WSP 601 Feminist Theory, Fall 2007


WSP 601

Fall 2007

            Mondays 5:15-8:15


Professor Linda MartÌn Alcoff

Office: 208 Bowne Hall and 523 Hall of Languages

Office Hours: Wednesdays 1:00 - 4:00 in Bowne Hall

Phone: 443-0283

Mailbox: 208 Bowne Hall


Course Description:


            Feminist theory has two aims; the first is to critique existing theoretical paradigms in every field of inquiry for their possible biases and exclusions of gender-related issues and experiences, and the second is to propose new theoretical paradigms that will be more inclusive and accurate of the variety of human experience. To date, feminist theory has already initiated major shifts in every discipline, forcing an expanded attentiveness to issues of social reproduction, sexuality, gendered divisions of labor, cultural misogyny, and other issues.

            This course provides a graduate level introduction to some of the key theoretical trends and debates in feminist theory today, including: (1) feminist epistemology and the debate over accounts of epistemic privilege or standpoint theories, (2) the postcolonial critique of western feminism and the attempt to create a transnational and anti-racist feminism, (3) the debate over gender identity itself or the viability of the category "woman," (4) debates over the concept of freedom and of women's agency in the feminist narratives of liberation, (5) materialist feminist attempts to give articulation to the specific form of productive labor women do that is generally invisible in mainstream economics, (6) the debate over the relationship between heterosexual liberation, lesbian liberation, and transgender liberation, (7) the development of feminist disability studies as an instructive paradigm for embodied identities and interdependent relations.



Course Requirements:


            There are three types of assignments. The first type consists of a 2 page weekly essay on the week's reading. These will require students to explain some of the principal points of the readings. The focus will be on explication here, not criticism, but at the end of the essays students may include their questions about and criticisms of the readings. These essays will be graded and inadequate essays will be returned with an option to rewrite. Students may drop one essay during any week they choose. They must be turned into my mailbox in 208 Bowne Hall, in hard copy, no later than 2:00 each Monday. I do not accept any papers by email.


            The second assignment requires students to write and present a precis of one of the required readings during the semester and lead a discussion on it. The presentation should be about 10-15 minutes, with discussion to follow. Students will have an opportunity to choose which reading they will present on during the first night of class.


            The third assignment is a 15 page paper due at the end of the term on some aspect of the course topics. No extra reading beyond what is already required in the course will be necessary for these papers. I will distribute a list of sample topics half way through the semester, and meet with each student during the beginning of November to discuss your paper ideas. By the last three weeks of the course students will be expected to have a three to five page draft of this paper to share with the class. Students can then revise and complete their papers based on this feedback.



Required Texts, ordered at the Orange Bookstore:


Sandra Harding, Whose Science? Whose Knowledge?


Uma Narayan, Dislocating Cultures


Cheshire Calhoun, Feminism, the Family, and the Politics of the Closet


Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety


Ann Ferguson, Blood at the Root



There will also be a Course Reader at the Campus Copy Center in Marshall Square Mall. Ask for Reader no. .



Schedule of Readings


August 27: Introduction to the class


no class Sept. 3: Labor Day


September 10: feminist epistemologies


Sandra Harding, chapters 5 and 6 from Whose Science? Whose Knowledge?

Elizabeth Potter, "Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science" (Course Reader)

optional reading: chapters 2 and 3 in Harding



September 17: feminist epistemologies


Alison Wylie "Why Standpoint Matters" (Course Reader)

Elisabeth Lloyd "Pre-theoretical Assumptions in Evolutionary Explanations of Female Sexuality" (Course Reader)

Emily Martin "The Egg and the Sperm: How Science has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles" (Course Reader)

optional reading: Joanna Kadi, "Stupidity Deconstructed" (Course Reader)



September 24: gender and gender oppression


Susan Bordo "Are Mothers Persons?" and "Material Girl"

Iris Young "Throwing Like a Girl"



October 1: gender and gender oppression


Judith Butler "The End of Sexual Difference?" and (Course Reader)

Sally Haslanger "Feminism and Metaphysics: Negotiating the Natural" and "Gender and Social Construction: Who? What? When? Where? How?" (Course Reader)

optional: excerpt from Gender Trouble (Handout)



October 8: postcolonial critiques


Narayan, Dislocating Cultures chapters 1, 2, 3, 4



October 15: postcolonial critiques


Caren Kaplan and Inderpal Grewel "Transnational Practices and Interdisciplinary Feminist Scholarship: Refiguring Women's and Gender Studies" (Course Reader)

Rachel Lee "Notes from the (Non)Field: Teaching and Theorizing Women of Color" (Course Reader)

Chandra Mohanty "Under Western Eyes Revisited" (Course Reader)


October 22: culture, agency, freedom


Mahmood, The Politics of Piety chapters 1, 5



October 29: materialist feminisms


Ann Ferguson, Blood at the Root, chapters 4, 5, 6, 8



November 5: lesbian liberation


Cheshire Calhoun, Feminism, The Family, and the Politics of the Closet chapters 1, 2, 4, 5

Leslie Feinberg "Sisterhood: Make it Real" (Course Reader)

optional: Adrienne Rich "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" (Handout)




November 12: feminist disability studies


Rosemarie Garland-Thomson "What Her Body Taught (or, teaching about and with a Disability)" and "Integrating Disability: Transforming Feminist Theory" and "Feminist Theory, the Body, and the Disabled Figure" (Course Reader)

Anita Silvers "Feminism and Disability" (Course Reader)



November 19: Student Presentations


November 26: Student Presentations


December 3: Student Presentations