History | Western Feminism since 1750
W300 | 27305 | Allen
A portion of the above class reserved for majors
Above class open to undergraduates and Education MA’s only
Above class meets with GNDR-G 302
“Feminism” today is a term both widely used and little understood.
Few users of the terms “feminism” or “feminist,” including anti-
feminist critics, know the longer genealogy of this fascinating
distinct philosophy, politics, ethics, culture and rhetoric.
Originally, the term was coined by late nineteenth century French
opponents of women’s citizen rights, a naming that followed over a
century of theories and political campaigns related to the position
of women and the sexes in many countries. Though thereafter used
more internationally, its meanings/definitions and certainly its
implications were in dispute from the term’s inception. This course
offers crucial background for understanding the development
of “feminism” before its current phases, sometimes dated from the
Mini-lecture & seminar discussions address core problems and debates
raised by the writings and concerns of canonic “Western” feminists –
including Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Charlotte Perkins
Gilman, Olive Schreiner, Virginia Woolf, and Simone de Beauvoir –
and by later scholars interrogating feminist history and theory.
These writings establish that feminism underwent significant
development in response to C19th & C20th transformations affecting
the sexes. And feminism also influenced, and was influenced by,
other philosophical discourses and political movements in each place
and period in which it operated. Further, some argue that feminism
arose in Western cultures as always and necessarily a Western
discourse, while others insist that its salience was worldwide or
global, but shaped everywhere by local circumstances, as suggested
by evidence from not only Europe and North America, but also the
Pacific Rim, South Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle
East. Analysts add that much can be learned from the writings of
anti-feminist discourses, framed historically and internationally.
Such different accounts generate the lively scholarly debates
examined in the course.
The course has four requirements:
1. Weekly preparation of brief notes on a choice of readings [posted
prior to class on Oncourse], attendance, & effective participation
2. Mid-term take home exam [25%]
3. Research essay [25%]
4. Take-home final exam [20%].
Freedman, Estelle. "The Essential Feminist Reader." New York:
Random House, 2007.
In addition, there will be primary and secondary sources, film &
television clips posted for each week of work in the course on
Oncourse & E-reserve.