Course Offerings

Winter 2015

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Women and Gender in Modern Europe

HIST 206 - Horowitz

This course investigates the history of Europe from the late 18th century to the present day through the lens of women's lives, gender roles, and changing notions of sexuality. We examine how historical events and movements (industrialization, the world wars, etc.) had an impact on women, we look at how ideas about gender shaped historical phenomena, such as imperialism and totalitarianism. We also consider the rise of new ideas about sexuality and the challenge of feminism.

African Feminisms

HIST 378 - Tallie

This course critically examines the idea of African feminisms by looking at many different intersections of time, place. and position for African women. This traces multiple ways in which African women have sought to challenge patriarchal roles in both precolonial and (post)colonial contexts. Students leave not with an understanding of a singular or aspirational African feminism but rather with an appreciation of the ways in which African women have and continue to challenge. reframe, and negotiate a variety of social and political positions.

Social Inequality and Fair Opportunity

PHIL 242 - Bell

An exploration of the different range of opportunities available to various social groups, including racial, ethnic and sexual minorities, women, and the poor. Topics include how to define fair equality of opportunity; the social mechanisms that play a role in expanding and limiting opportunity; legal and group-initiated strategies aimed at effecting fair equality of opportunity and the theoretical foundations of these strategies; as well as an analysis of the concepts of equality, merit and citizenship, and their value to individuals and society.

Philosophy of the Family: Beyond Tradition

PHIL 254 - Bell

This course considers philosophical issues raised by family as a social institution and as a legal institution. Topics addressed include the social and personal purposes served by the institution of family, the nature of relationships between family members, the various forms that family can take, the scope of family privacy or autonomy, and how family obligations, mutual support, and interdependency affect individual members of families.

Gender, Sexuality, and Islam

REL 284 - Blecher

How have issues of gender and sexuality in Medieval and Modern Islamic societies been debated across the Middle East, South Asia, and the West? Students examine scholarly and public discussions of gender and Islam, and they build a vocabulary in which to talk about women. queer, and intersex history as they concern Muslim societies and their foundational sources in their regional and historical contexts. No prior knowledge of Islam is necessary.

Special Topics in Religion

REL 295 - Fruchtman Hannah

A course offered from time to time in a selected problem or topic in religion. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Winter 2015 topics:

REL 295-01: Martyrdom: From the Maccabees to ISIS (3). his class explores martyrdom as a historical, literary, and religious phenomenon. It offers critical tools for deciphering martyrdom discourse in other contexts, such as interreligious conflicts and American popular culture. While maintaining a focus on historical circumstances surrounding martyr narratives, we also establish some thematic commonplaces, including witness, sex, gender, power, dreams, memory, community, blood, violence, torture, sacrifice and death. Martyrdom is a powerful and potentially dangerous discourse. This class helps students appreciate the full significance of its use. (HU) Fruchtman

REL 295-02: Augustine, Descartes, and the Literature of Self and Soul (3). This course explores western conceptions of the human self or soul and its place and purpose in the world, or lack thereof. It is framed by consideration of two key figures: St. Augustine and René Descartes. A careful reading of the depiction of the restless soul in Augustine's Confessions is followed by study of its transformation into the certain self by Descartes' philosophy. After reading these two inter-related figures, we consider literary, religious, and/or scientific literature that lets us reflect on the state of the soul in a world centered on selves or the fate of the self in a soulless world... and whether there might be other options. (HU) Kosky

REL 295-03: Authority and Gender in the Middle Ages (3). This course explores the various ways that texts, traditions, institutions, and individuals asserted, acquired, and maintained authority (or failed to do so) in the Middle Ages, with particular attention to issues of gender. We discuss the gendered reality of historical figures and the impact of that reality on claims to authority, and investigate how discourses of masculinity and femininity served to legitimize both religious and secular authority in the period from Constantine to Luther. (HU) Fruchtman

Fall 2014 topic:

REL 295A-01: Heidegger and being in the world (3). This course explores the work of Martin Heidegger and the development of its themes in the work of select literary and/or film artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. A close reading of the magisterial account of being in the world in his 1927 Being and Time is followed by careful study of representative essays from his later work. Short works from Heidegger's critics help us see the possibilities and/or problems that his account of being in the world poses for ethical, religious, and existential concern. After our reading of Heidegger, we consider the literary and cinematic work of major 20th- and 21st-century artists who let us reflect on the meaning and importance of his thinking about being in the world. Artists considered may include Terrence Malick, Cormac McCarthy, Milan Kundera, and others. (HU) Kosky.

Gender and Sexuality

SOAN 280 - Novack

An anthropological and sociological investigation of sex roles in preliterate and modern societies. Special consideration is given to the role of innate sexual differences, cultural variation, technology, and power in determining patterns of male dominance. Emphasis is placed on real and mythical female and male power in the context of changing relationships between men and women in American society.

Special Topics in Anthropology

SOAN 291 - Goluboff

A discussion of a series of topics of anthropological concern. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Winter 2015 topics:

SOAN 291-01: Topics in Anthropology: Campus Sex in the Digital Age (3). This class explores how the cell phone has impacted hooking up and dating on campus, with particular attention to Washington and Lee University as a case study. We discuss the development of campus sexual culture in America and the influence of digital technology on student sociality. Students use open source digital research tools to analyze data (interviews, focus groups, and statistics) collected about dating and hookup behavior at our college. As a digital humanities project, students work in groups to post their analyses on the class WordPress site. Goluboff.   SOAN 291-02: Topics in Anthropology: Contemporary Forms of Slavery (3). This course introduces students to how anthropologists have studied 'contemporary forms of slavery', a term representing many forms of inequality, including child labor, debt bondage, and religious practices, among others. The course investigates the language of slavery and what ideas we have about the practice in historical and contemporary forms, while also examining the historical development of using the term to describe these varying forms of inequality. Throughout the course, we examine the complexity involved in applying universalistic ideas of human rights, and the social, political, and economic dimensions of inequality. Jenkins.

SOAN 291-03: Topics in Anthropology: Consumer Cultures (3). "It is extraordinary to discover that no one knows why people want goods," or so observed a famous pair of authors -- one an anthropologist, the other an economist -- in 1979. What, since then, have anthropology and interrelated disciplines learned about consumer desire? This course considers human interaction with the material world in a variety of cultures, periods, and scales. From socio-cultural and political perspectives, what do consumers hope to accomplish by buying, patronizing, or using products like Barbies, bottled water, craft beer, tattoos and piercings, football games, farm houses, history museums, cemeteries, or asylums? How does consumerism facilitate claims to social connection, personal identity, and meaning? And how do potentially constructive roles of buying "stuff" relate to debt, hoarding, and environmental overexploitation? Bell.

SOAN 291-04: Topics in Anthropology: Anthropology of International Development (3). This course introduces students to theories, practices, and experiences of economic and social development initiatives that seek to address economic growth, poverty, and inequality. We begin with an overview of the key theoretical and policy frameworks that have informed development initiatives in the post-colonial context. We then examine particular themes in various cultural contexts, specifically discussing gender and households, the informal economy, the experience of poverty and suffering, and the role of governmental and non-governmental organizations. We also examine anthropology's critical engagement with policies of economic development and the role of anthropologists in the planning and execution of development projects. Jenkins.

Fall 2014 topic:

SOAN 291: Economic Anthropology (3). This course presents a cross-cultural survey of economic practices throughout time and around the world. Using classic and contemporary anthropological studies, we seek to understand how people have organized production, exchange, and consumption, and how these processes articulate with community dynamics such as religious beliefs, ethical codes, social networks, and gender roles. With case studies ranging from prehistoric foragers to contemporary cell phone users, we investigate culturally diverse and socially embedded understandings of commodities, gifts, property, success, and wealth. Bell.

Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies and Feminist Theory

WGS 120 - Verhage

This course introduces students to the fields of feminist theory and women's and gender studies by focusing on key theoretical concepts and surveying a range of topics that have been central to the academic study of women and gender. Such topics are likely to include the family as a social institution, gender in the workplace, beauty norms, violence against women, the history of feminist activism, and/or women's achievements in traditionally male-dominated fields such as sports, art, science, or literature. Students learn to approach such topics using gender as an analytical tool that intersects in complex ways with other categories of social power, such as race, class, and sexuality. The course is interdisciplinary in approach and presents a plurality of feminist perspectives in order to offer a rich understanding of the development of feminist thought over the past several decades. Course assignments encourage students to use such thought to analyze their other academic pursuits, as well as the non-academic environments in which they live, including thinking critically about their own experiences as women and men in contemporary society.


Fall 2014

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Reproductive Physiology

BIOL 255 - Parker

An examination of sex as a biological phenomenon with consideration of the genetic (chromosomal), embryological, endocrine, and neurological bases of sexual development, differentiation, and identity.

Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

ENGL 313 - Kao

This course considers the primary work on which Chaucer's reputation rests: The Canterbury Tales. We pay sustained attention to Chaucer's Middle English at the beginning of the semester to ease the reading process. Then we travel alongside the Canterbury pilgrims as they tell their tales under the guise of a friendly competition. The Canterbury Tales is frequently read as a commentary on the social divisions in late medieval England, such as the traditional estates, religious professionals and laity, and gender hierarchies. But despite the Tales' professed inclusiveness of the whole of English society, Chaucer nonetheless focuses inordinately on those individuals from the emerging middle classes. Our aim is to approach the Tales from the practices of historicization and theorization; that is, we both examine Chaucer's cultural and historical contexts and consider issues of religion, gender, sexuality, marriage, conduct, class, chivalry, courtly love, community, geography, history, power, spirituality, secularism, traditional authority, and individual experience. Of particular importance are questions of voicing and writing, authorship and readership. Lastly, we think through Chaucer's famous Retraction at the "end" of The Canterbury Tales, as well as Donald R. Howard's trenchant observation that the Tale is "unfinished but complete." What does it mean for the father of literary "Englishness" to end his life's work on the poetic principle of unfulfilled closure and on the image of a society on the move?

History of Women in America, 1870 to the Present

HIST 258 - Senechal

A survey of some of the major topics and themes in American women's lives from the mid-19th century to the present, including domestic and family roles, economic contributions, reproductive experience, education, suffrage, and the emergence of the contemporary feminist movement. The influence on women's roles, behavior, and consciousness by the social and economic changes accompanying industrialization and urbanization and by variations in women's experience caused by differences in race, class, and region.

Philosophy of Sex

PHIL 246 - Bell

This course explores questions related to contemporary conceptions of sexuality and its proper role in our lives. Questions addressed include: What is the purpose of sex? Are sexual practices subject to normative evaluation on grounds of morality, aesthetics, and/or capacity to promote a flourishing human life? We consider the relation between sex and both intimacy and pleasure, viewed from the perspective of heterosexual women and men, and gay men and lesbians. What are our sexual practices and attitudes toward sex? What should they be like?

Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination

PSYC 269 - Woodzicka

This course examines cognitive and affective processes involved in stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. Causes and social implications of prejudice involving various stigmatized groups (e.g., African-Americans, women, homosexuals, people of low socioeconomic status, overweight individuals) are examined. Participants focus on attitudes and behaviors of both perpetrators and targets of prejudice that likely contribute to and result from social inequality.

Feminist Anthropology

SOAN 275 - Goluboff

This course covers the complex and sometimes "awkward" relationship between feminism and anthropology. We explore topics such as the place of feminist theory and politics within the discipline of anthropology, the problems involved in being a feminist and an anthropologist, and the creation of feminist ethnography.

Advanced Seminar in Women's and Gender Studies

WGS 396 - Le Blanc

This course provides an opportunity for advanced students to explore in detail some aspect of women's studies. Specific topics may vary and may be determined, in part, by student interest. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.


Spring 2014

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Beauvoir and The Second Sex

PHIL 235 - Verhage

The Second Sex (1949) is Simone de Beauvoir's most well-known work in philosophy. It is a deep and urgent meditation on a true hope that is still elusive for many of us: to become, in every sense. one's own. It weaves together philosophy, history, social studies, economics, and biology to analyze the notion of "woman" and to explore the making and the power of gender and sexuality. Newly translated, The Second Sex is an important philosophical and political document about inequality and enforced otherness. In this course, we read this text together with recent work in the field and discuss it both as an important historical document and as a still relevant work on our gendered being in the world.

Women in Sport

WGS 150 - Levine

In this course, students use feminist theories and women's studies to examine many aspects of women's participation in sport in the United States. Students examine a range of topics including women's achievements in sport; Title IX and associated arguments for and against its implementation; social and cultural influences on women's participation; gender stereotypes associated with sport; and the role of the media in reinforcing gender-based stereotypes.