Women's and Gender Studies
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Amherst College Sexuality, Women's & Gender Studies for 2013-14

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. Professors Saxton and Polk.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

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.  Omitted 2013-14.  Visiting Professor Henderson.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

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 2013-14.  Visiting Lecturer Bergoffen.

2014-15: 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.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

121 LGBT Perspectives in Popular Music

(Offered as MUSI 121 and WAGS 121.)  LGBT Perspectives in Popular Music is an introduction to the ways that LGBT people and members of other sexual minorities have participated in popular music as composers, performers, and crucial audiences. In this historical survey of the recorded repertory of (mostly) American popular song, students will acquaint themselves with music in a wide range of vernacular styles and explore the social, political, and aesthetic contexts within which they have appeared. Representative figures in this respect include blues singers like Bessie Smith or Billie Holiday; composers of standards and musicals, such as Cole Porter or Stephen Sondheim; and Post-Stonewall musicians from Alix Dobkin to Rufus Wainwright. The course is designed to be welcoming to non-majors, and knowledge of musical notation and technical vocabulary is not required to enroll.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Valentine Professor Morris.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

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. 

Omitted 2013-14.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2013

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 Sadjadi.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

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

(Offered as WAGS 202  and BLST 242 [US].)  Love, courtship, and putting a “ring on it” continue to be a central concern in African American women's literature and contemporary black popular culture.  Do these thematic issues around matrimony signal apolitical yearnings or an allegory for political subjectivity?  In this course we will examine what gender, race, class, and sexuality reveal about the politics of marriage and family.  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 love and marriage and connect them to black women's literature, culture, and black feminist literary theory. We will explore love and family through literature, music, film, documentary, and popular fiction.  Authors and texts covered will range from Nella Larsen to Ann Petry and Bessie Smith to Aretha Franklin. Writing Attentive. Expectations include diligent reading, active participation, two writing projects, weekly response papers, a group presentation, and various in-class assignments.

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

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

203 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

(Offered as Black Studies 203 [D] and WAGS 203.) The term "Women Writers" suggests, and perhaps assumes, a particular category.  How useful is this term in describing the writers we tend to include under the frame?  And further, how useful are the designations African and African Diaspora?  We will begin by critically examining these central questions, and revisit them frequently as we read specific texts and the body of works included in this course.  Our readings comprise a range of literary and scholarly works by canonical and more recent female writers from Africa, the Caribbean, and continental America.  Framed primarily by Postcolonial Criticism, our explorations will center on how writers treat historical and contemporary issues specifically connected to women's experiences, as well as other issues, such as globalization, modernity, and sexuality.  We will consider the continuities and points of departure between writers, periods, and regions, and explore the significance of the writers' stylistic choices. Here our emphasis will be on how writers appropriate vernacular and conventional modes of writing.

Spring semester.  Visiting lecturer Bailey.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014

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 2013-14.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2012

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 2013-14. Professor Courtright.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2012

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.

Omitted 2013-14. Professors Basu and Shandilya.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013

208 Black Feminist Literary Tradition

(Offered as WAGS 208 and BLST 345.)  Reading the work of black feminist literary theorists and black women writers, we will examine the construction of black female identity in American literature. How have black women writers negotiated race, gender, sexuality, and class in theory and in literature?  What are the fissures and continuities between black feminist literary theory and black women's writing? What was the relationship between black women’s literary tradition and the canon? Finally, how has that relationship changed over time? Authors will include Toni Morrison, Hazel Carby, Dorothy West, Barbara Christian, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Hortense Spillers among others.  Writing Attentive. Expectations include diligent reading, active participation, two writing projects, weekly response papers, a group presentation, and various in-class assignments.

Limited to 20 students.  Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Keiter Fellow and Visiting Professor Henderson.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

210 Anthropology of Sexuality

(Offered as WAGS 210 and ANTH 210.)  This course draws on anthropological literature to study the socio-cultural making of human sexuality and its variations, including theories of sexuality as a domain of human experience. It seeks to critically examine some of the most intimate and often taken-for-granted aspects of human life 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 culture? 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.

Fall semester. Professor Sadjadi.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

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.

Omitted 2013-14.

 

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

229 Gender and Nationhood in South Asian Cinema

This course will examine the interplay of gender and national identity in post-colonial South Asian cinema. We will begin by tracing the development of the film industry in the region with reference to the historical and political context.  We will look at the different streams of South Asian cinema, from mainstream "Bollywood" movies to regional/national cinema to parallel and diasporic film. Within this framework, we will examine the shifting feminine and masculine representations of nationhood, and the way they intersect with religious identity. Specific topics include a critical analysis of the portrayal of women in the films of Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, the mother-goddess construct of Indian nationalism in mainstream cinema, thematic treatments of the relationship between machismo and Hindu/Muslim revivalism, and gender and Muslim identity in the cinema of Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Spring semester. Visiting Professor Masud.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014

232 Strange Girls: Spanish Women's Voices

(Offered as SPAN 232 and WAGS 232)  Although at times derided as abnormal "chicas raras," Spanish women have carved out a particular niche in the history of Spanish literature.  These novelists, poets, essayists and short story authors have distinguished themselves by tackling issues of sexuality, subjectivity, isolation, sexism and feminism head-on.  But how do we define an escritura femenina in Spain and what, if anything, differentiates it as a gendered space from canonical "masculine" writing?  This course examines the social, historical and cultural transformations women have undergone in Spain from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first century.  We will explore a variety of texts and literary genres by authors such as Rosalia de Castro, Carmen Laforet, Carmen Martín Gaite, Ana Rosetti and Dulce Chacón. In addition, students will create their own canon by becoming the editors of an Anthology of Spanish Women's Writing. This course is conducted in Spanish.

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

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2013

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.  Professor Mun.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 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.  This discussion course requires participants to prepare a series of closely argued essays related to assigned readings and films.

Spring semester. Professor Niditch.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2014

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.

Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Zamperini.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2012

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

(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. Lately, feminist texts have interrogated and challenged sexist and stereotypical master narratives; yet, a tension remains that repeatedly places women of color on a complex stage. Throughout this course, we will think critically about representations of women in Latin America and the U.S. Through select examples of major screen stars from Hollywood and Latin America, we will engage a politically informed historical analysis of the way Latino/a images have been constructed. Our study will begin with black and white films from the 1930s, depicting the role of the United States government and the needs of Latin American politics in the construction of Latina identity. We will then examine the intersections between literature, film, and history, studying, for example, the role of the Good Neighbor Policy in effecting the construction of Latin American images via a Hollywood lens. This is a bilingual class. Much of Latino/a literature is available in English only. However, our discussions and written assignments will be in Spanish. We will produce advanced-level writing assignments.

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

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2014

242 Gender in Early Christianity

This course orients students to the landscape of conflicts and imaginations around gender in early Christianity. It explores both the regular demands in early Christian literature that women and men exhibit traditional roles and behaviors, as well as the more daring suggestions made within this literature that women and men step out of such prescribed roles. It also importantly explores how gender appears representationally: How do masculinity and femininity work to process, shake up, or stabilize certain social relationships? How does gender relate to demands to avoid or maintain certain sexual practices? How does gender process or avoid anxieties about bodily life at large? This course is organized primarily around special topics, themes, and figures, giving sustained attention, for instance, to the figure of Mary Magdalene and the suffering Jesus, and their variously gendered descriptions in early Christian literature. What kinds of worries about and assertions of power and vulnerability do these descriptions suggest?

In order to understand the various claims about gender in early Christian literature, one must also have a sense of mechanisms and meanings around gender in the Greco-Roman world in which these texts were written. So while much of our time in class will be spent closely reading early Christian texts, we will be historically situating them within a larger thought-world and set of cultural conventions. We will also be repeatedly asking what these texts do and mean in contemporary debates about gender and sexuality. To what extent do early Christian texts or figures propose or exhibit a kind of gender-queerness, for example? 

Fall semester.  Visiting Lecturer Kotrosits

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

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.

Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Saxton.

2014-15: 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 2013-14. Professor Saxton.

2014-15: Not offered

271 Reading Popular Culture:  Girl Power

(Offered as ENGL 271, BLST 332 [US], FAMS 374, and WAGS 271.)  Girl Power is the pop-culture term for what some commentators have also dubbed “postfeminism.”  The 1990s saw a dramatic transformation in cultural representations of women’s relationships to their own sense of power.  But did this still rising phenomenon of “women who kick ass” come at a cost?  Might such representations signify genuine reassessments of some of the intersections between gender, power, and the individual?  Or are they, at best, superficial appropriations of what had otherwise been historically construed as male power?  With such questions in mind, this class will teach students to use theoretical and primary texts to research, assess, and critique contemporary popular culture.  Each student will also be trained to produce a critical multimedia project.  One class meeting per week, which includes a 135-minute seminar and a 60-minute workshop and lab.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor.  Limited to 30 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Parham.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

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 Basu.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014

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.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

312 Queer Geographies

(Offered as WAGS 312 and ENGL 370.)  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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Barale.

2014-15: 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 2013-14.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011

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.  Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Zamperini.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013

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.  Spring semester. Professor Sadjadi.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014

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.   Professor Polk.

2014-15: Not offered
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.  Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Staller.

2014-15: 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. Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Saxton.

2014-15: 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  2013-14. Professor Ringer.

2014-15: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Shandilya.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

410 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. Fall semester. Professor Sadjadi.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

429 Women Filmmakers of South Asia

This course will provide an overview of the major South Asian women filmmakers in the region and the diaspora: their cinematic language and vision, the feminist dimension of their work, and their place within the spectrum of global cinematic trends. Specific topics to be addressed include the challenges women face in the industry, a comparative view of their representations of gender, same sex desire, religious extremism, social conservatism and women's experience. We will examine the work of Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair, Nandita Das, Aparna Sen, Sabiha Sumar, and Gurinder Chadha among others. We have invited some of the filmmakers to lecture after the screenings of their respective films. There will be required film screenings in addition to the regular course meetings.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Masud.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014

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.  Fall semester. Professor Basu.

 

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

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 2013-14.  Professor Shandilya.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2012

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.  Omitted 2013-14.  Professor Hastie.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012

490 Special Topics

Independent Reading Courses.

Fall and spring semester.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014

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

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

Fall semester.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013
 

Contact Information

Rick Griffiths, Chair 2014-15
306 Earth Sciences
413-542-5355
ftgriffiths@amherst.edu
Campus Box 2238
 
SWAGS Office (reduced summer hours)
55 College St. / 14 Grosvenor House
Campus Box 2257 / PO Box 5000
Amherst, MA 01002-5000
Phone 413-542-5781
Fax 413-542-8291
wags@amherst.edu
 
Amy A. Ford, Academic Coordinator until August 15th
14 Grosvenor House
aford@amherst.edu
413-542-5781
 
Phoebe Harris, Office Assistant
14 Grosvenor House
pharris@amherst.edu
413-542-2911
Hours: will return on August 19th
 

Class outside Grosvenor