History

Women, Religion, and the Problem of Historical Agency

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2020

This course examines recent scholarship on women in American religious history, focusing particularly on questions of narration, agency and power. We will ask several interrelated questions: How have historians integrated women into narratives of American religious history? Whose stories have they highlighted, and why? How have they conceptualized women as historical agents? We will read major interpretive works as well as theoretical accounts of gender, social structure, and power. Readings will explore the diversity of religious traditions in America, including Puritanism, Judaism, Mormonism, Catholicism, African-American Christianity, evangelicalism, and Islam. Jointly offered in the Divinity School as HDS 2186

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Native American Women: History and Myth

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2020

This course explores histories of women from diverse indigenous nations within the current boundaries of the United States. We will attend closely to methods and sources employed in historical inquiry about Native women even as we track change over time in a range of contexts. We will address multiple themes that intersect in Native women’s experience: tensions between history and myth, concepts of family and intimate relationships, spiritual understandings and notions of tradition, gender roles and cross-cultural gender difference, processes of colonialism, conceptions of land and effects of land dispossession, cultural negotiation and adaptation, public representation and misrepresentation, and personal, familial, and tribal perseverance. 

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Hysterical Women: A History

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2020

What does it mean when contemporary media sources characterize celebrity figures, or frenzied consumers, as 'hysterical’? How are "hysteria" and "insanity" related, and what are the historical roots of these loaded concepts? This seminar addresses the complex history of hysteria by asking how this medicalized affliction has assumed a multiplicity of forms, especially on feminized and non-white bodies. As depicted through newspapers, multimedia sources, medical literature, sociological articles, and psychoanalytic texts, 'hysteria' affords a unique lens onto the social, cultural and medical history of mental and physical suffering. In a postcolonial world, the term has taken on even more complexity. As we compose a 'history of hysteria,' we will reflect on who gets to record history and whose narratives get left out.

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Gender and Empire in the Modern Mediterranean

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2020

Questions of empire are fundamentally intertwined with questions of gender. This course will focus on the imperial and intercultural contact zones of the Mediterranean—at once connecting and dividing Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa—from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century. With an interest both in men’s and women’s experiences and in representations of masculinity and femininity, our inquiry will also straddle the divide between colonizer and colonized. Readings will include both primary and secondary sources, ranging from images, novels, and films to memoirs, testimonials, and government documents, and from Edward Said and Frantz Fanon to Assia Djebar and Tahar Ben Jelloun. Students will learn to assess how modern imperial encounters were mediated by gendered logics of power; how these overlapped with dynamics of race, class, and nation; and how the Mediterranean region itself gave rise to different understandings of gender and empire.

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Transnationalism and the Francophone World: Race, Gender, Sexuality

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2020

This graduate course links different regions of the Francophone world and provides an introduction to the major debates about gender issues in postcolonial Francophone studies. We focus on the aesthetics and politics of writers who challenge the notion of a stable identity, be it national, racial or sexual. The course draws on the historico-cultural issues pertinent to each region (Africa, the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean). Writers include Mariama Bâ (Senegal), Maryse Condé (Guadeloupe/France/USA), Ananda Devi (Mauritius and France), Fatou Diome (Senegal and France), Assia Djebar (Algeria/France/USA), Marie Chauvet (Haiti), Shenaz Patel (Mauritius), and Linda Lê (Vietnam and France).
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"The Words to Say It": Women Writing in French from Colette to Satrapi

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2019

Motherhood, romantic love, independence, sexuality, citizenship, fantasy, death: these are just some of the themes explored in women's novels, written in French, in the twentieth century. We will read eight novels together, exploring how they have finally become classics, even given what they say about life and what it means for women to write about it.

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Global Feminisms

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2019

Feminism shapes the world we live in today. Debates about women's and sexual rights define almost every public debate today -- from sexual harassment, to electoral politics, to development, public health, and human rights. But when, and where, did ideas of women's equal rights and liberation emerge? This course digs into the deep history of feminism from a global perspective. It traces the intimate relationship between feminism, colonialism, and racism in case studies from America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, from the eighteenth century until today. We will immerse ourselves in rare materials on transnational and global feminism in the Schlesinger Library here at Harvard. Over the course of the semester, you will build a toolkit of critical thinking and writing skills by engaging diverse primary sources, including political writings of women of color and colonized women, short stories, posters, movies, and human rights reports. You will come away from the course having a deeper understanding of ideas of equality and justice that define politics today.
Readings will highlight marginalized authors, women writers, especially women of color authors, from previously enslaved women in the US South to indigenous people to colonized women in India and Africa. Reading assignments will focus on primary historical sources and encompass diverse genres, from political thought and speeches to fantasy fiction to posters.
Students will build critical skills through assignments that build source analysis skills over the course of the semester, including an annotation of visual materials (a poster or cartoon), short primary source analysis papers using materials from Schlesinger Library, and a final film analysis paper.

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Medieval Women and the Problem of Knowledge

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2019

From Eve to Mary and from Lady Philosophy to Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, medieval women are associated with knowing, good and bad, philosophical and experiential.  We seek our own knowledge of them through allegories and visions, autobiographies and visions, philosophical studies and gynecological treatises.  Works by Robert Grosseteste, Catherine of Siena, Christine de Pizan, Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe.

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Feminist Theory as Critique

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2019

This course begins with feminist critical engagements with other theories and practices, including Marxism, psychoanalysis, and Foucault. It will then move on to debates and discussions within feminism, as well as intersections of feminist theory with other theories including sexualities studies, post-colonial/trans-national studies, transgender studies. One of the major concerns of the course is the relationship between feminism, theory, and politics. Throughout the course, we will discuss the contemporaneous movements that intersected with emergence of these theoretical concerns.

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The Construction of Gender and Sexuality in Ancient Greece

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2019

This course will explore ancient Greek ideologies of gender difference and sexuality, including the mythical "origins" of gender, legal definitions of marriage and adultery, the gendering of space, the portrayal of women on the tragic stage, gender-bending and cross-dressing in comedy, medical models of sex and childbirth, and the links between pederasty and pedagogy. With the help of some important modern discussions about the construction of gender, sexuality, and identity, we will try to assess the ways in which sexual practices and male and female identities were imagined, formed, reinforced, and institutionalized during the archaic and classical periods (roughly 800-300 BCE).

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