Changing Life: Reading the Intersections of Race, Biology, and Literature

Spring semester: Wednesdays, 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM
February 1, 2017 - May 10, 2017
*Meets at MIT, building 56 room 154
**First class *only* meets at MIT, building 4 room 265
MIT Course Number: WGS.700

In this course students will develop their abilities to expose ways that scientific knowledge has been shaped in contexts that are gendered, racialized, economically exploitative, and hetero-normative. This development is supported through a sequence of four projects that concern:

1. interpretation of the cultural dimensions of science;

2. climate change futures;

3. genomic citizenry; and

4. students' plans for ongoing practice.

The projects also draw students' attention to areas such as museum displays, science fiction, and internet-mediated discourse, and involve close reading and literary analysis of texts—whether in science, social studies of science, or science fiction.

The course uses a Project-Based Learning format that allows students to shape their own directions of inquiry in each project, develop new skills and generate [or just "find"] collegial support. Students' learning will be guided by individualized bibliographies co-constructed with the instructors, the inquiries of the other students, and a set of tools and processes for literary analysis, inquiry, reflection, and support. By the end of the class, students will have

1) generated products for each of the projects and so charted a path into an ever-growing body of work on the interpretation of sciences in contexts, to which feminist, anti-racist, and other critical analysts and activists have made significant contributions;

2) formulated a personal plan for ongoing inquiry that troubles the boundaries of knowledge production in the academy and sciences, especially as they concern race and gender.

Students from all fields and levels of preparation are encouraged to join the course; advanced study in the sciences or in literary analysis is not required.

For more details, see the course website:



Peter Taylor is a Professor at UMass Boston, where he directs the Critical and Creative Thinking Graduate Program and its Science in a Changing World track. He has co-taught four times for GCWS on Gender, Race, and Science using a Project-Based Learning format.  His books include Unruly Complexity, Taking Yourself Seriously, and Nature-Nurture? No.

Mary Baine Campbell is Professor of English at Brandeis University; she also teaches in Comparative Literature and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies.  She has prepared two former GCWS courses and twice been a member of the GCWS Board of Directors.  Her books include The Witness and the Other World: Exotic European Travel Writing, 400-1600Wonder and Science: Imagining Worlds in Early Modern Europe.

Next Steps

Contact Us

Consortium for Graduate Studies in Gender, Culture, Women, and Sexuality
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 14N-211
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Phone: 617-324-2085