Paper Prompts for Cluster Three: Cultural and Knowledge Production

Please respond to one of the following prompts:

1. How do one or more of our authors conceive of and characterize a feminist voice or practice of cultural/knowledge production? In what ways might such practices subvert or destabilize normative or hegemonic accounts of what constitutes art, film, literature?

2. Choose one or two of our texts from this cluster and discuss their relationship to canonicity and/or cultural transmission. Are there normative or dominant practices of canonicity or knowledge transfer on which your texts comment, or against which they intervene? Discuss any strategies you identify in your chosen text(s) that indicate reconfigured patterns of cultural transmission or notions of canonicity, so as to allow for non-normative or countercultural production.

3. Simone de Beauvoir writes, in the introduction to the Second Sex, that “every concrete human being is always uniquely situated” (4).  Reconsider the question of the relationship of the particular (i.e. femininity or queerness) to the universal, now specifically in terms of cultural production and in relation to one or more of our texts from this cluster. How does the specificity or the situatedness of one’s class, race, or religion intersect with gender and sexuality as they pertain to artistic/knowledge production?  Is artistic or cultural production necessarily marked by gender, sexuality, race and other forms of identity, or are there universal or unmarked forms or practices of cultural production? 



Paper Prompts for Cluster Two: Kinship, Marriage, Sex, Reproduction

Please respond to one of the following prompts:

1. Many of the works we have read during this cluster accord the conjugal bond a privileged status (think of Genesis, for instance, in which the married couple forms one flesh). Consider one or more of these works in order to discuss some of the following questions: how does the text in question define (implicitly or explicitly) what counts as an appropriate or functional conjugal relationship? Provide an account of the dynamic each text proposes or assumes between the emotional, sexual, economic, and legal dimensions of conjugal bonds. How does the author assess the relative importance or causal priority of the emotional and the economic in his or her description? Does the work in question put the primacy of the conjugal bond into question, whether by exposing its limitations or false premises, or by providing alternative means to imagine the self, intimacy, or the organization of the family?

2. What is the relationship of sexuality (understood as a practice of pleasure and eroticism and/or a potential source of identity) to sex as a technology or mechanism of reproduction and transmission? In your paper you might consider some of the following questions: does the work in question imagine a role for or assign meaning to non-reproductive sex and, if so, how is it valued? Are reproductive and non-reproductive sex oppositional or complementary? Are sex and sexuality compatible with familial life, or are they the means to a reproductive end? What is the place of sexuality in social organization?

3. Consider one of the works we have read this cluster and provide an account of how you think kinship is organized and imagined in this work. What types of bonds does the text depict between and across generations, and what kinds of responsibilities and intimacies are assumed to flow from and along these lines of transmission and connection? Consider too the rules or norms (implicit or explicit) that shape how these relations are defined, recorded, and communicated. Finally, assess the significance of biological relations within this system. Does your text depict kinship as largely determined by biological connections, as overlapping with them, or as describing relationships that exceed the biological?

Paper Prompts for Cluster One: Gender and Sexuality as Analytic Categories

Please respond to one of the following prompts. See the syllabus for length requirements and other details.

1. Discuss how our authors distinguish between “sex,” “gender,” and “sexuality.” You might choose to focus on one author, examining her definition of each term and assessing the relationship she posits between sex, gender, and sexuality. Or, you might consider two authors, in which case you should compare how the two works use and distinguish between these terms, and then analyze the theoretical significance of the differences you identify.

2. Feminist scholarship often emphasizes the political and analytic significance of individual experience and subjectivity. Can the personal and the particular be meaningfully translated into more universal claims about what it means to be a woman, man, human being, lesbian, feminist, etc.? Consider one of our authors and assess how she contends with the tension between the universal and the particular. For instance, you might discuss whether you think her work adequately addresses the problem of universality and what concepts she develops in order to do so. If not, do you think this fundamentally compromises her central claims or insights?

3. Several of our authors take binaries in which one term has often been treated as having chronological or causal priority over the other (for example, sex/gender, experience/meaning, hormones/environment, heterosexuality/homosexuality) and put that chronology or causality into question. Pick one such pair of terms and assess how your author’s destabilization of the relationship invites us to rethink the meaning of both terms.


Welcome. This is where you’ll post your blog posts, of course, but it’s also a space for you to share news items, interesting books and websites, or information about events on campus and in Chicago that are related to the class and our conversations.