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  • Writer's pictureAshley Mack

Feminist Critique

Updated: Feb 3, 2020


In this class, we engage with the primary questions driving theorizing within feminisms or about gender liberation. We undertake engagement with feminisms to learn how to critique cultural artifacts from feminist orientations. Performing cultural critique from a feminist orientation requires an engagement with gender as a phenomenon located within multiples systems of power, including patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, empire, and capitalism. The course assumes a basic sympathy but welcomes critical engagement with the feminist goals of gender equity, self-determination, and sex/gender freedom. We will also critically engage how these aims are complicated and challenged in the contexts of racism, nationalism, and class-based exploitation.


This course is made up of primary books and additional journal length readings I will provide links to.

The following books are required:

  • bell hooks, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (New York: Routledge, 2014). ISBN-13: 978-1138821514

  • María Lugones, Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition Against Multiple Oppressions (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003). ISBN-13: 978-0742514591

  • Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003).

  • Scott Lauria Morgenson, Spaces Between Us: Queer Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Decolonization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011). ISBN-13: 978-0816656332

  • Imani Perry, Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018). ISBN: 9781478000815.

  • Raka Shome, Diana and Beyond: White Femininity, National Identity and Contemporary Media Culture (University of Illinois Press, 2014). ISBN-13: 9780252080302

  • Alexander G. Weheliye, Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assembleges, Biopolitics, and the Black Feminist Theories of the Human (Duke University Press, 2014).  ISBN 97808223557018


Short Responses (2 at 15 points each): Two times during the semester you will turn in a short (4-6 pages) paper. This can be a short piece of criticism or a theoretical essay engaging a specific theoretical conversation we have explored.

Final Essay (40 points): In this course, you will write a final seminar paper (15-20 pages) performing a feminist critique of a cultural or rhetorical artifact. Strong criticism is convincing, provocative, driven by curiosity, and suggestive of broader insights into the nature of rhetoric. A successful essay will be suitable for conference submission with zero or minimal revision and, ultimately, journal submission. Co-authorship is allowed as long as both partners confirm that they equally worked on the project.  

Topic Proposal (part of final essay) This 2-3 page essay should briefly describe your artifact for your final essay and make a case for its relevance as an object of criticism.

Show and Tell (15 points): Each class period you will be required to come to class with some example that illustrates a theoretical tension or concept(s) in the reading(s) for that week. Please come prepared to present the artifact and provide one or two questions during the second half of the seminar. The questions should be designed to propel class in engaged and focused discussion of the readings for that week. However, the discussion questions should be focused on theoretical investigation or the application of the theories to the artifact or example.

Minutes (5 points) For the sake of continuity, one enrolled participant will provide a summary of the previous week’s class at the beginning of every seminar (I will distribute a sign-up sheet on the first day of class). While this need not be an exhaustive regurgitation of all that was said and done, it should provide sufficient set-up for the proceeding discussion. A good minute-taker will take especially rigorous notes the week prior and describe highlights from the opening discussion/lecture, as well as the discussion and show and tells.

Participation (10 points) The ideal seminar, in my view, entails robust discussion. We learn best when we play off of each other’s ideas, challenge each other, and even think out loud in order to work out a difficult concept. That said, participation also includes work and communication outside the classroom. It is my hope that the expectation of strong participation goes without saying in a graduate seminar setting.


Unit 1: Introduction to Feminist Critique

Unit 2: The Root

Perry, Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation

Unit 3: The Question of “Woman”

hooks, Aint I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism

Unit 4: Towards a Pluralistic Feminism

Lugones, Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes

Unit 5: Embodied Knowledges

Anzaldúa, excerpt from Borderlands / La Frontera

Unit 6: Reimagining Feminist Critical Methods

Unit 7: Decolonial critique

Mohanty, Feminism without Borders

Unit 8: Settler Colonialism

Morgensen, Spaces between Us

Unit 9: Strategic Whiteness & White Femininity

Shome, Diana and Beyond

Martínez Guillem & Barnes, “Am I a good [white] mother?”

Frye, “On Being White”

Unit 10: Reproductive Justice & Rhetorics of Choice

Unit 11: Gendered Violence

Unit 12: Humanness & Monstrosity

Weheliye, Habeas Viscus

Unit 13: Coalitional Possibilities

Tuck, Smith, Guess, Benjamin, Jones, “Geotheorizing Black/Land”

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