U.S. Women's Biography: Lives/History/Feminist Theory

SPRING: Tuesdays, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
February 1, 2011 – May 3. 2011

This course operates with a double lens: biography and feminist theory. Our premise is that women’s biography can introduce students to the keywords and key concepts developed by interdisciplinary feminist theory and, by emphasizing an array of issues involved in narrating women’s lives, also provide an exploration of why those concepts have mattered, and to whom. By focusing on narrative constructions of such diverse women as Alice James, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nella Larsen, Amelia Earhart, Ella Baker, Anne Sexton, Janis Joplin, Zora Neale Hurston and others, we will introduce students to a range of feminist theory about politics, literature, family, music, the environment, government, celebrity, and sexuality in a reading-intensive, seminar-style discussion course. The syllabus features both classic theoretical texts (with attention to the historiography of interdisciplinary feminist theorizing) as well as more recent ones, designed to deepen our thinking and discussion and to raise questions of approach and methodology.


Carla Kaplan, Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature at Northeastern University, Founding Director of the Humanities Center, and Guggenheim Fellow, has published The Erotics of Talk: Women’s Writing and Feminist Theory, Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, an edition of Passing, two biographies forthcoming from Harper Collins, and other works.  

Susan Ware specializes in 20th century U.S. History, women’s history, and biography. Editor of volume five of Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, she has also published biographies of Molly Dewson, Amelia Earhart, Mary Margaret McBride, and Billie Jean King (forthcoming), among other works.

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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