Wss 565 - Spring 2011

Feminist Theory | Download Syllabus | Classroom Blog

Spring 2011 (9207)
Tuesdays 4:15-7:05 pm
Humanities 127

Instructor: Dr. Janell Hobson
Office: Social Science 355
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 1:00-4:00 pm, & by appointment
Email: [email protected]


This interdisciplinary graduate seminar will examine philosophical discourses emerging from feminism – a political movement aimed at eliminating sexist oppression and striving toward gender equity and liberation. Included in this exploration is a deepening of our understanding of gender and its intersection with race, class, sexuality, and nationality, as well as its framing of our social relations through the prism of power, privilege, and hierarchies. Analyzing diverse topics – including capitalism, corporatization of the academy, globalization, imperialism, body politics, ethics, religion and theology, fiction and storytelling, and theory-as-praxis – we will further our knowledge base with an aim towards social justice.

Ms Magazine Digital Classroom (you may subscribe online).
Clare, Eli. Exile and Pride: Queerness, Disability, and Liberation. Boston: South End Press, 1999.
Mohanty, Chandra. Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham: Duke UP, 2003.
Morrison, Toni. Paradise. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.
Smith, Andrea. Conquest: Sexual Violence and Native American Genocide. Boston: South End Press, 2005.
Swarr, Amanda Lock and Richa Nahar, eds. Critical Transnational Feminist Praxis. New York: SUNY Press, 2010.

These books are available for purchase at the University bookstore and Mary Jane Books. Additional readings are included in a course packet (hereafter abbreviated in the course schedule as “CP” and available for purchase at Mary Jane Books).


Activities (30% of grade)

Online & Classroom Facilitators: Each session will feature two types of discussion facilitators: The first, an online facilitator, will post to our classroom blog a 250-word analytical reflection on the reading(s) for the week, as well as offer a 140-character summary of this reflection on Twitter. S/he may also choose to post a three to four-minute video blog in lieu of this 250-word analytical reflection (providing the link or embedded link on our classroom blog). By the same token, the blog post could also serve as a creative component, writing the analytical reflection as a poem, vignette, or fictional prose in lieu of the 250-word essay. The online facilitator is expected to blog and tweet by Sunday, 11:59 PM EST, before we meet for class on Tuesday. This will allow time for others in class to respond (see below under “Blog Commentators”).

The second facilitator, a classroom facilitator, will review the online discussion before creating talking points and discussion questions to raise in class, as well as conduct further research on the author(s) and text(s) that are discussed for that week (e.g. author's biography, critical and audience reception of the text, events taking place during the time in which the text debuted, review of a main author/text cited in the work, etc.). (15%)

Blog Commentators: Students who are not scheduled to be discussion facilitators that week will instead post reflexive and thought-provoking comments to the online facilitator's blog post. Comments must be posted by Tuesday, 12:00 NOON EST, before class time. (15%)

Assignments: Toward Purposeful Feminist Writing (70% of grade)

The following assignments are geared towards integrating the writing process and feminist process. What would it take to present scholarly theories, concepts, and practices in ways that are accessible to a broader audience? How do we produce writing primarily for an academic audience? In Women's Studies, should we “code-switch,” or should we adhere to a writing that is accessible to diverse audiences? How might this be grounded in feminist theory?

We will produce feminist writing for different audiences: one that is based within an academic setting and one that is geared towards a general audience with feminist interests. The first phase of this writing imagines students forming panels and developing a conference paper abstract for the academic conference of the National Women's Studies Association (NWSA), which will take place in Atlanta , GA from November 10-13, 2011. (As graduate students, you may apply for travel funds from either NWSA or SUNY's GSO). The second phase imagines students “pitching” the same idea in the conference paper abstract for a feature article (1,500-2,000 words) that could be published in Ms., a mainstream feminist magazine funded by the Feminist Majority. You will be encouraged to send your “pitch” to Ms. (a letter addressed to Ms's senior editor). Responses to this pitch could either be encouragement to develop your article for future publication in Ms's magazine or on Ms's online blog or recommendation for a different outlet. Regardless of the editorial response, you will be expected to develop your idea into an article for this assignment.

The final phase involves the transformation of this article into a research proposal for your master's final project, thesis, or Ph.D. dissertation. How would you take the same idea for your abstract/article and turn it into a research project that would form the basis for a longer paper, creative project, community/pedagogy project, or a reading guide for a comprehensive exam? The Research Proposal, unlike an article for a popular magazine, is specifically geared towards an academic readership (specifically your committee members). Therefore, you will have a clear and structured format, which would outline how you intend to conduct original research based on your idea. How would you write this proposal so that it is grounded in feminist theory?

Below are the stages in which you will develop these writing projects:

Stage I: Conference Paper Abstract – Review the NWSA conference Call-for-Papers and develop a 100-word paper abstract and title that fits one of the conference themes. This is due in class on February 8, during which time we will share our ideas and form group panels. These panels will then develop a 50-75-word panel rationale that encompasses the individual abstracts. The rationale and abstracts should later be submitted formally to the NWSA conference. The deadline for submissions is February 15. Please forward the email acknowledging receipt of your submitted panel proposal/abstracts to [email protected] (10%)

Stage II: “Pitch” Letter to Ms. Magazine – After reviewing select issues of Ms., develop a “pitch” for the magazine: in other words, write a 1-2-page letter addressed to the magazine's senior editor proposing a feature article. Develop your pitch from the core idea of your paper abstract. Describe the topic's timeliness, its relation to feminism, its proposed length (1,500 or 2,000 words), and what your credentials and research interests are in writing on this issue. Draw a parallel between an article already published in Ms. and your own proposed feature. This is due in class on February 15. (10%)

Stage III: Draft of Ms. Article – Follow the voice and style of Ms. magazine articles. Develop a draft of your article (1,500-2,000 words, typed and double-spaced), which is due on Blackboard April 5, 12:00 NOON EST. You will be expected to peer-review each article posted on Blackboard no later than April 25, 11:59 PM EST. Be prepared to discuss your article in class and describe how it will be tweaked as a research proposal. (10%)

Stage IV: Final Draft of Ms. Article – The final draft needs to be submitted in class on May 3. Outside of this seminar, you will be encouraged to develop your “pitch” and article as formal submissions to Ms and/or develop your draft as a conference paper for NWSA. You also have the option of revamping it for a different publication or conference. (20%)

Stage V: Research Proposal –Transform your completed feature article into a research proposal (min. 5 pages, max. 10 pages, typed and double-spaced). In other words, based on the research you conducted for your article, outline a plan for further research on this topic. What theoretical frameworks, literature review, and methodological plan do you need to include for such a proposal? How would you develop the core ideas from this article into a larger research project? You will have an opportunity to discuss your plans in a presentation in class during the weeks of April 26 and May 3. You have until May 12, 5:00 PM to submit your research proposal in my mailbox (Social Science room 353). (20%)

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You are expected to attend these weekly seminars on a regular basis. Once you miss two sessions, you will not earn higher than a “B” for this course. Exceptions will be made for illnesses and family emergencies. Keep in mind that you need a “B-” to pass a graduate course. Once you miss four sessions or more, you will receive an automatic “E” for this course.

You are also expected to submit assignments on time. Late assignments will receive a letter grade reduction for each day late, with an “E” grade administered after two days late. Please note that plagiarism is a university offense, which will result in a failing grade and disciplinary action.

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Jan. 25
Course overview and introduction.
CP: Christian, “The Race for Theory”; Torres, “Rich in Culture, Low on Capital”; Shohat, “Area Studies, Gender Studies, and the Cartographies of Knowledge.”

Feb. 1
Feminism without Borders.


Feb. 8
Ms. Magazine (digital classroom - current and 30 th anniversary issues).
Due: Conference Paper Abstract.

Feb. 15
Ms. Magazine (search for articles relating to topic of interest).

Due: “Pitch” Letter to Ms. Magazine.

Winter Break.


Mar. 1
SCREEN: Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1990).
CP: hooks, “Is Paris Burning?”; Butler, “Gender is Burning”; McBride, "Can the Queen Speak?"; Cohen, "Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens."

Mar. 8
Exile and Pride.


Mar. 15
CP: Allen, “Who is Your Mother? Red Roots of White Feminism.”

Mar. 22
CP: Ruether, “The Kenosis of the Father: A Feminist Midrash on the Gospel in Three Acts”; Alpert, "Finding Our Past: A Lesbian Interpretation of the Book of Ruth"; Stone, "What the Homosexuality Debates Really Say about the Bible"; Badran, “Islamic Feminism: What's in a Name?”; Walker, “Womanist”; Coleman, “Must I Be Womanist?”; Alexander, “Pedagogies of the Sacred: Making the Invisible Tangible.”


Mar. 29

Apr. 5
SCREEN: “Antonia's Line” (Marleen Gorris, 1995).
Due on Blackboard: Draft of Ms. Magazine Article.


Apr. 12
Critical Transnational Feminist Praxis.

Spring Break.

Apr. 26
Presentations: From Ms. Article to the Research Proposal – A Feminist Process.

May 3
Presentations continued.
Due: Final Draft of Ms. Magazine article.


Final Paper: Research Proposal due May 12.