Application DeadlineApplications to the Women's History program are accepted on a rolling basis.
2013-2014 Women's History Courses
Visions/Revisions: Issues in Global Women’s History
This seminar surveys path-breaking studies of US and Global women’s history and related subjects. Course readings, both scholarship and political treatises, exemplify major trends in feminist discourse since the 1960s—from early challenges to androcentric worldviews to the current stress on differences among women. Class discussions range from fundamental questions (e.g., What is feminism? Is “women” a meaningful category?) to theoretical, interpretive, and methodological debates among women’s historians. The course is designed to help advanced students of women’s history clarify research interests by assessing the work of their predecessors. MA candidates will also use the course to define thesis projects. Core class required of all first-year Women’s History Graduate Students
Thesis Seminar in Women’s and Gender History
This course is designed for students who are writing MA theses in women’s and gender history. We will discuss the historiographical dimensions of thesis work; assess various research methods, interpretive models, and theories of history; and grapple with practical questions about writing and documentation. Readings include historical scholarship, theoretical works, and research guides. At critical junctures, students will also read and evaluate each other’s work.
Full Year Advanced Research Seminars (One full year advanced research seminar is required of each Women's History Graduate Student)
Gender and Nationalisms
Nationalism can be understood as a project simultaneously involving construction(s) of memory, history, and identity. In this seminar, we will identify the multiple and shifting dimensions of nationalism as a world historical phenomenon. Central to our focus will be the centrality and particular constructions of gender in different national projects. Attention will be paid to nationalism in its colonial and contemporary trajectories. Questions to be addressed include: What is the relationship between nationalism and identity? Which symbols/languages are called upon to produce a sense of self and collective identity? What are the various inclusions, exclusions, and silences that particular historically constituted nationalisms involve? Is nationalism necessarily a positive force? If not, under what circumstances, in what ways, and for whom does it pose problems? What is the relationship of nationalism(s) to minorities and socially/politically marginalized groups? How is pluralism and difference constructed and treated? How do the same positions (e.g., issues of cultural authenticity and identity) take on a different meaning at diverse historical moments? How does the insider/outsider relationship alter in different periods and conceptualizations? Women have been interpellated and have participated within nationalist movements in a variety of ways. The dynamics and contradictions of such involvement will be analyzed closely. We will strive to explore the implications of these processes for women’s sense of self, citizenship, and belonging at specific periods and over time. In the spring semester, we will turn our attention more specifically to performances of nationalism through institutional and popular cultural arrangements. Under the former category, we will look at issues of migration, immigration, and exile; public policy and international relations; war and conflict. In the arena of popular culture, we will examine the production of nationalism(s) through the mass media, sports, film, museums and exhibitions, and tourism. Conference work may include an examination of a specific nationalist movement, theoretical issues pertaining to nationalism(s), memory, identity, performances of nationalism(s) in popular culture and the mass media, and the interplay between institutional and everyday constructions of nationalism in specific settings.
Women, Culture, and Politics in US History
Through fiction, memoir and cultural criticism, political activism, and popular culture, American women have expressed their ideas, their desires, their values, and their politics. This course will approach US history through the words and actions of all kinds of American women from the early 19th century through the late 20th century. Using both primary sources and histories narrow and broad, we will explore questions of race, class, sexuality, and gender and analyze the ways in which women have intervened and participated in the political and cultural world. This is a research seminar. Considerable attention will be paid to the gathering and parsing of archival and other types of primary evidence, careful and trenchant argumentation, and the development or refinement of a fluent and graceful expository writing style. Open to juniors and above and to sophomores with permission of the instructor.
Women/ Gender, Race and Sexuality in Film: History and Theory
This yearlong seminar analyzes the representation of gender, race, sexuality, and class in cinema from its origins to the present. Students develop critical understandings of film, not only as part of American cultural/social history but also as political vehicles for activism and change. We study movies as part of historical processes and assess interpretations, often rooted in feminist, sociopolitical, and postcolonial theories. A variety of film selections will be discussed: early motion pictures, action/adventure, classical Hollywood, early and contemporary Afro-American cinema, avant-garde, film noir, second-wave feminist film, documentary, queer cinema, global cinema, masculine genre, ethnic film, fantasy/horror genres.
Suggested Electives (Students must take 4 elective credits)
Women’s History Graduate Program Elective:Institutional Internship for Professional Development
2 Credits per semester (may be taken for up to two semesters)
The Women’s History Graduate Program encourages students to do internships at institutions and organizations relevant to their interests. Generally students have opted to do internships as independent study either during the school term or in the summer.
Beginning in the fall of 2013, students may choose the option of fulfilling their elective requirement with school term internships. In order to receive credit for this elective, they must choose an internship, attend professional development seminars which will meet several times during the semester, and generate papers the nature of which will be determined with their advisers early in the semester. The seminars will address topics such as putting theory into practice, choosing relevant work, interviewing, resume development, and networking. These seminars will also provide students with an opportunity to share their internship experiences with each other which will help them problem solve and make the most out their experiences. This internship experience is meant to help students in the process of professional development.
After Eve: Medieval Women
It all began with Eve, so that’s where we start: with Genesis and the elaboration of Eve and the Virgin Mary as the central female figures of medieval belief. We will go on to read texts both by and about women from the earliest years of the Middle Ages up to the 15th century in order to explore the many roles that women played in medieval culture. Misogyny and adoration will be attitudes familiar to anyone who has even a cursory acquaintance with the Middle Ages. But any account of medieval women should also include norm-defiers like the Valkyries of Norse legend, the professional writer Christine de Pizan, the cross-dressed St. Joan of Arc, and various female experts on love—fleshly, courtly, and mystical. These and additional figures from the period will form the focus of the course, with contexts for our texts provided by readings in history and both cultural and literary criticism. No previous knowledge of the medieval period is necessary, though it is welcome. Conference work may be undertaken either in subjects broadly related to the course or in a quite unrelated topic, depending on the student’s interests and needs.
Effort, Merit, Privilege
This course is a history of ideas and practices connected to the notion of advancement by merit rather than by inherited status or wealth. This comparatively modern idea is more complex than it may appear. We will focus on four epochs in which personal merit came increasingly to the fore. The first is the age of the French Revolution and Napoleon. With the cry, “The career open to talent,” and the abolition of feudal privilege, the revolutionaries helped to further the development of individualism, self-assertion, and personal ambition while, at the same time, implicating the citizen more and more deeply in the apparatus of the state. The second era will be 1859 to 1870 in Britain, from the publication of The Origin of Species with the anxieties it provoked about the struggle for existence, to the education act of 1870. That act, which followed a major liberalization of the suffrage, set popular education on its feet as a national project. We will study the right to vote and get an education as the means by which the culture created marks of merit. We will also look at the struggles of those excluded, such as women and the very poor. The next period is the aftermath of the American Civil War, from Reconstruction to Jim Crow. The slaves, now free—what was to become of them? Should they compete in society at large, or was it their lot to be kept permanently in a kind of quasi-slavery without the right to vote or go to school? The last period brings us up to the present with its many instances of meritocracy. The postwar foundation of the welfare state will be examined in the light of the many challenges to it, especially from the forces promoting inequality that coexist with unprecedented opportunities for talented individuals. We will look at the problems this poses for education, wealth, and social well-being. This course is best for students with some previous exposure to history or the social sciences.
Gender, Education, and Opportunity in Africa
In modern Africa, equity in education—whether in relation to gender, ethnicity, race, class, or religion—remains an important arena of social and political debate. As formal colonial rule ended on the African continent and more African nations gained independence, education became synonymous with modernity and a leading indicator of a country’s progress towards development. Gender has consistently played a powerful role in determining who would receive access to education. An awareness of the significance of both formal and informal education has been reflected within the realms of African politics, popular culture, literature, and film. In this class, we will study the history of education in Africa, focusing on a wide variety of training, classroom experiences, and socialization practices. In particular, we will investigate the influence of gender in defining access to educational opportunity. We will begin by questioning prevailing constructs of gender and determine how relevant Western gender categories have historically been for African societies. By focusing several of our readings on countries as diverse as Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe, students will develop a broad overview of educational policy changes and practices throughout the African continent.
Queer Americans: Henry James, Gertrude Stein, Willa Cather, and James Baldwin
Queer Americans certainly, James, Stein, Cather, and Baldwin each fled “America.” James (1843-1916) and Stein (1874-1946) spent their adult lives in Europe. Cather (1873-1947) left Nebraska for Greenwich Village after a decade in Pittsburgh—with a judge's daughter—along the way. Baldwin (1924-1987) left Harlem for Greenwich Village, then the Village for Paris. As sexual subjects and as writers, these four could hardly appear more different; yet Stein described James as “the first person in literature to find the way to the literary methods of the 20th century,” Cather rewrote James to develop her own subjects and methods, and Baldwin found in James’s writings frameworks for his own. In the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, James, Stein, and Cather witnessed the emergence of modern understandings of homosexuality and made modern literature, each pushing boundaries always, in subtle or dramatic ways. Stein, for example, managed to parlay the story of her Paris life with Alice B. Toklas into an American bestseller in 1933. In the second half of the 20th century, Baldwin began to dismantle modern understandings of sexuality and of literature. Examining the development of their works side-by-side will allow us to push the boundaries of lesbian/gay/queer cultural analyses by pursuing different meanings of “queer” and “American” through an extraordinary range of subjects and forms. Beginning with James on old New York, vulnerability, and ruthlessness, this course will range from Cather’s plantations and pioneers to Stein on art and atom bombs and Baldwin on sex and civil rights. We will read novels, novellas, stories, essays, and memoirs by James, Cather, and Baldwin—plus Stein’s portraits, geographical histories, lectures, plays, operas, and autobiographies. Literary and social forms were inextricable and inseparable from the gender and cross-gender affiliations and the class, race, and ethnic differences that were all urgent matters for these four. James’s, Stein’s, Cather’s and Baldwin’s lives and works challenge most conventional assumptions about what it meant—and what it might mean—to be a queer American. Conference projects may include historical and political, as well as literary, studies that focus on any period from the mid-19th century to the present.
Queer Theory: A History
Queer Theory emerged in the United States, in tandem with Queer Nation, at the beginning of the 1990s as the intellectual framework for a new round in ongoing contests over understandings of sexuality and gender in Western culture. “Queer” was presented as a radical break with homosexual, as well as heterosexual, pasts. Queer theorists and activists hoped to reconstruct lesbian and gay politics, intellectual life, and culture; renegotiate differences of gender, race, and class among lesbians and gay men; and establish new ways of thinking about sexuality, new understandings of sexual dissidence, and new relations among sexual dissidents. Nevertheless, Queer Theory had complex sources in the intellectual and political work that had gone before. And it has had, predictably, unpredictable effects on current intellectual and political projects. This class will make the history of Queer Theory the basis for an intensive study of contemporary intellectual and political work on sexuality and gender. We will also be addressing the fundamental questions raised by the career of Queer Theory, about the relations between political movements and intellectual movements, the politics of intellectual life, and the politics of the academy in the United States, in particular, in this new millenium. For students with a background in women’s, gender, or LGBT studies.
Telling Lives: Life History Through Anthropology
Through studying life-history narratives (one person’s life as narrated to another), autobiographical memoir, and more experimental forms in print and on screen, we will explore the diverse ways that life courses are experienced and represented. Throughout our readings, we will carefully examine the narratives themselves, paying attention to the techniques of life history construction and familiarizing ourselves with ethical, methodological, and theoretical challenges. We will consider a number of questions about telling lives: What is the relationship between the narrator and his or her interlocutor(s)? How does a life-history approach inform debates about representation? What can the account of one person’s life tell us about the wider culture of which he or she is a part? How can individual life narratives shed light on such issues as poverty, sexuality, colonialism, disability, racism, and aging? The selected texts attend to lives in various parts of the world, including Australia, Great Britain, the Caribbean, East Africa, and the United States. Students will also analyze primary sources and create a life history as part of their work for the course.
Women and Gender in the Middle East
Debates over the status of Middle Eastern women have been at the center of political struggles for centuries—as well as at the heart of prevailing Western media narratives about the region—and continue to be flash points for controversy in the present day. This course will attempt to explore the origins and evolution of these debates, taking a historical and thematic approach to the lived experience of women in various Middle Eastern societies at key moments in the region’s history. Topics to be covered include: the status of women in the Qur’an and Islamic law, the Ottoman imperial harem, patriarchy and neopatriarchy, the rise of the women’s press in the Middle East, women and nationalism, the emergence of various forms of women’s activism and political participation, the changing nature of the Middle Eastern family, the politics of veiling, Orientalist discourse and the gendered politics of colonialism and postcolonialism, women’s performance and female celebrity, and women’s autobiography and fiction in the Middle East. Throughout, we will interrogate the politics of gender, the political and social forces that circumscribe Middle Eastern women’s lives, and the individuals who claim authority to speak for women. The course will also briefly examine gender and sexuality as categories for historical analysis in the modern Middle East. Previous coursework in either modern Middle Eastern history or women’s history is encouraged but not required.