Advanced Feminist Theory

If the generative moment of contemporary feminist theory can be traced to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949), then the past sixty-five plus years to the present constitute a truly turbulent epoch for feminist theorizing and feminist political discourse, given the contestations that have engulfed the academic field ever since Beauvoir declared “One is not born a woman but becomes one.”  Under the sway of what R Wiegman calls “the progress narrative of gender” some of feminism’s core concepts, perhaps particularly its subject, “women,” are seemingly up for grabs, theoretically, politically, and disciplinarily. Working under the weight of the ruptures and crises of identification that constitute contemporary feminist theory, this seminar has two overlapping aims. The first is explanatory/investigative: Geared toward gaining knowledge of the complexity of central categories of feminist analysis and understanding (e.g. “gender,” “sex,” “sexuality,” “women,” “woman,” “m/f,” “the feminine,” “patriarchy,” “family,” “lesbian,” “race,” “class,” “identity,” “kinship,” “oppression,” “desire,” “nation,” “power,” “freedom,” “politics”) through the interpretation of texts. Without organizing things strictly chronologically, much less seeking any sort of linear narrative of “development,” we’ll consider transformations, changes, and tensions that mark (mostly western) feminist theoretical perspectives and discourses from roughly the 1970s to the present. Although we’ll be considering general theoretical approaches (e.g. Marxist; lesbian materialist; feminist standpoint; critical theoretic; black feminist/oppositional consciousness; intersectional; postcolonial/subaltern; poststructuralist; psychoanalytic; linguistic; deconstructive; genderqueer; transnational) the focus will be on reading texts and writers in ways that disrupt the standard theoretical positions they are presumed to represent. The second aim of the seminar is critical/diagnostic/programmatic: Concerned to bring the texts and thinkers we’re reading into constant comparative and productive tension with each other, not only with a view toward exposing the limitations, misrepresentations, and exclusions that shadow all modalities of feminist thought post-Beauvoir and under the watchful eye of “the progress narrative of gender,” but also with a view toward imagining new beginnings that generate fruitful possibilities for feminist theory and politics in late modernity.  Authors include: N Alarcón; L Alcoff; S Ahmed; E Barkley Brown; R Braidotti; W Brown; J Butler; N Chodorow; K Crenshaw; E Grosz; N Hartsock; J Kristeva; L Irigaray; A Lorde; C Sandoval; H Spillers; G Spivak; C MacKinnon; B Martin; G Rubin; R Wiegman; L Zerilli.