Lovin-Feminist Theory Syllabus Fall 2011

Mai merge

Instructor: C. Laura Lovin

Email: lovin@rci.rutgers.edu

Office Hours: MW 12:00-1:00

Feminist Theory


MW 2:30-3:50



The basic theoretical questions that we will address in this course range from deceptively simple ones, which attempt to define concepts such as woman/ women, the body, gender, nature, otherness, labor, oppression and change, to more abstract interrogations of the theoretical assumptions operating within the explicative frameworks of postmodernism, poststructuralism, social constructivism, postcolonialism, materialism and transnational feminism.


The reading materials of this course are intended to contribute to our comprehension of the depth and breadth of feminist thought. Through readings, class discussions, and writing assignments, we will explore the major concepts, tensions, and exclusions in feminist theory. Specific attention will be given to the exploration of the interconnection of gender-based power relations with race-based, class-based, and other forms of inequality. We will also spend significant time engaging with feminist critiques of knowledge production and, towards the end of the semester, labor exploitation.


The objectives of the FEMINST THEORY course are:


To develop a complex understanding of the major concepts and critiques in feminist thought and theory;


To understand the ways in which poststructuralist, multicultural, transnational, postmodern, Marxist feminisms pluralize and enrich the notion of feminist theory;


To understand what feminist theory is, its breadth and depth, and its variety;


To provide an intellectual grounding that will empower students in implementing and understanding activist strategies for change;


To connect the intellectual, the personal, and the political in our reading, in our daily lives, and in our attempts to address pressing social issues;


To enable students to “theorize”, namely to achieve the ability to critically evaluate theoretical assumptions and to confidently participate in analyses of current social and political issues;


To develop speaking and writing skills that will assist students in their undergraduate curriculum and professional development;



Class participation: 20%

Pop-up quizzes: 10%

Class presentation: 10%

4 Self-evaluative essays: 15% each







Wednesday, 09/08

Introductions, Logistics, and Course Overview

Thursday, 09/09

Paula Treichler and Cheris Kramarae, “Feminism” “Feminist” from The Feminist Dictionary (1985) 7-11

Alice Walker, “Womanist” from In Search of Our Mothers’ Garden (1983) 11

Charlotte Bunch , “Not by Degrees: Feminist Theory and Education” (1979) 12-15

Audre Lorde, “The Maste’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” (1979) from Sister/ PUtsider Essay and Speeches (1984) 15-17


Monday 09/12

bell hooks: “Theory as Liberatory Practice” from Teaching to Trangress (1994) 27-33 and

“Feminism: A Transformational Politics?” from Talking Back: Thinking Black, Thinking Feminist” (1989) 402-407

Wednesday, 09/14

FILM: A Litany for Survival. The Life and Work of Audre Lorde, 1995



Monday, 09/19

Simone de Beauvoir, “Introduction” and Chapter 12 from The Second Sex (1949) 147-158

Wednesday 09/21

Luce Irigaray, from “This Sex Which Is Not One” from This Sex Which Is Not One (1977) 260-264

Anne Fausto-Sterling, “Should There Be Only Two Sexes?” from Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality (2000) 516-522


Monday 09/26

Judith Butler, from Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990) 434-442

Wednesday 09/28

Joan Riviere, “Womanliness as a Masquerade” (1929) 131-135

Judith Halberstam, “An Introduction to Female Masculinity” from Female Masculinity (1998) 502-508


Monday 10/3

Judith Butler, “Beside Oneself: On the Limits of Sexual  Autonomy” from Undoing Gender (2004) 546-553

Wednesday 10/5

JUDITH BUTLER: Philosophical Encounters of the Third Kind


Monday 10/10


1st Reading Response Paper: Advanced Draft Due

Essay Topic: How do we talk about Gender?


Wednesday 10/12

Kimberly Crenshaw, “Intersectionality and Identity Politics: Learning from Violence against Women of Color” (1997) 482-491


Monday 10/17

Joan W. Scott, “Deconstructing Equality-versus-Difference, or, The Uses if Poststructuralist Theory for Feminism” (1988) 388-397

Wednesday 10/19

Linda Alcoff, “Cultural Feminism versus Post-Structuralism: The Identity Crisis in Feminist Theory” (1988) 368-379


Monday 10/24

Sandra Harding, “The Woman Question in Science to the Science Question in Feminism” from The Science Question in Feminism (1986) 346-355

Wednesday 10/26

Evelyn Fox Keller, “Making Gender Visible in the Pursuit of Nature’s Secrets” (1993) 453-459

Stephan Jay Gould, “Women’s Brains,” from The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History (1980) SAKAI

Udo Schuklenk et al, “The Ethics of Genetic Research on Sexual Orientation,”  from The Hastings Center Report (1997)


Monday 10/31


2nd Self Evaluative Paper: Advanced Draft Due

Essay Topic: How Do We Know?


Wednesday 11/2

Chandra Tapade Mohanty, “Under the Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses” (1984/1991) 319-327



Monday 11/7

Uma Narayan, “Contesting Cultures: ‘Westernization,’ Respect for Cultures, and Third World Feminists,” from Dislocating Cultures: Identities, Traditions, and Third World Feminisms (1997) 491-497

Wednesday 11/9

Cynthia Enloe, “When Soldiers Rape” from Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Womens’s Lives (2000) 508-516

Helen Zweifel, “The Gendered Nature of Biodiversity Conservation” (1997) SAKAI


Monday 11/14

Inderpal Grewal and Karen Kaplan, “Global Identities: Theorizing Transnational Studies of Sexuality” (2001) 524-529

Wednesday 11/16


3st Self-Evaluative Paper: Advanced Draft Due

Essay Topic: Transnational Feminism?




Monday 11/22

Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the “Political Economy” of Sex” (1975) 230-245



Monday 11/28

Heidi I. Hartmann, “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union” (1981) 299-308

Thursday 11/30

Sarah Grimke, from Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women (1838), 65-67

Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman?” (1851) and “Keeping the Thing Going While Things Are Stirring” (1867) 75-76

John Stuart Mill, Chapters 2 and 4 from The Subjection of Women (1870) 76-81

Frederick Douglass, “Why I Became a Woman’s-Rights Man,” from The Life and Tomes of Frederick Douglas (1882) 88-90

Friedrich Engels, from The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884) 90-93


Monday 12/5

Angela Y. Davis, “Outcast Mothers and Surrogates: Racism and Reproductive Politics in the Nineties” (1991) 447-453

Vernadette V. Gonzalez and Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, “Filipina.com: Wives, Workers and Whores on the Cyber Frontier” 2003 SAKAI


Wednesday 12/7


4st Self Evaluative Essay: Advanced Draft Due

Essay Topic: Work



Monday 12/12

4st Self Evaluative Essay Due



Class Participation:

Since the format of the class is discussion based, regular class attendance and reading that is complete, careful and on schedule is essential! Readings must be completed before class because class discussion, activities and POP-UP quizzes will be closely aligned with the content of readings for each week. Students who are more than five minutes late will be marked absent. Bring the print-outs of the reading materials and your textbook to class. Failing to do so will affect your participation grade (0.5 point will be deducted per class if you show up without hard copies of your reading material). If you are physically absent from class, it is your responsibility to get notes and information about assignments you missed from your classmates or myself.


I will determine your participation grade by how your contribution demonstrates that you have read the articles and carefully thought about the topics discussed that day. Each week, students will be assigned a participation grade in the range of 0 to 2 points based on their involvement in class discussion, small group activities and peer-review sessions. For a perfect participation grade students should accrue a total of 25 points.


0     -- absent;

0.5  -- present and attentive; not disruptive and involved in side talking; tries to respond when called but does not offer informed answers; demonstrates very infrequent involvement in discussion;

1     -- present, does not offer to contribute to discussion, but contributes to a moderate degree when called on; demonstrates adequate preparation; knows basic facts and straightforward information from the reading, but does not show evidence of trying to interpret or analyze them; demonstrates sporadic involvement, perhaps once a class.

1.5    -- present, demonstrates ongoing involvement; demonstrates good preparation, knows the reading facts and the implications of the arguments well; contributes well to discussion: thinks through own points, questions others in a constructive way; responds to other student's points; offers and supports ideas that might be counter to the common-sense or to the majority opinion; is focused and does not dominate class discussion or small group interactions.

2       -- present, demonstrates excellent preparation and ongoing involvement, is able to relate class materials to readings from previous weeks, course materials, current events and debates, experiences, etc. while keeping the analysis focused; offers analysis and evaluation of the reading materials; responds thoughtfully to other students' questions and develops new approaches to take the discussion further; contributes to cooperative argument-building.


Class presentation. Group Project

Each week, on Wednesday, two students will be responsible for leading that day’s class discussion by closely engaging with the assigned reading materials. Each student presentation will be 25 minutes long. In your presentation, you will do the following:

  • Outline the structure of the argument.
  • Briefly define/discuss one or two of the most relevant concepts developed by the author.
  • Review two main points that the author makes in relation to previous reading materials or outside of the reading list sources.
  • Conduct further research on two of the arguments, concepts or data presented in the article.
  • Facilitate class discussion on two questions that you formulate in relation to the article.
  • Presentations should not exceed 25 minutes.
  • Presentations will be delivered in power point format.
  • The power-point file with your presentation will be deposited in the “Drop Box” of the course on sakai.


Self-Evaluative Essay

  • 4-page essay that engages with at least 4 reading materials from each topical section of the syllabus.


  • In preparing the essay consider the following questions and directions:


  • What ideas addressed in the first part of the course captivated you the most?
  • What questions are motivating your writing?
  • Formulate the core statement of our essay in relation to these ideas and questions. State the theme of your essay clearly.
  • Support it with the 5 authors’ answers and explanations. Evaluate the authors’ arguments.
  • What kind of evidence do they use to support their arguments?
  • What key concepts are used?
  • What kind of information, data, and debates are included? What is left out?
  • Why do these arguments matter? 
  • Who could benefit from such knowledge?
  • Why is it important to know the answer to these questions?



Addendum 1. Peer Review: Activity Guidelines


  1. Please read the paper through the first time without making any markings on it in order to familiarize yourself with the content.


  1. During the second read please do the following:
    1. Underline the main argument of the paper
    2. Put a check mark in the left column next to statements that support and explain the argument
    3. Circle the conclusion


  1. Read the paper for the third and final time, and respond briefly to the following questions:
    1. Does the first paragraph present the writer’s argument and the approach the writer is taking in presenting that argument. If not, what is missing, unclear, understated, and insufficiently developed?
    2. Does the argument progress clearly from one paragraph to the next? Is the organization of the paper logical? Does each paragraph add to the argument by adding layers and details to the main purpose of the paper? If not, where does the structure break down, and/or which paragraph/s is/are problematic and why?
    3. Does the writer support the argument with textual evidence? Please indicate where there is a paragraph weak on evidence or featuring evidence not supporting the argument.
    4. Does the conclusion draw together the strands of the argument? If not, what is missing?
    5. What is the best part of the paper?
    6. Which sections of the paper need most improvement? Be specific so that the writer knows where to focus her or his efforts.


(Adapted from Susan A. Ambrose and Michael W. Birdges’ How Learning Works: Seven Researched Based Principles for Smart Teaching, 2011)





Addendum 2. How to Read Feminist Theory


As you read the various expressions of feminist thought for this class, there are numerous factors that will help you understand them better and place them in a larger theoretical context.


While not every theorist will cover all these bases, try to identify the following components in each of your readings.


Some of the guiding ideas are drawn from Charlotte Bunch, “Not by Degrees: Feminist Theory and

Education,” which is one of our first readings for this semester.



1. Description: How does the theorist describe what exists? What problem does she or he identify? Does the theorist introduce or define any terms that are worth noting?


2. Analysis: How does the theorist analyze why that reality exists? How does she explain the problem? Who benefits from the reality she describes? Is there a single explanation, or can there be several?


3. Vision: How does the theorist determine what should exist? What does the theorist prescribe as a new reality? What are the immediate goals and the long-term visions for change?


4. Strategy: How does the theorist hypothesize how to change what is to what should be? What tools for change will make vision into reality? How will the change be enacted: gradually? all at once? through what avenues?


5. Timing: Was or is the theorist’s time period a major factor in the production of her theory? What are the historical facts that inform this theory? If the theory seems dated, in what ways is it still relevant today?


6. Social location: From what perspective does the theorist make this description? That is, what is the social location of the theorist or the theory? Is she describing the reality of women or men of a particular race, class, sexual orientation, national identity, age, or religion?



(Source: Dr. M. Bevacqua, Minessota State University, Mankato)