with an examination of the experience of women from different racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds during Reconstruction. It will look at changes in family life as a result of increasing industrialization and the westward movement of settler families, and will also look at the settlers’ impact on Native American women and families. Topics will include the work and familial experiences of immigrant women (including Irish, Polish, and Italian), women’s reform movements (particularly suffrage, temperance, and anti-lynching), the expansion of educational opportunities, and the origins and programs of the Progressives. The course will examine the agitation for suffrage and the subsequent splits among feminists, women’s experiences in the labor force, and participation in the world wars. Finally, we will look at the origins of the Second Wave and its struggles to transcend its white middle-class origins, the challenges working mothers face in contemporary society, and women's experience with the criminal justice system. Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2012-13. Professor Saxton.

2015-16: Not offered

300 Ideas and Methods in the Study of Gender

This seminar will explore the influence of gender studies and of feminism on our research questions, methods and the way we situate ourselves in relationship to our scholarship. For example, how can we employ ethnography, textual analysis, empirical data and archival sources in studying the complex ties between the local and the global, and the national and the transnational? Which ideas and methods are best suited to analyzing the varied forms of women’s resistance across ideological, class, racial and national differences? Our major goal will be to foster students' critical skills as inter-disciplinary, cross cultural writers and researchers. This course counts as a proseminar designed for juniors and seniors in WAGS.

Requisite: WAGS 100 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Not open to first-year students. Spring semester. Professor Hunt.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014

309 Early Spanish American Women Writers

(Offered as SPAN 385 and WAGS 309.) [RC] In this course we will study the writings of women of Spanish America from 1556 to the end of the 19thcentury, focusing on writers who came from Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, Peru and Colombia.  Their writings cover the colonial period as well as that of post-independence, and trace the ever-strengthening role of the female voice in Spanish American literature.  There are the voices of an early settler in Argentina and Paraguay, three nuns (Catalina de Erauso, transvestite and soldier; the incomparable Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz; and the visionary Madre Castillo) followed by an important group of 19thcentury women who were finally able to make a living by their pen. The most famous of these is Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, who wrote the first antislavery novel of the Americas, eleven years ahead of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Most of them knew and supported each other by ties of friendship and a strong professional network.  In all of these voices one will hear articulated the desire for the right to express themselves as women and to be heard in a field that was decidedly masculine and often hostile to their efforts.  Conducted in Spanish.

Requisite:  SPAN 199, 211 or 212 or consent of the instructor.  Limited to 15 students.  Omitted 2012-13. 

2015-16: Not offered

310 Witches, Vampires and Other Monsters

(Offered as ARHA 385, EUST 385, and WAGS 310.) This course will explore the construction of the monstrous, over cultures, centuries and disciplines. With the greatest possible historical and cultural specificity, we will investigate the varied forms of monstrous creatures, their putative powers, and the explanations given for their existence-as we attempt to articulate the kindred qualities they share. Among the artists to be considered are Valdés Leal, Velázquez, Goya, Munch, Ensor, Redon, Nolde, Picasso, Dalí, Kiki Smith, and Cindy Sherman. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Staller.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

312 Queer Geographies

This course will critically examine multiple works by three writers: Sarah Orne Jewett, Willa Cather, and Carson McCullers.  As American regional writers--Jewett, Maine; Cather, the West;  McCullers, the South--all three concern themselves with insiders and outsiders, with foreigners, neighbors, strangers, and natives. When these deeply national, and often highly racial or ethnic, distinctions begin to also make sense as sexual and gender categories, the textual layering of the narratives becomes perplexing. This course will require three short papers and one lengthy one.  

Requisite: One WAGS and/or English course. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Barale.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013

313 Fashion Matters: Clothes, Bodies and Consumption in East Asia

(Offered as ASLC 329 and WAGS 313.) This course will focus on both the historical and cultural development of fashion, clothing and consumption in East Asia, with a special focus on China and Japan. Using a variety of sources, from fiction to art, from legal codes to advertisements, we will study both actual garments created and worn in society throughout history, as well as the ways in which they inform the social characterization of class, ethnicity, nationality, and gender attributed to fashion. Among the topics we will analyze in this sense will be hairstyle, foot-binding and, in a deeper sense, bodily practices that inform most fashion-related discourses in East Asia. We will also think through the issue of fashion consumption as an often-contested site of modernity, especially in relationship to the issue of globalization and world-market. Thus we will also include a discussion of international fashion designers, along with analysis of phenomena such as sweatshops.

Limited to 20 students.  Priority given to ASLC and WAGS majors. Others admitted to balance by class year and major. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Zamperini.

2015-16: Not offered

326 Enlightening Passion: Sexuality and Gender in Tibetan Buddhism

(Offered as ASLC 326, RELI 326 and WAGS 326.)  In this course we will study the lives of prominent female teachers in Tibetan Buddhism from its inception up to the present day. Our focus will be on reconstructing the narratives of the trajectories to realization that women like Yedshe Tsogyal, Mandarava, Yid Thogma, Machig Labdron, Sera Khandro, and Ayu Khandro, among others, undertook, often at high personal and societal cost. By utilizing biographical and--as much as possible--autobiographical records (in English translation), we will analyze the religious and social aspects of these women’s choice to privilege the Vajarayana path to enlightenment, often (but not always), at the expense of more conventional and accepted lifestyles. In order to do so, we will explore in depth the meanings attached to femininity, masculinity, sexuality, and gender dynamics within Tibetan monastic and lay life.

The course will combine methodology from Buddhist studies, Tibetan studies, women and gender studies, critical theory, and literary criticism in an effort to unravel and explore the complex negotiations that Buddhist female teachers engaged in during their spiritual pursuit, in the context of traditional as well as contemporary Tibetan culture.

Recommended requisite:  Previous knowledge of Tibetan culture and Buddhism.  Spring semester.  Professor Zamperini.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013

330 Black Sexualities

(Offered as BLST 236 [US] and WAGS 330)  From the modern era to the contemporary moment, the intersection of race, gender, and class has been especially salient for people of African descent—for men as well as for women. How might the category of sexuality act as an additional optic through which to view and reframe contemporary and historical debates concerning the construction of black identity? In what ways have traditional understandings of masculinity and femininity contributed to an understanding of African American life and culture as invariably heterosexual? How have black lesbian, gay, and transgendered persons effected political change through their theoretical articulations of identity, difference, and power? In this interdisciplinary course, we will address these questions through an examination of the complex roles gender and sexuality play in the lives of people of African descent. Remaining attentive to the ways black people have claimed social and sexual agency in spite of systemic modes of inequality, we will engage with critical race theory, black feminist thought, queer-of-color critique, literature, art, film, “new media” and erotica, as well as scholarship from anthropology, sociology, and history.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Polk.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

352 Proseminar: Images of Sickness and Healing

(Offered as ARHA 352, EUST 352 and WAGS 352.)  In this research seminar, we will explore how sickness and healing were understood, taking examples over centuries.  We will analyze attitudes toward bodies, sexuality, and deviance--toward physical and spiritual suffering--as we analyze dreams of cures and transcendence.  We will interrogate works by artists such as Grünewald, Goya, Géricault, Munch, Ensor, Van Gogh, Schiele, Cornell and Picasso, as well as images by artists in our own time: Kiki Smith, the AIDS quilt, Nicolas Nixon, Hannah Wilke, and others. Texts by Edgar Allen Poe, Sander Gilman, Roy Porter, Susan Sontag, Thomas Laquer and Caroline Walker Bynum will inspire us as well. Significant research projects with presentations in class. Two class meetings per week. 

Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Staller.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

354 Antebellum Culture: North and South

(Offered as HIST  454 [US] and WAGS 354.)  This research seminar will be focused on the development of family life and law, religion, and literature in the pre-Civil War North and South.  Students will read material on childrearing practices and the production of gender; conventions of romantic love; the customs and legalities of marriage, parenthood, and divorce; social and geographic mobility; the emergence of the novel, magazines and newspapers; and the role and shape of violence in the North and South. We will discuss contrasts in these developments, many resulting from the strengthening southern commitment to race-based slavery. We will look at these trends through the growth of a national,  white Protestant middle class and at the ways in which members of other groups adopted, rejected, or created alternatives to them. Readings will include secondary and primary sources including memoirs, novels, short stories, essays and diary entries. Students will write one twenty-page essay based on original research.

Not open to first-year students.  Limited to 15 students. Fall semester.  Professor Saxton.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

362 Women in the Middle East

(Offered as HIST 397 [ME], ASLC 363 [WA], and WAGS 362.) The course examines the major developments, themes and issues in woman’s history in the Middle East. The first segment of the course concerns the early Islamic period and discusses the impact of the Quran on the status of women, the development of Islamic religious traditions and Islamic law. Questions concerning the historiography of this “formative” period of Islamic history, as well as hermeneutics of the Quran will be the focus of this segment. The second segment of the course concerns the 19th- and 20th-century Middle East. We will investigate the emergence and development of the “woman question,” the role of gender in the construction of Middle Eastern nationalisms, women’s political participation, and the debates concerning the connections between women, gender, and religious and cultural traditions. The third segment of the course concerns the contemporary Middle East, and investigates new developments and emerging trends of women’s political, social and religious activism in different countries. The course will provide a familiarity with the major primary texts concerning women and the study of women in the Middle East, as well as with the debates concerning the interpretation of texts, law, religion, and history in the shaping of women’s status and concerns in the Middle East today. This class is conducted as a seminar. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted  2012-13. Professor Ringer.

2015-16: Not offered

366 Mother India: Reading Gender and Nation in South Asia

(Offered as WAGS 366, ASLC 351, and FAMS 325.)  Do you often wonder why some countries are referred to as the “motherland” and others as the “fatherland”? What and who decides how we refer to a country? In this course, we will examine seismic changes over time in gendered imaginings of the Indian subcontinent. As women stepped out of the domestic sphere to participate in the nationalist struggle of the late 19th century, the idea of the nation swayed dramatically between the nation as wife and the nation as mother in the Indian popular imagination. Readings will include novels such as Rabindranath Tagore’s Home and the World and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. We will also study a range of cinematic texts from the classic Mother India to the recent feminist film Silent Waters.

Limited to 20 students.  Omitted 2012-13.  Professor Shandilya.

2015-16: Not offered

367 After Midnight’s Children: Gender, Genre and the Contemporary South Asian Novel

The publication of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children in 1981 produced a radical change in the way that gender and genre were tackled in the South Asian novel. Writers in the post-Rushdie era experimented with genres such as magical realism, the postcolonial science fiction thriller and the postmodern spy novel to re-imagine the nation’s construction of gendered subjects. This course looks at the intersection of gender and genre in the work of Rushdie himself, namely his Midnight’s Children and The Moor’s Last Sigh among others, as well as Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines and Calcutta Chromosome, and Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games, Red Earth and Pouring Rain. Through a close reading of the fiction of these writers, literary theory on genre and gender, as well as feminist theory we will examine a range of topics such as the mapping of woman onto nation, the transgendered cyborg body as citizen of the nation and the production of masculinity through state-sponsored violence among others. 

Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Shandilya.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

371 Film, Myth, and the Law

(Offered as LJST 352 and FAMS 371.)  (Analytic Seminar) The proliferation of law in film and on television has expanded the sphere of legal life itself. Law lives in images that today saturate our culture and have a power all their own, and the moving image provides a domain in which legal power operates independently of law’s formal institutions. This course will consider what happens when legal events are re-narrated in film and examine film’s treatment of legal officials, events, and institutions (e.g., police, lawyers, judges, trials, executions, prisons). Does film open up new possibilities of judgment, model new modes of interpretation, and provide new insights into law’s violence? We will discuss ways in which myths about law are reproduced and contested in film. Moreover, attending to the visual dimensions of law’s imagined lives, we ask whether law provides a template for film spectatorship, positioning viewers as detectives and as jurors, and whether film, in turn, sponsors a distinctive visual aesthetics of law. Among the films we may consider are Inherit the Wind, Call Northside 777, Judgment at Nuremberg, Rear Window, Silence of the Lambs, A Question of Silence, The Sweet Hereafter, Dead Man Walking, Basic Instinct, and Unforgiven. Throughout we will draw upon film theory and criticism as well as the scholarly literature on law, myth, and film.

The Professor aims to admit a mix of students from different classes and with backgrounds in Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought and in other fields, in order to foster a rich interdisciplinary conversation.

Requisite: LJST 101 or 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Sarat.

2015-16: Not offered

467 Social Movements, Civil Society and Democracy in India

(Offered as POSC 467 [CP] [SC starting with the class of 2015] and WAGS 467) The goal of this seminar is illuminate the complex character of social movements and civil society organizations and their vital influence on Indian democracy. Social movements have strengthened democratic processes by forming or allying with political parties and thereby contributed to the growth of a multi-party system. They have increased the political power of previously marginalized and underprivileged groups and pressured the state to address social inequalities. However conservative religious movements and civil society organizations have threatened minority rights and undermined secular, democratic principles. During the semester, we will interact through internet technology with students, scholars and community organizers in India. This seminar counts as an advanced seminar in Political Science.

Requisite: Prior course work in Political Science. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 15 students.  Omitted 2012-13. Professor Basu.


2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2014

468 Globalization, Social Movements and Human Rights

(Offered as POSC 468 [CP, IR] and WAGS 468.) [SC - starting with the Class of 2015] This seminar will explore the changing trajectories of social movements amidst economic, political and cultural globalization. Social movements have organized in opposition to the environmental destruction, increased class inequalities and diminished accountability of nation states that have often accompanied the global spread of capitalism. Globalization from above has given rise to globalization from below as activists have organized transnationally, employing new technologies of communication and appealing to universal human rights. However, in organizing transnationally and appealing to universal principles, activists may find their energies displaced from local to transnational arenas, from substantive to procedural inequalities, and from grass roots activism to routinized activity within the judicial process. We will consider the extent to which globalization heightens divisions between universalistic and particularistic movements or contributes to the creation of a global civil society which can protect and extend human rights. We will examine women’s movements, environmental movements, and democracy movements in several regions of the world. This course fulfills the requirement of an advanced seminar in Political Science.

Requisite: One of POSC 213, 248, 311, 320,  413, or 474. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Basu.

2015-16: Not offered

469 South Asian Feminist Cinema

(Offered as WAGS 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 2012-13.  Professor Shandilya.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2014

483 Feminism and Film: A Study of Practice and Theory

(Offered as ENGL 483, FAMS 426, and WAGS 483.)  This seminar will be devoted to the study of feminism and film, considering the ways feminism has shaped both film theory and film practice.  Though focusing in large part on post-1968 writings, which largely ushered in semiotic, psychoanalytic, and feminist theory to film studies, we will also consider early writings by women from the 1910s-1950s in a range of venues–from fan magazines to film journals–that developed points of view regarding women’s practices as both artists and audience members.  We will also consider a range of films, from Hollywood melodrama (also known as “the women’s picture”) of the 1940s to contemporary action films, and from avant-garde feminist works to current independent and international films directed by women.  Informed by feminist film theorist Claire Johnston, we will explore how and when “women’s cinema”–whether theory or practice–constitutes or shapes “counter-cinema.”  One three-hour class meeting per week.

Requisite:  As an advanced seminar in film theory, some previous work with film and media studies is required.  Open to juniors and seniors.  Limited to 15 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Hastie.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

485 States of Poverty

(Offered as POSC 485 [AP, GP] and WAGS 485.) [SC - starting with the Class of 2015] In this course the students will examine the role of the modern welfare state in people’s everyday lives. We will study the historical growth and retrenchment of the modern welfare state in the United States and other Western democracies. The course will critically examine the ideologies of “dependency” and the role of the state as an agent of social control. In particular, we will study the ways in which state action has implications for gender identities. In this course we will analyze the construction of social problems linked to states of poverty, including hunger, homelessness, health care, disability, discrimination, and violence. We will ask how these conditions disproportionately affect the lives of women and children. We will take a broad view of the interventions of the welfare state by considering not only the impact of public assistance and social service programs, but the role of the police, family courts, therapeutic professionals, and schools in creating and responding to the conditions of impoverishment. The work of the seminar will culminate in the production of a research paper and students will be given the option of incorporating field work into the independent project. This course fulfills the requirement for an advanced seminar in Political Science.

Requisite: Some previous exposure to background material. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Bumiller.

2015-16: Not offered

490 Special Topics

Independent Reading Courses.

Fall and spring semester.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

495 Memory, Haunting, and Migration in Contemporary American Novels by Women

(Offered as ENGL 455 and WAGS 495.)  This course examines some of the many ways American authors have written about memory–memories of the past as well as of other places, about memories that refuse to be surfaced and memories that are at times not even of their protagonists’ own lives.  How, for instance, do writers portray the ways painful pasts have influenced their characters’ senses of self-identity?  What does it mean to suffer for a past whose details one does not even know?  Is a truth freeing, or does overcoming the hidden and silent increase memory’s burdens?  What are some of the possibilities and limitations of portraying traumatic experiences in the novel form?  And can “trauma” even mean the same thing across ethnic experiences?  With such questions in mind we will look specifically at novels concerned with two of the foundational experiences of American civilization, slavery and migration, and at the pervasive problems of longing, disjuncture, and displacement endemic to such experiences.  Authors we may read in this cross-cultural literature course include Maxine Hong Kingston, Edwidge Danticat, Gayl Jones, and Cynthia Ozick.

Limited to 15 students.  Omitted 2012-13.  Professor Parham.

2015-16: Not offered

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

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

Fall semester.

2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

Contact Information

Rick Griffiths, Chair 2014-15
306 Beneski
Campus Box 2238
SWAGS Office
55 College St. / 14 Grosvenor House
Campus Box 2257 / PO Box 5000
Amherst, MA 01002-5000
Phone 413-542-5781
Fax 413-542-8192
Stephanie Kvam
Academic Department Coordinator
14 Grosvenor House