WS303 Preparation Notes Week 1 September 10th

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WS303 Preparation Notes

Week 1

September 10th Introduction: Meet and Greet, Syllabus and Framework

TO DO: FOR WEDNESDAY September 12th

1. Print out full syllabus. Access either through WebCT or through WLU Homepage.

Go to WS Homepage->Faculty/Staff->Dr. Toye->Syllabi->WS303

2. Download electronic copies of articles, especially for first few classes.

Access through WebCT or WLU Homepage.

3. Obtain Course Pack from FedExKinkos (University/Phillip)

(or start borrowing the readings from the library reserve desk).

4. Sign onto the WS303 WebCT Page.

5. Finish arranging with your in-class discussion group re article responses.
Read for next day: Wendy Kolmar and Frances Bartkowski, “Lexicon of Debates.” (on WebCT) and Manifestos (see electronic list)
Preparation for September 12th Introduction: Debates and Manifestos

This class will continue the introduction of the first day. We begin with a “lexicon of debates” from the textbook Feminist Theory in order to give us a way of organizing some of the main issues and debates within the area of “feminist theory” and introduce some recurring vocabulary and key concepts. Instead of strict categories, we might want to think of these as a series of provisional overlapping frames or boxes for making some kind of sense of diverse and interdisciplinary material. We will only spend a bit of class time on the lexicon but I will assume you are familiar with it. You will probably find it useful to keep returning to the lexicon throughout the class. Eg. When we do a unit on “epistemology,” scan over this section. When we cover “ecriture feminine,” go back to the “Language” section and review this sub-topic. Refer to the bibliography to research a section in more depth—perhaps providing you with a focus for your major assignment.

An important concept to which we will continually return is that of form/content. In this class, we will examine one kind of “form” which seems to be a recurring one in feminist theory: the Manifesto. You should ask yourself why would feminist theories (or certain kinds of feminist theories?) choose the form of the manifesto as a container and what other containers they have not chosen. Keep in mind the relationship between form and content and how one informs the other. Also, while most of the course will focus on theory since the 1980s, this unit will include a few historical documents. Do you note significant similarities/differences in form/content across historical periods?
Kolmar and Bartkowski:

1. List the 10 interconnected and intersecting threads that K&B provide.

2. Can you include theorists about which you are already familiar under each heading?

3. Are there any terms or concepts that you have questions about?

3. If you had to focus on two units, which would they be? Why?

4. As you read through the term’s work, you may want to list each theory under one or more of these headings.

5. At the end of the term, you may want to ask yourself if you agree with or disagree with their 10 headings. Along the way ask yourself: what does this lexicon allow us to do? What does it not allow us to do? How would YOU organize a lexicon for the topic “feminist theory?” What would you add? Take out?
Manifestos Be sure to read the “Seneca Falls Convention” and the “Riot Grrrl Manifesto” and at least a few entries from the “Scum Manifesto.”

1. Based on your readings, how would you define a manifesto?

2. What kinds of rhetorical devices do they use? How do they structure their sentences, paragraphs, arguments?

3. What do you feel is the relation between the form and the content of a manifesto? What kinds of epistemology does it suggest? What does it suggest about its author? About feminists? Women? Feminist theory?

4. If you have read other manifestos (Eg. check out The American Declaration of Independence, The Communist Manifesto, The Unibomber Manifesto, Manifesto of Surrealism, Martin Luther’s Address, The Futurist Manifesto, Dogma 95 ) how would these feminist manifestos compare to these feminist examples?

4. If you had to write your own feminist manifesto, what would it be called? What would its first two sentences look like?

Week 2

September 17: Schools and approaches

This class is the last of the general introduction to “feminist theory.” In lecture, we will go over the traditional schools into which classical philosophy is divided and highlight which ones have been central for feminist theory. We will also briefly cover the classical branches of second wave feminist theory in the Tong article. The Bunch article asks important foundational questions like “what is feminist theory?” “what is it not?” “what is it for?” “why do we need it?” “what is the difference between theory and practice?” She also gives us a (provisional?) 4-part approach to theorizing. The Braithwaite article, which I used to place at the end of the course appears here as a companion piece to Bunch. Written at a different time, from a different approach, Braithwaite makes some statements of the need for a certain kind of feminist theorizing within Women’s Studies which has been under attack as a viable discipline. Finally, we will touch on a few pages from Irigaray’s article “Wonder” as an example of a very different approach to theory than classical philosophy offers, rooted in the body and passions.

Rosemarie Tong

We will not spend much time on the Tong article but if you are not already familiar with these subdivisions of feminst theory “liberal,” “Marxist,” “radical,” and “socialist,” you should review the article and make a chart to see if you can distinguish amongst them. These are classical terms and in your readings you will see writers refer to them and so you should make sure you know what is meant by them. Theorists usually cannot be slotted into just one category but they are often used strategically—many times for a theorist to dis-identify themselves from some position. You might want to pay attention to whether theorists give fair representations of positions from which they want to dis-identify.

Charlotte Bunch

1. Charlotte Bunch makes a number of claims as to what both feminist theory is and is not. What struck you about her claims?

2. Bunch indicates the initial tenants of feminism are already established. What are they, according to her? Do you agree with her summary? If these are already established, then what is it that she believes feminist theory now faces (note date of publication)? Do you agree (re then or now)?

3. Bunch mentions a theme that we will see throughout feminist writing: an assumed tension between activism and academic theory. How does she present the tension in her article? Does she maintain or resolve the tension?

4. Bunch indicates that feminists are sometimes impatient and therefore are tempted to rely on two dominant theories for their explanatory power. What are they? Are you familiar with these theories? Why does she think we should not rely on them?

5. List the four interrelated parts of Bunch’s model and differentiate the parts from each other (sometimes readers have found it difficult to distinguish # 3 and 4 from each other). Does the model work for you? Are improvements you can suggest? An alternate model?

Braithwaite et al 9-14
1. The authors suggest “past” “present” and “future” are connected through narrative. Think of the kinds of narratives you tell about yourself and their connection to temporality.

2. The authors mention their unusual situation of holding full-time appointments in Women’s Studies Programs. Why would this fact be significant? Are you aware of the appointments of your professors and how their status might effect your experience of a class or the program?

3. What kinds of narratives do you tell about Women’s Studies? Are they connected to narratives of temporality?

4. The authors raise the question of how Women’s Studies is doing now and make the charge that something about it is not working. Do you agree? Disagree? What kinds of arguments are being circulated (and by whom) about Women’s Studies viability? What do people who make such charges want?

5. Note their rhetorical strategy of outlining 1st approach, a 2nd approach and how they offer a 3rd approach. What effects does this strategy have on you as a reader?

6. Throughout the intro (p9-14) the authors foreground the fact they are writing the piece together. How do they present this collective writing? Have you ever engaged in collective writing? What was your experience of this process?

7. On p13-14 the authors explain what they mean by the concept of ‘troubling” in their title. Explain what they mean by this charged word, “troubling.”

1.B cites Ahmed’s concept of “whose counting?” What are the multiple meanings that this particular phrasing invokes?

2.What does B claim happens when the question is shifted from one of process rather than product?

3. p97 What is meant by the “double project” or “double register” of feminist theorizings? What kind of story is it? 98 What does B say is both Ahmed’s and her major point?

4. B keeps referring to a “crisis” in Women’s Studies but also keeps qualifying the term crisis with various adjectives. What is going on here?

5. p102 What does say is more important than what we remember?

6. What does B say is a characteristic of many accounts of WS over the past few years

which have reflected on “where we’re going” and “where we’ve been”? What does she claim is missing from so many of these narratives? How are narratives of the past linked to narratives of the future?

7. What does she list as the range of issues that have dominated WS through the 90s?

8. What does she claim is the danger of utopian visions?

9. Conclusion: 135-136

Do you believe B’s claim that she is not trying to tell a better or more accurate story?

10. At the end of 135/beg of 136, B states what kind of version of WS she is attached to. What kind of version does she present? How would you describe this version?
Luce Irigaray

Within feminist theory, Rene Descartes/ “Cartesian thought” often operates as the stand-in for all that is evil about phallogocentric thought. It is he whom many theorists identify for entrenching the mind/body dualism that is identified as the damaging binary opposition at the root of so many oppressions.

1.What is Irigaray doing, then, devoting an essay to Descartes? How do you feel about this fact? about her use of this particular passage of Descartes? What way IS she using him? Is she “using him?”

2.How do you feel about her writing style? What reading strategies do you use to read these pages?

3.Throughout the essay (and most of her work), Irigaray outlines what is necessary for developing a feminist ethics. She is constantly talking about the encounter between two subjects and what mediates their relationship. What are the implications of what she says about “wonder” as the basis for performing feminist theory? For specifically a feminist ethics? Does “wonder” describe the way you approach your university studies? Feminist theory? Why or why not?
Septmeber 19: Phenomenology

Last class, we covered the traditional divisions of classical philosophy. “Phenomenology” is a sub-category of “Ontology” and an important one, especially for early second-wave feminism. Questions of identity fall under this category and are perhaps the most recurrent throughout feminist theory.

How would you answer ontological questions? Not just the particular “who are you?” But more primary: “What is being?” “What is it to BE?” “to exist?” and in the context of this class, What is it to be (a) (wo)/man? What are the differences between “woman” and “Woman;” between “woman” and “women;” between “man” and “woman;” between “Man” and “Woman;” between “men” and “women.” How would you say you gain this sense of “being?”

2.Bring in some current magazines, examples of pop culture. What do they say about this question of being? Of being (a) (wo)/man?

Simone de Beauvoir

1 What does B mean by: the subject of women is “irritating, especially to women?”

2. What does B say is the first answer to “what is woman?” the 2nd? Are these related?

3. What is “nominalism?” What is “mitsein?”

4. What are some of the arguments that suggest “women” have extra qualities compared to men? What arguments she lacks qualities compared to men?

5. How does B relate the concept of One/Other to that of the subject/object?

6. B uses a number of different ways of structuring her argument.

a) What kinds of parallels and comparisons to other groups does she make?

Are such comparisons effective?

b) Notice the references: to Greek Myths, to other theories. Make a list of myths and philosophers she invokes.

7. What does B mean by: women do not say “we?”

8. Keep Bunch’s categories in mind. At what point does B shift from description/analysis to vision/strategy. What kinds of phrases does she use to signal her shift (start keeping track of these strategies to use in your own writing).

9. B describes various arguing tactics of “men” that involve a doubleness, depending on their position. Have you ever encountered similar doubleness of arguments when you are trying to discuss issue about women? Eg?

10. What does B say about hermaphrodites?

11. What does B have to say about happiness? What are your thoughts about the role that the concept of “happiness” plays in our culture? Your life?

12. What perspective does she state she speaks from?

13. What is the “drama of woman?”

14.What questions does she end with?

Monique Wittig

1.What is the relationship of Wittig’s article and Beauvoir’s?

2.What is a “woman” for Wittig?

3.What is the difference for Wittig between “woman” and “women?”

4.Is a lesbian a woman? Explain.

5.What is Wittig’s problem with the notion that “women are wonderful?”

6.What is Wittig’s definition of “feminism?”

7.What does Wittig say must be destroyed in order to usher in “the advent of individual subjects?”


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