Amherst College Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies courses, Fall 2012

American Studies 102 Morgan Hall 542-2246

AMST 215/ANTH 111 – The Embodied Self in American Culture and Society
Allen Guttman
Monday, Wednesday, Friday  11:00-11:50 a.m.

"The Embodied Self" in American Culture and Society is an interdisciplinary, historically organized study of American perceptions of and attitudes towards the human body in a variety of media, ranging from medical and legal documents to poetry and novels, the visual arts , film, and dance. Among the topics to be discussed are the physical performance of gender; the social construction of the ideal male and female body; health reform movements; athletic achievement as an instrumentalization of the body; commercialization of physical beauty in the fitness and fashion industries; eating disorders as cultural phenomena; the interminable abortion controversy; the equally interminable conflict over pornography and the limits of free speech; and adaptations to the possibility of serious illness and to the certainty of death.

AMST 232 – Racialization in the U.S.:  The Asian/Pacific/American Experience
Sujani Reddy
Monday, Wendesday  3:00-4:20 p.m.

This course is an interdisciplinary introduction to Asian/Pacific/American Studies. We will begin by looking at the founding of the field through the student-led social movements of the 1960s and ask ourselves how relevant these origins have been to the subsequent development of the field. We will then use questions that arise from this material to guide our overview of the histories, cultures, and communities that make up the multiplicity of Asian/Pacific America. Topics will include, but not be limited to, the racialization of Asian Americans through immigrant exclusion and immigration law; the role of U.S. imperialism and global geo-politics in shaping migration from Asia to the U.S., the problems and possibilities in a pan-ethnic label like A/P/A, interracial conflict and cooperation, cultural and media representations by and about Asian Americans, diaspora, and homeland politics. In addition, throughout the semester we will practice focusing on the relationships between race, gender, class, sexuality, and nation. The ultimate goal of the course is to develop a set of analytic tools that students can then use for further research and inquiry.

Sociology/Anthropology 102 Morgan Hall 542-2193

ANTH 330 – The Anthropology of Food
Deborah Gewertz
Wednesday  2:00-4:30 p.m.
Because food is necessary to sustain biological life, its production and provision occupy humans everywhere. Due to this essential importance, food also operates to create and symbolize collective life. This seminar will examine the social and cultural significance of food. Topics to be discussed include: the evolution of human food systems, the social and cultural relationships between food production and human reproduction, the development of women’s association with the domestic sphere, the meaning and experience of eating disorders, and the connection among ethnic cuisines, nationalist movements and social classes.

Black Studies 108 Cooper 542-5800

BLST 252/ENGL 317 – Caribbean Poetery:  The Anglophone Tradition
C. Rhonda Cobhan Sander
Monday, Wednesday  8:30-9:50 a.m.

A survey of the work of Anglophone Caribbean poets, alongside readings about the political, cultural and aesthetic traditions that have influenced their work. Readings will include longer cycles of poems by Derek Walcott and Edward Kamau Brathwaite; dialect and neoclassical poetry from the colonial period, as well as more recent poetry by women writers and performance (“dub”) poets.

English 1 Johnson Chapel 542-2231

ENGL 444 – Emily Dickinson
Karen Sanchez-Eppler
Tuesday  9:00-11:20 a.m.

“Experience is the Angled Road/Preferred against the Mind/By–Paradox–the Mind itself–” she explained in one poem and in this course we will make use of the resources of the town of Amherst to play experience and mind off each other in our efforts to come to terms with her elusive poetry.  The course will meet in the Dickinson Homestead, visit the Evergreens (her brother Austen’s house, and a veritable time capsule), make use of Dickinson manuscripts in the College archives, and set her work in the context of other nineteenth-century writers including Helen Hunt Jackson, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Harriet Jacobs.  But as we explore how Dickinson’s poetry responds to her world we will also ask how it can speak to our present.  One major project of the course will be to develop exhibits and activities for the Homestead that will help visitors engage with her poems.

French 201 Barrett 542-2317

FRN 342 – Women of Ill Repute – Prostitutes in 19th Century French Literature
Laure Katsaros
Monday, Wednesday, Friday  10:00-11:50 a.m.

Prostitutes play a central role in nineteenth-century French fiction, especially of the realistic and naturalistic kind. Both widely available and largely visible in nineteenth-century France, prostitutes inspired many negative stereotypes. But, as the very product of the culture that marginalized her, the prostitute offered an ideal vehicle for writers to criticize the hypocrisy of bourgeois mores. The socially stratified world of prostitutes, ranging from low-ranking sex workers to high-class courtesans, presents a fascinating microcosm of French society as a whole. We will read selections from Honoré de Balzac, Splendeur et misère des courtisanes; Victor Hugo, Les Misérables; and Gustave Flaubert, L’éducation sentimentale; as well as Boule-de-Suif and other stories by Guy de Maupassant; La fille Elisa by Edmond de Goncourt; Nana by Emile Zola; Marthe by Joris-Karl Huysmans; La dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils; and extracts from Du côté de chez Swann by Marcel Proust. Additional readings will be drawn from the fields of history (Alain Corbin, Michelle Perrot) and critical theory (Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva). We will also discuss visual representations of prostitutes in nineteenth-century French art (Gavarni, Daumier, C. Guys, Degas, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec). Conducted in French.


Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought 208 Clark House 542-2380

LJST 374/POSC 374 – Norms, Rights, Social Justice:  Feminists, Disability Rights Activists and the Poor at the Boundaries of the Law
Kristin Bumiller
Tuesday 2:30-4:30 p.m.

This seminar explores how the civil rights movement began a process of social change and identity-based activism. We evaluate the successes and failures of “excluded” groups’ efforts to use the law. We primarily focus on the recent scholarship of theorists, legal professionals, and activists to define “post-identity politics” strategies and to counteract the social processes that “normalize” persons on the basis of gender, sexuality, disability, and class.


Political Science 103 Clark House 542-2318

POSC 356 – Regulating Citizenship
Kristin Bumiller
Wednesday  1:20-5:30 p.m.

This course considers a fundamental issue that faces all democratic societies: How do we decide when and whether to include or exclude individuals from the rights and privileges of citizenship? In the context of immigration policy, this is an issue of state power to control boundaries and preserve national identity. The state also exercises penal power that justifies segregating and/or denying privileges to individuals faced with criminal sanctions. Citizenship is regulated not only through the direct exercise of force by the state, but also by educational systems, social norms, and private organizations. Exclusion is also the result of poverty, disability, and discrimination based on gender, race, age, and ethnic identity. This course will describe and examine the many forms of exclusion and inclusion that occur in contemporary democracies and raise questions about the purpose and justice of these processes. We will also explore models of social change that would promote more inclusive societies. This course will be conducted inside a correctional facility and enroll an equal number of Amherst students and residents of the facility. Permission to enroll will be granted on the basis of a questionnaire and personal interview with the instructor.

Women and Gender Studies 14 Grosvenor 542-5781

WAGS 100 – The Cross Cultural Construction of Gender
Margaret Hunt, Krupa Shandilya
Tuesday, Thursday  2:30-3:50 p.m.
This course introduces students to the issues involved in the social and historical construction of gender and gender roles from a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspective. Topics change from year-to-year and have included women and social change; male and female sexualities including homosexualities; the uses and limits of biology in explaining human gender differences; women’s participation in production and reproduction; the relationship among gender, race and class as intertwining oppressions; women, men and globalization; and gender and warfare.

WAGS 203/BLST 203 – Women Writers of Africa and the African Disapora
Carol Bailey

This course focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first century texts by black women writers based in Africa and the Americas. We will consider the stylistic choices that these women writers make in response to the broad range of challenges confronting them within the modern and postcolonial contexts in which they write.  The reading list varies from year to year.  This year we will read works by Edwidge Danicat, Marie Elena John, Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Adichie and Suzan-Lori Parks.

WAGS 204 - Queering the History of the Body in Empire
Onni Gust
Wednesday, Friday 2:00 - 3:20 p.m.

The course looks at how Western European empires constructed and governed colonized bodies both "at home" and in the colonies. The course charts the ways in which ideas of masculinity, femininity, and able-bodiedness changed as a result of colonial encounter.

WAGS 226 – Women and the Law
Monday, Wednesday  2:00-3:20 p.m.

See department for description.

WAGS 228/THDA 228 – Feminist Performance
Constance Valis-Hill
Monday, Wednesday  2:00-4:00 p.m.

The Women’s Liberation Movement dramatically affected the American social and intellectual climate of the 1970s. In art, as in education, medicine, and politics, women sought equality and economic parity as they actively fought against the mainstream values that had been used to exclude them.  Performance art proved to be an ideal match for the feminist agenda-- it was personal, immediate, and highly effective in communicating an alternate view of power in the world. Artists explored autobiography, the female body, myth, and politics, and played a crucial role in developing and expanding the very nature of performance, consciously uniting the agendas of social politics with art. This class will take us from Yoko Ono’s performances of "Cut Piece" and the Judson Dance Theater's proto-feminist experiments of the 1960s to the radical guerilla-style performances of the 1970s and beyond, where the body was the contested site for debates about the nature of gender, ethnicity and sexuality. We will be looking at works that were not polite demands for legislative change, but raw and sloppy theatrical displays and ecstatic bonding experiences that managed to be at once satirical and celebratory, alienating and illuminating.

WAGS 250/ASLC 240 – Flowers in the Mirror:  Writing Women in Chinese Literature
Paola Zamperini
Monday, Wednesday  12:30-1:50 p.m.

The focus of this course will be the study of sources authored by women throughout the course of Chinese history. We will deal with a wide range of material, from poetry to drama, from novels and short stories to nüshu (the secret script invented by peasant women in a remote area of Hunan province), from literary autobiographies to cinematic discourse. We will address the issue of women as others represent them and women as they portray themselves in terms of gender, sexuality, social class, power, family, and material culture. Focusing on issues such as foot-binding, sexuality, violence, and love, in the works of writers such as Li Qingzhao and Zhang Ailing, we will try to detect the presence and absence of female voices in the literature of different historical periods, and to understand how those literary works relate to male-authored literary works. In addition to primary sources, we will integrate theoretical work in the field of pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Chinese literature and culture.

WAGS 241/SPAN 240 – Fact or Fiction:  Representations of Latina and Latin-American Women in Film and Literature
Lucia Suarez
Tuesday, Thursday  8:30-9:50 a.m.

From La Malinche (sixteenth century) to J Lo, Latin American and Latina women have been sexualized, demonized, objectified, and even erased by narrative and visual representations. Feminist texts have interrogated and complicated sexist and stereotypical master narratives; yet, a tension remains that repeatedly places women of color on a complex stage.  In this class we will analyze the discrepancies and convergences between fictional representations of Latin American and Latina lives and their personal stories of survival, assimilation, success, and economically driven daily negotiations to make ends meet in an increasingly globalized economy. We will examine myths of femininity and beauty, learn about the conditions of sex work in the Caribbean, and explore U.S. policies such as the Good Neighbor Policy to think critically about representations of women in Latin America and the U.S.  Conducted in Spanish.

WAGS 252/HIST 252 – Women’s History, America  1607-1865
Martha Saxton
Tuesday, Thursday  1:00-2:20 p.m.

This course looks at the experiences of Native American, European and African women from the colonial period through the Civil War. The course will explore economic change over time and its impact on women, family structure, and work. It will also consider varieties of Christianity, the First and Second Awakenings and their consequences for various groups of women. Through secondary and primary sources and discussions students will look at changing educational and cultural opportunities for some women, the forces creating antebellum reform movements, especially abolition and feminism, and women’s participation in the Civil War.

WAGS 310/ARHA 385/EUST 385  – Witches, Vampires and Other Monsters
Natasha Staller
Tuesday, Thursday  10:00-11:20 a.m.

This course will explore the construction of the monstrous, over cultures, centuries and disciplines. With the greatest possible historical and cultural specificity, we will investigate the varied forms of monstrous creatures, their putative powers, and the explanations given for their existence-as we attempt to articulate the kindred qualities they share. Among the artists to be considered are Valdés Leal, Velázquez, Goya, Munch, Ensor, Redon, Nolde, Picasso, Dalí, Kiki Smith, and Cindy Sherman.

WAGS 353/HIST 454 – Antebellum Culture:  North and South
Wednesday  2:00-4:00 p.m.
Martha Saxton

This research seminar will be focused on the development of family life and law, religion, and literature in the pre-Civil War North and South.  Students will read material on childrearing practices and the production of gender; conventions of romantic love; the customs and legalities of marriage, parenthood, and divorce; social and geographic mobility; the emergence of the novel, magazines and newspapers; and the role and shape of violence in the North and South. We will discuss contrasts in these developments, many resulting from the strengthening southern commitment to race-based slavery. We will look at these trends through the growth of a national,  white Protestant middle class and at the ways in which members of other groups adopted, rejected, or created alternatives to them. Readings will include secondary and primary sources including memoirs, novels, short stories, essays and diary entries.

WAGS 367– After Midnight’s Children:  Gender, Genre and Contemporary South Asian Novel
Krupa Shandilya
Wednesday  2:00-4:00 p.m.
The publication of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children in 1981 produced a radical change in the way that gender and genre were tackled in the South Asian novel. Writers in the post-Rushdie era experimented with genres such as magical realism, the postcolonial science fiction thriller and the postmodern spy novel to re-imagine the nation’s construction of gendered subjects. This course looks at the intersection of gender and genre in the work of Rushdie himself, namely his Midnight’s Children and The Moor’s Last Sigh among others, as well as Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines and Calcutta Chromosome, and Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games, Red Earth and Pouring Rain. Through a close reading of the fiction of these writers, literary theory on genre and gender, as well as feminist theory we will examine a range of topics such as the mapping of woman onto nation, the transgendered cyborg body as citizen of the nation and the production of masculinity through state-sponsored violence among others. 

WAGS 483/ENGL 483/FAMS 426 – Feminism and Film:  A Study of Practice and Theory
Amelie Hastie
Tuesday  2:30-5:30 p.m.

This seminar will be devoted to the study of feminism and film, considering the ways feminism has shaped both film theory and film practice.  Though focusing in large part on post-1968 writings, which largely ushered in semiotic, psychoanalytic, and feminist theory to film studies, we will also consider early writings by women from the 1910s-1950s in a range of venues–from fan magazines to film journals–that developed points of view regarding women’s practices as both artists and audience members.  We will also consider a range of films, from Hollywood melodrama (also known as “the women’s picture”) of the 1940s to contemporary action films, and from avant-garde feminist works to current independent and international films directed by women.  Informed by feminist film theorist Claire Johnston, we will explore how and when “women’s cinema”–whether theory or practice–constitutes or shapes “counter-cinema.”