American Motherhood and Mothering: Theory, Discourse, Practice, and Change

SPRING: Wednesdays, 5:30 - 8:30 PM
January 30, 2013 - May 8, 2013
Building and Room TBD

Motherhood is often lauded as the most important job, and Americans regularly talk about valuing family.  However, as it tends to be women who are primarily responsible for caregiving in the family, the work is systematically devalued economically, socially, and legally.  The gendered nature of mothering also has a profound influence on women’s and men’s lives outside of the family, especially at work. To explore the complex intellectual and practical issues contemporary American motherhood raises for feminist scholars, this course draws on the strengths of two disciplines—rhetoric and sociology—to examine motherhood as an intellectual concern, a social institution, and a site of competing discourses.  The course structure interweaves theory, discourse, practice, and change as we explore a variety of approaches to motherhood and mothering as key theoretical concerns and as pivotal sites of women’s resistance, social action, and change.


D. Lynn O’Brien Hallstein is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric in the College of General Studies at Boston University.  She is the author of White Feminists and Contemporary Maternity:  Purging Matrophobia; is co-editor of Contemporary Maternity in an Era of Choice:  Explorations into Discourses of Reproduction, which won the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender’s 2011 Outstanding Book Award for an edited volume, and she has been published in Quarterly Journal of Speech, the Western Journal of Communication, Women’s Studies in Communication, Text and Performance Studies, Critical/Cultural Studies, National Women’s Studies Journal, Feminist Formations, and The Journal of the Association for Research and Mothering.

Ana Villalobos, Assistant Professor of sociology at Brandeis University, is a multiple award winning teacher with courses focusing on parenting, work and gender.  Her research investigates mothering within social, cultural, and economic pressures, and she is currently completing a book entitled Motherload: “Making it all Better” in Insecure Times.

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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