Blogging the Theoretical


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 (30 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

Theorizing Gender Across Texts (175 points total  18 pts per first blog and 25 per Final also 25 pts total for peer reviewing )

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 max 1000 words (2 pgs double-spaced).  Terms will be randomly assigned the first week of class. You are expected to follow either MLA or APA guidelines, cite all work discussed, and provide either a bibliography or footnotes with all article discussed.






Gender—how do we come to know it



The solution

Entry One

Draft One 9/16

Final Draft 9/23

Entry Two

Draft One 10/6

Final   10/12

Entry Three

Draft One  11/4

Final  11/11

Entry Four

Draft One 12/2

Final  12/9

Film Workshop (20 points) Due 10/5

We will use seminar readings to analyze the film Ten. You will have an entire class period to work on the workshop (it will be due at 4:30pm the day of class).

Creative Assignment (20 points)

Each of you will submit a creative project in which you aesthetically engage with gender and/or sexuality as a construction.  You can use photography, sketching, composition, or video as part of your assignment. However, YOU CAN’T JUST CUT AND PASTE SOMEONE ELSE’S ART (visual or written). This assignment asks you to flex the left side of your brain. You should submit a digital copy of your project so that I can make DVD’s for the entire class. In addition to the page, each student will write an artist statement which should include a one to two page discussion of the intent of your page, how it relates to class materials and how you crafted your image.

Due 11/2

Praxis Statement and Portfolio (10 points)

Given the fact that gender and feminist theory will be a new area for many of you, I will collect portfolios so I can gain a better understanding of how you have progressed intellectually over the semester. The portfolio should include a 1 double spaced page introduction discussing your thoughts on the following questions: What, in your opinion, is the purpose of feminist theory? What were the most powerful readings for you this semester and why? What readings were the most challenging? What theoretical concept was most provocative or interesting for you? How did this course relate to the other courses you have taken in Gender Studies? How might you use what you have learned this semester in other courses? How did you grow, develop or change over the course of this semester? You should draw on your logs as part of your answer. Each portfolio should also include all the work you have done throughout the semester; this means every conceptual workshop, every small group exercise that involved writing, and all drafts of your papers (with your peer’s comments and the ones with my comments). Lastly, your portfolio should conclude with your praxis statement. You have spent your semester thinking about the state of gender, in all of its various complexities, in our contemporary global landscape…so what do you think we should do about it? A praxis statement provides ideas of how to move theory into action so we can take what we have learned and apply it to our everyday lives. These statements will be your vision of how you believe we can start changing the world. This is your manifesto. You can either write your statement with one other person in the class or you can write it on your own. You should pick the three most influential authors you have read this semester and think through how you would apply their theories to change the landscape of gender in your local environment. Your praxis statement should be 1-2 double spaced pages.

Due 12/7

Class Participation (21 points)

Due to the format of this course, class participation is central to its operation. As such, class participation is a heavily weighted component of the course. Class participation includes: class attendance, coming prepared to discuss the materials (this means not only doing the reading, but being ready to discuss it), having your notes and actively engaging with class exercises, leading group discussions and open forums. Although you will not earn points for participating you may lose points for not being an active member of the course. If you come to our seminar unprepared you will lose up to five points per class.

Grading Scale out of 300

4.0                                           279

3.75                                         270

3.5                                           264

3.25                                         255

3.0                                           240

2.75                                         234

2.5                                           225

2.25                                         219

2.0                                          210

1.75                                         204

1.5                                           195

1.25                                         189

1.0                                           180

Reading Assignments

Part One: What is Feminism?

Week One      Epistemological and Political Waves?

W 8/24 Jenny Coleman (2009) “An Introduction to Feminisms in a Post Feminist Age” Women’s Studies Journal 23 (2) 3-13.

Lisa Johnson (2004) “Fuck You and Your Untouchable Face: Third Wave Feminism and the Problem of Romance” from Jane Sexes it Up (ed) Lisa Meri Johnson.

Blog due 8/25

Part Two: Intersectionality and the Production of Knowledge

Week Two      Standpoint Epistemology

W 8/31 Patricia Hill Collins Black Feminist Thought Chapters 1-5

Week Three   Standpoint Continued…

W 9/7 Patricia Hill Collins Black Feminist Thought Chapters 6, 10, 11, 12

Blog due 9/3

Week Four     Beyond Intersectionality?

W 9/14 Jennifer C Nash (2008) “Strange Bedfellows: Black Feminism and Antipornography Feminism” Social Text 26 (4) 51-76

Conceptual Workshop

Part Two: Materialist Analysis

Week Five      Postcolonial Feminist Theory

W 9/21 Chandra Talpade Mohanty Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity Chapters 1-4

Week Six        Postcolonial Feminist Theory Continued…

W 9/28            Chandra Mohanty Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity Chapters 5-8

Week Seven Synthesis and Application

W 10/5            Film Ten

Watch film before coming to class…it will be on ANGEL

Graded Conceptual Workshop

Paper due 10/7 by noon on ANGEL

Part Three: Subjectivity and Language

Week Eight Poststructuralist and Queer Theory

W 10/12          No Seminar–Fall Break Enjoy

Week Nine Poststructuralist and Queer Theory Continued…

W 10/20          Judith Butler Undoing Gender Introduction and Chapter 1

Blog due 10/17

Week Ten Poststructuralist and Queer Theory Continued…

W 10/26          Judith Butler Undoing Gender Chapter 2 and 5

Week Eleven Becoming Gendered

W 11/2 Judith Butler Undoing Gender Chapter 6


Creative Project Due

Part Four:       Gender, Subjectivity and the Psyche

Week Twelve Psychoanalytic Interpretations

W 11/9            Jessica Benjamin Chapters 1, 2

Week Thirteen Psychoanalytic Interpretations

W 11/16          Jessica Benjamin Chapters 3, 4

Paper Two Due 11/19

11/23 Break     Have a great week off!!!!

Week Fourteen Psychoanalytic Interpretations

W 11/30          Jessica Benjamin Chapters 5, 6

Blog due 11/28

Week Fifteen What does a Feminist Want?

W 12/7            Elisabeth Young-Bruehl (2009) “Women and Children First!” Modern Psychoanalysis 34 (2) 53-74

Siamek Movahedi (2009) “What do Postmodern Feminists Want from Freud and Psychoanalysis?” Modern Psychoanalysis 34 (2)

Blog 12/4

Praxis Statement due on ANGEL 12/8

Course Orientation

Class Policies:

Late Papers. I do not accept late papers. If you are going to miss class the day a paper is due, please hand in your paper early

Respecting Difference and Classroom Environment: Our class will be a space where all viewpoints are listened too and given respect. We all bring various life experiences to the table and no student’s experience should be silenced. This does not mean that critique is impossible; rather it means that when critique occurs it should be based on intellectual arguments, rather than personal attributes. Moreover, if you ever disagree with my interpretations please challenge me! Remember this is a place for you to integrate new material and new ways of thinking.

Multiple Modalities of Learning: Different students may have varying ways of both coming to learn material and/or discussing material; as such, if anyone needs any special assistance of any kind please do not hesitate to contact me. Moreover, if anyone has any learning disabilities please let me know and we can set up any necessary modifications.

Athletes If you are a student athlete you are expected to bring me your class roster at the beginning of the course. Your roster does not excuse you from any work due on the day of your game rather you will need to turn in any work early. Moreover, if you do not bring me your schedule and miss class more than once your grade will suffer.

Cheating Students are required to follow the academic handbook standards for academic integrity. Failure to follow these guidelines will result in a visit to the Academic Honor Council—and none of us want that—so please don’t plagiarize. You must cite authors in your work when you are: a) referring to their ideas b) paraphrasing their work or c) using quotations from their work. Failure to you any citations in your work is plagiarism. Moreover, if you are using your own ideas from a paper you wrote in another class, please cite that paper.

Class Attendance: Please see class participation requirement above

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