Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies Courses
GWSS/HIST-101. Empire, Patriarchy, and Race: People and Power in Premodern World History
Why did patriarchy emerge in human societies? What different ideas of gender, sexuality, and family shaped people’s lives? How and why did empires form, and what social inequalities and cultural trends supported imperial power? What connected different regions of the globe and how did global and local environmental trends affect those connections? How have modern ideas of imperialism, gender, and race influenced our historical knowledge? Using these questions as a driving force, we will explore the history of the premodern world by examining the ever-changing relations between the powerful and seemingly-powerless. We will prioritize the perspectives of non-Western peoples in their cross-cultural encounters and exchanges, and we will analyze socio-political power structures, race and ethnicity, and patriarchy. Three hours per week.Four semester hours. (H, DN, GN.)
Note: Students who have completed HIST-261 may not register for GWSS/HIST-101.
GWSS/HIST-102. Empire, Patriarchy, and Race: People and Power in Modern World History
How have modern individuals’ lives been shaped by people in power throughout history? How did Westerners use the tools of empire, patriarchy, and race to dominate colonized groups? In what ways did colonized and non-hegemonic peoples attempt to assert agency over these tools and their lives? What are the environmental legacies of these processes? How have ideas of imperialism, gender, and race influenced our historical knowledge of the modern world? Using these questions as a driving force, we will explore the history of the modern world by examining the ever-changing relations between the powerful and seemingly-powerless. We will prioritize the perspectives of non-Western peoples in their cross-cultural encounters and exchanges and we will analyze socio-political power structures, race and ethnicity, and patriarchy. Three hours per week.Four semester hours. (H, DN, GN.)
Note: Students who have completed HIST-262 may not register for GWSS/HIST-102.
GWSS/PHIL-107. Philosophy of Love and Sex
What do we mean when we talk about love? How do we understand what motivates our interests in and movements toward relationships of pleasure and community? This course conducts its inquiry of love, sex/ualities, and pleasures with a ground in Black Feminist love-praxis and erotics and how this obligates us to others in various loving and pleasure engagements, including but not limited to transformative justice, friendship, wisdom, BDSM/Kink, asexuality, and sex work. The texts for this course range broadly within the discipline of philosophy (such as: black feminist/womanist thought, Latinx thought, feminist philosophy of science, and genealogy), and literature (as philosophical text) to engage with the multiple ways our lives are shaped by our situation as loving beings and the transformative possibilities of love. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, DN, O.)
GWSS/HIST-126. Defining America: Modern U.S. History in its Global Context
What makes the United States of America unique, and what does it mean to be American? This course explores the stories of working people, economic elites, the descendants of the enslaved, government officials, cultural icons, and innovators of all races, genders, and physical abilities. Such stories offer us multiple perspectives on the past, and by understanding and questioning them, we will study the country’s relationship to slavery, suffrage, civil and human rights, and accessibility, as well as its political, technological, economic, and ideological contributions, obligations, and shortcomings. Ultimately, we will gain an appreciation of what it means to be American and what America means to the world, beginning in the aftermath of the American Civil War and extending to the present. Three hours per week.Four semester hours. (DN, H, O.)
Note: Students who have completed HIST-114 may not register for GWSS/HIST-126.
GWSS-200. Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies
This course introduces a set of theoretical frameworks to conceptualize, explain, and reflect upon the categories of sex, gender, and sexuality through exploring classic texts in feminist thought and selections from contemporary feminist, queer, and trans* theory. Topics will include gender and sexual identities; conceptions of women’s bodies and embodiment more broadly speaking; autonomy, coercion, and consent; representations of women in mass media with particular attention to clothing, fashion, and food; expressions of female sexual desire; the notion of gender as performative; the many meanings of queerness; gender as non-binary; and more. We will pay special attention to intersectional feminists who reflect critically on the relationship of gender and gendered analyses to other kinds of difference, including race, class, sexual orientation, and sexual identity. Open to first-year students. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (DN.)
GWSS/ECON-210. Race and Gender in the American Economy
he study of the issues of race and gender in the U.S. economy. We will evaluate the economic status of racial minorities and women. Issues include occupational segregation, wage differentials, educational attainment, affirmative action and labor market discrimination. . Prerequisites: ECON-101 or 102 or permission of instructor. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (DN, SS.)
Note: Students with credit for BE-110 or ECON-110 may not enroll in ECON-210.
GWSS/ANTH-212. Anthropology of Sexuality
Sexual desires and practices are often naturalized in popular discourse, imagined as reflections of pre-cultural biological drives. In this course, we consider the cultural forces that shape these desires and practices into diverse forms across the globe. We use anthropological theories of sexuality to understand the ways in which even our most private thoughts and acts enact and/or resist cultural norms. Ethnographic readings from a range of geographic and subcultural settings provide an opportunity to explore erotic and sexual diversity in depth. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (GN, SS.)
GWSS/IDS/PSYC-214. Human Sexuality
A multidisciplinary study of the development and expression of human sexuality through the ages, across cultures, and through the lifespan of the individual. Topics include how is “having sex” defined, sexual anatomy and physiology, sexual behaviors and response cycles, sexual research, development of gender identity, sexual orientations, relationships, atypical sexual practices, sexual dysfunctions, sexually transmitted infections, contraceptive methods, conception and birth. A working knowledge of sexual intelligence will be developed. Prerequisite: PSYC-100. Three hours per week. Four semester hours.
GWSS/THEA-215. Dramatic Dames: Plays By & About Women
This course explores provocative portraits of women in plays written by women. Students begin with a tenth-century nun and read their way right up to the present day. This is the subversive side of dramatic literature—the plays not included in most anthologies. We will investigate the objectification and reclamation of the female body, gendered language, intersectionality, and the politics of drama by and about women in their socio- historical contexts. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (A, DN, H.)
GWSS/THEA-217. From Shakespeare to RuPaul: A History of Drag Performance
In Shakespeare’s theater, men played female roles and female characters sometimes disguised themselves as male — creating confusion, comedy, and insight into the human condition. Today’s drag queens, such as RuPaul, bring a sense of empowerment and theatricality to challenge a gender binary and to break through social norms. For centuries, playwrights and performers have crossed and mixed gender roles, creating a distinct art form that brings into focus issues of identity, gender variance, and social structures of masculinity and femininity. This course explores the history of drag entertainment and how it reflects and responds to cultural shifts over time. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (A, DN.)
GWSS/THEA-218. The Craft of African-American Female Playwrights
The original, pioneering work of African- American female playwrights was largely unnoticed and unsupported. These artists persevered, writing and producing their plays in small venues, influencing future generations of black female theater artists. This course will explore the groundwork laid by these innovators and will examine the craft of the women who stand on their shoulders. Today, many of America’s most creative, cutting-edge playwrights are African-American women. We will look at the contribution of these contemporary artists, and discuss their influences (social, political, and personal) that stretch beyond the boundaries of the stage. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (A, DN.)
GWSS/PHIL-221. Prison Studies/The Problem of Freedom
Is it possible to think of freedom without framing it against a background of various unfreedoms? This course looks at how the development of the notion of the modern liberal subject is predicated on structures of unfreedom, specifically prisons. Taking prison abolition as its starting point, this course explores an historical account of the prison industrial complex and interrogates the constitutive relationship of prison in the lives of people with precarious identities. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (DN, H.)
GWSS/HIST-227. Witches, Drudges, and Good Wives: Gender, Race, and Sex in Early America
How can we recover the experiences of individuals based upon archival fragments? How did social hierarchies based on the intersections of gender, race, and sex shape individuals’ lives in early America and contribute to their historical erasure? While considering biography as a mode of historical investigation, we will work to define evolving conceptions of gender, race, and sex in early America, and we will uncover the lives of individuals whose experiences were shaped by the communities in which they found themselves and whose stories some sought to appropriate, hide, or silence altogether. In doing so, we will learn much about these individuals and will better understand the forces that sought and perpetuated their erasure. Students will complete a biographical project on a figure of their choosing. Three hours per week.Four semester hours. (DN, H.)
Note: Students who completed the course as HIST-300A in Spring 2018 may not register for GWSS/HIST-227
GWSS/ENGL-228. Women’s Literature
A cross-period study of literature by British and American women, paying attention to issues of canon formation and feminist literary theory. Prerequisite: CIE-100. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)
GWSS/PHIL/RELS-244. Work and Meaning
What is work? What’s the difference between real work, bullshit work, and play? Why do we pay people for some kinds of work and not others? Are we all just naturally lazy, or do we really want to do something meaningful with our lives? Why do so many people hate their jobs? And does what you do make you who you are? We will explore these questions and many, many more through classic and contemporary readings, impassioned discussions, and a variety of in-class experiments. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)
GWSS-250. Special Topics in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies
A 200-level course dealing with special subject areas and periods that are not regularly taught. Three hours per week. Four semester hours.
GWSS/HIST-251. African Journey: From Colonization to a Continent of Nations
Even in the twenty-first century, Africa and its people are misunderstood and misrepresented. Stereotypes promote a narrow view of a vast continent rich with diverse peoples, ideas, and experiences. This course considers African history from the onset of European colonialism to the near present. While learning about the modern historical development of the continent in broad strokes, we will survey some of the broader scholarship and approaches to studying African history, considering its centrality to historical progress. In doing so, we will compare and contrast African people’s experiences with colonialism, decolonization, and independence/neo-colonialism while placing emphasis on women’s experiences and the function of gender. Other important themes include culture, economics, and international relations. We will privilege the perspectives, epistemologies, and contributions of Africans. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (GN, H.)
Note: Students who have completed HIST-231 may not register for GWSS/HIST-251.
GWSS/SOC-263. Sex, Gender, and the Politics of Bodies in American Society
After initial examination of the causes of sex differences, focus is placed on the modern American sex/gender role system: socialization and education; economic, political, religious, and family roles; sexual inequality; and gender-based public policy issues. Some cross-cultural and cross-national comparisons are made. Prerequisite: SOC-100, ANTH-100, or permission of the instructor. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (DN, SS.)
Note: Students who have taken SOC-110 have fulfilled the prerequisite for this course.
GWSS/HIST-303. Women’s Activist Auto/Biographies
Women in various geographic and political contexts have been central actors in the processes of history. However, because women have frequently been viewed as secondary to their male counterparts, their lives have not commanded the same amount of attention. This course seeks to broaden our understandings of the politics, cultures, and social justice initiatives of various societies by studying women’s personal lives and political struggles. Through the life writing of women in places like Kenya, South Africa, India, and the United States of America, we will learn how their participation in social movements, state politics, and cultural work helped make women’s and human rights a central topic in the broader march toward the liberation of their people. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (DN, GN, H.)
Note: Students who have completed HIST/GWSS-361 may not register for GWSS/HIST-303.
GWSS/MUS-305. Women in Music
This course will examine the contributions of women as composers, performers, patrons and conductors of music from the Middle Ages through the twentieth century. The course will focus largely on the roles of women in the sphere of Western art music but will include some coverage of non-Western and popular music as well. The course requires a variety of listening assignments and research projects. Three hours per week. Four credit hours. (A.)
GWSS/THEA-315. Butches, Bitches, & Buggers: Modern Queer Drama
This seminar explores provocative portraits of queer life in modern drama including the evolution, reclamation, and employment of gender- and sexuality-specific language and stereotypes within and outside of queer communities. How does the socio-historical environment in which a queer play is written inform its content and reception? Are plays about or written by queer individuals necessarily political? Does queer theatre intervene in culture differently from the manner in which other theatre does? And, of course, we will examine a broad range of butches, bitches, and buggers in queer drama. Three hours per week. Four credit hours. (A, DN, H.)
GWSS/PHIL-317. Trans Theory
The past few years have seen unprecedented conversations on a national scale about the fluidity of gender and what it means to be trans. Increasing awareness of the complexities of gender has saturated mainstream media and led to an explosion of scholarship in the field of transgender studies. Attending to individual narratives and artifacts of popular culture as well as to theories of embodiment, power, identity, and difference, this course surveys theoretical works alongside history, memoir, and fiction. We will pay specific attention to the intersections of gender identity and gender presentation with categories of race, class, and sexuality. Prior coursework in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies will be useful but is not required. A willingness to grapple with difficult texts and concepts will, however, be an absolute necessity. Three hours per week. Four credit hours. (H.)
GWSS/MCS-319. Sex, Race and Comedy
Students will learn to critically analyze the subversive power of comedy in exploring issues of race, gender, sexual orientation and class in American media. Three hours per week. Four credit hours. (DN, SS.)
GWSS/HIST-332. Liberated Minds: African American Intellectual History
People of African descent have occupied a unique sociopolitical position in the United States. The realities of their captivity and enslavement, and their resilience in the face of discrimination and racial terrorism, have given them a distinct place in national and world history. Throughout their time in America, they developed a multitude of ideas about economics, citizenship and nationalism, legislation, U.S. foreign policy, education, health, and art and culture. This course will explore the diverse ideas that have developed from this distinct, yet internally diverse, community. We will read about the major bodies of African American thought and research specific aspects of Black intellectual production since the late nineteenth century, including Black nationalism, feminism, liberalism, conservativism, and radicalism. Special priority will be given to how sex and gender inform intellectual production. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (DN, H.)
GWSS/MCS-340. Gender, Ethnicity and Communication
This course explores theories and research on gender, ethnicity and communication, with a particular focus on African American culture. Students will use two research methods to study the relationship between gender, ethnicity and communication: a discourse analysis and an auto-ethnography. The reading, writing, and discussions in the course will encourage students to cultivate more reflective communicative practice. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (DN, SS.)
GWSS-350. Special Topics in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies
A 300-level course dealing with special subject areas and periods that are not regularly taught. Three hours per week.Four semester hours.
GWSS-370. Research-Independent Study
Directed readings and research on a topic in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies. A student wishing to register for this course must present to a member of the faculty a proposal outlining research to be completed, and submit the instructor’s written agreement to supervise the project to the GWSS Coordinator. Prerequisites: GWSS-200 and status as a GWSS minor. Four semester hours. (XLP.)
GWSS/PHIL-371. Identity, Credibility, Knowledge, Power: Feminist Epistemologies
This course explores feminist approaches to questions concerning knowledge, justification, and rationality. We will look in particular at feminist standpoint theory, feminist empiricism, and feminist analyses of epistemic oppression and justice. In doing so, we will engage with the following questions: Does a person’s social identity (e.g., gender or racialized identity) impact what they know? What are they justified in believing? Whether they are credible with respect to certain topics? Are certain social locations epistemically privileged? Is rationality gendered? Is knowledge socially constructed? Are we ever obligated to believe someone? Three hours per week.Four credit hours. (DN, H, O.)
GWSS/ART-373. Feminism and Gender in Art and Art History
This course investigates the influence of political, activist, and scholarly developments in feminist and gender theory on artistic practice and the discipline of art history. Course material explores how feminist consciousness and theories of gender have led artists, critics, and theorists to innovative representational strategies and to challenge, revise, and reinterpret art historical narrative. In the process, the course focuses on how such interventions alter the stories that artists and scholars tell. Prerequisite: ART-160, 290W, 371, or 372; or permission of the instructor. Four semester hours. (A, D.)
GWSS-375. Readings in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies
In this directed readings course a student can further develop an interest begun in another course or explore an interest within the field of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies not otherwise covered in the curriculum. A student may do independent readings with any member of the GWSS faculty, but must submit in advance the instructor’s written agreement to supervise the project to the GWSS Coordinator. Prerequisite: GWSS-200. Two semester hours.
GWSS/HIST-377. Cold War in Europe: Immigrants, Labor, and Gender Cold War in Europe: Immigrants, Labor, and Gender
How did individuals experience the Cold War? Students will explore this question by studying how Eastern and Western European nations overtly politicized the bodies of every gender, as well as workers and immigrants, in order to fight the Cold War as substitute soldiers. Yet these communities developed individual and cultural agency in activities and behaviors that influenced their government’s policies during this time. We will explore these themes against the backdrop of major moments, and will discuss the root ideas that informed states’ policies that inequitably affected the lives of immigrants and workers of all genders. Furthermore, we will consider how our Cold War biases continue to shape our obligations as historians towards Western versions of this history and as well as to each other. We will lastly reflect on how governments should care for their geopolitical status as well as their citizens’ gender and labor rights, and how citizens should respond to government actions. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, DN, O.)
An academic/work experience under the supervision of an internship adviser and an on-site supervisor. Students must document their experience according to the requirements delineated in the College catalogue section on Internships. Contact the Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies Coordinator for further details. Open to juniors and seniors. The term during which the internship work is performed will be noted by one of the following letters, to be added immediately after the internship course number: A (fall), B (winter), C (spring), or D (summer). Internships undertaken abroad will be so indicated by the letter I. The intern must complete a minimum of 120 hours of work. Graded S/U. Prerequisites: GWSS-200 and approval of a faculty internship adviser. Three semester hours.(XLP.)
An academic/work experience under the supervision of an internship adviser and an on-site supervisor. Students must document their experience according to the requirements delineated in the College catalogue section on Internships. Contact the Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies Coordinator for further details. Open to juniors and seniors. The term during which the internship work is performed will be noted by one of the following letters, to be added immediately after the internship course number: A (fall), B (winter), C (spring), or D (summer). Internships undertaken abroad will be so indicated by the letter I. The intern must complete a minimum of 160 hours of work. Graded S/U. Prerequisites: GWSS-200 and approval of a faculty internship adviser. Four semester hours. (XLP.)
GWSS/IDS-441. What Will I Do? Kin and Care
This course is a CCAP that considers “What will I do?” through exploration of families and parenting, and students’ hopes and plans for their own families as they prepare for life after Ursinus. Beginning with a return to select CIE texts, the course then examines the present and future of family life through close readings of texts from the social sciences, journalism, and literary fiction. Themes addressed include climate change, gender and sexuality, labor, race, religion, and violence, among others. Students will reflect on their own desires and concerns regarding family and children, considering how those desires and concerns emerge from their own lived experiences and current social, environmental, and economic conditions. They will also contemplate the kinds of futures, individual and collective, in which they might construct and sustain their own families. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (CCAP.)
GWSS-491W. Honors Research/Independent Work
This course is open to candidates for honors. Work should be comprised of an independent project that employs research methods in GWSS. Prerequisite: Status as a GWSS major and permission of the GWSS Advisory Council. Four semester hours. (XLP.)
GWSS-492W. Research/Independent Work
Continuation of GWSS-491. Four semester hours. (XLP.)