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Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies:
Exploring the Intersection of Gender, Race, Class, Nation and Sexuality

Overview   |   Our Faculty   |   Plan of Study   |   Courses  

 

The Women’s, Gender, Sexuality Studies (WGSS) program is designed to explore how diverse people’s experiences and identities are shaped by, and shape, the intersectionalities of gender, race, class, nationality and sexuality.

The program challenges students to undertake critical inquiries that are historically and geographically contextualized, with an eye to the contemporary moment and an emphasis on the generative debates within the field.

By linking academic work and activism, theoretical inquiry and practical experience, our students are prepared as nuanced analytical thinkers, inventive problem solvers and strong communicators.

Professor JoAnn Martin is currently leading a collaborative faculty/student research project on the film Mary Poppins as a representation of the role of rejection of queer identities to establish compulsory heterosexuality as the normative family.

More from the Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies Department:

Highlights

WGSS students participated in a two-week collaborative research trip with Professor Ryan Murphy to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Students researched and wrote about topics including sex education, birth control, family policy and LGBT rights.

A recent WGSS graduate worked on a demonstrative project that included historical research about the history of women in punk rock and performing in her own Riot Grrrl band.

Nearly half of Earlham alumni enter graduate or professional school within 10 years of receiving their degrees, and Earlham ranks 29th among 1306 colleges and universities nationwide for the percentage of graduates who go on to earn a Ph.D.

WGSS graduates enter a wide range of career fields, including advocacy, education and law.

Our Faculty

Dyron Dabney
Director of Japan Study and Associate Professor of Politics

Kari Kalve
Professor of English

Ahmed Khanani
Plowshares Assistant Professor of Politics

Mary Lacey
Professor of English

JoAnn Martin
Professor of Sociology/Anthropology; Convener of Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies Program

Ryan Murphy
Assistant Professor of History and Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies

Elana Passman
Associate Professor of History

Maggie Thomas
Faculty Director of EPIC Programs; Associate Professor of Psychology

Amanda Gray
Predoctoral Teaching Fellow in Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Plan of Study

General Education Requirements

The Program offers various courses that meet General Education requirements including the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement, both domestic and international (WGSS 203, 246, 305, 364, 365, 367, 357 and 482. In addition, a number of WGSS courses fulfill Writing Intensive and Research requirements.

The Major

Students majoring in WGSS must complete:

  • Eight courses in the following tracks with the following breakdown:
    • Four courses in a primary track
    • Two courses in each of two secondary tracks
  • One Writing Intensive course
  • One Research Intensive course
  • WGSS 481 Internship
  • WGSS 487 Senior Demostrative Project
  • WGSS 488 Senior Capstone Experience

Historical Track

This track focuses on how the concepts of women, gender and sexuality have changed over time. Courses that count toward the historical track include but are not limited to:

  • HIST 246 European Women’s and Gender History
  • HIST TBD Women, Gender and Sexuality in Modern Africa
  • HIST 357 Readings in African American Women’s History
  • HIST 367 History of Women, Gender and Sexuality in the United States
  • HIST 372 Asian American History through the Media
  • REL 232 Women, Gender and Sexuality in the Jewish Tradition
  • ANCS 357 Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World

Social Science Track

This track focuses on how the concepts of women, gender and sexuality are socially, culturally, politically and economically constructed. Courses that count toward the social science track include but are not limited to:

  • PAGS 351 Workplace Justice
  • SOAN 118 Inequalities, Power and Society
  • SOAN 215 Identity and Social Movements
  • SOAN 365 Women, Gender and Sexuality
  • POLS TBD Women and Politics in the United States
  • POLS 333: Gender and Sexuality in the Muslim Middle East and North Africa
  • WGSS 305: Radical Queeries

Humanities Track

This track focuses on how the concepts of women, gender and sexuality grow out of representation practices in media, performance, film, literature and visual art. Courses that count toward the humanities track include but are not limited to:

  • WGSS 382 Feminist Art and Theory – 1970 to Present
  • ENG 203 Women and Literature
  • ENG 206 Literature and Identity
  • ENG 309 Prophetic Black Women
  • ENG 358 Gender and Sexuality in Literature
  • ENG 364 Postcolonial Literature

 Psychology and Health Studies Track

This track focuses on how ideas about the mind, consciousness, neurobiology, health, genetics and disease produce the concepts of women, gender and sexuality. Courses that count toward the psychology and public health track include but are not limited to:

  • PSYC 230 Human Development
  • PSYC 344 Psychology of Gender
  • PSYC 353 Behavioral Neuroscience
  • PSYC 356 Psychology of Prejudice
  • PSYC 364 Psychology of Women
  • PSYC 368 Human Sexuality
  • BIOL 112 Cells, Genetics and Inheritance
  • BIOL 200 Epidemiology
  • BIOL 351 Human Genetics and Genomics
  • SOAN 335 Health, Medicine and Society

Writing Intensive

Note that any of these courses may also count toward the eight courses required in the primary or secondary tracks.

  • ENG 203 Women and Literature
  • ENG 206 Literature and Identity
  • HIST 367 History of Women, Gender and Sexuality in the United States
  • PAGS 351 Workplace Justice
  • PSYC 368 Human Sexuality
  • WGSS 305 Radical Queeries

Students may fulfill the writing intensive requirement by taking other writing intensive courses that are offered on a semester‐by-­semester basis with the permission of their WGSS adviser.

Research Intensive

Note that any of these courses may also count toward the eight courses required in the primary or secondary tracks.

  • BIOL 455 Population and Community Ecology
  • ENG 401 Junior Research Seminar
  • HIST 240 History Research Seminar
  • SOAN 309 Sociology of Social Media
  • SOAN 345 Social Research Methods
  • SOAN 346/7 Ethnographic Research Practicum I and II
  • PSYC 354 Interviewing and Field Research
  • PSYC 356 Psychology of Prejudice Any Collaboratove Research Project

Students may fulfill the research intensive requirement by taking other research intensive courses that are offered on a semester-­by-­semester basis with the permission of their WGSS adviser.

Internship

An internship must be completed before the student's final semester at Earlham. The internship enables students to apply theoretical approaches raised in WGSS courses to practical situations beyond the classroom. Internships can be done on an off-campus program, during the summer, or in Richmond during the academic year. The convener of WGSS must approve the internship.

Senior Demonstrative Project

The demonstrative project is to be completed in the first semester of the senior year. Students should meet with their WGSS adviser no later than the spring of their Junior year to discuss plans for this project. The project requires students to synthesize theory and practice and demonstrate a nuanced understanding of an issue or problem relevant to the Earlham community. Students present their demonstrative project to the Earlham community in Spring semester of the senior year.

Senior Capstone Project

Students take a research project that they began in their primary track of focus, and to turn it into a 30-­page senior research paper or equivalent document for the discipline in which the project is produced.

 

The Minor

Students minoring in WGSS must complete a total of five courses:

  • Three or more classes in a primary track
  • One course in two other tracks
Courses

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

*WGSS 203 WOMEN AND LITERATURE (4 credits)
An introduction to the study of literature by and about the lives of women, written in a variety of genres and periods, from a number of cultural traditions. Explores ways in which a study of a writer's ideas and techniques and a text's background (e.g., biography of the author, political climate, religious tradition) can lead to greater appreciation and understanding of a work, a writer, a reader and a time. A variety of critical points of view with particular attention to Feminist and Womanist theories. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. Also listed as ENG 303. (WI, D-D)

*WGSS 232 WOMEN, GENDER AND SEXUALITY IN THE JEWISH TRADITION (3 credits)
How has the Jewish tradition weighed in on issues of gender and sexuality, and how have issues in gender and sexuality shaped and challenged the Jewish tradition? This course explores issues of sexuality, gender norms, marriage and divorce, feminism, and queer activism in the context of the Jewish tradition from antiquity to the present. This course will focus particularly on the relationship between Jewish sacred texts and the communities who read them; the rise of Jewish feminism and LGBTQ civil rights; and ethnographic accounts of contemporary Jewish communities in the U.S., Israel and Palestine, and North Africa. Also listed as JWST 232 and REL 232. (DI)

*WGSS 246 EUROPEAN WOMEN'S AND GENDER HISTORY (3 credits)
An examination of women's and gender history in the 19th and 20th centuries across a range of European countries with particular focus on politics, gender roles, sexuality, and culture. Allows students to question narrow (national, disciplinary, epistemological) boundaries, think critically about the gendered constructions of European society, and reflect upon the distinctive contributions of women's history. Also listed as HIST 246. (D-I) (AY)

*WGSS 305 RADICAL QUEERIES (4 credits)
An advanced introductory examination of women's and men’s lives, attending to commonalities and differences of experience in terms of gender, race, class, age, culture, nation, sex, sexuality dis/ability, etc. People live at the intersections of these categories, and so we will examine what scholars talk about as: Intersectionality, The Prism of Difference, Borderlands. The course focuses on “Socially Lived Theorizing,” “a theoretical framework / methodology that allows us to see the diversity of women’s [and men’s] lives and the structures of power, inequality, and opportunity that shape our experiences” (Kirk and Rey, 55). (D-D)

WGSS 343 WOMEN IN GERMAN LITERATURE AND CULTURE (4 credits)
Critical reading of representative works. Focuses on the contributions of women to the literary life and cultures of German-speaking countries. Also explores myths and misconceptions regarding women by addressing questions of image and reality. Prerequisite: Consent of the instructor. Also listed as GER 343. (AY)

*WGSS 344 PSYCHOLOGY OF GENDER (3 credits)
Gender is a pervasive cultural system that structures nearly every human behavior and interaction. In this course, students will analyze how gender functions in modern U.S. culture and how it intersects with other major social categories such as race, class, sexual orientation and identity. Prerequisite: PSYC 115/116 or WGSS 305 and sophomore standing. Also listed as PSYC 344. (D-D)

*WGSS 357 GENDER AND SEXUALITY IN THE ANCIENT WORLD (3 credits)
This course explores ways the ancient Greeks constructed notions of gender and sexuality. Students examine a wide range of primary evidence (such as drama, poetry, philosophy, science or medical treatises, court documents, art, architecture and daily artifacts) in order to uncover Greek attitudes and practices. By confronting the assumptions of a culture that was in many ways radically different from our own, we address some of the fundamental ways that ideas about gender and sexuality inform and shape societal expectations and institutions, from personal identity and forms of self-expression to the legal, medical and political mechanisms that govern society. Knowledge of a classical language is not required. Prerequisite: Consent of the instructor. Also listed as ANCS 357. (WI)

WGSS TBA READINGS IN AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN’S HISTORY (4 credits)
Explores select topics in the history of African American women from the era of antebellum slavery to the present, using such primary sources as slave narratives, autobiographies, documents and historical monographs. Topics include gender relations in the slave community, the gendered nature of slave resistance and rebellion, the politics of economic emancipation, women’s activism in the struggle against racial violence and segregation and the role of women in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.

*WGSS 364 PSYCHOLOGY OF WOMEN (3 credits)
Examines women’s lives and experiences through the lens of psychological research. Includes a variety of psychological perspectives and issues in women’s lives, as well as discussions about gender as a social framework. Prerequisite: PSYC 115 or WGSS 305, and Sophomore standing or above. Also listed as PSYC 364. (D-D)

*WGSS 365 WOMEN, GENDER AND SEXUALITY (4 credits)
Critically examines the discursive construction of a presumed natural link between sex, gender and desire, emphasizing connections between the naturalization of heterosexuality and the formation of nations and empires. (D-D or D-I)

*WGSS 367 HISTORY OF WOMEN, GENDER AND SEXUALITY IN THE UNITED STATES (3 credits)
A survey of U.S. social history from 1607 to the present, focusing on the historical contours of female/male sex roles and the family. Topics include marriage, the family, child rearing, work, education, sexuality and gynecology, and reproduction. Analyzes the effects of war, racism, slavery, immigration, industrialization and consumerism, along with abolitionism, temperance, feminism, civil rights and other social protest movements. Prerequisite: Earlham Seminar II, HIST 121 or 122, or consent of the instructor. Also listed as HIST 367. (D-D) (AY)

WGSS 368 HUMAN SEXUALITY (3 credits)
Sexuality is central to our lives. It is involved in many of our most fundamental relationships and engages some of our strongest emotions. This course provides an examination of human sexuality (encompassing sexual behaviors, sexual identity, social norms/attitudes, etc.) and the psychological, physiological and sociocultural influences upon human sexuality. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Also listed as PSYC 368. (AY)

WGSS 375 FEMINIST THEORIES (4 credits)
An interdisciplinary and intersectional examination of major feminist theories. The course emphasizes a diversity of perspectives, highlights generative debates and considers the implications of theoretical frameworks for people's lives and experience. Prerequisite: WGSS 305.

WGSS 481 INTERNSHIPS, FIELD STUDIES AND OTHER FIELD EXPERIENCES (1-3 credits)

WGSS 482 SPECIAL TOPICS (3-4 credits)
Selected topics determined by the instructor for upper-level study. Examples of recent and future offerings include Queer Histories: Dissident Sexualities in U.S. History, Women and the Civil Rights Movement, Women Writers and the Color Line, Lesbian Literature and Culture, Feminist Friendship, Asian Immigrant Women, Public Policy and Women, Feminist Ethics, Womanism and Toni Morrison, and Feminist Film.

WGSS 483 TEACHING ASSISTANTS (1-3 credits)

WGSS 484 FORD/KNIGHT RESEARCH PROJECT (1-4 credits)
Collaborative research with faculty funded by the Ford/Knight Program.

WGSS 485 INDEPENDENT STUDY (1-3 credits)
Investigation of a specific topic conceived and planned by the student in consultation with a faculty supervisor. Culminates in a comprehensive project such as a report prepared in the style of a thesis or research paper, a performance or public presentation, etc.

WGSS 487 SENIOR DEMONSTRATIVE PROJECT (2 credits)
Part of the Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies Senior Comprehensive.
The project requires students to synthesize the theory and practice and to demonstrate a nuanced understanding of an issue or problem relevant to the Earlham community. Students present their demonstrative project to the Earlham community in spring semester of the senior year. Recent projects include an investigation and discussion of abortion narratives in film, slam poetry, organizing a lecture series on minority women's health issues, and creating one-woman art shows.

WGSS 488 SENIOR CAPSTONE EXPERIENCE (4 credits)
Focuses on a question or theme selected by the instructor in consultation with the Senior students. Provides an opportunity to integrate the breadth of Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies experiences and to make plans for living out a life that includes the intersection of our personal, intellectual and activist commitments. Recent seminar topics include women and violence, the limits of language, reproductive technologies, abortion, postmodernism and working-class women. Prerequisite: WGSS 375.