Fall 2016 -
Undergraduate Course Description
Discipline and Number
4:00 PM - 6:45 PM
|Gender in Western Thought
Description of Course:
It may fit a general sense of the misogyny of the past to learn that one of the early Church Fathers, Saint Jerome, thought that "woman is the root of all evil" or that Martin Luther a thousand years later argued that "God created Adam master and lord of living creatures, but Eve spoilt all, when she persuaded him to set himself above God's will. 'Tis you women, with your tricks and artifices, that lead men into error."
Yet, this understanding of woman as evil or intrinsically inferior was never the only position. Christine de Pizan suggested in 1402 that “if it were customary to send little girls to school and teach them the same subjects as are taught to boys, they would learn just as fully and would understand the subtleties of all arts and sciences” and François Poullain de la Barre asserted in 1673 that "the mind has no sex."
In this class we will explore the changing and often contradictory ideas about gender and gender roles in writings from Plato and Aristotle to Germaine Greer and Judith Butler, and situate those ideas in a historical context. We will consider how gender has been constructed in Western thought, and what people have claimed as the source and function of gender and gender differences. Toward the end of the semester, we will also consider major contemporary schools of thought on gender is and does and what it should be and do and sort through the main debates between them.
--Students will be able to recognize and describe some gendered aspects of western thought from antiquity to today
--Students will form an understanding of how changing conceptions of gender relate to major social, political and cultural shifts over time
--Students will have an overview of recent trends in gender studies including the major areas of agreement and conflict between different theorists and theories.
COURSE & INSTRUCTOR POLICIES:
--This is a reading intensive class and writing intensive class. You will be expected to come to class having read the assignments for that day at least once and you will be expected to express your ideas in writing on a weekly basis.
- Some of the readings are controversial; some contain explicit material, graphic language and ideas that may appear odd or disconcerting. We are reading these texts not to be persuaded by them, but to understand what the authors believed and why. If you have concerns, talk to me.
- Linda Nicholson, ed. The Second Wave. London; New York: Routledge, 1997. (TSW)
Additional text TBD
- Online Course Packet with a selection of readings by e.g.:
St Augustine, Thomas of Aquinas, Baldessar Castiglione, Christian de Pizan, Marguerite de Navarre, François Poullain de la Barre, Anna Schurmann, John Locke, David Hume, Catherine Macaulay, Jacques Rousseau, Soujourner Truth, Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Rudyard Kipling, Karl Marx, Alexandra Kollontai, Sigmund Freud, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Monique Wittig, Hélène Cixous, Gloria Anzaldúa, Catherine McKinnock, Germaine Greer, bell hooks, Judith Halberstam, Judith Butler, Michael Warner, Susan Bordo.
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
ASSIGNMENTS AND GRADING: (tentative - see syllabus for final details)
Attendance and in class discussion
A number of short (1-2 page) reading summaries
1 article review
1 book review