Lovin- Feminist Theory Syllabus Spring 2012

Instructor: C. Laura Lovin

Email: lovin@rci.rutgers.edu

Office Hours: TTh 4:00-5:00 pm

Office: Conklin Hall, Room 247 A

Feminist Theory


TTH 10-11:50

ENG 215


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;




Feminist Theory: A Reader by Wendy Kolmar and Frances Barkowski, Published by McGraw-Hill, 2009.


The reading materials will be also posted on Blackboard. It your responsibility to make sure, in advance, whether you are able to download them and print them out for class preparation and class work. Not bringing the reading materials to class will affect your class participation grade.





Class participation: 25%*

Turn off your cell phones and put them away. In class texting will also not be tolerated. Disrupting the class with your cell phone or by side taking with your neighbors will affect participation grade.

Homework assignments 30 %**

Class presentation: 15%

2 Self-evaluative essays: 15%X2 


Grading Scale:

A: 92-100%, B+: 87-91%, B: 81-86%,  C+: 77-80%,  C: 70-76%, D:65-69% ; F: 65% and under.


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 and class activities will be closely aligned with the content of the readings for each class. Students who are more than five minutes late will be marked absent. Bring the print-outs of the reading materials 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.


If you joined late the class you are responsible to demonstrate that you have read the syllabus, signed up for class presentation and make up for the missed work.


You are allowed two absences with no penalty. Any absence above the two that are allowed will lower your final class participation grade with a letter grade. Four absences will result in an F for class participation. Five absences or more will result in a failing grade for the class.


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.


F     -- absent;

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

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

B    -- present, demonstrates ongoing involvement; demonstrates good preparation, knows the reading facts and the implications of the arguments well; contributes well to discussion: thinks through arguments, 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.

A       -- 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.


Group Project

This assignment is intended to help students take an active role in their education by leading one class discussion. Students are expected to summarize the reading materials for the day, identify common trends and/ or differences among them, draw on new examples and, very importantly, suggest several questions to be discussed in class. The presentation should be:

  • Minimum 20 minutes- maximum 40 minutes in length and delivered in a power-point format;
  • the information presented should draw from two scholarly sources that are not listed on the syllabus;
  • the information presented should be synthesized and rendered in the students’ own words;

Discussion leaders will work in groups of max 5 students and each student will take up specific roles such as:

  • summarizing  the main points presented in the reading materials;
  • selecting 4-5 passages for class discussion;
  • connecting the current readings with previously studied materials;
  • presenting visual and/or performative materials that closely relate to and further inform the reading materials;
  • presenting a vision for social change in relation to the topic of the week and how it could be  achieved;
  • presenting the class with 3 questions in strict relation to the assigned readings and facilitating the class discussion;

A print-out of our powerpoint should be submitted at the beginning of the class.


10 Homework assignments

You will be asked to write ten summaries.


A good summary should be comprehensive, concise, coherent, and independent. These qualities are

explained below:

1.  A summary must be comprehensive.  You should isolate all the important points in the original passage and

note them down in a list.  Review all the ideas on your list, and include in your summary all the ones that

are indispensable to the author's development of his/her thesis or main idea.

2.  A summary must be concise.  Eliminate repetitions in your list, even if the author restates the same points.

Your summary should be considerably shorter than the source.  You are hoping to create an overview;

therefore, you need not include every repetition of a point or every supporting detail.

3.  A summary must be coherent.  It should make sense as a piece of writing in its own right; it should not

merely be taken directly from your list of notes or sound like a disjointed collection of points. 

4.  A summary must be independent.  You are not being asked to imitate the author of the text you are writing

about.  On the contrary, you are expected to maintain your own voice throughout the summary.  Don't

simply quote the author; instead use your own words to express your understanding of what you have

read.  After all, your summary is based on your interpretation of the writer's points or ideas.  However,

you should be careful not to create any misrepresentation or distortion by introducing comments or

criticisms of your own ( rwc.hunter.cuny.edu/reading-writing/on-line/summary.pdf, 2012).


Format requirements:

12 size font, Times New Roman, 1 inch margins, include workcount and your name on the first page.



2 Reading Response Papers

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.
  • 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?







GROUND RULES—Code of conduct

In order to create a safe environment for sharing personal information, to ensure that discussions are passionate without descending into argumentations, that everyone is heard, and that participants work together toward greater understanding rather than contribute disjointed pieces, everyone should follow these ground rules:

Arrive on time, stay in class throughout the class period, do not leave earlier

Listen actively and attentively.

Turn off your cell phones. Engaging with your cell phone is strongly discouraged and it will lower your participation grade.

Do not use laptops unless you are presenting or specifically asked.

Ask for clarification if confused.

Do not interrupt one another.

Challenge one another, but do so respectfully.

Critique ideas, not people.

Do not offer opinions without supporting textual evidence.

Avoid put downs.

Take responsibility for the quality of the discussion.

Build on one another’s comments, work towards shared understanding.

Always have your book or reading in front of you.

Do not monopolize the discussion.

If you speak from your own experience, make sure you don’t generalize.

If you are offended by anything said during the discussion, acknowledge it immediately.

Grades, assignments, etc. are not to be discussed in class. Schedule an appointment or stop by my office during my office hours.







                                                          CLASS SCHEDULE



WEEK 1 Tuesday, 01/17

Introductions, Logistics, and Course Overview

Thursday, 01/19

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

WEEK 2 Tuesday 01/24

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

Group work: Theorizing and Crafting Social Change

Thursday, 01/26

Audre Lorde, “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”(1978) reported in Sister/Outsider: Essay and Speeches (1984)

WEEK 3 Tuesday, 01/31

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

Thursday 01/02

bell hooks: Feminism: A Transformational Politics?” from Talking Back: Thinking Black Thinking Feminist (1989) 402-407, 281-286 (FT)


WEEK 4 Tuesday 02/07

Simone de Beauvoir, “Introduction” and Chapter 12 from The Second Sex (1949), 167-174 (FT)

Thursday 02/09  (Group presentation on the readings of Week 4)

Nelly Oudshoorn: “Sex and the Body” in Beyond the Natural Body: An Archeology of Sex Hormones (1994)

Emily Martin: “The Egg and the Sperm” in Gender and Scientific Authority (1996)

WEEK 5 Tuesday 02/14

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

Thursday 02/16 (Group presentation on the readings of Week 5)

Carole S. Vance, “Social Construction Theory: Problems in the History of Sexuality” (1989)

WEEK 6 Tuesday 02/21

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

Thursday 02/23 (Group presentation on the readings of Week 6)

Charlotte Furth, “Androgynous Males and Deficient Females: Biology and Gender Bondaries in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth- Century China” (1988)


WEEK 7 Tuesday 02/28

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


Thursday 03/1 (Group presentation on the readings of Week 7)

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

WEEK 8 Tuesday 03/06

The Drafts of your 1st reading response paper are due.

Peer Review Session

Thursday 03/08

FILM Science and Gender: Evelyn Fox Keller (2005)



WEEK 10 Tuesday 03/20

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

Thursday 03/22 (Group presentation on the readings of Week 10)

Alma M. Garcia: “The Development of Chicana Feminist Discourse” (1997)

WEEK 11 Tuesday 03/27

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

Thursday 03/29 (Group presentation on the readings of Week 11)

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



WEEK 12 Tuesday 04/03

FILM Who’s Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics (1995)

Thursday 04/05 (Group presentation on the readings of Week 12)

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

WEEK 13 Tuesday 04/10

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

Thursday 04/12 (Group presentation on the readings of Week 13)

Alexandra Kollantai, “Feminism an the Question of Class” &

 “Working Woman and Mother” (1914) 116-120 (FT)

WEEK 14 Tuesday 04/17

Amy Kaplan, “Manifest Domesticity” in The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture (2002)

Athaliah Molokomme, Leloba Molema, Opha Dube, Motsei Madisa, Ruth Motsete, and Onalenna Selolwane: Citizenship: an open letter to the Attorney General (2003)

Thursday 04/19 (Group presentation on the readings of Week 14)

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

Martha McMahon, Resisting Globalization: Women Organic Frames and local Food Systems (2002)

WEEK 15 Tuesday 04/24

FILM Poto mitan: Haitian women, pillars of the global economy (2009)

Thursday 04/26

Draft of your 2nd reading response paper due

Peer Reviewing Session

Final submission: May 3 by 12 pm.


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.
  2. 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
  3. Read the paper for the third and final time, and respond briefly to the following questions:
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. Does the conclusion draw together the strands of the argument? If not, what is missing?
  8. What is the best part of the paper?
  9. 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)