Women's Studies Program

Director: Diane Harriford; Steering Committee: Light Carruyo (Sociology), Kristin Sanchez Carter (English), Colleen Ballerino Cohen (Anthropology/Women’s Studies), Eve Dunbar (English), Leslie Dunn (English), Diane Harriford (Sociology), Kathleen Hart (French), Susan Hiner (French), Jean Kane (English), Lydia Murdoch (History), Barbara Olsen (Classics), Peipei Qiu (Japanese), Karen Robertson (Women’s Studies), Laura Yow (English), Susan Zlotnick (English); Members of the Program: Elizabeth Arlyck (French), Rodica Blumenfeld (Italian), Light Carryo (Sociology), Kristin Sanchez Carter (English), Colleen Ballerino Cohen (Anthropology/Women’s Studies), Miriam Cohen (History), Lisa Collins (Art), Elizabeth Donnelly (American Culture), Eve Dunbar (English), Leslie Dunn (English), Amy Freeman (Geology), Janet Gray (Psychology), Kathleen Hart (French), Susan Hiner (French), Shirley Johnson-Lans (Economics), Jean Kane (English), Sarah Kozloff (Film), Kathryn Libin (Music), Seungsook Moon (Sociology), Lydia Murdoch (History), Uma Narayan (Philosophy), Lisa Paravisini-Gebert (Hispanic Studies), Peggy Piesche (German Studies) Christine Reno (French), Karen Robertson (English/Women’s Studies), Jeffrey Schneider (German), Jill Schneiderman (Earth Science and Geography), Mary Shanley (Political Science), Linta Varghese (Anthropology), Silke von der Emde (German), Laura Yow (English), Susan Zlotnick (English). Subject to change.

Students who wish to concentrate in the multidisciplinary program in Women’s Studies or elect the correlate sequence should consult the director of the program. With an adviser or advisers in the program, applicants plan a course of study, tailored to their particular interests and needs in the field. The concentration or correlate sequence must be approved by the adviser or advisers and the director of the program.

Requirements for Concentration: 12 units elected from at least three disciplines, including: (1) Women’s Studies 130, Introduction to Women’s Studies; (2) 1 unit in feminist theory. Feminist theory courses include Philosophy 250, Political Science 278, Political Science 376; (3) 1 unit selected from Women’s Studies 240, 241, or 251; (4) Women’s Studies 300, a 1-unit essay or project in the senior year; (5) 3 additional units at the 300-level from the list of Approved Courses. These courses must be taken in at least two departments or one department and the Women’s Studies Program; (6) 5 additional courses from the list of Approved Courses or the program’s General courses. All courses should be chosen in consultation with the adviser or the director of the program. No required courses for a concentration in Women’s Studies may be taken NRO, and no more than 3 units may be taken as ungraded work. The senior essay is graded.

Requirements for the Correlate Sequence: 6 graded units including: (1) Women’s Studies 130, Introduction to Women’s Studies; (2) 1 unit in feminist theory. Feminist theory courses include Philosophy 250, Political Science 278, Political Science 376; (3) 4 other courses from the list of Approved Courses, germane to the focus of the correlate sequence. No more than 2 units may be taken at the 100-level and at least 1 unit must be at the 300-level.

Courses taken in the major may also fulfill requirements in the correlate sequence, but the sequence must include courses from at least three departments. It is recommended that the correlate sequence adhere as closely as possible to the plan outlined below.

Freshman or Sophomore
130 Introduction to Women’s Studies
Sophomore and Junior
200-level courses germane to the sequence
a course in feminist theory
300-level course germane to the sequence

I. Program Courses

130a. and b. Introduction to Women’s Studies (1)

Multidisciplinary study of the scholarship on women, with an introduction to feminist theory and methodology. Includes contemporary and historical experiences of women in private and public spaces. Examination of how the concept of women has been constructed in literature, science, the media and other institutions, with attention to the way the construction intersects with nationality, race, class and sexuality.

Two 75-minute sessions.

160a and b. Issues in Feminism: Bodies and Texts (1)

Who is a woman and who or what defines "her" ?  This class investigates these questions by exploring feminist writings about female embodiment and the social construction of gender.  A commitment to women's equality has been a foundation for feminism and also the subject of heated contestation, as various authors and activists have questioned who or what defines the category "woman". As this course explores feminists' concerns with gender equality, it also highlight intersecting categories of race, class, and nationality, and it probes the problems in locating "woman" as a fixed, trans-cultural category.  The course texts include historical treatises about women's liberation, writings by and about Muslim feminists and transgender activists, contemporary feminist critiques of popular culture, and diary entries by various women about their experiences with work, family, health, and relationships. Ms. White

Two 75-minute sessions.

185b. Gender Social Problems, and Social Change in the Contemporary U.S. (1)

(Same as Sociology 185) This course aims to introduce students to a variety of social problems and the possibilities of social change. It examines general issues such as economic inequality and poverty, racial and ethnic inequality, and social inequality based on gender and sexual orientation. It then looks at the ways in which these problems manifest themselves in institutions and policies concerning education, health care, the family, the criminal justice system and the environment.  Within each of these areas of concern, we focus on the ways in which the issues relate specifically to women and gender. We also discuss social movements that have attempted to address economic, racial, and gender inequality, and concrete proposals to address the problems we study. This course is taught that at the Taconic Correctional Facility for Women to a combined class of Vassar students and students from Taconic. Ms. Shanley, Ms. Leonard.

Prerequisites: permission of the instructor

204a. Gender Issues in Economics (1)

(Same as Economics 204a) An analysis of gender in education, earnings, employment, and the division of labor within the household. Topics include a study of occupational segregation, discrimination, the role of “protective legislation” in the history of labor law, and effects of changes in the labor market of the U.S. We also study the economics of marriage, divorce, and fertility. A comparative study of gender roles in other parts of the world is the final topic in the course. Ms. Johnson-Lans.

Two 75 minute sessions.

Prerequisite: Economics 101.

218a. Literature, Gender, and Sexuality (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 218a and English 218a) This course considers matters of gender and sexuality in literary texts, criticism, and theory. The focus varies from year to year, and may include study of a historical period, literary movement, or genre; constructions of masculinity and femininity-, sexual identities; or representations of gender in relation to race and class.

Topic for 2008/09a: (Same as Africana Studies 218 and English 218) Black Feminism. This course examines the development and history of black feminism in the United States. Through reading works of fiction, memoir, and theory, we explore the central concerns of the black feminist movement,and consider black feminism’s response to Civil Rights, Black Nationalism, and white feminism. Authors may include Anna Julia Cooper, Angela Davis, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, and others. Ms. Dunbar.

Two 75-minute sessions.

220b. Medieval and Renaissance Culture: Women in Renaissance Culture (1)

Ms. Robertson, Ms. Reno.

Two 75 minute periods.

[230b. Women and Film] (1)

(Same as Film 230) Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute sessions, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: One course in film or women’s studies.

Not offered in 2008/09.

[231a. Women Making Music] (1)

(Same as Music 231)

Two 75-minute sessions.

Not offered in 2008/09.

240a. Construction of Gender (1)

Topics vary from year to year. Topic for 2008/09: Representations of Gender in American Popular Media. From the perspective of feminist cultural studies the course considers aspects of contemporary American culture: movies, toys, television, popular fiction, cultural rituals and ceremonies. Ms. Robertson, Mr. Schneider.

Two 75 minute sessions.

Prerequisites: Women’s Studies 130, or permission of the instructor.

251b. Global Feminism (1)

(Same as International Studies 251 b) This course explores issues pertinent to women’s experiences in different Third World cultural and national contexts, focusing on feminist political analyses and activism pertaining to a range of issues affecting women. The course examines how political fundamentalism, nationalism and postcoloniality affect different women’s identities and choices, and how feminists negotiate these forces in their struggles for women’s empowerment. In addition to theoretical readings on Third World feminism, we address issues ranging from cultural practices, to issues of sexuality and reproductive rights, and issues pertaining to development and women’s place in the contemporary global economy. MsPiesche

[276b. Gender and Social Space] (1)

(Same as Urban Studies 276b) This course explores the inter-relation of gender and key spatial forms and practices such as the home, the city, the hotel, migration, shopping, community activism and walking at night. The course draws on feminist theoretical work from diverse fields such as geography, architecture, anthropology and urban studies not only to begin to map the gendered divisions of the social world but also to understand gender itself as a spatial practice. Ms Brawley.

Two 75-minute periods.

Not offered in 2008/09.

280a. Interpreting French Feminism (1)

Focusing on selected episodes in the history of French feminism from the 1789 Revolution to the present, this course examines the contrast, often striking, between the actual words and deeds of feminists, and the ways in which feminist groups or individuals have been portrayed by journalists, cartoonists, historians, psychologists, politicians, philosophers, and filmmakers.  Engaged in a dialectical interaction with their surroundings, these various feminists or feminist groups often shaped their theory and practice differently according to how the wider culture responded to their diverse cultural, ethnic, sexual and linguistic identities.  Topics include marriage (gay and straight), slavery, socialism, suffrage, education, and reproductive rights.  Scholarly works are read in conjunction with primary sources in English translation, including political manifestos, a play, letters, a memoir, essays, and two films with English subtitles. Ms. Hart

282a. Women of Color in the U.S. Public and Private Spheres (1)

This course explores cultural production and consumption by "Women of color" in the U.S., with a focus on the way various groups have negotiated the presumed gap between private experience and public or political form. Historical, social, and cultural connections and disjunctions between African-American, Arab-American, Asian-American, Native American, Latina, and other women are examined, especially in the context of feminism, cultural nationalism, and the scholarly discipline and practice of critical legal feminism and critical race studies. We explore the varied ways in which family, labor, and leisure practices can place women of color in social positions which blur the distinction between private and public culture, and which call for a reconsideration of the notion of  "experience" itself. Theorists and writers considered include Patricia Williams, Kimberle Crenshaw, Cherrie Moraga, Valerie Smith, Lisa Lowe, and Julie Dash. Ms. Carter.

[306b. Women’s Movements in Asia] (1)

(Same as Asian Studies 306 and Sociology 306) Ms. Moon.

Not offered in 2008/09.

321b. Feminism, Knowledge, Praxis (1)

(Sames as Sociology 321)

366b. Seminar in African American Art and Cultural History (1)

(Same as Art 366 and Africana 366) Topic: Vision and Critique in the Black Arts and Women’s Art Movements. Focusing on the relationships between visual culture and social movements in the U.S., this seminar examines the arts, institutions, and ideas of the Black Arts movement and Women’s Art movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Analyzing paintings, photographs, posters, quilts, collages, murals, manifestos, mixed-media works, installations, films, performances, and various systems of creation, collaboration, and display, we explore connections between art, politics, and society. Ms. Collins.

Offered in 2008/09.

370b. Feminist Perspectives on Environmentalism (1)

(Same as Environmental Studies 370a and Science, Technology, and Society 370)

In this seminar we explore some basic concepts and approaches within feminist environmental analysis paying particular attention to feminist theory and its relevance to environmental issues. We examine a range of feminist research and analysis in ‘environmental studies’ that is connected by the recognition that gender subordination and environmental destruction are related phenomena. That is, they are the linked outcomes of forms of interactions with nature that are shaped by hierarchy and dominance, and they have global relevance. The course helps students discover the expansive contributions of feminist analysis and action to environmental research and advocacy; it provides the chance for students to apply the contributions of a feminist perspective to their own specific environmental interests. Ms. Schneiderman.

Special permission.

One 2-hour meeting per week.

Prerequisite: Women’s Studies 130 recommended.

375a. Seminar in Women’s Studies: Thinking Women’s Bodies (1)

The course explores the place of women’s bodies in feminist scholarship and activism. It examines how the body is treated in debates about the constructed nature of sex and gender and how women deploy the material and conceptual body to resist oppressive structures and technologies. The course draws on theoretical texts, film and video, ethnography, literature, biography, and popular culture and covers topics ranging from athletics and dance to sex work and AIDS activism and includes a weekly lab/workshop in which students explore ways in which political and individual awareness may be activated, working through the body. Ms. Harriford, Ms Cohen.

Special permission.

One 2-hour meeting per week.

[380b. Queer Theory ] (1)

The western cultural paradigm of sexual orientation has many origins. In particular, this course investigates those coming out of psychoanalysis and science—two of the dominant sources of social knowledge prevalent in our culture. We explore the view that all sexual behaviors, all concepts linking sexual behaviors to sexual identities, and all categories of “normal” and “deviant” sexualities, are social constructs, sets of signifiers which create certain types of social meaning. We see that queer theory follows feminist theory and lesbian and gay studies in rejecting the idea that sexual orientation is an essentialist category, something determined by biology or judged by eternal standards of morality and truth. We try to argue that sexuality is a complex array of social codes and forces, forms of individual activity and institutionalized power relations, which interact to shape the notions of what is “normal” what is “natural,” “essential” or “biological.” Aside from readings in both science of sex, gender, and sexual orientation and psychoanalysis, we read theoretical texts which help guide us toward a more accurate understanding of what we mean by the term ‘queer,’ what we regard as the criteria for labeling a sexual activity queer, in short, the ontology of queer or what queer is. Ms. Robertson, Mr. Schneider.

Women’s Studies 130 and relevant 200-level course desirable.

Special permission.

One 2-hour meeting per week.

Not offered in 2008/09.

385a. Women, Culture, and Development (1)

(Same as Sociology 385) This course examines the ongoing debates within development studies about how integration into the global economy is experienced by women around the world. Drawing on gender studies, cultural and global political economy, we explore the multiple ways in which women struggle to secure wellbeing, challenge injustice, and live meaningful lives. Ms. Carruyo.

388b. Latina Feminisms (1)

This course approaches Latina feminist practice as a highly contested and still-evolving site of cultural production. Among the issues to be explored: Latina participation in feminist coalition-building across linguistic, racial, ethnic, class, and national borders: Latina writers negotiation of poststructuralist theory; and the relationship of Latina feminist activism to other political movements in the Americas, including civil rights, nationalist, anti-colonial, and human rights movements. Ms. Carter.

One 2-hour meeting per week.

Prerequisite: Women’s Studies 130 or permission of the instructor.

II. Reading Courses

Prerequisite for reading courses: Women’s Studies 130 and one additional Women’s Studies course or course from the list of Approved Courses. Permission of the director is required for all reading courses.

[297.01. Queer Theory] (1/2)

The program.

Not offered in 2008/09.

297.02. Lesbian Sex and Politics in the United States (1/2)

The program.

[297.04. Women and Sport] (1/2)

The program.

Not offered in 2008/09.

III. Independent Work

Prerequisite for fieldwork or independent study: 2 units of work in Women’s Studies or from the list of Approved Courses. Permission of the director is required for all independent work.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

298a or b. Independent Study (1/2 or 1)

300a-300b. Senior Thesis or Project (1/2, 1/2)

A 1-unit thesis or project written in two semesters.

399a or b. Senior Independent Study (1/2 or 1)

IV. Approved Courses

Below is a partial list of approved courses. For current offerings, consult the list circulated each term by the program, together with the Women’s Studies Handbook.

Education 252 Race, Representation and Resistance in U.S.Schools (1)

English 218 Literature, Gender, and Sexuality (1)

English 262 Post-Colonial Literatures (1)

English 319 Race and Its Metaphors (1)

History 260 Women in the U.S. to 1890 (1)

History 261 History of Women in the U.S. since 1890 (1)

Philosophy 250 Feminist Theory (1)

Political Science 278 Feminist Theory, Policy Issues (1)

Sociology 250 Sex, Gender, Society (1)

V. General Courses

Consult the list circulated each term by the program, together with the Women’s Studies Handbook.