Concentration in Women's and Gender Studies

English Master’s students may elect the Concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies simply by putting their intentions in writing to the Graduate English Director and by filing a form available from the Director of Women’s Studies. Supported by the R-N Graduate School, this 12-credit interdisciplinary concentration is offered within the 30-credit English M.A. Program as well as six other graduate programs here–American Studies, History, Liberal Studies, Political Science, and Global Affairs. English MA students who elect this concentration are able to pursue questions of feminist thought and gender difference  in more depth and in dialogue with outstanding teachers and graduate students in other fields. In the critical mass of Rutgers-Newark faculty engaged in research pertinent to these questions, English professors are well-represented.

General Rationale:  Women’s Studies emerged in the 1970s, the decade after the establishment of African American Studies and film studies in higher education; in the 1980s and 1990s, it helped to open areas that we now know by the names of cultural studies, queer theory, postcolonial studies, and global studies. Over the four decades now of its institutionalization, Women’s and Gender Studies–in the form of undergraduate and graduate programs, courses,  university-based institutes and centers, scholarly conferences, professional organizations, journals, and a large body of published research–has demonstrated how feminist epistemologies have reshaped the agendas of intellectual inquiry in numerous fields as well as our methods of teaching. Courses emphasize active learning and critical thinking, as well as diversity of experience based on race, ethnicity, class, religion, nationality, and sexual orientation. Because of their interdisciplinary methods, Women’s and Gender Studies is among those places in higher education where the liberal arts remain central to networked areas of inquiry. And the field we call “English” has proved to be a richly rewarding site for the study of gender, historically and in the contemporary world.

The Concentration and Students’ Objectives: There is an ongoing demand in graduate education to address the issues in our culture that are based on our assumptions about sex and gender differences. Students taking this Concentration can expand their knowledge and mastery of political and cultural issues by examining their gender dimensions, while taking a cluster of four courses that intensify and clarify what they are learning in their primary discipline. Some will go on to pursue women’s or gender studies in doctoral programs like those offered at Clark, Emory, Rutgers New Brunswick, and the University of Michigan. Understanding the histories, theories, and ideologies of surrounding sex and gender enriches work in any literary period or genre.

Graduate-level analysis of gender relations  sheds light on many global issues, in the present and the past, including postcoloniality and the 19th-century  literature of  travel and empire. The workplace is enriched by those who have had occasion to examine and research gender issues, especially for educators of girls and boys in the U.S. and abroad, shapers of school curricula, and college teachers; for librarians, writers, journalists, and editors, including those with trade journals; for publicity directors; for professionals who deal with personnel, equity, and labor issues, marketing and consumer behavior, the psychology of families, law, and public policy. Whatever the career, gender analysis can be extremely useful in reshaping life in the communities where we work and live.

The W & G S  Concentration within  the English  MA: Students who elect the concentration take the two core courses outside the English Program and two designated courses within it. (At least one such literature course, open to all students, is offered every year.) For our 30-credit English MA degree, these four courses are usually counted among the electives.  Concentrators must take the foreign language translation test and Common Reading Exam like everyone else. “M.A. in English, with Concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies” can be noted on the final transcript.

Course of Study

   English Requirements

   3 credits for Introduction to Graduate Literary Study (26:350:503) –offered in fall

   6 credits for two pre-1800 literature courses

   3 credits for one American literature course

   6 credits in English electives or the Master’s Thesis

               Concentration Requirements

   3 credits for History and Theory of Women’s/Gender Studies (26:988:532)*

   3 credits for Feminist Research and Methods (26:988:570)*

   6 credits in courses designated for W&GS in the English Program

     *The W&GS core courses:

26:988:532  History and Theory of Women’s/Gender Studies

     Often taught by faculty members from English, this interdisciplinary core course focuses primarily on the intellectual history within which feminism has come to be defined. As social and political changes have altered the map of the world, the everyday lives of women have changed. As laws and constitutions are framed, as religions change, and as social attitudes and politics shift, the situation of women is reframed accordingly. This course addresses the complex dynamic of women’s histories in various times and places as it intersects with gendered social and cultural formations and an array of sex/gender differences. Cross-cultural issues are crucial to this seminar, which also places the development of feminist theory into the contexts of differing global histories.

26:988:570  Feminist Research and Methods

      This is an interdisciplinary study of approaches to research and research methodologies used by feminist scholars across the disciplines to study women and gender issues. The course is designed to expand the graduate student’s knowledge of feminist theories and methods in both the humanities and the social sciences, and to encourage discussion and critical thinking about contemporary debates among feminist and gender studies scholars. The course also provides the graduate student with basic tools to apply feminist research methods in their disciplinary research.

The Director of Women’s Studies (Conklin Hall 243) can be reached  at 973-353-1026 or 1027. Their web site address: <Program in Women's and Gender Studies>.  Dr. Janet  Larson, Director of Graduate English (Hill 529), is at 973-353-5193 and <>.