Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Director of undergraduate studies: Joseph Fischel, WLH 311, joseph.fischel@yale.edu; wgss.yale.edu


Professors Julia Adams (Sociology), Carol Armstrong (History of Art), Seyla Benhabib (Political Science, Philosophy), Jill Campbell (English), Hazel Carby (African American Studies, American Studies), Kang-i Sun Chang (East Asian Languages & Literatures), George Chauncey (History), Deborah Davis (Sociology, East Asian Studies), Kathryn Dudley (Anthropology, American Studies), Ron Eyerman (Sociology), Glenda Gilmore (History), Jacqueline Goldsby (African American Studies, English), Inderpal Grewal (American Studies, ER&M, Womens, Gender, & Sexuality Studies), Dolores Hayden (School of Architecture, American Studies), Margaret Homans (English, Womens, Gender, & Sexuality Studies), Marcia Inhorn (Anthropology, Global Affairs), Jennifer Klein (History), Marianne LaFrance (Psychology, Womens, Gender, & Sexuality Studies), Kathryn Lofton (American Studies, Religious Studies), Mary Lui (American Studies, History), Kobena Mercer (History of Art, African American Studies), Joanne Meyerowitz (American Studies, History), Priyamvada Natarajan (Astronomy), Sally Promey (American Studies, Institute of Sacred Music), Frances Rosenbluth (Political Science), Alicia Schmidt Camacho (American Studies), William Summers (Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry), Michael Warner (English, American Studies), Laura Wexler (American Studies, Womens, Gender, & Sexuality Studies), Elisabeth Wood (Political Science)

Associate Professors Crystal Feimster (African American Studies), Moira Fradinger (Comparative Literature), Zareena Grewal (American Studies, Religious Studies), Janet Henrich (School of Medicine), Deb Margolin (Adjunct) (Theater Studies), Naomi Rogers (History, History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health)

Assistant Professors Rene Almeling (Sociology), Joseph Fischel (Womens, Gender, & Sexuality Studies), Greta LaFleur (American Studies), Vida Maralani (Sociology), Dixa Ramirez (American Studies)

Senior Lecturers Geetanjali Singh Chanda (Womens, Gender, & Sexuality Studies), Becky Conekin (History), Ron Gregg (Film & Media Studies), Rebecca Tannenbaum (History), Maria Trumpler (Womens, Gender, & Sexuality Studies)

Lecturers Melanie Boyd (Assistant Dean of Student AffairsWomens, Gender, & Sexuality Studies), Ziv Eisenberg (History), Graeme Reid (Womens, Gender, & Sexuality Studies), George Syrimis (Hellenic Studies)

Genders and sexualities are powerful organizing forces: they shape identities and institutions, nations and economies, cultures and political systems. Careful study of gender and sexuality thus explains crucial aspects of our everyday lives on both intimate and global scales. The scholarship in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies is interdisciplinary and wide-ranging, drawing on history, literature, cultural studies, social sciences, and natural science to study genders and sexualities as they intersect with race, ethnicity, class, nationality, transnational processes, disability, and religion.

Students majoring in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies take a series of core courses, develop an individual area of concentration, and write a two-term senior essay. The program encourages work that is interdisciplinary, intersectional, international, and transnational. Individual concentrations evolve along with students’ intellectual growth and academic expertise. Recent examples of concentrations include literature and queer aesthetics; transnational feminist practices; the intellectual history of civil rights activism; AIDS health policies; gender, religion, and international NGOs; women’s health; food, sexuality, and lesbian community; and gender and sexuality in early education.

Requirements of the major Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies requires twelve term courses and may be taken either as a primary major or as one of two majors. Requirements include two intermediate courses: WGSS 205 and WGSS 206. Majors are required to take both, preferably prior to the junior sequence. The major also includes one transnational perspectives course, one methodology course, courses in an area of concentration, the junior sequence, and the senior sequence. The area of concentration consists of at least five courses, the majority of which should be drawn from program offerings. Courses for the area of concentration may also fulfill the requirements in transnational perspectives and methodology. Substitutions to the major requirements may be made only with the written permission of the director of undergraduate studies.

Transnational perspectives course Ideally, each student's course work engages a broad diversity of cultural contexts, ethnicities, and global locations. Such study illuminates the links among nations, states, cultures, regions, and global locations. Most students take several classes that focus on genders and sexualities outside the U.S. context; majors are required to take at least one (not including WGSS 205).

Methodology course Given its interdisciplinary nature, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies necessarily relies on a wide range of methodologies: literary criticism, ethnography, visual analysis, historiography, and quantitative data analysis, among others. Each student is expected to acquire competence in at least one methodology relevant to his or her own concentration and planned senior essay. In preparation for the senior essay, students are advised to complete the methods requirement in the junior year.

Junior sequence The two-term junior sequence consists of WGSS 340 and WGSS 398. All students in the major must take both courses. (Individualized alternatives are found for students who study abroad during the junior year.)

Senior sequence and senior essay The two-term senior sequence consists of the Senior Colloquium (WGSS 490), in which students begin researching and writing a senior essay, followed by the Senior Essay (WGSS 491), in which students complete the essay. The senior essay is developed and written under the guidance and supervision of a WGSS-affiliated faculty member with expertise in the area of concentration. Students are expected to meet with their essay advisers on a regular basis.


Prerequisites None

Number of courses 12 term courses (incl senior req)

Specific courses requiredWGSS 205, 206, 340, 398

Distribution of courses 1 transnational perspectives course; 1 methodology course; electives in area of concentration

Senior requirement Senior colloq and senior essay (WGSS 490, 491)

Gateway Courses

WGSS 120a, Women, Food, and Culture Maria Trumpler

Interdisciplinary exploration of the gendering of food production, preparation, and consumption in cross-cultural perspective. Topics include agricultural practices, cooking, pasteurization, kitchen technology, food storage, home economics, hunger, anorexia, breast-feeding, meals, and ethnic identity.  WR, SO
TTh 1:30pm-2:20pm

WGSS 200a / AMST 135a / HIST 127a, U.S. Lesbian and Gay History George Chauncey

Introduction to the social, cultural, and political history of lesbians, gay men, and other socially constituted sexual minorities. Focus on understanding categories of sexuality in relation to shifting normative regimes, primarily in the twentieth century. The emergence of homosexuality and heterosexuality as categories of experience and identity; the changing relationship between homosexuality and transgenderism; the development of diverse lesbian and gay subcultures and their representation in popular culture; religion and sexual science; generational change and everyday life; AIDS; and gay, antigay, feminist, and queer movements.  HU
TTh 10:30am-11:20am

WGSS 201b / AMST 271b / HIST 171b, Women in Modern America Joanne Meyerowitz

U.S. women's history and the history of gender from 1900 to the present. Changing meanings of femininity, masculinity, sex, gender, and sexuality; intersections of class, race, ethnicity, and gender; women's labor in industrial and postindustrial economies; women's participation in politics and social movements; trends in sexual expression, gender presentation, reproduction, child rearing, and marriage; and feminist and other gender-equity movements.  HU
TTh 10:30am-11:20am

* WGSS 222b / ER&M 221b, Introduction to Critical Refugee Studies Quan Tran

Reconfiguring refugees as fluid subjects and sites of social, political, and cultural critiques. Departing from dominant understandings of refugees as victims, consideration instead of refugees as complex historical actors, made visible through processes of colonization, imperialism, war, displacement, state violence, and globalization, as well as ethical, social, legal, and political transformations. Focus on second-half of the twentieth century.  SO
Th 2:30pm-4:20pm

Intermediate Courses

* WGSS 205a, Bodies and Pleasures, Sex and Genders Kaneesha Parsard

Sexuality explored as an embodied, historical production. Focus on the dynamic, contested relationship between the concepts of gender and sexuality. Investigation of sexuality at the sites of racial difference, psychoanalysis, AIDS, transnationality, U.S. law, publicity, and politics. Ways in which pleasure, power, and inequality are unevenly imbricated. Includes occasional evening screenings.  SO
W 2:30pm-4:20pm

* WGSS 206b, Globalizing Gender and Sexuality Andrew Dowe

Examination of transnational debates about gender and sexuality as they unfold in specific contexts. Gender as a category that can or cannot travel; feminist critiques of liberal rights paradigms; globalization of particular models of gender/queer advocacy; the role of NGOs in global debates about gender and sexuality.
W 2:30pm-4:20pm

Junior Seminars

* WGSS 340a / ENGL 357a / LITR 426a, Feminist and Queer Theory Marta Figlerowicz

Historical survey of feminist and queer theory from the Enlightenment to the present, with readings from key British, French, and American works. Focus on the foundations and development of contemporary theory. Shared intellectual origins and concepts, as well as divergences and conflicts, among different ways of approaching gender and sexuality.  WR, HU

* WGSS 398a or b, Junior Seminar: Theory and Method Inderpal Grewal

An interdisciplinary approach to studying gender and sexuality. Exploration of a range of relevant theoretical frameworks and methodologies. Prepares students for the senior essay.  WR, HU, SO

Senior Course

* WGSS 490a or b, The Senior Colloquium Joseph Fischel

A research seminar taken during the senior year. Students with diverse research interests and experience discuss common problems and tactics in doing independent research.

* WGSS 491a or b, The Senior Essay Staff

Independent research on, and writing of, the senior essay.


* WGSS 025a / AMST 025a, The American Essay Tradition Greta LaFleur

Exploration of the American essay tradition, from some of its earliest moments to more recent iterations. Consideration of the essay as a rhetorical form, a political tool, and a literary tradition. Authors include Thomas Paine, Claudia Rankine, Benjamin Franklin, Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, Cherrie Moraga, Sherman Alexie, and Hilton Als. Students will write political essays, as well as develop competencies in literary analysis. Enrollment limited to freshmen. Preregistration required; see under Freshman Seminar Program.  HU
TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

* WGSS 032b, History of Sexuality Maria Trumpler

Exploration of scientific and medical writings on sexuality over the past century. Focus on the tension between nature and culture in shaping theories, the construction of heterosexuality and homosexuality, the role of scientific studies in moral discourse, and the rise of sexology as a scientific discipline. Enrollment limited to freshmen. Preregistration required; see under Freshman Seminar Program.  WR, HU
TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

* WGSS 033a / HIST 033a, Fashion in London and Paris, 1750 to the Present Becky Conekin

Introduction to the history of Western fashion from the mid-eighteenth century to the present, with a focus on Paris and London. Approaches, methods, and theories scholars have historically employed to study fashion and dress. Enrollment limited to freshmen. Preregistration required; see under Freshman Seminar Program.  WR, HU
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

* WGSS 170a / ENGL 303a, Consciousness in the Novel from Austen to Woolf Ruth Yeazell

Close study of selected novels by Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf, with particular attention to the representation of consciousness and the development of free indirect discourse, as well as recent speculations about so-called theory of mind. Readings supplemented by narrative theory. Pre-1900 with permission of instructor.  WR, HU
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

* WGSS 220b / PLSC 220b, Women and U.S. Politics Rachel Silbermann

The role of women in current U.S. political processes and institutions. Whether American women and men differ in their political opinions and behavior. Differences in leadership between women and men as legislators, executives, and judges. Why women continue to be underrepresented as officeholders despite their voting at a rate equal to or higher than men's.  SO

* WGSS 223a / ENGL 225a, Race and Gender in Transatlantic Literature, 1688–1818 Jill Campbell

Construction of race and gender in literatures of Great Britain, North America, and the Caribbean from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century. Focus on the role of literature in advancing and contesting concepts of race and gender as features of identity and systems of power, with particular attention to the circulation of goods, people, ideas, and literary works among regions. Some authors include Aphra Behn, Phillis Wheatley, Olaudah Equiano, Leanora Sansay, Maria Edgeworth, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Mary Shelley. First of a two-term sequence; each term may be taken independently.  WR, HU
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

* WGSS 224b / ENGL 226b, Race and Gender in Transatlantic Literature, 1819 to the Present Margaret Homans

Construction of race and gender in literatures of Great Britain, North America, and the Caribbean from the early nineteenth century to the present. Focus on the role of literature in advancing and contesting concepts of race and gender as features of identity and systems of power, with particular attention to the circulation of goods, people, ideas, and literary works among regions. Some authors include Charlotte Bronte, Sojourner Truth, Zora Neale Hurston, Virginia Woolf, Audre Lorde, Chimimanda Adichie, and Kabe Wilson. Second of a two-term sequence; each term may be taken independently.  WR, HU
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

* WGSS 230a / ANTH 230a, Evolutionary Biology of Women's Reproductive Lives Claudia Valeggia

Evolutionary and biosocial perspectives on female reproductive lives. Physiological, ecological, and social aspects of women's development from puberty through menopause and aging, with special attention to reproductive processes such as pregnancy, birth, and lactation. Variation in female life histories in a variety of cultural and ecological settings. Examples from both traditional and modern societies.  SC
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

* WGSS 241b / THST 240b, Performativity and Social Change T.L. Cowan

Exploration of the relation between gender and sexuality and activist expressive cultures. Focus on how these cultures enact social change through cultural productions, performances, and embodied activist art practices. Special attention to Canadian and United States contexts.  HU
MW 1pm-2:15pm

* WGSS 293b / CLCV 319b / HIST 242Jb / MGRK 300b, The Olympic Games, Ancient and Modern George Syrimis

Introduction to the history of the Olympic Games from antiquity to the present. The mythology of athletic events in ancient Greece and the ritual, political, and social ramifications of the actual competitions. The revival of the modern Olympic movement in 1896, the political investment of the Greek state at the time, and specific games as they illustrate the convergence of athletic cultures and sociopolitical transformations in the twentieth century.  HU
W 9:25am-11:15am

* WGSS 300b, Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Global South Andrew Dowe

Comparative exploration of relationships between race, gender, sexuality and nation in contemporary Anglophone Caribbean and South Africa in literature, memoir, film and visual arts. Emphasis on transnational approaches to questions of identity, hybridity, citizenship, rights, migration, and visibility in interdisciplinary scholarship.  HU
M 9:25am-11:15am

* WGSS 304a / ANTH 484a, Men, Manhood, and Masculinity Andrew Dowe

Cultural and historic constructions of masculinity explored through an investigation of male bodies, sexualities, and social interactions. Multiple masculinities; the relationship between hegemonic, nonhegemonic, and subordinate masculinities.  SO
M 9:25am-11:15am

* WGSS 306a / AMST 314a, Gender and Transgender Greta LaFleur

Introduction to transgender studies, an emergent field that draws on gender studies, queer theory, sociology, feminist science studies, literary studies, and history. Representations of gender nonconformity in a cultural context dominated by a two-sex model of human gender differentiation. Sources include novels, autobiographies, films, and philosophy and criticism.  RP
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

WGSS 315a / PSYC 342a, Psychology of Gender Marianne LaFrance

Exploration of the relationship between gender and psychological processes at individual, interpersonal, institutional, and cross-cultural levels.  SO
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

* WGSS 317b / ITAL 317b / LITR 180b / RLST 335b, Women in the Middle Ages Christiana Purdy Moudarres

Medieval understandings of womanhood examined through analysis of writings by and/or about women, from antiquity through the Middle Ages. Introduction to the premodern Western canon and assessment of the role that women played in its construction.  Tr
MW 11:35am-12:50pm

* WGSS 324b, Transgender Cultural Production T.L. Cowan

Introduction to Trans- Studies, with focus on transfeminist cultural production in the United States and Canada. Exploration of key theoretical texts; activist histories and archives; and wide range of expressive cultures, including film and video, performance, spoken word, memoir, blogging, and other new media.  HU
MW 2:30pm-3:45pm

* WGSS 325a / ER&M 324a, Asian Diasporas since 1800 Quan Tran

Examination of the diverse historical and contemporary experiences of people from East, South, and Southeast Asian ancestry living in the Americas, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. Organized thematically and comparative in scope, topics include labor migrations, community formations, chain migrations, transnational connections, intergenerational dynamics, interracial and ethnic relations, popular cultures, and return migrations.    HU, SO
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

* WGSS 343b / AFAM 352b / AMST 438b / ER&M 291b / LITR 295b, Caribbean Diasporic Literature Hazel Carby

An examination of contemporary literature written by Caribbean writers who have migrated to, or who journey between, different countries around the Atlantic rim. Focus on literature written in English in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, both fiction and nonfiction. Writers include Caryl Phillips, Nalo Hopkinson, and Jamaica Kincaid.  HU
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

* WGSS 348a / AMST 353a / HIST 160Ja, Selected Topics in Lesbian and Gay History George Chauncey

Readings and discussions focus on recent studies of twentieth-century queer family life, religion, migration, race, urban politics, state regulation, and sexual culture in the United States, and help frame research questions for students to pursue in Yale's archival collections. Attention to methodology and the craft of historical writing.  WR, HU
M 1:30pm-3:20pm

* WGSS 372a, Theory and Politics of Sexual Consent Joseph Fischel

Political, legal, and feminist theory and critiques of the concept of sexual consent. Topics such as sex work, nonnormative sex, and sex across age differences explored through film, autobiography, literature, queer commentary, and legal theory. U.S. and Connecticut legal cases regarding sexual violence and assault.  SO
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

* WGSS 380a / AMST 402a / ANTH 302a / FILM 324a, Gender and Sexuality in Media and Popular Culture Laura Wexler

Investigation of visual media and popular culture in the United States and transnationally. Gender, race, class, and sexuality in relation to the production, circulation, consumption, and reception of media culture. Focus on theories of media and the visual. Significant lab component in which students use media technologies to make and illustrate theoretical arguments.  HU
T 2:30pm-4:20pm

WGSS 405a / EALL 211a / LITR 174a, Women and Literature in Traditional China Kang-i Sun Chang

A study of major women writers in traditional China, as well as representations of women by male authors. The power of women's writing; women and material culture; women in exile; courtesans; Taoist and Buddhist nuns; widow poets; cross-dressing women; the female body and its metaphors; footbinding; notions of love and death; the aesthetics of illness; women and revolution; poetry clubs; the function of memory in women's literature; problems of gender and genre. All readings in translation; no knowledge of Chinese required. Some Chinese texts provided for students who read Chinese. Formerly CHNS 201.   HUTr
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

* WGSS 410b / AFAM 410b / AMST 310b, Interdisciplinary Approaches to African American Studies Heather Vermeulen

An interdisciplinary, thematic approach to the study of race, nation, and ethnicity in the African diaspora. Topics include class, gender, color, and sexuality; the dynamics of reform, Pan-Africanism, neocolonialism, and contemporary black nationalism. Use of a broad range of methodologies.  WR, HU, SO

* WGSS 431a / ANTH 451a, Intersectionality and Women’s Health Marcia Inhorn

The intersections of race, class, gender, and other axes of “difference” and their effects on women’s health, primarily in the contemporary United States. Recent feminist approaches to intersectionality and multiplicity of oppressions theory. Ways in which anthropologists studying women’s health issues have contributed to social and feminist theory at the intersections of race, class, and gender.  SO
T 9:25am-11:15am

* WGSS 440a / ENGL 420a, Midcentury Queer Writing Michael Warner

Covering the period after modernism (Stein, Woolf, Proust) and before Stonewall, this course traces the literature of queerness in a time when it was not yet stabilized by lesbian and gay identity. Readings include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama, on both sides of the Atlantic. Major authors include Isherwood, Auden, Genet, Highsmith, Jane Bowles, Burroughs, Ginsberg, O’Hara, Bishop, Nabokov, Baldwin, Vidal, and Orton.  WR, HU
MW 2:30pm-3:45pm

* WGSS 448a / HIST 177Ja / HSHM 448a, American Medicine and the Cold War Naomi Rogers

The social, cultural, and political history of American medicine from 1945 to 1960. The defeat of national health insurance; racism in health care; patient activism; the role of gender in defining medical professionalism and family health; the rise of atomic medicine; McCarthyism in medicine; and the polio vaccine trials and the making of science journalism.  WR, HU

* WGSS 466b / PSYC 414b, Gender Images: A Psychological Perspective Marianne LaFrance

The nature and psychological impact of exposure to visual images that portray various dimensions of gender, such as sex differences and sexuality, in various media, including advertising, television, film, and Facebook. How to empirically decode gender images in contemporary media as well as assess their range of influences. The overall aim is to understand how visual representations of gender affect psychological identity and well-being.   SO
MW 2:30pm-3:45pm

* WGSS 471a or b, Independent Directed Study Staff

For students who wish to explore an aspect of women's, gender, and sexuality studies not covered by existing courses. The course may be used for research or directed readings and should include one lengthy or several short essays. Students meet with their adviser regularly. To apply for admission, students present a prospectus to the director of undergraduate studies along with a letter of support from the adviser. The prospectus must include a description of the research area, a core bibliography, and the expected sequence and scope of written assignments.