Women and Culture

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


Monica Cohen

Women and Culture: Representations of Violence and the Question of Social Justice

The intersection of women and culture often features violent tragedies whose very representation assumes redress, whether a justice of retribution and restoration or simply an act of bearing witness. Using theoretical frameworks from writing by Nancy Chodorow, Judith Herman, Chandra Mohanty, Sherry Ortner, and Gayle Rubin, this section of Women and Culture will analyze a set of significant literary and visual texts that includes the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Ovid’s “Tereus, Procne, and Philomela,” Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina, Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, short stories by Luisa Valenzuela, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly.

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, and representation; we may also connect our readings to current issues/problems in 21st century culture.  A tentative list of readings include Hymn to Demeter, selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book, Kebra Nagast, The Lais of Marie de France, Beaumont’s “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Changed Skin” (West Africa,) Freud’s “Female Sexuality,” selected Andalusian and Elizabethan poetry, and the poetry of Sor Juana de la Cruz. Critical scholarship sources may include Sara Ahmed, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Nancy Chodorow, Sherry Ortner, Gayle Rubin, and Roxane Gay.


Vrinda Condillac

Women and Culture: Borders, Bodies, and Willful Subjects

In this section, we will explore the idea of women and culture by examining ways that institutions wield power by policing bodies through borders. We’ll look at how visible and invisible borders create binaries and dualities that include and exclude, that construct normalcy and difference, that limit the possibilities of what a body can and cannot do, and of who it can and cannot be. But we’ll also analyze how willful characters disrupt these borders by using their bodies in transgressive ways that upend these constructed categories, and thus how bodies can be agents of great resistance in redefining the borders that limit them. Literary texts will include The Hymn to Demeter; Ovid, “Tereus, Procne and Philomela” and “Salmacis and Hermaphroditus”; Marie de France, selected Lais; Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, selected poetry; Nella Larsen, Passing; Edwidge Danticat, selected stories; Carmen Maria Machado, selected stories. Theoretical texts will include Sara Ahmed, excerpts from Willful Subjects and “Complaint: Diversity Work, Feminism, and Institutions”; Gloria Anzaldúa, excerpts from Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza; Michel Foucault, excerpts from Discipline and Punish; bell hooks, “Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness”; Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” (Readings subject to minor changes.)