Gender, Women, and Sexuality (GWS)

Academic Catalog 2010–2011

  • Margaret O’Connor, Program Director
  • Elizabeth Baer (English)


  • Janet DeMars (Visiting, Spring 2011)

Gustavus Adolphus College offers a major and a minor in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. This interdisciplinary program examines gender and sexuality as cultural and social categories that organize and shape human experience. Students will interrogate the social meanings of femininity, masculinity, sexual behavior, and desire as integral to the ways that groups and individuals construct their identities within and across a variety of historical, social, and cultural contexts. To this end, students will also examine the ways that gender and sexuality intersect with other categories of social difference such as race, class, ethnicity, nationality, religion, ability, and age. Students will explore such topics as constructions of femininity and masculinity, the history of feminism, gender roles and relations, and cultural configurations of sexual desire and identity in discussion-based classes.

Courses in the GWS Program come from a variety of disciplines. A multidisciplinary approach will provide students with a foundation for thinking more broadly about categories of social difference and the various cultural and legal institutions that produce and sustain them. Students who successfully complete the program will be exposed to a wide array of methodologies regarding the history, theory, and practice of gender studies and will gain extensive experience with writing and research with a strong emphasis on information literacy.

In order to develop personal experiences with and perspectives on the workings of gender in Western and non-Western societies, the GWS Program recommends that students consider off-campus (international or domestic) academic programs. (The Office of International and Cultural Education has information on many programs including HECUA, CGE, and SIT that would be particularly interesting to GWS students.) The GWS Program makes every effort to work with students in selecting courses from these programs that may be applied to the major or minor requirements.

In keeping with the mission of the College, students will be encouraged to orient these insights toward furthering the cause of social justice.

Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies Major:

Nine courses chosen in consultation with an adviser in GWS and including:

  1. GWS-380.
  2. One course in feminist theory from COM-383, PHI-248, POL- 285, POL-380, REL-262, GWS-260.
  3. One course in literature and arts from ART-250, ENG-117, ENG-124, FRE-363, GWS-236, GWS-264, SPA-375, T/D-136.
  4. One course in history and culture from HIS-231, HIS-238, REL-250.
  5. Two courses in the social sciences selected from GWS-224, POL-285, S/A-231, S/A-235, S/A-246, and S/A-262.
  6. A three-course concentration, focused by discipline, field, or research questions, distinguished by intellectual depth and rigor, and approved by the director. Concentrations normally must be approved no later than May 1 of the student’s junior year. Examples of possible concentrations include Communication and Gender, Family Matters, Feminist Theory, Feminist Philosophy, Gender Theory, Queer Theory, Woman and Literature, Women’s History, Women and Religion, and Women and Science. At least one of the courses in the concentration must be Level III.

At least 7 of the 9 courses required for the major must be Level II or Level III.

No more than two classes from any one department or interdisciplinary program may count toward the major.

A student cannot use courses listed in more than one area (feminist theory, literature and arts, history and culture) to fulfill more than one requirement.

A course that is used to fulfill one of the areas above may not be used to satisfy the minimum concentration requirement.

Students must earn a grade of C or higher in each course in order to receive credit toward the major.

Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies Minor:

The minor requires five courses, at least four of which must be level II or above, chosen in consultation with a GWS adviser. No more than two courses offered by the same department may be counted toward the minor.

Regularly Offered Core Courses for Gender, Women, and Sexuality:

  • ART-250Gender and Art
  • COM-383Communication and Gender
  • ENG-117British Women Writers
  • ENG-124American Women Writers
  • FRE-363Francophone Women Writers
  • HIS-231Women in the United States and Artists
  • HIS-238History of Sexuality in the U.S.
  • PHI-102Racism and Sexism
  • PHI-109Philosophies of the Environment
  • PHI-248Feminist Philosophy
  • POL-285Sex, Power, and Politics
  • POL-380Feminist Political Thought
  • REL-250Women and the Bible
  • REL-262God and Gender
  • S/A-231Kinship, Marriage and
  • S/A-235Social Inequality Human Sexuality
  • S/A-246Body Perspectives
  • S/A-262Sociology of Medicine
  • SPA-375Women Writers in Spanish
  • T/D-236Theatre and Society

There are also special topics courses that carry core credit. A list of these is available each semester in the registration materials.

118Controversies In Feminism(1 course) This course examines some of the most important institutions and practices that shape women’s and men’s lives in the contemporary United States. While there is large-scale agreement within feminist communities about what some of these institutions and practices are, there is significant disagreement about the nature, meaning, and role of them. This course will provide an introduction to some recent debates and conflicts within feminism. The aim of this course is to open up space for members to interrogate their understandings of gender and how gender is deeply informed by race, class, and sexual orientation. We do this by exploring various issues such as Affirmative Action, fashion and beauty, pornography, prostitution, procreative technologies, sexuality, and familial structures. WRITI, Offered annually.

224Staying Alive while Living on the Margins(1 course) This course explores the lives of disadvantaged populations, those people who live on the economic and social margins of our world. We focus primarily on the plights of women and children, who are the fastest growing population of poor. We will discuss the relationships between poverty, homelessness, mental illness/addictions, abuse, and health care. Using an integrated service learning component, we will navigate through public and private social service resources to better understand the limitations of services. SOSCI, Spring semester.

236Women and the Holocaust(1 course) Despite the fact that Holocaust studies is now a mature field, the topic of women and the Holocaust remains in its infancy. Why have Holocaust scholars been reluctant to adopt the insights of women’s studies? We will explore this question by reading memoirs, fiction, history, and theory as well as screening films, meeting Holocaust survivors, and engaging in service-learning. We will also work specifically on next steps in this emergent field: bringing a specifically feminist methodology to understanding the experiences of women in the Holocaust. Among the many questions we will consider are these: Did gender matter? To the perpetrators? To the victims? How did Jewish culture and religious beliefs affect the experiences and response of Jewish women? What were the experiences of women in the resistance? What about the experiences of lesbians? What was the perspective of Nazi women? What were the connections among anti-Semitism, racism, and sexism in Nazi ideology? Spring semester, odd years.

244, 344Special Topics(1 course, 1 course) Special topics in gender, women, and sexuality studies. Content will vary from semester to semester. Courses will explore a topic or problem in depth and students will read, discuss, and write. More than one special topic may be taken. Fall and/or Spring semesters.

260Global Feminisms(1 course) This course explores theories developed by Third World feminist theorists. We will consider the various ways that feminist theorists across the globe have addressed such phenomena as imperialism, decolonialization, national liberation, and global capitalism. We will analyze the cultural, economic and political conditions that promote or inhibit activism to promote women’s rights. This course encourages students to think about theoretical issues in relation to the everyday lives of women in various parts of the world, including the everyday world of St. Peter, Minnesota. Prerequisite: GWS-118 or permission of instructor. HIPHI, WRITD, Fall semester, odd years.

264African Women Writers(1 course) This course examines how African women writers address the issue of clash of tradition and modernity in their society. It focuses on novels, plays, poetry, and other types of writing as well as films, written or produced in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. What experiences are peculiar to African women, and how can we understand those experiences from a feminist perspective? The course will, among other things, attempt to answer these important questions. NWEST, Spring semester, even years.

380Colloquium: Special Topics(1 course) Possible topics include feminist ethics, feminist perspectives on the body, women and public policy, and feminist legal theory. Regardless of the topic, the course affords students the opportunity to examine the relationships among theory, activism, empirical research, and feminist praxis. Students with diverse interests, perspectives, and expertise will have the opportunity to reflect on the significance of their women’s studies education in relation to their lives. This course may be repeated for credit. WRITD, Fall semester.