Blogging the Theoretical

Fall Syllabus

August 20, 2011 · No Comments

Professor R. Danielle Egan

Fall 2011

Course Meetings Wednesday 1:30-4:30 in Piskor 101

Office Hours Mondays 10:15-11:15, Wednesday 11:00-12:00 or by appointment Phone 229-5120


Gender and Feminist Theory/GNDR 290

To what extent do the regulatory practices of gender formation and division constitute identity, the internal coherence of the subject, indeed, the self-identical status of the person? To what extent is identity a normative ideal rather than a descriptive feature of experience? And how do the regulatory practices that govern gender also govern culturally intelligible notions of identity?

Judith Butler

Black feminism is not white feminism in blackface. Black women have particular and legitimate issues which affect our lives as Black women, and addressing those does not make us any less black. Audre Lorde

What makes a woman or a man? What is this ‘thing’ we call gender? What is the difference between sex and gender? How do we come to know our gender? Is gender a biologically essential given that demarcates experience in a particular way? Or is it a product of culture, history or language? How does gender influence and shape our sex? Can gender be a verb instead of a noun? How is gender made more complicated when we consider race, class, sexuality and global location? What is feminist theory? Is there just one type? How is feminist theorizing both a product of and a reaction against more patriarchal theorists and theories? How are theories of gender similar or different from feminist theory? Can theory be political?  Or is theory a luxury, something only the elite engage in, and thus, politically impotent?

Over the course of this semester, we will engage with various theoretical paradigms which grapple with issue of gender, subjectivity, feminism and the political in an attempt to answer some of the questions posed above. We will examine several influential paradigms (Postcolonial, Psychoanalysis, Multiculturalism, Materialist and Poststructural) and how feminist theorists incorporated and go beyond these theories in their attempts to deconstruct gender as a category of analysis and as a site of political intervention. As such, this course maps the trajectory of theories and theorizing on the issue of gender and how they have changed, grown or been abandoned over time. In addition we will also attempt to deconstruct the idea of “theory” itself. In so doing, we will interrogate how theory may provide a framework that helps us see beyond hegemonic formations of gender and those things that we take for granted as just ‘natural.’

Lastly, we will grapple with theory construction. It is my hope that over the course of this semester you will all become feminist theorists. To this end, you will learn how to construct theoretical arguments of your own, so that you may begin to grapple with those issues you feel passionate about and seek to answer not only here at St. Lawrence University, but also in your life to come.

Required Texts

Jessica Benjamin (1998) Like Subjects, Love Objects: Essays on Recognition and Sexual Difference. New Haven: Yale, UP.

Judith Butler (2004) Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge.

Patricia Hill Collins (2008) Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge

Chandra Talpade Mohanty (2004) Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

** Readings on ANGEL


Weekly Logs (Required to pass the seminar)

Each week students will fill out log cards (if you have wireless device you can type it and email it to me from class if you prefer) for the last ten minutes of class. These cards are emotional communications with me and are totally confidential. They can focus on your feelings and thoughts (positive, negative, ambivalent, etc) about the topic, the class, classmates or me—whatever you want to discuss is fine. Although these are ungraded they are mandatory. If you miss class you will be expected to bring a log to hand in at the beginning of the next seminar.


Blogging the Theoretical (60 points= 15 pts per blog)

Students will be expected to apply the theory we are reading to a posted item on our word press blog. Students will be required to respond to a host of different blog topics: news stories, interpreting quotes, collaboratively illuminating a theoretical argument. At base, this site will be where we grapple with texts and knowledge production. You should incorporate quotes from the reading and the materials posted, but you also need to explain theoretical concepts in your own words.You might also draw on and expand or challenge the posts of your colleagues. What I do not want to see is, “Butler is not applicable” or “Mohanty would call this sexist” or “I just don’t know.” I want you to use theory to illuminate how one can use abstract ideas to better unpack a complicated topic. I want nuance and lots of textual support. These blog entries comprise a large part of your grade and will be public. These blogs are due by 11:59 pm on the day they are assigned–we will spend the first twenty minutes of the next class discussing entries.  Each entry is worth 15 points. If you miss more than one entry you will not pass the seminar.

8/25, 9/3, 10/17, 11/28

Theorizing Gender Across Texts (175 points total)

In these papers you are asked to rigorously engage with a particular theme or concept of gender and feminist theory. In this sense, this assignment is about depth—in that you are being asked to really delve into one area because you are expected to examine how theorists are thinking about this topic across the texts we read in class. You need to show ample textual evidence to support your claims about a particular term. You should not use a dictionary to define it, rather get your understanding directly from the theorists we are reading. Entries should be 3-5 pages double-spaced typed with 1 inch margins and 12 point font.  Terms will be rand