Thursday, April 4, 2013

feminist futures acros the media

Women's Studies 498K
Feminist Futures Across the Media
feminism and cultural studies
Dr. Katie King
2101F Woods Hall
Office telephone: 301.405.7294 (voice mail)
Course Description

What does it take to create new worlds? How is this the goal of feminists? Cultural studies enables feminists to chronicle women's lives as they are lived daily and to explore how cultural materials are the tools of feminist play, of feminist analysis and of feminist change. Elise Boulding tells us "the recovery of play and playfulness for adults is an important part of the recovery of the social imagination." She encourages us to see that "we are ready to enter into the active imagining of something that does not yet exist, the dreaming of the world as we would like it to be." In this class we will engage feminism and cultural studies as gateways to the imagining of worlds and futures across many media. TV, film, the internet, zines, science fiction and other writings of many kinds and in many forms of publication and enactment are some of these media. Marleen Barr coins the term "feminist fabulation" to describe "feminist fiction that offers us a world clearly and radically discontinuous from the patriarchal one we know, yet returns to confront that known patriarchal world in some cognitive way." Playfulness and new forms of knowledge and imagination are necessary to create feminist futures. Becoming familiar with skills and tools for such creation is the point of this course.

Required Texts

Required texts are available at the Student Union Bookstore and also on reserve at McKeldin Library. Also start looking through the "Women's" section in each bookstore you go to, and consider making a trip to a women's bookstore such as Lammas in D.C. (Dupont Circle Metro; 1607 17th St. NW; tel. 202.775.8218.) This is a lesson in feminism too!
  • Pamela Sargent, ed. 1995. Women of Wonder: The Contemporary Years (Vol. 2). Harcourt Brace.
  • Marleen S. Barr. 1993. Lost in Space. U. North Carolina.
  • Melanie Millar. 1998. Cracking the Gender Code. Second Story.
  • Karen Green and Tristan Taormino, eds. 1997. A Girl's Guide to Taking Over the World. St. Martin's.
  • Margaret Cavendish. 1992. The Blazing World and Other Writings. Penguin.
  • Octavia Butler. 1993. Parable of the Sower. Warner.
  • Julia Ecklar. 1995. Regenesis. Ace.
  • Elise Boulding. 1988. Building a Global Civic Culture.Syracuse.
Summary of Assignments and Grading

Since this class meets only once a week, the assumption is that you will spend MORE time than usual reading, writing and preparing for class. Ordinarily you should budget 3 hrs of prep time for each hr of class time, so think approximately 9 hrs prep time each week. (Some of which goes into graded assignments. The more you work on these consistently each week too the better you'll be able to budget your time conveniently.)
  1. Speculative Fiction Project Prospectus DUE 6 OCT [20% grade] Chose a partner to brainstorm with. Explore Barr's Lost in Space. Read around in it. What texts does she refer to that intrigue you? What would you like to read, view, consider? What could you connect across media? Chose one or two chapters in Barr to explore for your project. Chose a text she discusses in them, and then yourself make connections thematically and conceptually to other media: tv, film, web, internet, arts, zines, political theory, activisms. Each partner turn in a two pg. prospectus of a project that connects these. Project may be collaborative or individual.
  2. Speculative Fiction Project DUE 17 NOV [40% grade] Fifteen page written analysis based on project prospectus. Describe briefly in presentation in class. If collaborative, should be closer to twenty five pages.
  3. Learning Analysis DUE 8 DEC [40% grade] Eight to ten page written analysis of the argument of the course and your trajectory through it. Includes analysis of syllabus, of your project, of readings and of new understandings of media and feminist futures, political, artistic, activist.

Reading and Writing Assignments

1 Sept.--The Day Before the Revolution: an introduction to feminist futures What does envisioning the future have to do with the kinds of social change feminists care about? Which media represent futures you find important? How can you learn to engage with feminist futures in media you don't yet know and know how to like? How does this matter? * (handout in class) Le Guin, "The Day Before the Revolution" * make arrangements to see tv shows and films on cable, video and broadcast. Make tv and film buddies in class. Start watching shows like Xena, Star Trek: Voyager, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What others would you suggest? * make arrangements for web access now. Some assignments will be on the web.
8 Sept--Taking over the World Across the Media What are some of the media in which futures are represented? Which ones are friendly to feminism and why? Which ones seem unlikely for feminists envisioning futures and why? How can you tell? * Psych out Barr, Lost, Green, Girl's Guide and Sargent, Women Vol. 2. ("Psych out" means you examine the book itself, as an object, note its date of publication, who published it and what that means, read all prefatory material--Table of Contents, copyright info, acknowledgments, prefaces, introds, anything else of that sort--and all concluding material--author info, permissions, bibliographies, reference materials, index, anything else of that sort. For example, in Green, read everything in roman numerals and everything after p. 201. In Sargent, read everything up to p. 20, and p. 391 and after. In Barr, read everything up to p. 17 and 223 and after.) In Barr also read Chap. 1 "Thelma and Louise"; in Green and Sargent, pick one item from the table of contents to read. Be prepared to say why you chose that item and to discuss it in class.
15 Sept--Octavia Butler Does Not Write About Zap Guns What expectations do you have about science fiction? How does Butler violate them? How does she use them? How does Barr discuss this? What does playing with your expectations have to do with creating feminist futures? Why would feminists talk about utopian futures? distopian futures? other descriptions? * Read Barr, Chap. 8 on Octavia Butler and Read Butler, Parable of the Sower * FOR NEXT WEEK! Make arrangements to see Xena well before hand! Check out web sites; links from my home page.
22 Sept--What's Past is Not Passed: futures of the past, pasts of the future Some SF deliberately confuses us about whether some story is in the past or the future. Why? How does the past have to be changed in order to create new futures? How can we retell stories of the past in order to envision feminist possibility or disaster? How do we know when such pasts or futures are actually "feminist" and why does that matter? * Read McIntyre, "Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand" in Sargent, Women Vol. 1 (on reserve). Psych out Cavendish, Blazing (esp. read intro). Watch at least two episodes of Xena. You might like to see my video tapes of two episodes about Caesar, with a famous kiss between Xena & Gabrielle. These episodes are "The Quest" and "Destiny." Ask me about seeing them, maybe have a viewing party. Look up episode outlines at Xena web sites. See my web site for links. * KATIE WILL BE GIVING A TALK ABOUT XENA ON PANEL 2-4:30PM SATURDAY 25 SEPT ON CAMPUS. YOU ARE INVITED.
29 Sept--Making Worlds: authors and activists What connections between peace and something one might call "feminism" are drawn by these two authors? What role does peace-making play in their feminist futures and in their expectations of women? * Read Cavendish, Blazing, pp. 119ff. (You might like to glance over the Epilogue first, p. 224). Read Boulding, "Women's Movements and Social Transformations" (from 1995 The Future: Images and Processes) and Appendix 2 from Boulding, Building a Global Civic Culture, "Imaging a World Without Weapons" (both on reserve).
6 Oct--Expanding Our Sense of Time and History What kind of "learning community" (Boulding's term) do we need to develop to imagine feminist futures? How does Green's A Girl's Guide contribute to and / or challenge Boulding's assumptions about communities? * Psych out Boulding, Building (all up to p. 3; everything after p 167). Also read Chap. 1 and Epilogue. Read Green, section "Runaway Daughters." 1) Speculative Fiction Project Prospectus DUE
13 Oct--Using the Mind in New Ways: problems of knowing What knowledges do different generations of feminists have that each doesn't know how to see or to value in the other? What knowledges do we have ourselves because we live in this particular historical moment that we don't know how to see or value? How does the social imagination change the future? * Read Boulding, Chaps, 5,6,7 and Green, section "Princess Phone." * Arrange to see Star Trek ahead of time.
20 Oct--Shifting the Terms of Sexualities: adult play across media What is the role of play in creating feminist futures? What kinds of "play" do these materials engage? * Read Barr, Chap. 9 and Green, section "Slumber Party." Also Read Helford, "Kirk's Multiple Masculinities," in 1996 Enterprise Zones (in wmst lib). Watch at least two episodes or one film of something Star Trek. * Arrange to bookmark slash web sites before hand.
27 Oct--Making Fun with the Future: playing is the most important thing we ever do in our lives Transgression and subversion are two forms of play that feminists and avant garde artists and cultural workers engage in. Fans and fandoms are worlds of play. Which of these kinds of play are you familiar with? Which interest you most? least? why? How does humor and joking fit into creating new worlds? * Read the "TREK" section in Penley's 1997 NASA / TREK and Part III: "Transgression and Identity" in Bacon-Smith, 1992 Enterprising Women (both in wmst lib). Read some slash fan fiction, on web, in wmst lib, wherever.
3 Nov--Mirror, Mirroring: bodies across media The body is the site of many kinds of play in this postmodern historical moment. How do feminists understand this play? Which forms are feminist? How do you know? * Read Green, sections "Mirror, Mirror," "The Parent Trap," and "Dear Diary." Watch at least two episodes of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer on tv. [We may watch film "The Body Beautiful" in class, or perhaps have presentation about Jennie-cam on the internet.]
10 Nov--A Future of Different Questions What tools does cultural studies offer for feminist analysis of new technologies? What sort of feminist emerges from or in opposition to digital culture? What futures do Cyberfeminists imagine? *Read Millar, Cracking the Gender Code.
17 Nov--Futures Praxis: the craft and skills of creating futures During this class we will try to create a workshop similar to the one Boulding creates for imaging a world without weapons. What focus should our feminist futures world have? How should we transform Boulding's structure for our purposes? What kinds of questions and pasts will we ask folks to consider? How will we engage memories? How will we produce consequence mapping and world construction? What will be the Future's History? * Read Boulding, Chap 8. 2) Speculative Fiction Project DUE
1 Dec--Workshop on Feminist Futures Having created our workshop on feminist futures, today we will participate in the workshop ourselves. What's the difference between making the workshop and participating in it? * Read Ecklar, Regenesis. Also Read introductions to each volume of Sargent, Women of Wonder. Chose five short stories from the Contemporary Collection to read also.
8 Dec--LAST DAY!--Sharing Our Experiences of Feminist Futures Be prepared to discuss your learning analysis with the class. What was the argument of the course as you analyzed it? Which readings did you focus on? How did you fit into the argument of the class? * Read five more stories from Sargent, Women Vol. 2. 3) Learning Analysis DUE

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