Women and Culture

*NOTE: All readings listed in the course descriptions below are subject to change.


FALL 2019


Elizabeth Auran

Women and Culture: Bodies, Power, Voice

Topics will include reproductive power and the body, maternity, courtship, literacy and voice, consent and bodily autonomy; we may also connect our readings to current issues/problems in 21st century culture. Throughout we will consider the way the female is ‘constructed’ and how literature and theory can help us re-construct and complicate received notions about gender, femininity, masculinity and sexuality. A tentative list of readings include Hymn to Demeter, selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Sei Sonagon’s The Pillow Book, Kebra Nagast, selected Andalusian and Elizabethan poetry, the poetry of Sor Juana de la Cruz, and contemporary stories including “The Husband Stitch”and “Cat Person.” Critical scholarship sources may include Sara Ahmed, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Nancy Chodorow, Sherry Ortner, and Gayle Rubin. The vast majority of readings will be available to you for free via a Coursereader, PDFs, or handouts; you may borrow the one required text from the Barnard/FLIP library, or you can purchase your own copy at Book Culture. The total cost will be between $35-47 depending on whether you purchase a used or new book.


Meredith Benjamin

Women and Culture: Wild Tongues

In this section of Women & Culture, we’ll examine storytelling and language through the lens of gender. How are constructions of gender used to police what kinds of stories are told, who can tell them, and who is believed? What forms and strategies of narration are available and to whom? Our focus on tongues—both linguistic and anatomical—allows us to ask questions about the forms that language takes and the relationship of narrations and language to the body. How have women engaged and re-deployed existing myths and narratives? How is the self both constructed and policed through narratives of gender, race, class, sexuality, family? In our analyses, we’ll work to challenge fixed or binary understandings of gender and power by asking how these writers engage and challenge the various ways in which the category of “women” is constructed within culture.

Readings are subject to change but may include The Hymn to Demeter, selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, selected poems by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Yvette Christianse’s Castaway, and/or selections from Cherrie Moraga’s Loving in the War Years and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee and critical conversation texts by authors including Gloria Anzaldúa, Sara Ahmed, and Audre Lorde.


Vrinda Condillac

Women and Culture: Seeing, Surveilling, and Performing 

In this Women and Culture section, we will read texts that raise questions about how gender, race, class and sexuality are performed under the surveillance of culture. We will discuss not only how performance helps to create and stabilize categories that include and exclude, but also how performance can disrupt and destabilize these categories. Literary texts will include Passing by Nella Larsen, Fantomina by Eliza Haywood, poems by Ovid, and the film Paris is Burning. Secondary texts will include Sara Ahmed, Talia Bettcher, Judith Butler, Mary Ann Doane, W.E.B Dubois, Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault, Jack Halberstam, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Laura Mulvey, and James C. Scott.