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A History of feminism in fundamental texts

University of the West, Timisoara

Faculty of Letters- Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies
Tutor: Dr Reghina Dascal
Duration/ Terms: two terms
Teaching Programme: there will be lectures alternating with seminars: one per week over
fourteen weeks.
Target students: 1st year post-graduate studies: MA

Course Description
The course is designed to give students an opportunity to pursue their interest in the
development of feminist ideas by focusing on the impact of fundamental texts. The course is
organized around various competing interpretations of the merits of feminist texts in the
development of a distinct feminist epistemology and methodology. The course provides a
brief historical perspective, outlining historical, social, political and cultural contexts and
focusing on a number of crucial issues which shaped the discipline. Particular attention will
be given to the development of female authorship, agency, subjectivity, autonomy.
Throughout the course parallels, comparisons will be invited with EE and CE societies, in
particular with the Romanian situation. There is no provision for an undergraduate course in
Gender Studies in the Romanian academic curriculum with the exception of an elective
course: Introduction to Gender Studies offered to terminal year students.

1. To develop students' ability to relate theoretical interpretations to a number of
empirical issues and problems. Particular questions which lie at the heart of the course,
include: the relationship between agents, ideas/ideology and broader structural forces,
2. To sharpen students' critical and analytical skills, as well as the ability to present clear
and cogent arguments, both orally and in writing.
3. Sensitizing Ss to the non-foundational anti-monodisciplinary character of GS, to the
permanent challenge they pose as to received wisdom calling for questioning and
critical reading of socio-political reality.
4. Pursuing the diachronic evolution of fundamental concepts such as sex/ gender,
equality/ difference, equality/ liberation, separation/ integration of Women’s Studies
as an academic subject in its own right; it aims at making Ss aware of the full
scientific validity and epistemic authority status of the discipline of Gender Studies,
underscoring the epistemological and methodological value of feminist research.
5. To develop skills of extracting relevant information and analysis from diverse sources
and the ability to synthesise them. Students are expected to develop the capacity to
detect and develop implications and distinctions, to discriminate between different
lines of interpretation, to show powers of analysis, argument and judgment.

Teaching Methods
A variety of teaching methods will be used: lectures, seminars, debates and workshops,
sessions of presentations, case-studies

Course Content
Weeks 1-2. A discussion of fundamental concepts: sex, gender, sexual vs. gender identity.
Female, feminine, feminist experiences. Patriarchal families vs. partnership-based ones.
Feminism - still demonized in our society? Debate
Ws 3-4. The historical cycles of feminism. First wave in the context of evangelical movement,
temperance, anti-slavery, abolitionist militancy. The influence of the Quakers’ ideals of social
reform and emancipation, utilitarian and radical philosophies and their role in developing
feminist consciousness.
W 5. A History of Women in Europe. From Hildegard von Bingen to Alexandra Kolontai,
stages in the development of ‘women issues’ in Europe.
Ws 6-7. The decisive role plaid by European women from the Middle Ages to modern times
in vindicating political and civic rights, in demanding authorship status for women: the
European history stands witness: Christine de Pizan, Mary Wollstonecraft, Olympe de
Ws 8-9. Christine de Pizan and the Middle Ages. The first great feminist of Europe. An
interesting case of translating as subversion: fashioning female subjectivity and authorship.
The beginnings of female genealogy. The woman who started the first literary querrele, fray
in European literature around Le Roman de la Rose. The difficulty of translating Christine de
Pizan into Romanian.
Ws 10-11. Looking beyond the Book of the City of Ladies. The emergence of a feminist
discourse and feminine subjectivity through refashioning (Greenblatt) the masculine
generative subject.
Ws 12-13. Mary Wollstonecraft J. Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor Mill for a more inclusive
Enlightenment, transgressing the fake universalism of the 18th century.
Ws.14-15 Education and emancipation: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and Essays on
Sex Equality. Wollstonecraft vs. Rousseau. The Enfranchisement of Women the most radical
and progressive of 18th century liberal feminist writings.
Ws 16-17. Demystifying the Victorian stereotype of the mad woman in the attic: hysteria a
female malady? Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Mona Caird. Weir Mitchell and the rest cure:
medicalizing and pathologizing the woman’s body. Elaine Showalter on madness as female
Ws 18-19. “A Literature of their own” - Virginia Woolf and her two major feminist essays: A
Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas. Thinking back through one’s mothers and the
feminine anxiety of influence.
Ws 20-21-22. the Second Wave from the perspective of the British ‘new feminism’. Debating
Natasha Walter’s New Feminism. Texts from Dworkin, Steinem, Millett, Brownmiller and
Rich are also highlighted.
Ws 23-24. Poised between equality and liberation: G. Greer and Betty Friedan: the female
Eunuch and Feminine Mystique
Ws 25. The Second wave and the feminist metaethics: Mary Daly and the war against women.
Reinventing language, feminizing culture.
Ws 26. Contemporary feminisms: Post-feminism, The Third wave, feminism is dead vs.
reradicalization: “It’s time to be angry again (Greer; The Whole Woman).
Ws 27-28. Gender Discourse and translation conundrums: “cultural embeddedness” and
mediaeval feminists; Romanian protofeminism, translating excerpts from Stefania
Mihailescu’s – Emanciparea femeii române.

One seminar presentation (every other week four students will be responsible for presenting a
brief paper based on their study group findings but other students will be expected to
contribute. For that reason, the reading list specifies required reading for all students and
detailed reading for those students preparing the topic).
One essay of 4000-5000 words to be submitted in week 12 of the first term.
One 3-hour examination at the end of the second term.

Selective bibliography:
Bella Mirabella, M. 1999. “Feminist Self-Fashioning. Christine de Pisan and the Treasure of
the City of Ladies” in European Journal for Women’s Studies . vol.6, no.1. pp.9-17
Bock, Gisela, Femeia în istoria Europei, Iasi: Polirom, 2002
Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology, The Women’s Press, 1991
Dragomir, O si M. Miroiu (coord.). 2002. Lexicon feminist, Iasi: Polirom
Andrea Dworkin, 1993. Letters from the War Zone, Lawrence Hill Books
Andrea Dworkin, 1978. Pornography: Men Possessing Women, Virago
Friedan, B. 1992. The Feminine Mystique. Harmondsworth: Penguin
Betty Friedan, 1986. The Second Stage, Dell Publishing
Carol Gilligan, 1982. In a Different Voice, Cambridge: Harvard University Press
Greenblatt, S. 1980. Renaissance Self-Fashioning. Chicago:UCP
Germaine Greer, 1967. The Female Eunuch, London: Virago
Germaine Greer,1999. The Whole Woman, Harvestsheaf
Irigaray, L. 1993. Je, tu, nous. Toward a Culture of Difference. London: Routledge
Joan Kennedy Taylor, 1992. Reclaiming the Mainstream, Prometheus Books
John Stuart Mill & Harriet taylor Mill.. 1970 Essays on Sex Equality, Chicago: CUP, 1970
Mills, J. 1992. Womanwords. A Vocabulary of Culture and Patriarchal Society. London:
Virago Press
De Pizan, Christine. 1998. The Book of the City of Ladies. Translated by Earl Jeffrey
Richards. New York: Persea Books
Rich, A. 1977. Of Woman Born. Motherhood as experience andinstitution. London: Virago
Richardson, A (ed.). 2002. Women Who Did. Harmondsworth: Penguin
Segal, L. 1998. Why Feminism? Cambridge: Polity Press
Showalter, E. 1987. The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture 1830-1980.
London: Virago Press
Simon, S. 1996. Gender in Translation. London: Routledge
Woolf, V. 1992. A Room of One’s Own. Three Guineas. Oxford: OUP