Course Meeting Times

Seminar: 1 session / week; 3 hours / session

The Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies

This course is part of the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies (GCWS). GCWS at MIT is a pioneering effort that brings together feminist scholars and teachers at nine Boston area institutions devoted to graduate teaching and research in women’s studies and to advancing interdisciplinary women’s studies scholarship.


Students must be graduate students at one of the nine institutions that participate in the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies.

Course Overview

Feminist Inquiry starts with questions: What is feminism? What is feminist scholarship? Is feminist scholarship inherently interdisciplinary? Should feminist work interrogate disciplinarity? Must feminists collaborate? How do the so-called different “waves” do this?

Our aim is to critically examine feminist theories and methods by providing a forum for sharing, accessing, discussing and debating strategies used by feminist scholars who represent an array of fields. The course will not make a sharp distinction between theory and method. Instead we shall proceed on the assumption that method is applied theory. We shall examine the theoretical positions authors take, and evaluate the usefulness of their methodological approaches.

The complex connections between epistemologies, methodologies and research methods are central to feminist inquiry. Different questions require different modes of inquiry; many questions propel us into intersectional webs of knowledge and ways of knowing. We shall explore how knowledge is formed in the traditional disciplines and raise questions about how strict disciplinary epistemologies can be problematic for feminist inquiry.

Course Materials

The books listed below are the main readings for the course.

Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Mariner Books, 2007. ISBN: 9780618871711.

Davis, Angela Y. Are Prisons Obsolete? Seven Stories Press, 2003. ISBN: 9781583225813.

Dreger, Alice Domurat. One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal. Harvard University Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780674018259. [Preview with Google Books]

Lahiri, Jhumpa. Unaccustomed Earth. Vintage Books, 2009. ISBN: 9780307278258.

Lederman, Muriel, and Ingrid Bartsch, eds. The Gender and Science Reader. Routledge, 2000. ISBN: 9780415213585.

Stryker, Susan. Transgender History. Seal Press, 2008. ISBN: 9781580052245.

Levi, Robin, and Ayelet Waldman, eds. Inside this Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons. McSweeney’s Books, 2011. ISBN: 9781936365500.

Remaining readings come from a variety of sources and are detailed in the Readings section.

Grading Policy

Class attendance, preparation, and participation 15%
Reflection papers (6) 30%
Discussion leader 15%
Research paper and proposal 40%

For further detail, see the Assignments section.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2012
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments