FALL 1996




Dr. Kathleen Blee

Women's Studies office:

2632 Cathedral of Learning


Sociology office:

2J22 Forbes Quadrangle


email: kblee+@pitt.edu

Office hours: by appointment



This course is an interdisciplinary introduction to feminist theory. We will examine and discuss a wide range of feminist theories, drawing from works in history, social sciences, philosophy, legal studies and literary theory. We will also draw from interdisciplinary gender theories. Particular emphasis will be placed on exploring the intersection of gender with race, class, sexuality and nationality, as these relate both to issues of identity and to structures of inequality.


We will read and discuss both theoretical/conceptual works and exemplary studies that use feminist theories to explore various issues.




Required Texts (on sale at Pitt book center and on reserve at Hillman Library)


Anne C. Herrman and Abigail J. Stewart (eds.), Theorizing Feminism: Parallel Trends in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Westview Press, 1994)


Heidi Gottfried (ed.), Feminism and Social Change (University of Illinois Press, 1996)


Susan Bordo, Unbearable Weight (University of California Press, 1993)


Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us (Vintage Books, 1994)


Trinh T. Minh-ha, Women, Native, Other (Indiana University Press, 1989)


Martha Albertson Fineman, The Neutered Mother, The Sexual Family and Other Twentieth Century Tragedies (Routledge, 1995)


Carole A. Stabile, Feminism and the Technological Fix (Cambridge University Press, 1994)



A packet of articles also is on sale at Pitt book center and on reserve at Hillman Library. All required articles are included in this packet.



Requirements and Grading


1. Class Preparation and Participation (20% of final grade)


The success of the seminar depends upon quality of the preparation and participation of all members. Attendance at each seminar meeting is required. You will be expected to prepare carefully for each class meeting by completing the required reading and by preparing questions and critical comments about the readings for that week to organize your participation in the seminar.


2. Leading class discussion (20% of final grade)


You will be expected to participate in leading class discussion for two weeks of the semester, perhaps with another student. A sign-up sheet for class discussions will be available at the first class meeting.


The focus and direction of the discussion should reflect your own sense of what is important and worthwhile for the seminar. You will need to meet with me by Friday, the week before the class session, to talk about some general issues that should be covered in the seminar. By Monday evening, you should submit to me (by email is fine) a written outline for the seminar discussion, including main topics to be covered and a list of questions for the class to discuss. I will review these and return them to you (by email) by Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon you should circulate this outline and question set to all members of the seminar, using the class email list.


3. Weekly Reaction Papers (40% of final grade; 5% per assignment)


Before each class meeting, you need to prepare a short (2-5 page) critical commentary on the readings assigned for that week. These commentaries should be organized as follows: (1) one paragraph (or so) that summarizes the main argument(s) of the reading(s); (2) one paragraph (or so) that positions the reading(s) within the main currents of feminist theories that we are exploring in this seminar; (3) one or two pages that outline the major contributions and major weaknesses of the argument.


You do not need to submit written comments or questions for the weeks in which you are leading the class discussion, for the final week, for the weeks covered by your comparative paper (see below), and you are allowed 1 "miss," so 8 reaction papers are required. Late reaction papers and question sets will not be accepted.



4. Comparative Paper (20% of final grade)


A comparative paper is required. It can be submitted at any point in the semester, but no later than December 12. You may submit this paper to replace 2 weekly reaction papers and it should cover the required reading and discussion material from those weeks.


The comparative paper need not involve any outside reading but should focus on a group of readings assigned for this seminar. This paper will give you the chance to integrate, analyze and critique assigned readings from several weeks around a common theoretical framework or set of issues of your choice. It also allows you to take advantage of issues raised in class discussion in preparing your paper.


The comparative paper need be no longer than 10-15 pages. If you submit your paper early (by December 4), you can take advantage of a "revise and resubmit" option. I will give you a critical reading and a tentative grade on the paper, together with suggestions for revising the paper for resubmission.





I am very glad to work with you to develop your comparative paper, or other assignments in the class. Please feel free to call or come talk with me about written work or any other aspect of the seminar.







Schedule and Reading Assignments



Part I: Feminist Theories and Epistemologies



Aug 28 Introduction: The Development of Modern Feminist Theory




Sept 4 Feminist Theory: Defining Feminism and Theorizing Gender


Readings: Linda Nicholson "Interpreting Gender" Signs (Autumn 1994)


Barbara Christian "The Race for Theory" in Making Face, Making Soul: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color (Aunt Lutz Foundation, 1990)


Iris Marion Young "Gender as Seriality: Thinking About Women as a Social Collective" Signs (Spring 1994)


Rosalind Delmar, "What is Feminism?" chapter 1 in Anne C. Herrman and Abigail J. Stewart (eds.), Theorizing Feminism: Parallel Trends in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Westview Press, 1994); hereafter, TF



Combahee River Collective, "The Combahee River Collective Statement" chapter 2 in TF


Cherrie Moraga "From a Long Line of Vendidas: Chicanas and Feminism" chapter 3 in TF





Sept 11 Feminist Theory: Theorizing From/Across Disciplines


Readings: Rachel T. Hare-Mustin and Jeanne Marecek "Gender and the Meaning of Difference: Postmodernism and Psychology" chapter 4 in TF


Kaja Silverman "Fragments of a Fashionable Discourse" chapter 5 in TF


Linda Nochlin "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" chapter 6 in TF


Carolyn Wood Sherif "Bias in Psychology" chapter 7 in TF


Sandra Harding "Thinking From the Perspective of Lesbian Lives" chapter 18 in TF


Joan W. Scott "Deconstructing Equality-Versus-Difference: or, The Uses of Poststructuralist Theory for Feminism" chapter 19 in TF




Sept 18 Feminist Methodologies


Readings: Jane Roland Martin "Methodological Essentialism, False Difference, and Other Dangerous Traps" in Signs (Spring 1994)


Heidi Gottfried "Engaging Women's Communities: Dilemmas and Contradictions in Feminist Research" Introduction in Heidi Gottfried (ed.), Feminism and Social Change (University of Illinois Press, 1996); hereafter, FSC


Sherry Gorelick "Contradictions of Feminist Methodology" chapter 1 in FSC


Dorothy E. Smith "Contradictions for Feminist Social Scientists" chapter 2 in FSC


Joan Acker, Kate Barry and Joke Esseveld "Objectivity and Truth: Problems in Doing Feminist Research" chapter 3 in FSC


Judith Stacey "Can There Be a Feminist Ethnography?" chapter 4 in FSC


Susan Bordo "Feminism, Postmodernism and Gender Skepticism" chapter 24 in TF


Nancy A. Naples, with Emily Clark "Feminist Participatory Research and Empowerment: Going Public as Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse" chapter 8 in FSC




Part II: Theorizing from Categories and Differences


Sept 25 Race and Gender: Theorizing From the In/Outside


Readings: Ann duCille "The Occult of True Black Womanhood: Critical Demeanor and Black Feminist Studies" in Signs (Spring 1994)


Patricia Hill Collins "The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought" in Signs (Summer 1989)


Aida Hurtado "Relating to Privilege: Seduction and Rejection in the Subordination of White Women and Women of Color" chapter 8 in TF



Valerie Smith "Split Affinities: The Case of Interracial Rape" chapter 9 in TF


Susan Stanford Friedman "Beyond White and Other: Relationality and Narratives of Race in Feminist Discourse" in Signs (Autumn 1995)


Linda Carty "Seeing Through the Eyes of Difference: A Reflection on Three Research Journeys" chapter 6 in FSC




Oct 2 Races, Genders and Nations


Readings: Aihwa Ong "Colonialism and Modernity: Feminist Re-presentation of Women in Non-Western Societies" chapter 20 in TF


Judith Williamson "Woman Is an Island: Feminism and Colonization" chapter 21 in TF


Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo "Immigrant Women and Paid Domestic Work: Research, Theory, and Activism" chapter 5 in FSC



Amy Kaminsky "Gender, Race, Raza" in Feminist Studies (Spring 1994)


Angela Bourke "Reading a Woman's Death: Colonial Text and Oral Tradition in Nineteenth-Century Ireland" in Feminist Studies (Fall 1995)


Linda Alcoff "The Problem of Speaking for Others" Cultural Critique (Winter 1991)





Oct 9 Theorizing Gender and Material Relations



Readings: Heidi Hartmann "The Family as the Locus of Gender, Class and Political Struggle: The Example of Housework" chapter 10 in TF


Patricia J. Williams "On Being the Object of Property" chapter 11 in TF


Gwendolyn Mink "The Lady and the Tramp: Gender, Race and the Origin of the American Welfare State" in Linda Gordon (ed.), Women, the State and Welfare (University of Wisconsin Press, 1990)


Nancy Fraser "Struggle Over Needs: Outline of a Socialist-Feminist Critical Theory of Late-Capitalist Political Culture" in Linda Gordon (ed.), Women, the State and Welfare (University of Wisconsin Press, 1990)


Donna Haraway "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" chapter 23 in TF




Oct 16 Theorizing Gender and Sex/Sexual Orientations


Readings: Catherine A. Mackinnon "Sexuality" chapter 14 in TF


Arleen B. Dallery "The Politics of Writing (the) Body: Ecriture Feminine" chapter 15 in TF


Cheshire Calhoun "The Gender Closet: Lesbian Disappearance Under The Sign 'Women'" in Signs (Spring 1995)


Verta Taylor and Leila J. Rupp "Lesbian Existence and the Women's Movement: Researching the 'Lavender Herring'" chapter 7 in FSC


Suzanne J. Kessler "The Medical Construction of Gender: Case Management of Intersexed Infants" chapter 12 in TF


Marjorie Garber "Spare Parts: The Surgical Construction of Gender" chapter 13 in TF


Evelyn Blackwood "Sexuality and Gender in Certain Native American Tribes: The Case of Cross-Gender Females" chapter 16 in TF


Biddy Martin "Lesbian Identity and Autobiographical Difference(s)" chapter 17 in TF




Part III: Identity and Identities


Oct 23 Theorizing Identity from the Body


Reading: Susan Bordo, Unbearable Weight (University of California Press, 1993)




Oct 30 Sexual Identities


Reading: Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us (Vintage Books, 1994)




Nov 6 Post-Colonial Identities


Reading: Trinh T. Minh-ha, Women, Native, Other (Indiana University Press, 1989)



Part IV: Power, Policy and Practice


Nov 13 Legal Practices and Intimate Relations


Reading: Martha Albertson Fineman, The Neutered Mother, The Sexual Family and Other Twentieth Century Tragedies (Routledge, 1995)



Nov 20 Policies and Politics


Reading: Iris Marion Young "Impartiality and the Civic Public" in Iris Marion Young, Throwing Like A Girl and Other Essays in Feminist Philosophy and Social Theory (Indiana University Press, 1990)


Wendy Brown "Finding the Man in the State" in Feminist Studies (Spring 1992)


Rosalind Pollack Petchesky "Fetal Images: The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Reproduction" chapter 22 in TF


Francesca M. Cancian "Participatory Research and Alternative Strategies for Activist Sociology" chapter 9 in FSC


Roberta Spalter-Roth and Heidi Hartmann "Small Happinesses: The Feminist Struggle to Integrate Social Research and Social Activism" chapter 10 in FSC


Ronnie J. Steinberg "Advocacy Research for Feminist Policy Objectives: Experiences with Comparable Worth" chapter 11 in FSC


Nancy C. M. Hartsock "Theoretical Bases for Coalition Building: An Assessment of Postmodernism" chapter 12 in FSC




Dec 4 Feminism and Technology


Reading: Carole A. Stabile, Feminism and the Technological Fix (Cambridge University Press, 1994)




Dec 10 Transforming Disciplines/Changing Societies


Reading: To be assigned collectively