Contemporary scholarship is extraordinarily alive to questions of gender. Problems of gender are primary concerns in the humanities and social sciences, as they are in everyday life. Gender is a social fiction that often behaves as a fact. It changes across histories, cultural arrangements, and expressive behaviors.
In addition to concern with how gender reveals the constituent force of knowledge that makes up specific academic disciplines, gender creates its own political knowledge. Gender Politics offers important insights by reaching into numerous disciplines and examining many different sorts of texts: literary, filmic, theatrical, critical, and "social."
Gender Politics I introduces theoretical approaches that are prominent in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies courses and texts. These include historical materialism, psychoanalysis, and poststructuralism. The course then traces the feminist, critical race theory, and queer interventions in these schools of thought.
Gender Politics II builds on the foundation of Gender Politics I by focusing on one time period or theoretical frame. In past years, for example, GPII has offered an intensive study of Foucault and an historical and theoretical examination of the change in the definition of the category “woman” in relation to the invention of the category of homosexuality.
Topics in Gender Politics is an advanced course that reflects the expertise of the Gender Politics Faculty Fellow. In the past three years, it has focused on histories of class struggle enacted by women and feminized people; radical political movements of the 1970s, including the American Third World Left, Italian Autonomia, ‘70s Feminisms, and Gay Liberation; and a literary and historical investigation of the shifts in the operation of feminization and racialization in the U.S., the U.K., and the Caribbean around the turn of the 20th century.
Students should refer to a current class schedule each semester to determine current course offerings. The list below is representative, not exhaustive.
Introduction to Gender Politics I
Investigates the relationship of the shape of the body to the shape of the self. Focuses on psychoanalytic discourse and its legacy in academic, artistic, and popular culture. Students read texts by Freud, Riviere, Fanon, Butler, Sedgwick, and others, and study material representations of sexuality in fiction, philosophy, photography, and dance.
Introduction to Gender Politics II
Focuses on Foucault’s thinking about sexuality, power, knowledge, and the body. Students read several of Foucault’s most influential works and discuss the critical reception of his ideas and their application by a range of scholars in the decades since his death.
Topics in Gender Politics: Objects of Affection
Drawing on feminist and queer theory, this thematically structured course offers a critical introduction to thinking about objects in their relation to subjects. This course explores humans’ relationship to objects to explode the subject/object binary that has been foundational to many understandings of selfhood. Through case studies and theoretical readings, students come to ask: what happens when we desire objects? Do objects have desires? Do objects have agency? How does this agency interact with the subject’s? Where does the subject end? How do these blurry boundaries between subject and object rewrite our understanding of sexuality, technology, and the self? The course begins with a first unit that examines feminist and postcolonial theories of objectification. This understanding of objectification is then problematized in a second unit that analyzes objects and their agency. The third unit brings these threads together to ask how we take pleasure in objects and what kind of pleasure we can imagine them receiving. Finally, we return to consider the blurry boundaries between subjects and objects, focusing on the affective relationship between each.
Topics in Gender Politics seminars examine particularly focused subject matter and themes, which change frequently. Previous seminars have included "Popularizing Identity: Engendering Sexuality, Race, and Nation in Cultural Studies," and "20th Century Queer Novels in the U.S."