Curriculum Overview 

Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies is an interdisciplinary program offering a major and a minor in which students study how social constructions of gender and sexuality shape both academic discourses and lived experiences. In their coursework and independent research, students learn to apply feminist theories, queer theory and other critical theories to reflect on gendered experiences within a variety of contexts: historical, economic and cross-cultural. The courses in the program help students to analyze critically the ways gendered perspectives inform fundamental concepts like race, class or ethnicity. The major and minor augment more traditional approaches to studying women and gender by having students engage current scholarly inquiry into sexuality and into the diversity of global perspectives on gender and sexuality.

A major in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies consists of 10 courses.

The following courses are required:

  • WGS 210 (Gender, Sexuality and Power )
  • WGS 415 (Senior Seminar)
  • One course that focuses on feminist theory. Please consult with the program chair about the updated list of courses fulfilling this requirement.
  • One course that focuses on sexuality within a women’s and gender studies framework, chosen from the following group, or in consultation with the program chair:
         WGS 242 (Gender, Sexuality in Antiquity)
         WGS 356 (European Sexualities) or WGS 345 (Sociology of Sexuality)
  • One non-western course in WGS, which emphasizes non-western cultures and societies, including indigenous, colonial and post-colonial contexts or that offers a substantial cross-cultural or transnational framework.

Five courses in the major must be at or above the 300 level.

A joint major in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies consists of eight courses: WGS 210; WGS 415; one course focusing on feminist theory; four electives, including one course that focuses on sexuality within a women’s and gender studies framework; and one non-western course in WGS, which emphasizes non-western cultures and societies. Three of the electives for the joint major must be at the 300 or 400 level.

A minor in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies consists of six courses.

Three of these are mandatory:

WGS 210 (Gender, Sexuality and Power)

WGS 415 (Senior Seminar)

One course that focuses on feminist theory. Please consult with the program chair about the upated list of courses fulfilling this requirement.

The other three are electives.

Majors and minors in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program have studied abroad in the following programs in recent years: Advanced Studies in England Program in Bath, England; DIS, in Copenhagen or Stockholm (“Prostitution and the Sex Trade Program” and “Gender, Equality and Sexuality in Scandinavia”); IFSA--Butler in Buenos Aires, Argentina (“Human Rights: Diversity, Minority and Gender Studies”); and SIT--Netherlands (“International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender”). The program also encourages students to consider IFSA Argentina: Advanced Argentine Universities Program (Concentration in Diversity, Minority and Gender Studies), and BCA Study Abroad in St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago. See the International Program ssection of the Catalog for further information.

Courses Offered 

A list of regularly offered courses follows. Please note the key for the following abbreviations: (A) Arts; (H) Humanities; (S) Social Sciences; (N) Natural Sciences with Laboratory; (LS) Language Studies requirement; (NSP) Natural Science in Perspective; (NW) Non-Western Cultures requirement; (WP) World Perspectives requirement.

117. Women/Science. (NSP)
This course will introduce students to the role of women in science both as participants in the creation of scientific knowledge, and as the subjects of biological study of the female body. Topics will include sexual development, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause, as well as education and professional achievement in the sciences. Students will examine the contributions of women scientists through the lens of feminism, with an emphasis on the barriers women have faced historically and those that remain today. Same as NSP 117.

119. Biology and Social Constructs. (NSP)
This course will introduce students to the fundamental biological processes of inheritance and sex determination in living organisms and examine the interplay of these concepts in our (mis)understanding of two social constructs commonly attributed to a biological basis: gender and race. Topics will include diversity of sexual mating systems, mechanisms of sex determination, concepts of genetic transmission and ancestry, pedigree analysis and human population genetics. Students will critically evaluate studies that apply and extend these concepts and their intersection with social constructs. Same as NSP 119.

185. Impact of Reproductive Technology. (NSP)
This course will examine how reproductive technology has altered the way humans create and view family. Advances in medicine and manufacturing in the past century have produced unprecedented levels of control in preventing or producing offspring. What are the modern ways to make a baby? How have these options altered our views of family planning and parenting? What is the effect on the legal, social, and spiritual standing of the child (or potential child)? How does the impact of modern reproductive practices vary with different religions and cultures? Same as NSP 185.    

210. Gender, Sexuality and Power. (S)
Focusing on issues related to women’s experiences in the contemporary United States and in other societies around the globe, this broad core course in women’s, gender and sexuality studies explores basic concepts, methods of inquiry, empirical studies and symbolic interpretations from a feminist perspective. WGS 210 is required for the WGSS major or minor and Joint Majors. Students who are considering a WGSS major or minor or Joint Major are urged to take WGS 210 early in their college career. 
Deslippe, Kibler

212. Sex, Lies, and Shakespeare. (H)
Disguise & lies & sex, swearing & pairing, sins & twins, fear & a bear. Shakespeare brought all this to the London stage, and this course brings it to U. The basic course goals: to understand and appreciate the achievements of Shakespeare’s written poetry and drama and to comprehend the interpretive role you play, and the interpretive role mixed-media play, in the thematics of sex and lying. Meets pre-1800 English major requirement. Same as ENG 212.

213. Black American Film. (A)
An introduction to film studies using black film as a genre of Hollywood and independent film. Covers the work of Oscar Michaux through the “blaxploitation” films of the 1970s and beyond. Explores films as social commentary in their particular historical contexts. Particular attention is given to screen analysis of segregation, sexuality, class differences and more. Same as AFS/AMS/FLM 213.    

231. Women Writers I. (H)
A study of the experiences of women as presented in selected British and American literature from the Middle Ages through the 19th century, as presented from a variety of cultural perspectives. We will consider various readings of the texts, including those that emphasize feminist theory and historical context. Among others, we will be reading Jane Austen, Aphra Behn, Anne Bradstreet, the Brontës, George Eliot and Mary Wollstonecraft. Same as ENG 231.    

233. Women Writers II. (H)
A study of the changing world of American and British women in the 20th century as portrayed by women writers. The critical emphasis will be on feminist theory and the political, social and cultural background of the times. Among others, we will read works by Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton, Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf. Same as ENG 233.    

239. Hip Hop: The Global Politics of Culture. (H) (NW) (WP)
This course will engage in hip hop’s “politics of authenticity” while also offering a primer on the participation and contributions of a variety of transnational, sexual, gender, and racial/ethnic constituents. Rightfully centering and honoring the genre’s Afro-diasporic influences, we will examine debates involving transnationalism, gender, sexual, and racial boundaries in hip hop. We will also explore hip hop’s global relevance, such as its sonic and cultural presence in reggaetón and its spread as a global dance form. Overall, this class will prompt students to untangle hip hop’s seemingly contradictory ethos of “keeping it real” while simultaneously promoting broader ideals of cosmopolitanism and global commodification. Same as AMS/AFS/MUS 239. 

242. Gender and Sexuality in Antiquity. (H)
The aim of this course is to explore the cultural constructions of gender and sexuality in the ancient societies of Greece and Rome. We will approach questions such as the status of women and the context of misogyny, the societal role of same-sex relations, the presentation and visualization of sexuality, desire and the body. We will examine archaeological, visual and literary evidence through assigned reading and class discussion. This interdisciplinary approach will allow us to gain an understanding of gender and sexuality in antiquity and will offer insights into the shaping of our own cultural and personal attitudes. Same as CLS 242.    

244. Gender in the Economy. (S)
An analysis of the role gender has historically played and continues to play in the economy, both within and outside of the labor market. Topics include the historical conditions under which dominant gender ideals emerged, the value of unpaid work and national accounting, occupational segregation, labor market discrimination and feminist economic theory. Gender is considered as it interacts with other identities such as race and sexual orientation. Economic and interdisciplinary approaches are used. Prerequisite: ECO 100 and 103, or permission of the instructor. Same as ECO 244.    

247. History of Fashionable Dress. (A)
A survey of the history of fashionable dress in Europe and America from the Renaissance to the present, examining men’s and women’s clothing in the context of artistic, historical, and cultural change in the modern period. This course will be divided into three units: Chronology; Object/Theory; and Interpretation. Students will select an interpretative context in which to situate their final project: cultural history, art history, or gender studies. Prerequisite: ART 103, ART 241, WGS 210, or permission of the instructor. Same as ART 247.     

251. Gender and Religion. (H)
How do different religious traditions define and enforce gender identities and sexuality norms? In this course, students will read primary religious source texts as well as writings by historians, anthropologists, and feminist theologians. We will examine the ways that various religious traditions construct hetero-patriarchal dominance, gendering the human body through text and ritual. Using the insights of feminist theologians, we will read against the grain of scriptural sources, looking for subversive gender identities and feminine conceptions of divinity in order to ask: Can feminism and religion co-exist? Same as RST 251.    

256. African American Literature I:  Declarations of Independence and the Narratives of Slavery (H)
This course covers African American narratives of slavery from the colonial period through the early 19th Century. The Declaration of Independence, the founding narrative of American selfhood and agency, provides the discursive background of the course. The Declaration did not mention Slavery, thereby erasing Slaves’ experiences in the American narrative about peoplehood. We will engage the logic, rhetoric and contradictions of the document by pluralizing “declaration” to broaden and then examine how Slaves’ oral narratives (the Spirituals, etc.) and texts (by Phyllis Wheatley, Oladuah Equaino, etc.) were figurative and literal declarations of independence that simultaneously question the Declaration’s principles and ideology and affirm its transcendent meanings in the writers’ discourses on Slavery, Black humanity and selfhood, race, the American Dream, etc. Same as AFS/AMS/ENG 256.    

257.  African American Literature II:  Meaning of the Veil and African American Identity. (H)
In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), the African American writer W. E. B. Du Bois introduces two concepts—the “veil” and “double-consciousness”—to explain the black experience in America. This course, which covers African American literature from Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Aesthetic/Black Power movement and beyond, will examine the recurrence of the veil metaphor (and its synonyms) generally and engage Du Bois’s formulation of the concept specifically in the cultural and historical contexts that frame this period’s literature. We will explore how writers (Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, etc.) engage topics (race, gender, music, identity, etc.) that reinforce, expand and/or complicate Du Bois’s metaphor. Same as AFS/AMS/ENG 257.    

282. Women, Culture and Development. (NW) (S) (WP)
Role of gender in different cultures across the non-industrialized world and the impact of economic development on the positions of women and gender relations in these societies. Women’s contribution to economic and social change and the extent to which conventional methods of analysis in economics can be applied to their situations. Examination of the construction of the ‘Third World woman’ in the development discourse. Prerequisites: ECO 100 and 103, or permission of the instructor. Same as ECO 282.    

310. American Masculinities. (S)
This course explores the importance of masculinity and its various constructions in American history and the contemporary period. We begin by examining the theoretical and historical foundations of American masculinities. We will focus on key ways in which men (and women) sustain and recreate masculinities. Topics include manhood and the workplace, politics, sports, courtship, fatherhood, military, immigration and ethnicity, crime and prisons and religion. Same as AMS/HIS 310.            

320. American Women and Social Movements Since 1900. (S)
An interdisciplinary study of the various ways women have participated in American society and politics. Topics include the suffrage movement, modern modes of political participation and the New Deal and World War II. Critical analysis of the meaning of feminism and special attention to the post-1945 period. Same as AMS/HIS 320.    

345. Sociology of Sexuality. (S)
This course examines the idea that sex is not a natural act; instead, sex and human sexuality are socially constructed. We will examine how power—in a variety of forms—is at play in our social and cultural understandings and experiences of sex and sexuality. We will examine a variety of approaches to the study of sexuality as we consider sex, gender and sexual orientation, sexual relationships, the body, race/ethnicity, the commodification of sex, reproduction and contraception, and sexual violence. Prerequisite: SOC 100. Same as SOC 345.    

350. Sociology of Gender. (S)
This course introduces students to major theories and findings in sociology of gender, including the incorporation of global/transnational concerns. The course focuses on the constraints that the social construction of gender imposes on men, women, and LGBTQI/non-binary/gender non-conforming individuals, and helps students develop a critical analysis of gender as a social institution. It examines the intersections of gender with race, class, and sexuality, among other social locations, incorporating postcolonial/decolonial, queer, feminist, and science and technology theories. Prerequisite: SOC 100 or WGS 210. Same as SOC 350.    

352. Madonnas, Mothers, & Virgins: Medieval Religious Women. (H)
This course will examine a range of texts written about, for, and—especially—by women, and will attempt to unravel how gender and religion reflect and shape one another from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries. We will look at early saints’ lives and spiritual guides written for female audiences, letters written by women theologians, hagiographic romances, miracle plays, and narratives of female spiritual revelation. Meets pre-1800 requirement in the English major. (Pre-1800). Same as ENG/LIT 352.    

354. Gender and Race in Ethnic Studies Film. 
“Gender and Race in Ethnic Studies Film” examines the concept of Ethnic Studies as an educational curriculum emerging from social movements. In an effort to understand Ethnic Studies, we will explore the media productions by and about people of color in relation to U.S. social unrests of the late-1960s, 1970s, and the aftermath of these decades. We will focus on three groups: U.S. Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Americans. Same as AFS/AMS/FLM 354.

356. European Sexualities. (S) (E)
Explores the transnational history of European sexualities from the 18th century through the present with special focus on the intersection of sexuality with politics and Foucauldian, performance, queer, and disability theories. Important themes, including gendered citizenship, dictatorship, democracy, dechristianization, and racialized sexualities, provide a framework within which specific topics such as female political activity, prostitution, homosexuality, bisexuality, pornography, the new woman, pronatalism, sexual revolution and fertility are examined. Same as HIS 356. 

357. Hormones and Behavior with Lab. (N)
Like many other animals, humans must successfully navigate stressful situations, sex, and other social interactions to survive and reproduce. How do hormones enable, regulate, or modify behavior in these situations? How do behavior and the environment in turn affect hormone function? Do these effects differ across species? We’ll develop an understanding of the endocrine system’s organization and activation effects by examining, evaluating, and conducting research on humans and other animals. Prerequisites: PSY 100 or BIO 101/110; and PSY 300/230 or BIO 210 or SOC 302. Same as BIO 357 and PSY 357. Previously PSY 303.

364. Sociology of the Family. (S)
Sociologists argue that the family occupies a contradictory location—as both a very private and public institution. In this course, we examine the family and its changing nature through a sociological lens. We focus on the diversity of family forms and family experiences, particularly across race-ethnicity, class, and gender lines. We consider family theories and historical variations in American family forms. We also analyze varieties in childbearing and childrearing experiences both in the U.S. and abroad. Prerequisite: SOC 100. Same as SOC 364.    

365. Queens, Goddesses and Archaeology. (S)
This course will consider how archaeologists examine gender and interpret the roles of women in ancient subsistence economies, politics and religions. To achieve this goal we will discuss the roles of women in egalitarian and stratified societies and explore the actions and status of both high-ranking and everyday women in the ancient world. Prerequisites: ANT 100, ANT 102, ANT 200 or permission of the instructor. Same as ANT 365.    
M. A. Levine

366. Contemporary Queer Poetry & Poetics. (H)
What does Whitman mean by "manly love"? Does it matter if Nikky Finney identifies as queer if her syntax does so on her behalf? Is queer theory a poetics of sexuality? Or is poetics a queer theory of literature? This course will examine the current state of queer poetry and a variety of critical theories as they pertain to the contemporary literary landscape. We will read, discuss, research, interview, experiment alongside, and write about poems & poets published within the last century in an attempt to better understand how both queer and trans poetics have irreparably affected the direction of American poetry.  Same as ENG 366.    

367. Women and Gender in Italian Literature. (H)
This course focuses on Italian women writers from the nineteenth century to the present. Authors may include Aleramo, Banti, Morante, Ginzburg, Maraini, and Ferrante, among others. Literary analyses of the texts will be placed in the context of Italian cultural history, the history of Italian feminism and post-feminism, and the tradition of Italian feminist philosophy, allowing for a deeper understanding of the ever-changing role of gender roles and dynamics in modern Italy. Taught in Italian. Prerequisite: ITA 310 or permission of the instructor. Same as ITA 367.            
Faleschini Lerner

383. Sex, Lies and Book Burning: Life and Work of Wilhelm Reich. (S)
Upper level seminar: A survey of the life and work of famous psychoanalyst, controversial laboratory scientist Wilhelm Reich. The course reviews a wide range of Reich’s writings from psychology, political science, to biology and physics (95% primary source readings). We also survey the historical context of Austria and Germany 1918–1939 and the U.S. 1939–1957. Finally we look in depth at Reich’s clash with the U.S. government over whether scientific work can be judged in a court of law and the government-ordered burning of his books in 1956 and 1960. Same as HIS/STS 383.    

385. Gender at Work. (S)
What is women’s work? How has it changed over the course of American history? How is it valued? This course explores the world of women’s work by comparing it to “men’s” work. We will focus on wage earning, caregiving, sex work, housework, “double days” and “glass ceilings.” We will especially consider women’s strategies of survival and resistance from various demographic, racial, and ethnic groups. Same as AMS/BOS 385.

407. Selected Studies in Latin American History. (NW) (S)
Readings and research in problems in the political, economic, social, and cultural history of Latin America. Seminar topics include “Sex and Sexuality in Latin America.” Same as HIS 407.    

413. Research Seminar: Mujer, Nación y Amor (Woman, Nation, and Love). (H)
Through the analysis of novels and short stories written by Latin American female authors from different countries we will examine the construction of the concept of “Nation” in Latin America and the alternative that     the female perspective offers to this construction. We will explore how gender roles have determined the idea of Nation. As part of the analysis, we will study historical and social aspects of the different countries to which the novels refer. This course fulfills the Latin American literature requirement for the Spanish major. Prerequisite: SPA 321. Taught in Spanish. Same as SPA 413.  

415. Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Senior Seminar.
This capstone seminar is a culmination of students’ work in WGSS. Students in the course will delve into contemporary debates in WGSS, connect feminist theory to recent controversies, and complete a significant independent research project related to particular course themes. 
Kibler, Deslippe

422. Escritoras Españolas (Spanish Women Writers). (H)
Through the analysis of literary works by some of the most representative female writers, this course aims at a deep understanding of the role of women in Spanish society, and, particularly, of the struggle of those among them who decided to express themselves through writing. Fulfills the Peninsular course requirement for Spanish majors. Prerequisite: SPA 321. Same as SPA 422. Caamaño Alegre

425. Mujeres nuevas, viejas ideas: la construcción de la feminidad en la II República española y la dictadura franquista (New Women, Old Ideas: The Construction of Femininity in the Spanish II Republic and the Francoist Dictatorship).  (H)
This course analyzes the  existing contradictions in  the construction of femininity during the Spanish Second Republic and the Francoist dictatorship through a variety of texts, genres, and women authors. It pays special attention to education, children’s literature, and the figure of the female teacher, due to their relevance in gender construction. Fulfills the Peninsular literature requirement. Prerequisite: SPA 321. Taught in Spanish. Same as SPA 425.    
Caamaño Alegre

446. Queering Latinoamerica. (H)
This research seminar explores literary and filmic representations of sexuality and gender identities in 20th and 21st century Latin America, and examines the complex ways used by several artists and authors to challenge and question traditional concepts of masculinity and femininity in the continent. Students will create an artistic work that relates with the course materials. A final research paper and a formal oral presentation are expected from all students at the end of the semester. Prerequisite: SPA321. Same as SPA 446.    

460. Race, Gender, and Class on Campus. (S)
On college and university campuses across the country, intersecting social identity politics have come to the fore over the course of recent decades. This course will examine the socio-historical forces and contemporary dynamics that inform, challenge, support, and disrupt the establishment and cultivation of inclusive campus communities. Drawing from sociological literature on higher education, social mobility, race, gender, socioeconomic class, and social policy, students will critically analyze the complex issues germane to how American institutions of higher education operationalize ideas of “diversity” and “inclusion” in the 21st century.  Same as AFS/SOC 460.    

462. Toni Morrison. (H)
This seminar will focus on Toni Morrison as a major African American and American writer. We will examine Morrison’s oeuvre in both fiction and criticism, and explore how her aesthetics and vision, and her analyses of them, are informed by historical contexts and their racial, sexual, gendered, class, etc. impulses. Permission of the instructor required. Same as AFS/ENG 462.     

467. Virginia Woolf. (H)
In her essay “Modern Fiction,” Virginia Woolf wrote, “let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness.” This proposition reflects Woolf’s turn from realism to a modernist style devoted to interiority, impressionism, wordplay, and what she called “breaking the sentence and the sequence.” At the same time, Woolf, an ardent feminist, wrote compellingly about the politics and culture of the early twentieth century. This course will consider Woolf’s major works alongside excerpts from the letters and diaries, charting her formal innovations as well as her social critiques. Through an examination of literary criticism, we will explore the main tendencies in Woolf studies from the 1970s to the present day. Same as ENG 467.     

480. Issues Facing Organizations in the 21st Century. (S)
This course is a senior seminar for BOS majors. Various course sections use a different multi-disciplinary “theme.” All sections require that students undertake a semester long project as the culmination of their academic program. Projects may be individual or group based. Contemporary issues are used to create discussion and debate. Permission to enroll is determined by the student’s adviser and the instructor. Same as BOS 480. 

486. Erotismo y modernidad (Eroticism and Modernity). (H)
This course explores cultural modernity in Latin America at the turn of the 20th century, focusing on the representation of masculinity, femininity and sexuality in literature in order to better understand the transforming social, cultural and aesthetic values of the period. This course fulfills the Latin American literature requirement for Spanish majors. Prerequisite: SPA 321. Same as SPA 486.

490. Independent Study.
Permission of chairperson.  

Topics Courses Expected to be Offered in 2022-2023 

  • African-American History.
  • The Ancient Family.
  • Hormones and Behavior Seminar.
  • Narratives of Disability.
  • Sexual Fields.
  • Women in Music.
  • Race and Gender in Mediterranean Migrant Film.
  • Reproduction, Law and Policy in the U.S.
  • Global LGBTQ+ Human Rights.
  • Multi-Media Memoir: Race, Class, and Sex in Movies.