Course Descriptions

WMGS 101
Women, Gender, and Sexuality
This course introduces students to the study of women, gender, and sexuality, paying attention to issues of power, agency, and resistance. Using a variety of 19th- and 20th-century American materials, the course seeks to understand: women’s experiences and the way they have been shaped, normative and nonnormative alignments of sex, gender, and sexuality across different historical periods, and the intersection of gender, sexuality, race, class, and nation.
This course is not open to seniors.
1.00 units, Lecture
WMGS 207
Homosexuality and Hollywood Film
The 20th century is generally understood as a crucial period for the emergence and consolidation of modern lesbian and gay identities and practices. A case can be made for the special role of Hollywood in this historical process. Stars such as Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Montgomery Cliff provided lesbians and gays with powerful models of gender and sexual nonconformity, and Hollywood genres such as the musical and the domestic melodrama informed the camp sensibility in crucial ways. Beginning with the 1930s and ending with the 1990s, this course examines how Hollywood contributed to the formation of lesbian and gay subcultures. It pays particular attention to the representation of lesbians and gays in Hollywood films and how this representation did and did not shift over the course of the 20th century. In addition, it engages recent theoretical and historical work on gender and sexuality. Mandatory weekly screenings. (Also listed under English.)
1.00 units, Lecture
WMGS 212
History of Sexuality
Sexuality is commonly understood as a natural or biological instinct, but as scholars have recently shown, it is better understood as a set of cultural practices that have a history. Starting with the ancient Greeks, this course examines the culturally and historically variable meanings attached to sexuality in Western culture. It pays particular attention to the emergence of sexuality in the 19th century as an instrument of power. It also considers how race, class, gender, and nationality have influenced the modern organization of sexuality. Topics covered include sex before sexuality, sexuality and colonialism, sexuality and U.S. slavery, and the emergence of the hetero/homosexual binarism in the late 19th century. Primary readings include The Symposium, A Passage to India, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, The Well of Loneliness, and The Swimming Pool Library. Secondary readings include work by Michel Foucault, David Halperin, Angela Davis, Hazel Carby, Martin Duberman, George Chauncey, Madeline Davis, and Elizabeth Kennedy. (Also listed under History.)
1.00 units, Lecture
WMGS 215
Drink and Disorder in America
Drinking as an institution has reflected the varieties of cultures, interest groups, and ideologies that have swept America. We will examine the tumultuous history of this institution from the origins of the Republic to the present in order to understand what the ‘wets’ and the ‘drys’ can tell us about the nature of community in America. Special attention to the ways in which gender, race, class, and ethnicity shape perceptions of drinking, leisure, and social control. (Also listed under American Studies and History.)
1.00 units, Lecture
WMGS 245
The Hollywood Musical
Perhaps more than any other genre, the musical epitomized Hollywood’s “golden age.” This course traces the development of the enormously popular genre from its emergence at the beginning of the Great Depression to its decline amid the social upheavals of the 1960s. It pays particular attention to the genre’s queering of masculinity and femininity, as well as its relationship to camp modes of reception. Readings by Jane Feuer, Rick Altman, Richard Dyer, Janet Staiger, and Steven Cohan.
1.00 units, Lecture
WMGS 301
Western Feminist Thought
An exploration of the main currents in American feminism, with occasional excursions into European thought. The course readings assume (rather than demonstrate) women’s historical subordination to man and put forward various explanations and strategies for change. Readings in J.S. Mill, C. P. Gilman, Emma Goldman, Simone de Beauvoir, Adrienne Rich, bell hooks, Mary Daly, Audre Lorde, and others. This course is not open to First-Year students.
Prerequisite: C- or better in one other course in Women Gender and Sexuality.
1.00 units, Lecture
WMGS 312
American Prophets and Spiritual Seekers
From the 1840s to the 1880s, the United States gave rise to a rash of home-grown prophets, healers and spiritual seekers who created institutions that survive today. We will examine the lives and legacies of some of the following: Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, Ellen White, prophet of Seventh-day Adventism, Phoebe Palmer, international revivalist, Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, Sylvester Graham and John Harvey Kellogg, prophets of health. We will pay particular attention to the way millennialism and gender ideology shaped the institutions they created. Topics to be considered include: visions, the holiness movement, illness and health, vegetarianism, sexuality, alternative medicine. Counts toward major requirements in History and American Studies.
1.00 units, Seminar
WMGS 315
Women in America
An examination of women’s varied experiences in the public and private spheres, from their own perspective as well as that of the dominant society. The experiences of women of different classes and races will be compared, as will the relationship between images of women and changing realities of their lives. Emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries.
1.00 units, Lecture
WMGS 318
Hollywood Stars
This course examines one of the most important aspects of studio-era Hollywood cinema, the production of stars. It pays particular attention to a paradox of the studio era, how some stars underwrote the dominant constructions of male and female identity while others challenged them. It also addresses the role of racial and class differences in shaping stardom. Case studies may include Rudolph Valentino, Mae West, Katharine Hepburn, Shirley Temple, Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Charleton Heston, and Sidney Poitier. Readings by Richard Dyer, Judith Mayne, Gaylyn Studlar, Janet Staiger, and Pamela Robertson.
Prerequisite: C- or better in one film studies course, or permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
WMGS 319
The Woman's Film
In the 1930s Hollywood created a new genre, the woman’s picture or “weepie,” designed specifically for female audiences. This course examines the development of this enormously popular genre from the 1930s to the 1960s, including important cycles of women’s pictures such as the female gothic and the maternal melodrama. It pays particular attention to the genre’s exploration of female sexuality and its homoerotic organization of the look. It also considers the genre’s role in the formation of contemporary theories of female spectatorship. Film screenings include both versions of Imitations of Life, These Three, Stage Door, Blonde Venus, Stella Dallas, Mildred Pierce, Rebecca, Suspicion, Gaslight, The Old Maid, Old Acquaintance, The Great Lie, Letter from an Unknown Woman, All that Heaven Allows, and Marnie. Readings by Doane, Williams, Modleski, de Lauretis, Jacobs, and White.
1.00 units, Lecture
WMGS 322
American Literary Realism
We will read works by Caroline Kirkland, Rebecca Harding Davis, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Wells Brown, Mark Twain, Henry James, and William Dean Howells, asking what is real? What does it mean to be a realist? How was realism as a literary movement constructed by male critics in gendered opposition to sentimentalism?
1.00 units, Lecture
WMGS 335
Mapping American Masculinities
This course examines the construction of masculinity in American society starting with Theodore Roosevelt’s call at the turn of the twentieth century for men to revitalize the nation by pursuing the “strenuous life." Through close readings of literary and filmic texts, it considers why American manhood has so often been seen as in crisis. It pays particular attention to the formation of non-normative masculinities (African-American, female, and gay) in relation to entrenched racial, class, and sexual hierarchies, as well as the impact of the feminist, civil rights, and gay liberation movements on the shifting construction of male identity. In addition to critical essays, readings also include Tarzan of the Apes, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, The Great Gatsby, The Sun also Rises, Native Son, Another Country, and Kiss Me Deadly (Spillane). Film screenings include Kiss Me Deadly (Aldrich), Shaft, Magnum Force, Philadelphia, Brokeback Mountain, Cleopatra Jones, and Boys Don’t Cry.
1.00 units, Lecture
WMGS 342
History of Sexuality
This course examines the ways in which notions of the body, gender, sexual desire, and sexuality have been organized over space and time. Taking as a starting point the geographical regions of the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America in the ancient and medieval periods, the course seeks to de-center discourses of Western sexual modernity. It then addresses the ways in which colonialism, racism, nationalism, and globalization have depended on and disrupted normative ideas about modern sexuality, including the hetero/homosexual binary. Throughout the course we will ask how historians use theoretical and primary sources to construct a history of sexuality. Course expectations include a final research paper.
1.00 units, Seminar
WMGS 345
Film Noir
This course traces the development of film noir, a distinctive style of Hollywood filmmaking inspired by the hardboiled detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett, James Cain, and Raymond Chandler. It pays particular attention to the genre’s complicated gender and sexual politics. In addition to classic examples of film noir, the course also considers novels by Hammett, Cain, and Chandler.
1.00 units, Seminar
WMGS 352
Bodies in Context: Gender, Sexuality and Violence
This course introduces various ways to examine and interpret the human body in socio-cultural anthropology with a special focus on the contexts of gender, sexuality and war/conflict. Students will explore and critically evaluate key concepts used in the field of anthropology of the body. Readings will include classical anthropological literature as well as a selection of contemporary ethnographic case studies to illustrate and visualize the key themes on the ground.
1.00 units, Seminar
WMGS 359
Feminist Political Theory
This course examines debates in feminist political theory. Topics will include liberal and socialist feminist theory, as well as radical, postcolonial, and postmodern feminist theory. We will also consider feminist perspectives on issues of race and sex, pornography, law and rights, and “hot button” issues like veiling. We will pay particular attention to the question of what feminism means and should mean in increasingly multicultural, global societies. Readings will include work by Mary Wollstonecraft, Carol Gilligan, Catherine MacKinnon, Chandra Mohanty, Wendy Brown, Audre Lorde, Patricia Williams, & Judith Butler.
1.00 units, Lecture
WMGS 369
Queer Studies: Issues and Controversies
This broadly interdisciplinary course examines the impact of queer theory on the study of gender and sexuality in both the humanities and the social sciences. In positing that there is no necessary or causal relationship between sex, gender, and sexuality, queer theory has raised important questions about the identity-based understandings of gender and sexuality still dominant in the social sciences. This course focuses on the issues queer theory has raised in the social sciences as its influence has spread beyond the humanities. Topics covered include: queer theory’s critique of identity; institutional versus discursive forms of power in the regulation of gender and sexuality; the value of psychoanalysis for the study of sexuality; and lesbian and gay historiography versus queer historiography.
1.00 units, Lecture
WMGS 399
Independent Study
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and director are required for enrollment.
1.00 units min / 2.00 units max, Independent Study
WMGS 401
Senior Seminar
The goals of this seminar are to sharpen critical thinking and to afford an opportunity for synthesis of student work in women, gender, and sexuality. Towards these ends we will examine the construction of race, class, and sexuality in America as they intersect with gender. The capstone of the course is a twenty-five-page research paper. There will be opportunities to share work in progress with seminar members and to involve the wider campus community in the issues.
This course is open only to senior Women Gender and Sexuality majors and minors.
1.00 units, Seminar
WMGS 406
Current Issues Seminar: Gender, Sexuality, and the Law
This course will explore selected issues and controversies concerning gender, sexuality, and the law in America. We will examine the issues from a variety of legal perspectives and will focus on the social and political circumstances that have given rise to them. We will also analyze the relationship between the ongoing litigation of gender questions and the shaping of public policy. Topics to be discussed include sexual harassment, pornography, assisted reproduction, and gay and lesbian marriage.
1.00 units, Seminar
WMGS 466
Teaching Assistantship
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and director are required for enrollment.
0.50 units min / 1.00 units max, Independent Study
WMGS 497
Senior Thesis
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and director are required for enrollment in this single term thesis.
1.00 units, Independent Study
WMGS 498
Senior Thesis Part 1
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and director are required for each semester of this yearlong thesis. (Two course credits are considered pending in the first semester; two course credits will be awarded for completion in the second semester).
2.00 units, Independent Study
WMGS 499
Senior Thesis Part 2
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for each semester of this yearlong thesis. (Two course credits are considered pending in the first semester; two course credits will be awarded for completion in the second semester.)
2.00 units, Independent Study