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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


ID Gender: Approaches to Gender

ID Gender: Approaches to Gender

Course Convenor: Prof Helena Sanson (, Section of Italian

This module will offer an exploration of the notion and category of ‘gender’ across the centuries (from the Medieval times to the present) and across different contexts, traditions, subjects, and disciplines. It allows students to explore the various meanings, understandings and implications of ‘gender,’ its uses in the construction of ‘identities’, its representation, across literature, history, art, cinema, and language, its indispensable function as a category of analysis.

The nature and scope of the module aims to offer students both the option of in-depth investigation into gender-related issues and topics, and to transcend linguistic, national, and chronological divisions to pose broader comparative questions. More specifically, the different sessions in this module chart how ideas about femininity and masculinity change over time, while identifying normative gender constructions and conflict around them and asking conceptual and methodological questions.

The sessions will present different research approaches which explore the history, role, and meaning of gender. They will be exemplary of ways of reading gender which students might want to apply to other historical periods or indeed other languages, while also being encouraged to develop their own, new approaches.

Students may also investigate the category of ‘gender’ from a linguistic point of view (e.g. language and gender), as well as the implications and workings of gender in terms of the history of the language, and the history of linguistics.

Preliminary readings:

Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble: Feminism and Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge

Butler, J. (2004). Undoing Gender. New York and London: Routledge

De Beauvoir, S. (2010) [1949]. The Second Sex, transl. C. Borde and S. Malovany-Chevallier. New York: Alfred A. Knopf

Derrida, J. (1967). Writing and Difference [L'écriture et la différence], transl. Alan Bass: Chicago: UCP

Firestone, S. (1970). The Dialectic of Sex. NY: Bantam Books

Foucault, M. (1976). History of Sexuality: An Introduction, vol. I.  Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Freidan, B. (1963). The Feminist Mystique. NY: WW Norton

Halberstam, J. (2005). In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. New York: NYU Press

Hall, D., and A Jagose (eds) (2013). Routledge Queer Studies Reader. Abingdon: Routledge, Ch. 1, 2, 3 (by E. Kosofsky Segwick, J. Butler, J. Prosser)

Lakoff, R. (1975). Language and Woman’s Place. New York: Harper and Row, read ‘Part I, Language and Woman’s Place’

McCallum, E.L, and Tyler Bardway, (2019). ‘Introduction: Thinking Sideways, or an Untoward Genealogy of Queer Reading’, in After Queer Studies: Literature, Theory, and Sexuality in the 21st Century, ed. by Tyler Bradway. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-13 only

Mill, J. S. (1970) [1869]. The Subjection of Women, ed. Alice S. Rossi. Chicago: UCP

Millett, K. (1970). Sexual Politics. NY: Doubleday

Nussbuam, M. (1999). Sex and Social Justice. Oxford: OUP

Rose, S. O. (2010). What is Gender History?. Cambridge: Polity, Ch. 1

Rowbotham, S. (1973). Woman’s Consciousness, Man’s World. London: Penguin

Rubin, G. (1992 [1984]). ‘Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality (1984)’, in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, ed. C. S. Vance. London: Pandora, pp. 267-293

Spender, D. (1980). Man Made Language. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

Taylor Mill, H. (1970). ‘Enfranchisement of Women (1851)’, in Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor Mill, Essays on Sex Equality, ed. Alice S. Rossi. Chicago: UCP

Tong, R. (2008). Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction. Powell’s Books: Oregon.

Wollstonecraft, M.  A. (1975) [1792]. Vindication of the Rights of Women, ed. Carol H. Poston. NY: WW Norton


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