WOMEN'S STUDIES
AMHERST COLLEGE COURSES
SPRING 1997

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BLACK STUDIES DEPARTMENT 
201 Williston Hall 
542-5800 
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BS 44/ENG 75 
Issues of Gender in African Literature	 
Rhonda Cobham-Sander 
TBA 
 
This course explores the ways in which issues of gender are presented by African
writers and perceived by readers and critics of African writing.  We will examine
the insights and limitation of selected feminist, post-structural and post-colonial
theories when they are applied to African texts.  We will also look at the
difference over time in the ways that female and male African writers have
manipulated socially acceptable ideas about gender in their work.  Texts will be
selected from the oeuvres of established writers.  Preference will be given to
students who have completed a previous course on African literature, history, or
society. 
 
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CHEMISTRY DEPARTMENT 
507 Merrill Science 
542-2342 
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Bruss 12 
Women and Minorities in Science 
Patricia O'Hara 
TBA 
 
This course will review the history of women and minorities in science.  The
historical and contemporary factors responsible for the shortage of women and
minorities in science will be discussed.  Focus will be placed on individual woman
and minorities who have played leadership roles in research, industry, and science
education.  Readings will be of biographies and autobiographies of scientists. 
 
 
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POLITICAL SCIENCE 
103 Clark House 
542-2318 
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PS 32 (component) 
Authority and Sexuality 
Austin Sarat 
TBA 
 
Historically the regulation of sexual practices and the definition of appropriate
modes of sexual expression have been important concerns of state and society.  This
reflects the difficulties which all social orders have in defining the limits of
freedom and the legitimate scope of social control.  But the effort to define those
limits with respect to sexuality is by no means a relic of a discredited past as
debates about abortion, homosexuality, pornography and the recent controversy about
AIDS make clear.  Moreover, our images of public authority are themselves, to some
extent, a product of our struggles to find meaning in sexuality and to come to
terms with the place of desire in our own lives.  This course asks how it is that
sexuality is portrayed, imagined and defined in such a manner as to make possible
various forms of scrutiny, regulation, and prohibition.  We will examine the ways
in which sexuality and authority are constituted in politics and in law as well as
arguments suggesting that particular sexual relationships and particular
arrangements of political authority are natural, normal, just or inevitable.  We
will investigate the way the rhetoric of sexuality and authority transforms the
experience of desire and power as well as the ways authority rises from and depends
upon a particular consciousness about sex which is revealed in philosophy,
literature, and political theory.  Throughout, the course seeks to call into
question oppositions of public and private, law and power, government and self,
which have traditionally organized our thinking about authority and sexuality. 
 
 
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PSYCHOLOGY DEPARTMENT 
212 Appleton Hall 
542-2217 
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PSY 27 (component) 
Developmental Psychology 
Rose Olver 
TBA 
 
A study of human development across the life span with emphasis upon the general
characteristics of various stages of development from birth to adolescence and upon
determinants of the developmental process. 
 
 
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WOMEN AND GENDER STUDIES 
14 Grosvenor House 
542-5781 
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WAGS 11 
The Cross-Cultural Construction of Gender	 
Michele Barale and Rose Olver 
Monday, Wednesday  12:30 pm 
 
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 will include the uses and limits of biology in explaining
human gender differences; male and female sexualities including homosexualities;
women and social change; women's participation in production and reproduction; the
relationship among gender, race and class as intertwining oppressions; and the
functions of visual and verbal representation in the creating, enforcing and
contesting of gender norms. 
 
WAGS 15 
Feminist and Its Critics in Context 
Margaret Hunt 
Tuesday, Thursday  2:00 pm 
 
This course examines a series of feminist (and non-feminist) political and cultural
productions from the nineteenth century to the present.  The central aims are:  to
develop an understanding of how particular novels, poems, political writing and
other texts grew out of historical debates surrounding gender, race, class, and
sexuality; to examine the extent to which such productions reflected (or failed to
reflect) the lives of real women and men; and to assess these texts in light of
present-day movements for social change. 
 
WAGS 19 
Buddhist Women and Representations of the Female	 
Janet Gyatso 
Tuesday, Thursday  2:00 pm 
 
This course explores three interrelated subjects:  (1) Buddhist conceptions
concerning the female gender.  The primary sources for this question are the
Buddhist tantras, where for the first time there appear the dakini
"sky-walker"/trickster/buddhas, and there is developed an elaborate soteriology and
practice involving sexuality.  Also relevant are a series of sutra passages in
which the nature of female enlightenment is debated, as is the nature of gender as
such.  (2) The lifestyles and self-conceptions of historical Buddhist women,
focusing upon autobiographical writings by Buddhist women, and accounts of modern
nuns involved in reform movements and political struggles in Asia.  We will also
look at the subversive teaching strategies of women teachers, hags, and other
characters (putatively historical) in the biographies of Buddhist men.  (3)
Buddhist philosophy of language and its relation to Buddhist representations of the
female, both of which issues will be studied in conjunction with the writings of
Western feminist thinkers on language and semiotics, such as Butler, Kristeva and
Cizous.  In this context, we will explore the significance and practice of the
"twilight language of the dakinis," cited widely in the tantras, "revelatory"
writings, and biographical literature. 
 
WAGS 30 
In Their Words:  Autobiographies of Women 
Susan Snively 
Tuesday, Thursday  10:00 am 
 
How does the writing of autobiography help a woman affirm, construct, or
reconstruct an authentic self?  How does she resolve the conflict between telling
the truth and distorting it in making her life into art?  Is the making of art,
indeed, her chief preoccupation; or is her goal to record her life in the context
of her times, her religion, or her relationship to others?  reading autobiographies
of women writers helps us raise, if not resolve, these questions.  We shall also
consider how women write about experiences particular to women as shown in their
struggles to survive adversity; their sense of themselves as authorities or
challengers of authority, as well as their sense of what simply gives them pain or
joy.  Readings from recent work in the psychology of woman will provide models for
describing women's development, as writings of women in turn will show how these
models emerge from real lives.  The syllabus will include traditional
autobiography, historical memoir, poetry, journals and personal narratives,
psychological studies, criticism and theory.  Writing requirements will include
several short papers and an autobiographical essay. 
 
WAGS 32 
Sex, Self and Fear 
Stephanie Sandler 
Wednesday  2:00-4:00 pm 
 
Freud located identity formation in the emotion of fear-a boy's fear of castration,
a girl's terror at lack; later theories have agreed that worries about exposure,
ridicule, and confession shape the sexual self.  Our course will explore the
gendered origins and effects of fear, asking how fear of the other sex grounds
sexual identity.  Course material will be fiction, poetry and films that condense
and substitute various forms of dread.  We will ask what cultural and psychological
work fear performs:  What thrills are required for liberation from social taboos? 
How do adults contain (and repeat) the fears that ruled childhood?  Why do we like
to be frightened? 
 
WAGS  47 
Asian and Asian American Women:  Myths of Deference, Arts of Resistance 
Amrita Basu 
Tuesday, Thursday  10:00 am 
 
Even the most sympathetic observers often assume that Asian women are so deeply
oppressed that they demure in face of intolerable conditions.  Such notions of
women's deference find echoes in popular conceptions of Asian American women.  Part
of the work of this course is to question assumptions of women's quiescence by
redefining agency and activism.  But an equally important challenge is to avoid
romanticizing resistance by recognizing victimization in the absence of agency,
agency in the absence of activism, and activism in the absence of social change. 
Thus while appreciating the inventive ways in which Asian and Asian American women
resist, we will explore why such resistance may perpetuate their subjugation. 
 
WAGS 59 
Suites in the Literature of Sexuality:  Queer Fictions:  Texts from the Turn of the Century 
Jack Cameron 
Monday, Wednesday  12:30 pm 
 
The course aims to introduce students to contemporary discourse concerning the
literature of sexuality.  The period 1885-1920 appears to have been a defining
moment in the history of sexuality in the West.  A proliferating representation of
sexual practices and identities, particularly around concepts of the normal and the
perverse, had begun to center the discourse of erotic life, finding rich and
complex (if commonly veiled and coded) articulation in the fictions of literary
modernism.  The course will take advantage of recent historical and theoretical
work.