Feminist Political & Social Thought

Woolf picturecourse description:

When Mary Wollstonecraft argued that the French revolution was only half-successful, she was not complaining about its form (a liberal republic) but its substance (only half the citizens could pursue its blessings). Since then, feminist writers have continued to point out not only the gender contradictions within the liberal project, but also how a gendered analysis reveals the crisis of war (V. Woolf), the limits of rationality (A. Lorde), the masculine desires embedded in law (C. MacKinnon), the problem of freedom (de Beauvoir) and the difficulties women pose and encounter in a liberal arts college (G. Griffin).


The first goal is to acquaint ourselves with some of the arguments within the feminist project. The second goal is to explore how feminism helps us to reconsider the conditions of global capitalism. Feminist theory does not just tell us about women and their condition, it also offers important insights into contemporary political and economic arrangements.


Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (any edition).

Gail Griffin, Calling: Essays on the Teaching in the Mothertongue (only available at the Marlboro College Bookstore).

Catharine MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified (Harvard U.P. 1987).

Simon de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (Knopf, 1952).

Audre Lorde, Sister/Outsider (Crossing Press, 1984) .

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (any edition) and A Room of One's Own (any edition).


Over the course of the semester, you'll engage in two types of writing. The first are short efforts at exploring a passage from the text. The second are extended efforts at building an argument in which you use a theorist to help us see the political implications of a particular situation. I've provided instructions for both the one-pagers and the five-pagers on the Courses web page. Please let me know if I can provide any other assistance.

Both types of writing are central to the act of theorizing. The better you are at exploring a passage, the more precise you'll be with your arguments. To use a metaphor from dance classes, the more you practice tendus, the crisper you'll look as you go across the floor. Don't postpone the one-pagers. Use them as exercises to keep your analytical and imaginative muscles in shape.

Due dates for all writing assignments are noted on the class calendar.

Here is a helpful link when it comes to writing political theory (used with permission of author):
Some Notes on Writing Political Theory

grading criteria:

Attendance is critical. If you have to miss a class, please let us know. Reading is essential. Class discussion assumes that each of you has a good grasp of the reading. Active participation in the class discussion is necessary. Writing clear and lucid prose is the stuff of the whole affair.

Here is a link to the rubric used to grade your papers. Grading Rubric
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Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011, 9:18 AM