Feminist Inquiry

Thursdays, 5:30 - 8:30 PM / 1.31.08 – 5.8.09

This course investigates theories and practices of feminist inquiry across a range of disciplines.  Doing feminist research involves rethinking disciplinary assumptions and methodologies, developing new understandings of what counts as knowledge, seeking alternative ways of understanding the origins of problems/issues, formulating new ways of positing questions and redefining the relationship between subjects and objects of study.

All research grows out of complex connections between epistemologies, methodologies and research methods. We shall explore how these connections are formed in the traditional disciplines and raise questions about why the traditional disciplines are inadequate and/or problematic for feminist inquiry.  What, specifically, are the feminist critiques of these disciplines? The course will consider methodology, i.e., the theory and analysis of how research should proceed.  We shall be especially attentive to epistemological issues—pre-suppositions about the nature of knowledge. We shall examine the theoretical positions our authors take, and evaluate the usefulness of their methodological approaches.

As feminist inquiry has developed over the last thirty-some years, it has become increasingly clear that its practice is inherently interdisciplinary. Our aim is to promote the development of feminist theory and methods by providing a forum for sharing, assessing, discussing and debating strategies used by feminist scholars in an array of fields such as literary and cultural studies, history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, political science, religion, and international studies.  We will also explore in what specific ways feminist inquiry is, or can be, interdisciplinary.  What topics are especially illuminated by an interdisciplinary gendered approach to the world?  We will examine how feminist theorists may create the wider interdisciplinary spaces with which to explore problems that cut across, and expose as arbitrary, traditional disciplinary boundaries.


Renee Bergland is Professor of English and Gender/Cultural Studies at Simmons College. She teaches courses in American literature and culture, gender studies, and literary and cultural theory. Her books include The National Uncanny: Indian Ghosts and American Subjects and Computer of Venus: Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science.

Frinde Maher is Professor Emerita of Education at Wheaton College, where she directed the Secondary Education Program. She has taught Women's Studies courses for many years, including, for the past decade, Feminist Theory. She has published widely in the fields of feminist pedagogy and women in education, and is co-author, with Mary Kay Tetreault, of two books: The Feminist Classroom (1994: second edition 2001) and Privilege and Diversity in the Academy (2007)

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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