Women's and Gender Studies

Website: wgs.sewanee.edu/

Associate Professor Mansker (History), Chair

Women's and Gender Studies Steering Committee
Professor Parker (Religion)
Professor Berebitsky (History)
Associate Professor Murdock (Anthropology)
Associate Professor Sandlin (Spanish)
Associate Professor Thurman (Religion)
Assistant Professor Whitmer (History)
Assistant Professor Crowder-Meyer (Politics)
Asssistant Professor Tucker (English)

Interdisciplinary Faculty

The minor in Women's and Gender Studies invites students to examine contributions and representations of women through an interdisciplinary program that employs gender as a fundamental category of analysis. Students engage the scholarly methods and theories of women's and gender studies in ways that complement traditional disciplinary inquiry. Students are encouraged to investigate the historical and contemporary contributions of women as well as the significance of gender in the social and natural sciences, in the arts and literature, and in religion. The minor further invites students to analyze gender in relation to other categories of difference, such as race, class, and ethnicity. The goal of women's and gender studies is to stimulate critical examination of assumptions about gender in cultures past and present.

Requirements for the minor: The minor in Women's and Gender Studies requires students to complete six courses. Two courses, described below and entitled Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies and Women's and Gender Studies Seminar, are required and must be taken at Sewanee. At least two more courses must be chosen from those formally cross-listed as Women's and Gender Studies courses (see below). The remaining two courses may be chosen from the wide array of courses offered in the college, including those already cross-listed as Women's and Gender Studies courses. For a course not already cross-listed this way to be counted in fulfillment of the minor, the course must be approved in advance (i.e., before the student registers for it) by the Women's and Gender Studies committee. Approval is given after consultation with the instructor and agreement that in the context of the course the student  completes either a major project or major paper on a topic relevant to women's studies. Departmental independent studies may be included.

NOTE: No more than two courses (eight semester hours) used to satisfy requirements for a minor or certificate of curricular study may be used to fulfill requirements for a major or another minor or certificate of curricular study.

Cross-Listed Courses

Anthropology 290. Women in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Writing-Intensive) — A comparison of women’s experiences of family, work, religion, development and war across diverse world regions to see how these can differ widely from one society to another. Anthropological writings and films are used to learn the concepts and perspectives necessary for the exploration of women’s similarities and differences. Discussion-centered learning and student research papers help involve students actively in the collective construction of knowledge about women’s lives around the world. This course cannot be taken for credit by any student who has earned credit for Anth 321.

Anthropology 311. Gender and Class in Latin America — An examination of gender relations in diverse Latin American contexts. The history of anthropological scholarship on gender and class in the region, as well as contemporary theories of how gender, social class, race/ethnicity, and sexuality intertwine in human experience are key foci of the course. Detailed ethnographic case studies from Amerindian, Afro-Latino, and Mestizo cultural contexts help students apply broader theories to the analysis of gender relations as they are conceptualized by these different groups in Latin America.

Art History 322. Art and Devotion in Late Medieval and Early Modern Northern Europe — This seminar explores the devotional art, literature, and thought of northern Europe in the late thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. Manuscript illumination and female piety are especially emphasized.

Asian Studies 205. Modern China Through Fiction and Film — How do film and literature inform our understanding of the evolving concepts of art, ideology and material conditions in modern China? How have literary and cinematic representations changed over the last century to accommodate and facilitate social transformations? What are the characteristics of the cultural productions from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan? This course helps students develop a critical sense and appreciation for Chinese cinema and literature. Taught in English.

Asian Studies 235. Love in Modern Japan — What does it mean to love someone? Despite its apparent universality, “love” is in fact a highly malleable concept whose definition can vary greatly. In Japan, the conceptualization of love transformed radically in the modern era. This course explores how literary representations of love in Japan reflect not only this transformation but also the struggles it entailed. Issues of particular interest in the course include the interconnection between assumptions about gender and the definition of love, the relationship between marriage and love, the role of sexuality in love, and the relationship between the West and Japan.

Asian Studies 317. Modern Japanese Literature (writing-intensive) — A study of Japan and its rise as a major power in the twentieth century through the reading of novels, short stories, poetry, and essays in the modern period. The class explores several themes: why did writers collaborate with the state in the years leading up to World War II, how is gender and sexuality portrayed in literature in the modern period, and how did writers respond to the dilemmas of modernization and westernization? Taught in English.

Classical Studies 350. Women and Gender in Classical Antiquity — This course examines the lives of women in the ancient world and their representation in the literature of Greece and Rome. It explores how the Greeks and Romans constructed both female and male gender and what behavioral and sexual norms they assigned to each. Reading assignments include wide-ranging selections from Greek and Roman poetry (epic, drama, lyric, and elegy) and prose (philosophy, history, and oratory). Subjects addressed include gender stereotypes and ideals, power-relations of gender, the social conditions of women, familial roles, and male and female sexuality.

Economics 309. Women in the Economy — This study of the relative economic status of women and men in the U.S., and how it has changed over time, focuses on sex differentials in earnings, occupational distribution, labor force participation and unemployment rates, levels and types of education and experience. Includes an analysis of the reasons for such differentials (e.g., the motivations for discrimination), their history, and cross-cultural variations in female status (with particular emphasis on Africa and Asia). Analyzes the effect of law and policy in the U.S. on the status of women.

English 207.  Women in Literature — A consideration of the role of women in literature.  Topics include Gothic fiction, nineteenth- and twentieth-century women writers, and women in fiction.  Drawing on authors of both genders, the course considers gender relations, the historic role of women, the special challenges that have faced women writers, and the role of women in fiction. 

English 330. The Life and Literature of Tennessee Williams — A study of the major dramatic works of Tennessee Williams, as well as his poetry and fiction. The course also examines Williams’ life and his impact on twentieth-century American literature and theatre.

English 352. Chaucer — A study of the Canterbury Tales and other poems by Chaucer. A term paper is usually expected.

English 353. English Drama to 1642 — A study of the drama of Elizabethan and Jacobean England, excluding the works of Shakespeare but including tragedies by Kyd, Marlowe, and Webster, and comedies by Jonson and Beaumont.

English 357. Shakespeare I — A study of several plays written before 1600.

English 358. Shakespeare II — A study of several plays after 1600.

English 359. Renaissance Literature I (Macfie section only) - A study of the major sixteenth-century genres, with emphasis on sources, developments, and defining concerns. Readings include the sonnets of Wyatt, Surrey, Sidney, Spenser, and Shakespeare; the mythological verse narratives of Marlowe and Shakespeare; the pastoral poems of Spenser; and Books I and III of Spenser's Faerie Queene.

English 360. Renaissance Literature II — A study of the major seventeenth-century poets, concentrating on such poets' redefinitions of genre, mode, and source. Readings emphasize works by Donne, Herbert, Jonson, Herrick, Milton, and Marvell.

English 380. Whitman and Dickinson — A study of the first two important American poets, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, whose expansive free verse and tight, elliptical lyrics defined the possibilities for American poets for the next hundred years. This course examines in detail the careers and major works of these poets, with brief consideration of their contemporaries and literary heirs.

English 383. Contemporary British Fiction, 1930-present — A consideration of British fiction from the 1930s to the present. The course explores the new kinds of fiction that emerge from high modernist innovations, as well as from changing cultural conditions, such as Britain's decline as a political and economic power. Authors covered include Greene, Orwell, Bowen, Waugh, Murdoch, Rushdie, Byatt, and others.

English 390. Modern Drama — An exploration of modern drama from Ibsen's naturalism to contemporary drama's innovations. The course investigates the relationship between the theatre and social reform, and considers issues of performance as well as close analysis of the plays themselves. The course covers British, American, and important Continental dramatists, including Ibsen, Wilde, Shaw, Chekhov, Beckett, Pirandello, Williams, Stoppard, Churchill, Vogel, Wilson, and others.

English 399. World Literature in English — A study of twentieth-century literature written in English from Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean, concentrating on colonial and post-colonial themes, as well as issues of gender, politics, and nationalism. Possible authors include Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, V.S. Naipaul, and Derek Walcott.

History 112. Women Changing the World: Gender and Social Movements — This course examines women’s participation in social and political movements throughout the world since the late eighteenth century in order to understand how gender (the set of beliefs each culture has regarding male and female difference) has affected women’s involvement. The course explores a variety of gender-based arguments that women have used to bring social change, assessing whether these approaches are effective or ultimately limit women to a narrow range of issues. Some attention is paid to how gender affects men’s involvement in social movements.

History 127. Children and Childhood in History — What did it mean to be young in the past? If childhood is a natural stage of life, common to everyone, why have the experiences of children varied so dramatically across time and across cultures? An understanding of history can help us answer these questions. This course explores the experiences of children and the meaning of childhood in the past, with a special focus on the early modern Atlantic world from roughly 1400 to 1800. We will consider how religion, family life, gender, emotion, work, trade, science, medicine, colonialism and schooling impacted children’s experiences in a variety of cultural contexts. Additionally, we will ask whether a fundamental change in the meaning of childhood by 1800 corresponded to the emergence of an increasingly global, colonial and industrial world order.

Hist 203. Criminal or Hero? The Outlaw in American Culture — This survey approaches the outlaw both as imagined in fiction, film, and music and as a real historical subject. Special attention is paid to how changing understandings of the “outlaw” correspond to specific moments in American history such as the settling of the West, gangsterism in the Great Depression, the rise of Black Power, and the development of new technology involving internet hacktivists. Legal and other-than-legal responses to the outlaw are also considered.

History 237. Women in U.S. History, 1600-1870 — A survey of the history of American women which considers how women experienced colonization, American expansion, the industrial revolution, war, and changes in the culture's understanding of gender roles and the family. The course also explores how differences in race, ethnicity, and class affected women's experience.

History 238. Women in U.S. History, 1870 to the Present — A survey of the major changes in American women's lives since the end of the last century, including increased access to education, movement into the labor market, and changes in reproductive behavior and in their role within the family. Special consideration is given to the movements for women's rights.

History 270. European Women in War, Revolution, and Terrorism — This course surveys European women’s gendered experiences of war, revolution, and terrorism from the French Revolution to the present. Adopting gender analysis as its methodological framework it focuses on the changing constructions of femininity and masculinity in relation to major global upheavals and theories of violence in the modern world The course examines the impact of such developments on the lives of European women of different socioeconomic, regional, and racial backgrounds. Topics covered include the Russian Revolutions, World Wars I and II, global terrorism of the 1970s, and contemporary European feminist politics of immigration and the veil.

History 305. Medieval Women — In Their Own Words — This course closely analyzes the relatively rare sources that allow historians to see the experience of medieval women through the eyes of the women themselves rather than through the prescriptive lens of the men who held most forms of power in their society: a ninth-century woman’s book of advice for her son, surviving letters and spiritual writings, wills, and the legal records that show both the vulnerability of women and their readiness to bend and break the law. Case studies of individual women are employed, along with critical analysis of different categories of source material.

History 318. African American Women and Religion — This class examines African American Women's participation and critical role in religious life in America. It explores black women's place in the formation of revival culture, the creation of religious ritual, and the institutional establishment of the black churches. Further, it investigates black women's vital role in the dissemination of religious values within and between generations. Through biography and autobiography, this course addresses the ways in which black women have appropriated religious language and sensibility in constructing the narratives of their lives. In sum, it explores the myriad ways African American women contested and critiqued their place in the church and the community, while simultaneously supporting and furthering black churches and promoting the health of religious life.

History 349. American Women's Cultural and Intellectual History — This discussion-based seminar examines women's experience from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Topics include changes in understandings of motherhood and female sexuality, popular women's fiction, and representations of women in music, film, and television.

History 358. Women in Latin America — A seminar on the history of Latin American women from the seventeenth century to the present, examining the tension in Latin American countries concerning the role of women, their relationship to the family, and their desire for equality. The course explores controversies over the legal status of women, education, employment, and participation in political life. Students examine several theoretical approaches to gender studies together with specific case studies.

History/Spanish 367. Writing the Nation: Literature, Nationalism and the Search for Identity in Latin America, 1815-present — A study of national projects in Latin America from 1810 to the present. Topics include Bolívar, the wars of independence, nineteenth-century visions of progress, Vasconcelos' concept of The Cosmic Race, and contemporary movements for the inclusion of women, blacks, Native Americans, gays, and other marginalized groups in a common Latin-American culture.

History 378. Sexuality and the Self in Modern Europe — This seminar investigates how and why sexuality became the key to selfhood in modern Europe. Drawing on the tools of gender analysis and cultural history, students explore the ways in which political, socioeconomic and cultural tensions of particular historical moments were manifested in the sexuality of individuals. Students also examine a variety of primary sources from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries to consider how individuals defined themselves through sexuality and how definitions were imposed on them by a variety of institutions and authority figures.

History 379. Honor, Shame, and Violence in Modern Europe — This course treats honor as a tool for understanding change and continuity in European society from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. Honor and shame are viewed as conduits that allow students to explore broader sexual, gender, class and political developments. Particular attention is given to ways in which honor functioned differently in the public ideologies and private lives of dominant and marginal social groups. This course also explores the relationship of violence to the cult of honor.

History 380. Crimes and Scandals in the Historical Imagination, 18th–20th Centuries — An investigation of the ways historians read past crimes and scandals for evidence of broader social, political, and cultural anxieties and desires. Focusing less on details of incidents themselves than on the debates and public interpretation surrounding them, this seminar deals with crimes such as those committed by Jack the Ripper or French murderesses at the end of the nineteenth century. In addition to analyzing secondary sources dealing with crime and scandal, students scrutinize a variety of primary documents such as trial records, medical and judicial debates, scientific analyses of criminality, memoirs of notorious criminals, and detective novels.

International and Global Studies 308. Body/Film: Representing the Body in Contemporary World Cinema — An exploration of diverse ways of representing and conceptualizing the human body in contemporary world cinema. Starting with the premise that the body is both the material reality experienced each day as well as an enigma impossible to capture through the intellectual discourses of philosophy/science or the creative endeavors of literature/arts, the course invites students to analyze the myriad of body images supplied by twenty-first-century films from around the globe. Main topics of interest are the body and mind/soul dichotomy, gendered bodies, body and the discourse of desire, body as text, body and cognition, body and trauma, politics of the body, metamorphoses of the body, persons and things, and bodies in the cybernetic age. The course’s theoretical component includes reading by Bakhtin, Baudrillard, Butler, Bourdieu, Foucault, Goffman, Grosz, and Haraway.

Italian 325. Women Writers in Early Modern Italy — A study of poetry, plays, letters, treatises, and prose written by Italian women in the fifteenth-seventeenth centuries. Students examine the varied ways in which women in early modern Italy engaged questions of gender, aesthetics, ethics, and philosophy in their writings, encountered here in translation.

Politics 307. Women in American Politics — An analysis of the role of gender in American politics, specifically how gender affects the political activities of American residents, political candidates, and elected officeholders. Students evaluate differences in men’s and women’s political participation, party affiliations, and campaign strategies and styles. They also examine reasons for women’s political underrepresentation and implications of gender inequality in political office holding.

Politics 314. Civil Wars — This course examines the causes, patterns, and resolutions of civil wars and insurgency movements in comparative perspective, drawing on a diverse set of cases from Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. The course’s introductory portion is dedicated to conceptualizing and categorizing civil wars by their intensity, types of violence, nature of combat, and types of combatants. A principal question driving the inquiry is why the level of violence — measured by the number of casualties, refugees, and other victims of war — is higher in some places than others within the same country or region. This question is addressed through critical assessment of the most prominent conventional and revisionist theories of civil wars, theories highlighting either local or national influences.

Politics 318. Comparative Politics: South America and Mexico — A general survey of political life in Latin America, as well as specific study of the most important countries — Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela. Determinants and outcomes of political process are studied, as well as the political process itself. Consideration is given to both domestic and foreign influences and policies.

Politics 319. Gender and Politics from a Global Perspective — Recent U.N. studies document the continuing sytematic inequality that exists between men and women around the world. Approaching the study of sex-based inequality from a cross-cultural perspective reflects the reality that it is a universal phenomenon, but with complex and varied roots. Topics include the study of women's political representation worldwide, women and Islam, public policy issues of importance to women and families, and gender and war.

Politics 338. Constitutional Law: Civil Rights — This course examines Supreme Court cases related to equality — by situating cases within varying theories of constitutional interpretation, and by assessing the socio-political implications of those decisions. Civil rights are specific governmental provisions to secure individual entitlements, as exemplified by the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws.” Claims centering on race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability are examined, along with other claims of equality arising from the Fifteenth Amendment’s prohibition of voting discrimination. The course emphasizes, above all, the political role of the judiciary.

Politics 344. Myth America — This course is concerned with myths that have played a prominent role in our nation's self-conception and its political rhetoric — such as the myth of the frontier, the myth of success, and the notion of the American dream. Students examine 1) the changing historical meanings of these myths from the colonial period to the twentieth century and 2) the gender aspects of these myths.

Politics 346. Contemporary Social Movements — This course studies the ways in which ordinary citizens come together, create more or less formal organizations, and mobilize politically to demand social and political change in society. The studies begin close to home with an examination of political organizing and social change on the Cumberland Plateau and Appalachia. Students then proceed to study a wide range of political movements including labor and economic justice movements, the gay rights movement, the Christian conservative social movement, and the global justice/anti-globalization movements.

Politics 410. The Politics of Poverty — An introduction to the study of a significant social problem: poverty. Course topics include the development of an economic underclass in the United States and the programmatic response of government, the feminization of poverty, the causes of persistent rural and urban poverty, race and poverty in the South, and the connections between poverty in the U.S. and the international trade regime.

Psychology 214. The Psychology of Eating Disorders and Obesity — An examination of the etiology of eating disorders and obesity, derived from the empirical literature and with consideration of psychological, neurobiological, and sociocultural explanations for such disorders. The course critically evaluates primary research literature concerning risk factors for developing documented eating disorder (anorexia nervosa, bulima nervosa, binge eating disorder), as well as newly proposed diagnostic categories (e.g., orthorexia). A multicultural perspective is emphasized, and the relation of disordered eating to issues such as socio-economic status, race and ethnicity, and gender is addressed. Multiple theoretical explanations for disordered eating — including psychodynamic, family systems, cognitive, relational-cultural, and behavioral theories — are critically examined. Empirically validated treatments and standardized prevention programs are also introduced and critiqued. Students conduct research using archival data to investigate specific risk and protective factors in the development of disordered eating, as well as to assess the effectiveness of targeted prevention programs.

Psychology 218. Psychology of Violence — Explores the application of psychological theories and research to the major forms of violence. Such forms include youth violence, family violence, bullying, suicide, homicide, workplace violence, war, and ethnic conflict. The course reviews and critiques major etiological models including social cognitive, behavioral, and physiological. It also presents current major models of prevention and treatment, including psycho-educational, cognitive-behavioral, and family systems. Specific prevention and intervention topics such as conflict resolution are addressed. Readings emphasize the scientific study of violence through empirical research, including randomized controlled trials to evaluate programs.

Psychology 412. Psychology of Gender — A comparison of different theoretical perspectives on sex and gender and a critical examination of research on gender differences and similarities in human behavior. Patterns of public attitudes regarding gender are also discussed.

Religion 143. Introduction to the Bible I: Old Testament — An examination of the origins, nature, and content of representative literature from the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Old Testament, and cognate literature. Attention is paid to issues of critical reading and theological interpretation of Jewish scripture.

Religion 144. Introduction to the Bible II: New Testament — An examination of the origins, nature, and content of representative literature from the New Testament and Hellenistic literature. Attention is paid to issues of critical reading and theological interpretation of Christian scripture.

Religion 222. Gender and Sex in the New Testament — An examination of how gender and sex are constructed in selected texts from the New Testament. Exploring the intersection of biblical studies and gender studies, this course incorporates the perspectives of feminist theory, masculinity studies, queer theory, and the history of sexuality. Focus is on situating biblical texts in the context of ancient Mediterranean cultures. Attention is also given to the influence of modern understandings of gender and sexuality on the interpretation of biblical texts and to the use of biblical texts in contemporary debates over gender roles and sexual practices.

Religion 223. Feminist and Womanist Religious Ethics — Examination of contemporary Jewish and Christian feminist and Black womanist ethics. Focus is upon religious and non-religious ethical thought as it relates to the construction of gender identity, and the implications for an understanding of economic justice, racism, familial relations, and gendered participation with religious traditions and theological communities. Authors include Katie Canon, Sharon Welch, Delores Williams, Judith Plaskow, Rachel Adler, and Audre Lourde.

Russian 354. Real Men, Real Women? Gender in 20th-Century Russian Literature and Culture (writing-intensive) — An exploration of the contentious topic of gender in a Russian context through the examination of an array of representations of masculinity and femininity in Russian prose, poetry and film of the twentieth century. Students assess what it means and has meant to be a Russian man or woman; in the process, they may challenge some Western assumptions about gender constructs. Through analyzing and identifying the characteristics of ideal/real men and women, the course considers how and whether gender stereotypes are reinforced in the works of contemporary authors. This course does not meet the general distribution requirement in foreign language. 

Spanish 308. U.S. Latino and Latina Literature and Culture — A panoramic survey of the cultural production of Latinos and Latinas, or Hispanics, in the United States. Representative works from various literary genres, films, and the visual arts serve as the basis for the examination of recurring themes, which include: identity and self-definition, biculturalism, exile, migration, social class, political and social engagement, race, gender, and sexuality.

Spanish 364. Spanish Women Writers — Selected readings from Spanish women authors who represent various genres and time periods. In relation to each period, the course examines how selected writers portray gender, sexuality, social class, and other issues in their work. The course uses primary and secondary texts related to the authors and/or the period under consideration.

Spanish 404. Early Women Writers of Spain — An exploration of the legacy of Spanish women writers from the Middle Ages to the 17th century. The course introduces the student to important female authors from both inside and outside the Spanish canon, focusing especially on the authors’ response to their political, social, and cultural context.

Spanish 407. Spanish Women Writers from the Eighteenth Century to the Present — Selected readings from Spanish women authors who represent various genres and time periods. According to the period, the class examines the portrayal of gender, sexuality, social class, and other issues in their work. The course uses primary and secondary texts related to the authors and period.

Spanish 422. Latin American Women Authors — Readings from Latin American women authors who represent various regions, genres, and time periods. Examines the portrayal of gender, sexuality, race / ethnicity, social class, and other issues in their work. Readings in literary theory and criticism help with the interpretations of the primary texts.

Spanish 423. Women Authors of the Hispanic Caribbean and its Diaspora — This course highlights the work of women authors from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico on the islands and in the United States. Key issues include gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, migration, and biculturalism. Includes several literary genres and film with an emphasis on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.