Gender, Women, and Sexuality (GWS)

Academic Catalog: 2017–2018

  • Jill Locke (Political Science), Program Director
  • Margaret O’Connor (Philosophy)

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 examine the meanings of femininity, masculinity, sexual behavior, and desire as well as the ways that groups and individuals construct their identities within and across a variety of historical, social, and cultural contexts. 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.

The GWSS program draws its courses from a variety of disciplines. This multidisciplinary approach provides students with a foundation for thinking comprehensively about categories of social difference as well as the various cultural and legal institutions that produce and sustain dynamics of power and oppression within them. Through a discussion-based curriculum, students will be exposed to an array of methodologies regarding the history, theory, and practice of gender studies. They will also gain extensive experience with writing and research with a strong emphasis on information literacy. In keeping with the mission of the College, GWSS students will be encouraged to orient their discovery and reflection toward furthering the cause of social justice.

In order to develop a broad perspective on the workings of gender in Western and non-Western societies, the GWSS Program encourages students to consider off-campus academic opportunities, whether international or domestic. The Center for International and Cultural Education provides support to GWSS students interested in scholarly travel, and the GWSS Program can help students identify study away programs that may fulfill requirements in the major or minor. The GWSS program also encourages internships and career exploration as an avenue for exploring and applying salient GWSS themes in real-world contexts.

Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies Major:

Nine courses chosen in consultation with an advisor in GWSS and including:

  1. GWS-380.
  2. One course in feminist theory from COM-383, ENG-244 (Queer Theory),
    GWS-260, GWS-280, PHI-248, POL-380, REL-262.
  3. One course in literature and arts from ART-250, ENG-101 (Our Own Private Idahos), ENG-124, ENG-217, FRE-363, GWS-236, GWS-264, GWS-272, SCA-224, SPA-375, T/D-136, T/D-236.
  4. One course in history and culture from GWS-226, GWS-231, GWS-238,
  5. Two courses in the social sciences selected from GWS-224, GWS-285, S/A-231, S/A-235, S/A-246, 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, other than GWSS, may count toward the major.

Each course may be used to satisfy only one requirement in the major.

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 GWSS advisor. No more than two courses offered by the same department or interdisciplinary program, other than GWS, may be counted toward the minor.

In addition to the courses described in this section, the following are regularly offered courses for Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies: 

  • ART-250 Gender and Art
  • COM-383 Communication and Gender
  • ENG-124 American Women Writers
  • ENG-217 British Women Writers
  • FRE-363 Francophone Women Writers and Artists
  • HIS-226 European Women
  • PHI-209 Philosophies of the Environment
  • PHI-212 Philosophies of Oppression and Privilege
  • PHI-248 Gender, Knowledge and Reality
  • POL-380 Feminist Political Thought
  • REL-250 Women and the Bible
  • REL-262 God and Gender
  • S/A-231 Kinship, Marriage & Human Sexuality
  • S/A-235 Social Inequality
  • S/A-246 Body Perspectives
  • S/A-262 Sociology of Medicine
  • SCA-211 Diversity and Social Change in Scandinavia
  • SCA-224 Scandinavian Women Writers
  • SPA-323, Love, Sex, and Power in Spanish Literature
  • SPA-375 Gender and Sexual Identities in the Spanish-Speaking World
  • T/D-136 Creating Theatre for Social Justice
  • T/D-236 Theatre and Society

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

Gender, Women, and Sexuality Courses

118 Controversies 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. Offered annually.

141 Women in the United States (1 course) This course is the same as HIS-141. The complete course description can be found in the History listings.

224 Staying Alive while Living at 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. This course counts toward the Peace Studies minor. SOSCI, offered occasionally.

226 European Women (1 course) This course is the same as HIS-226. The complete course description can be found in the History listings.

236 Women 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? Through memoirs, fiction, history, and theory, we will bring a specifically feminist methodology to understanding the experiences of women in the Holocaust. 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? This course counts toward the Peace Studies minor. Offered occasionally.

238 Gender and Sexuality in the United States (1 course) This course is the same as HIS-238. The complete course description can be found in the History listings.

244, 344 Special 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.

248 Gender, Knowledge, and Reality (1 course) This course is the same as PHI-248. The complete course description can be found in the Philosophy listings.

260 Global 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, de-colonialization, 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 Saint Peter, Minnesota. GLOBL, HIPHI, WRITD, Fall semester, odd years.

264 African Women: Tradition and Modernity (1 course) This course discusses the clash of tradition and modernity and its impact on women in Africa, the place of women in the family and in politics, and the changing economic and social dynamics that generally impact the role of women in society. What experiences are peculiar to African women, and how can we understand those experiences in the context of global feminist theories? The course, among other things, answers these salient questions. This course counts toward the African Studies minor. GLOBL, offered occasionally.

272 Women in East Asian Literature and Culture (1 course) This course is the same as JPN-272. The complete course description can be found in the Japanese listings.

280 Revolution, Resistance, and Liberation (1 course) This course is the same as POL-280. The complete course description can be found in the Political Science listings.

285 Sex, Power and Politics (1 course) This course is the same as POL-285. The complete course description can be found in the Political Science listings.

268, 368 Career Exploration, Internship (Course value to be determined) Off-campus employment experience related to the student’s major. See description of the Internship Program. Prerequisite: junior or senior status. Fall and Spring semesters and Summer.

380 Colloquium: 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.

291, 391 Independent Study (Course value to be determined) Fall and Spring semesters and January Interim.