Academic Year 2022/2023 - Teacher: MARIA GRAZIA NICOLOSI

Expected Learning Outcomes

According to the Dublin descriptors, students, at the end of the course, will demonstrate:


1) The objective of the course is the acquisition of the knowledge and comprehension of the theories that have transformed the notion of gender in relation to other notions such as sex and sexuality, difference and differences, the body, subjectivity and identity.

2) The Course intends to enhance new theoretical and critical abilities by drawing on feminist epistemology whose perspectives can be profitably employed in the production of new knowledge. The notion of gender will be used as a tool to focus on the interconnections between self and other, culture and society, the social and symbolic dimensions as well as several aspects of representation.

3) Students of Gender Studies will investigate not just “the condition of women” as subjects and objects of enquiry, the relationships between men and women, or same-sex relationships, but they will learn how to recognize and exercise independent judgement on issues and conceptual categories relating to subjects and phenomena of the social and cultural imaginary.

4) Students will be able to describe social phenomena and artistic and literary representations from the point of view of gender, using the vocabulary and the concepts developed by philosophical and political theories in the field of Gender Studies.

5) The objective of developing and refining the students’ learning capacity with regard to gender theories and gender analysis of social and cultural phenomena will be achieved through workshop activities and the active participation of students in the classroom.

Course Structure

Teaching and group discussions in the classroom.

Required Prerequisites

The average linguistic competence expected should match the B2 level. No prior disciplinary competences about the most significant Gender Studies theories are required.

Attendance of Lessons

Optional attendance

Detailed Course Content

This Course will provide a theoretical and practical overview of issues bearing on the representation and self-representation of sexed and gendered identities from different perspectives. Special attention will be given to those theoretical paradigms traditionally marginalised in the humanities with the aim of offering students alternative models for the analysis of – mainly, but not exclusively – British literature and culture (including visual, media, and “pop” culture). The following issues will be analysed in depth:

- Gender and sex: real and imaginary (dis)symmetries.

Gender inequalities and biological differences between men and women.

- Symbolic, social, cultural, and historical construal of difference.

- Gendered apprehension of otherness.

- The body and signification.

- Eros and desire.

- Sexual orientation and identity.

- Feminist studies.

- Gender as a social power relation.

- History of feminist political struggles.

- The different forms of gendered violence.

- The representation of the body in culture, literature, the arts, and the discourses of science and philosophy.

- Gender as rhetorical device in literature, philosophy, the social sciences and new technologies.

The course methodology is based on a multi- and interdisciplinary approach with contributions from several trends of feminist criticism combined with additional analytical tools from diverse disciplines and theories such as Marxism, New Historicism, Freudian and post-Freudian psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, postcolonial studies, lesbian and gay studies, queer theories, sexuality studies, body and embodiment theories, etc.

Textbook Information

Module 2. The Invention of Gender: Masculinity, Femininity and Their Others

1) J. Butler, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative, Routledge, New York and London, 1997 (available as ebook, 1st ed. 2013), 200 pages.

2) J. Pilcher, I. Whelehan, eds, 50 Key Concepts in Gender Studies, London: Sage 2004, only the following entries: Androcentrism (1-2); Dichotomy (24-26); Domestic Division of Labour (pp. 30-34); Double Standard (34-37); Family (43-47); Feminisms (48-51); First Wave Feminism (52-55); Gender (56-58); Masculinities (2-85); The Other (90-92); Patriarchy (93-96); Pornography (96-101); Power (115-119); Public/Private (124-128); Representation (135-139); Second Wave Feminism (144-147); Third Wave Feminism (169-172); Violence (172-175).

Out-of-print material will be made available through the platform Studium UniCT.

Please remember that in compliance with art 171 L22.04.1941, n. 633 and its amendments, it is illegal to copy entire books or journals, only 15% of their content can be copied.

For further information on sanctions and regulations concerning photocopying please refer to the regulations on copyright (Linee Guida sulla Gestione dei Diritti d’Autore) provided by AIDRO - Associazione Italiana per i Diritti di Riproduzione delle opere dell’ingegno (the Italian Association on Copyright).

Course Planning

 SubjectsText References
1A) Investigating motivations and expectations about Gender Studies.B) Presentation of course contents, textbooks, classwork and homework assignments.C) LECTURE 1: Either/And. Sex / gender – Nature / culture binaries problematised through etymology + analysis of excerpt from Woolf’s Orlando.1) ASSIGNMENT 1: Gender before modernity (Home reading of First Handout on gendered figures of Greek philosophy and the disavowal of its Other)2) ASSIGNMENT 2: Home reading of first part of J: Butler’s Excitable Speech with reading aid worksheet for private study (“Introduction: On Linguistic Vulnerability”, pp. 1-41. Class discussion due in two weeks’ time).
2A) CLASS DISCUSSION OF ASSIGNMENT 1: Gender before modernity.B) LECTURE 2: Essential difference? From pre-modernity to early modernity (presentation of anatomical plates read through the lens of Butler’s matrix of intelligibility).1) ASSIGNMENT 3: Genders before modernity: (Home reading of Second Handout on the androgyne myth and the nature of desire).
3A) LECTURE 3: General bio-bibliographical presentation of Judith Butler. Focus on textbook Excitable SpeechB) CLASS DISCUSSION OF ASSIGNMENT 2 (first part of Butler’s Excitable Speech. “Introduction: On Linguistic Vulnerability”, pp. 1-41).1) ASSIGNMENT 4: The materiality of gender difference and attendant political hierarchies from pre-modernity to early modernity (Home reading of Third Handout on the gender of reason; sex preceding gender. Protofeminism: gender equality and women’s forgotten intellectual achievements).2) ASSIGNMENT 5: Home reading of second part of Butler’s Excitable Speech with reading aid worksheet for private study (chaps 1 & 2 “Burning Acts, Injurious Speech”; pp. 43-69; “Sovereign performatives”, pp. 71-102). Class discussion due in two weeks’ time. 

Learning Assessment

Examples of frequently asked questions and / or exercises

How is gender represented?

What are the metaphysical implications of the sex/gender, nature/culture binarisms?

What social relations are implied in gender representations in any given literary/cinematic/televised text?

How was the notion of gender understood in pre-modern times?

What is the difference between “Woman” and “women” in feminist political theory?

What are the most influential theories of sexed corporeality from pre- to post-modernity?