Honors | Women in Latin American Cultures
H203 | 6373 | Sabrina Karpa-Wilson

In this course we will examine the idea of a woman’s place in
twentieth-century Latin American societies. Our guiding question
will be: how have different Latin American cultures formulated what
the proper place and role of women should be? We will approach the
problem within a comparative framework, studying twentieth-century
representations of women in literature and film produced in Brazil,
Argentina, and Mexico. The material we will study will be organized
in terms of the typical roles women have been seen as playing both
within and outside the family: daughter, sister, mother, spinster
aunt, grandmother; artist (writer or other), scholar, prostitute,
doctor, lawyer, etc. Some of the questions we will ask include: How
have family roles defined these cultures’ understanding of women's
lives?  Have they imagined possibilities for women apart from the
family circle, and if so, what have they been and how have they been
judged? Have family and non-family roles been thought of as
excluding or complementing each other? How have cultural conceptions
of women's roles within and outside the family changed across time?
How have individual writers and filmmakers (both male and female)
responded to prevalent cultural ideas about women's roles in
society? Do the above questions have different answers when we
consider issues of class and race as well?

In order to make sense of the literary works and films, we will
consider the specific historical contexts of the three countries in
some depth, paying particular attention to political debates over
women’s rights and the development of feminist movements.

On a more general level, this course will be designed to hone our
critical skills by making us ponder the principles and purposes of
studying culture. This is a culture and cultural studies course. At
the most basic level, this means that we will use cultural materials
to develop an understanding of the specific cultures that produced
them. It also means that we will ask ourselves difficult questions
about how this process might work. What is “culture” anyhow? Can we
talk about “high” and “low” culture, “superior” and “inferior”
cultures? How can we go about studying a culture that is alien from
our own? Do we bring biases to our analyses and if so, how do we
handle them? Does “common sense” have a part to play in the study of
culture?  Is there a “right” and a “wrong” way to study cultural
materials? What and who determines what is right or wrong? Why might
such questions be important?

Students will hone their critical and communication skills in a
variety of formats.  They will write a series of papers in which
they will tackle successively more complex and difficult tasks of
cultural study. Some of their writing will be read and discussed by
classmates in group work. They will also give a final in-class
presentation related to their final paper.