WS 338: Survey of Feminist Thought


Professor LeeRay M. Costa                                                                  Fall 2003
324 Pleasants Hall                                                                      Tue/Thu 10:30-12:00
Office Hours: Tu/Thu 1:00-2:00, and by appointment                                Pleasants 320  
Contact Info: x6254,


Course Description

What is feminism?  What is feminist theory? And how have critiques of feminism by women of color, women in the global south, and sexual minorities reshaped the meaning(s) of feminism? How do popular feminism and academic feminism intersect, and what are the opportunities for collaborations between these two arenas?

In this course we will survey a wide range of feminist thought and seek to answer these questions and others through a variety of historical and contemporary readings, class discussions, and writing assignments.  We will begin with a discussion of the concept of gender and how it is produced and naturalized in specific cultural and historical contexts through material and symbolic practice.  We will study the history of feminism in the US as both a social movement for women’s rights and gender equality, and a significant paradigmatic shift in social scientific thinking.  Integral to our discussion of history will be a consideration of the different forms of feminism that have emerged over time, their proponents and critics, for example: liberal, Marxist, socialist, radical and postmodern. Throughout the course we will explore how knowledge, power and gender are interwoven in particular ways and how various feminist approaches seek to disrupt and reshape these taken-for-granted systems of inequality on multiple levels.

NOTE: This course fulfills the ESP requirements for Oral Skills and Social and Cultural Diversities.

Course Objectives

1.       To understand the varieties of feminist theory and the development of feminist theory from one focused explicitly on gender to theories (plural) focused on the intersection and overlap of gender with race, ethnicity, age, class, sexual orientation, location, etc…

2.       To critically analyze the ways women’s experiences have been seen as inferior to or less important than men’s which in turn has had an impact on the personal identities of women.

3.       To become aware of women’s movements for change historically and in the present, in various nations around the world, and in the global networking of the transnational women’s movement.

4.       To develop oral communication skills through weekly presentations of reading assignments and a final oral presentation of a research paper. 

Required Reading

·         Guy-Sheftall, Beverly, ed. (1995) Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought. New York: The New Press. (“WOF” in syllabus)

·         hooks, bell (2000) Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Second Edition. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

·         Tong, Rosemarie Putnam (1998) Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction. Second Edition.  Boulder: Westview Press.

·         Weedon, Chris (1999) Feminism, Theory, and the Politics of Difference. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

·         Various articles (listed at end of syllabus)

Optional Reading

·         Andermahr, Sonya, Terry Lovell, Carol Wolkowitz (2000) A Concise Glossary of Feminist Theory. London: Edward Arnold.

·         Watkins, Susan Alice, Marisa Rueda and Marta Rodriguez (1999) Introducing Feminism.

Course readings are available on Reserve at Wyndham Robertson Library.

Course Requirements

For this seminar course to be successful and mutually beneficial to all, it requires the full participation of all members of the class.  It is essential that students come to class prepared, having completed ALL the required readings and any written assignments due.  Because this is a 300-level, seminar class, students should arrive ready to thoughtfully discuss, analyze and share their insights into/confusions about the material. Each class period one student will be responsible for leading the discussion.

·         Class participation is required and is part of your final grade.

·         Class attendance is required.  More than three unexcused absences will result in a grade reduction.  Students are expected to arrive on-time

·         Reading assignments are required.  Readings should be read BEFORE the class period in which they will be discussed.  Make sure to read the endnotes/footnotes as well.  Please come prepared with questions.

·         Exams and Assignments:

1.       Thought Papers: Over the course of the semester students will be required to write five (5) 2-3 page thought papers. Thought papers should include a) a discussion of the topic for that week and evidence that you have understood (or grappled with how to understand) the reading, b) reflection on how the reading/topic from that week fits in with some of the previous readings, and c) at least one question related to that week’s reading/topic. You should come prepared to share your thought papers with your classmates. Please review the Handout “Guide to Reading” for assistance.  Each thought paper is worth 3 points.

2.       Leading Seminar Discussions: Each class period one student will lead the seminar discussion by presenting a summary statement of reading points and a list of questions to be considered by the class. Seminar leaders may also make use of outside materials and alternative pedagogies if they wish. Students are also encouraged to ask classmates to read from their thought papers or to share points they make in their thought papers. Presentations should be as brief and engaging as possible. Communications Professor Lori Joseph will visit our class to provide some useful tips on making oral presentations.  Also refer to the “Guide to Reading” Handout for assistance.

3.       Research Paper Project:  The research paper is the major assignment of the course. Each student will write a 15 page research paper on her topic of her choice with the approval of the professor.  The paper will be broken down into a series of assignments to be completed by various dates throughout the semester.  The goal of the assignment is a well-written research paper that successfully addresses a topic of relevance to feminist theory and/or practice. The steps in the research paper project include:

Ø       A one-page topic statement (Sept 23)

Ø       A working bibliography (5 pages)  (Oct 2)

Ø       Three one-paragraph summaries of sources to be used (Oct 23)

Ø       A 2-3 page introduction (Nov 4)

Ø       A rough draft, including bibliography and references (Nov 13)

Ø       An outline of the class presentation to be based on the paper (Nov 18)

Ø       A final draft (Dec 11)

More information will be provided in separate handouts.

4.   In-Class Oral Presentation: At the end of the semester, each student will make an oral presentation to the class based on her research paper project.  Presentations should be well-organized, clearly argued and engaging for the listener. Tips on oral presentations will be provided in class. 15 minutes per student plus 5-10 minutes for questions from the class. This time limit is FIRM. If you go over your time limit, your grade will be reduced accordingly.

5.       Participation & Attendance:  As part of your participation in this course, you will act as peer mentors for each other on the research paper project.  You will have 1-2 writing group partners for whom you will provide critical and constructive feedback throughout the research project. This will be discussed further in class.

·         Style Guide for Written Assignments:

1.       All papers should be typed, using 12 pt font only (12 pt Times is the preferable font), double spaced, with one-inch (1”) margins on all sides.

2.       Please DO NOT USE COVER SHEETS. I consider this a waste of precious resources. Type your name, course number, paper title and any other identifying information at the top of the first page.

3.       Remember to always KEEP A COPY of your paper in case of an emergency!

4.       Please NUMBER ALL PAGES and using the footer, place your name at the bottom of each page.

5.       USE THE SPELL CHECKER ON YOUR COMPUTER.  Excessive and needless misspelling will result in a reduction of your paper grade.

6.       For citing material in your papers, please use the Chicago style. Style guidelines can be found on the web through the Hollins Writing Center at

docplag.htm  If you have any questions re: this style, please ask! If you fail to follow the appropriate guidelines, your grade will be reduced.


            Thought Papers                                               15%

            Leading Seminars                                           10%

            Research Paper Project                                   20%

            Final Research Paper                                      20%

            In-Class Oral Presentation                               20%

            Participation & Attendance                              15%

Policies & Expectations

By enrolling in this course, you agree to adhere to the following policies and expectations in addition to those cited above and those outlined in the Hollins Honor Code.

1.       You will participate in the course in a manner that is open, honest and respectful of other people’s opinions, ideas and beliefs.  This means allowing others the space to assert their views. Although you may not always agree, there is much to learn by listening to and considering viewpoints different from your own. 

2.       Because you may find that many of the ideas presented in this course challenge your own beliefs and assumptions, it is important to remember that people can agree to disagree.  In other words, the goal of the course is not to “convert” individuals to a particular point of view. Rather, the goal is to present alternative ideas in an articulate and comprehensive way, and to assist students in figuring out their own positions on a particular issue. Thus, dialogue and respectful contestation are likely to be an inherent part of the course.

3.       Issues and personal experiences discussed in the course may often be personal.  Therefore, you agree to respect your classmates’ privacy and to keep discussions confidential.

4.       There is no such thing as a “stupid” or “silly” question.  All questions and ideas will be addressed thoughtfully and respectfully.

5.       The syllabus is subject to change.  Thus, if you choose to be absent from class it is your responsibility to find out if any changes have been made.

6.       Your suggestions and interests are valued.  Therefore, if you have any ideas for videos, readings or specific authors you would like to see included in the class, please discuss them with me during office hours and we will consider adding them to the course materials.

7.       Cheating and plagiarism--including the use of work submitted to another course at Hollins without the consent of both instructors, the use of work by another person, or the use of someone else's words, ideas, or arrangement of ideas without giving proper reference to the author--is a severe violation of the Honor Code. This applies to all electronic sources found on the Internet (including term papers for purchase), to all on-line databases, and to all other published materials. Cheating or plagiarism will result in automatic failure of the course. Thus, please be very careful about your research and citation practices.  If you are ever in doubt, please ask!

8.       If you have any special learning needs, please notify the professor immediately. It is your responsibility to discuss special learning needs with the instructor.  Every attempt will be made to address your needs accordingly.  Please do not wait until after the midterm to discuss your needs with the professor.

9.       If you are having any problems in the course, please come and discuss them with the professor during office hours or by making an appointment. Problems should be addressed right away, and not put off until after exams or until the end of the semester.


Schedule of Classes, Topics and Readings:

Part I:  Situating Feminist Thought: The Politics of Knowledge


Day 1: Thu, Sept 4                               Introduction and Course Overview

Day 2: Tue, Sept 9                               Why do we need theory? What makes it “feminist”?

                                                            hooks: Theory as Liberatory Practice

                                                            Bunch: Not By Degrees: Feminist Theory and Education

                                                            Guest Speaker: Professor Lori Joseph, on giving oral                                                                       presentations                                                                                                                 

Day 3: Thu, Sept 11                              Feminist Epistemology (Feminism, Gender, Women)

                                                            Walker: Definition of Womanist;
Harding: Subjectivity, Experience and Knowledge: An Epistemology from/for Rainbow Coalition Politics

Day 4: Tue, Sept 16                              Feminist Epistemology and Standpoint Theory

                                                            Haraway: Situated Knowledges

Collins: The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought (WOF)

Ø       DUE: Thought Paper #1


Part II:  Categorizing Feminist Thought: The Politics of Typology


Day 5: Thu, Sept 18                              Workshop on Research Paper Project

                                                            Please bring topic ideas to class                                  

Day 6: Tue, Sept 23                              Liberal Feminism (Rights, Law)

                                                            Tong: Ch. 1;

Truth: Woman’s Rights; When Woman Gets Her Rights (WOF)

Friedan: The Problem that has no name

Ø       DUE: One page topic statement

Day 7: Thu, Sept 25                              Marxist & Socialist Feminism (Labor, Class)

Tong: Ch. 3:94-129

Hartmann: The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union

Day 8: Tue, Sept 30                              Marxist & Socialist Feminism (Labor, Class)

                                                            Weedon Ch. 6: 131-152;  Hartsock: The Feminist Standpoint

Ø       DUE: Thought Paper #2

Day 9: Thu, Oct 2                                 Radical Feminism (Sex, Sexuality)

                                                            Tong ch. 2: selections ; Firestone: The Dialectic of Sex

                                                            Lorde: The Master’s Tools

                                                            Combahee River Collective: A Black Feminist Statement (WOF)

Ø       DUE: Working bibliography

Day 10: Tue, Oct 7                                Radical Feminism (Sex, Sexuality)

Weedon Ch. 3; Redstockings Manifesto; 

Rich: Compulsory Heterosexuality; Lorde: I am your Sister

Day 11: Thu, Oct 9                                NO CLASS, Fall break

Day 12: Tue, Oct 14                              Postmodern Feminism (Body, Language, Power)

Weedon Ch. 5

Day 13: Thu, Oct 16                              Floater Day (to compensate for Tinker Day)

Day 14: Tue, Oct 21                              Postmodern Feminism (Body, Language, Power)

                                                            Haraway: A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 80s

Butler: Identity, Sex and the Metaphysics of Substance

Ø       DUE: Thought Paper #3


Part III: Reimagining Feminist Thought: The Politics of Difference


Day 15: Thu, Oct 23                              Politics of Difference

                                                            Weedon Ch. 7; skim Ch. 1

Rushin: The Bridge Poem

Ø       DUE: 3 one-paragraph summaries

Day 16:  Tue, Oct 28                             Black Feminist Thought

                                                            hooks: Feminist Theory 1-83

Day 17:  Thu, Oct 30                             Black Feminist Thought

                                                            hooks: Feminist Theory 84-166

Ø       DUE: Thought Paper #4

Day 18:  Tue, Nov 4                              Work on Research Papers                  

Ø       DUE: 2-3 page introduction

Day 19:  Thu, Nov 6                              Differences

                                                            Lorde: Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference (WOF)

                                                            King: Multiple Jeopardy, Multiple Consciousness (WOF)

                                                            Waters: Optional Ethnicities: For Whites Only?

                                                            Parker: For the white person who wants to know how to be my friend

Day 20:  Tue, Nov 11                            No Class: Work on your papers!          

Day 21:  Thu, Nov 13                            Work on Research Papers

Ø       DUE: Rough Draft

Day 22:  Tue, Nov 18                            Global/Third World Feminism

                                                            Mohanty: Under Western Eyes

Lugones: Playfulness, “World”-Traveling, and Loving Perception

Ø       DUE: Outline of Class Presentation

Day 23:  Thu, Nov 20                            NO CLASS, AAA meetings

November 23-29                                   NO CLASS, Thanksgiving Break

Day 24:  Tue, Dec 2                              Global/Third World Feminism: The New Mestiza

                                                            Sandoval: US Third World Feminism

Anzaldúa: La conciencia de la mestiza

Ø       DUE: Thought Paper #5

Day 25:  Thu, Dec 4                              Final Oral Presentations

Day 26:  Tue, Dec 9                              Final Oral Presentations

Day 27:  Thu, Dec 11                            Final Oral Presentations

Ø       DUE: Research Paper



Bibliography of Articles (in order they are to be read):


hooks, bell. 1994.  Theory as Liberatory Practice. In Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Pp. 59-75. New York: Routlege.


Bunch, Charlotte. 1983[1979]. Not By Degrees: Feminist Theory and Education. In Learning Our Way: Essays in Feminist Education. Charlotte Bunch & Sandra Pollack, eds. Pp. 248-260. Trumansburg, N.Y.: Crossing Press.


Walker, Alice. 1990[1983]. Definition of Womanist. In Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras. Gloria Anzaldúa, ed. Pp. 370. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.


Harding, Sandra. 1998[1995]. Subjectivity, Experience and Knowledge: An Epistemology from/for Rainbow Coalition Politics. In Contemporary Feminist Theory. Mary F. Rogers, ed. Pp. 98-108. McGraw Hill.


Haraway, Donna. 1988. Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies 14(3):575-599.


Friedan, Betty. 1983[1963]. The Problem That Has No Name. In The Feminine Mystique. Pp. 15-32. New York: Laurel.


Hartmann, Heidi. 1981. The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union. In Women and Revolution: A Discussion of the Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism, Lydia Sargent, ed. Pp. 1-41. Boston: South End Press.


Hartsock, Nancy C. M. 1983. The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically Feminist Historical Materialism. In Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science. Sandra Harding and Merrill B. Hintikka, eds. Pp. 283-310. London: D. Reidel Publishing Co.


Firestone, Shulamith.1970. The Dialectic of Sex: the case for feminist revolution. Pp. 1-15. New York: Morrow.


Lorde, Audre. 1983[1980]. The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House. In This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, eds. Pp.98-101. New York: Kitchen Table Women of Color Press.


Redstockings Manifesto. 1969. In Masculine/Feminine: Readings in Sexual Mythology and the Liberation of Women. Betty Roszak and Theodore Roszak, eds. Pp. 272-274. New York: Harper and Row.


Rich, Adrienne. 1983[1980]. Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence. In Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality. Ann Snitow, Christine Stansell and Sharon Thompson, eds. Pp. 177-205. New York: Monthly Review Press.


Lorde, Audre. 1985. I am your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities. Latham, NY: Kitchen Table: Woman of Color Press.


Haraway, Donna. 1990.  A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s. In Feminism/Postmodernism. Linda J. Nicholson, ed. Pp. 190-233. New York: Routledge.


Butler, Judith. 1998[1990].  Identity, Sex and the Metaphysics of Substance. In Contemporary Feminist Theory. Mary F. Rogers, ed. Pp. 377-378. McGraw Hill.


Rushin, Donna Kate. 1983. The Bridge Poem. In This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, eds. Pp. xxi-xxii. New York: Kitchen Table Women of Color Press.


Waters, Mary C. 2001[1996]. Optional Ethnicities: For Whites Only? In Race, Class and Gender. Fourth Edition. Margaret L. Andersen and Patricia Hill Collins. Pp. 430-439. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.


Parker, Pat. 1990[1978]. For the white person who wants to know how to be my friend. In Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras. Gloria Anzaldúa, ed. Pp. 297. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.


Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. 1991. Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses. In Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism. Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Ann russo and Lourdes Torres, eds. Pp. 51-80. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.


Lugones, María. 1990[1987]. Playfulness, “World”-Traveling, and Loving Perception. In Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras. Gloria Anzaldúa, ed. Pp. 390-402. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.


Sandoval, Chela. 1991. US Third World Feminism: The Theory and Method of Oppositional Consciousness in the Postmodern World. Genders 10:1-24.


Anzaldúa, Gloria. 1990[1987]. La conciencia de la mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness. In Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras. Gloria Anzaldúa, ed. Pp. 377-389. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.