16:988:530 The Mark of Gender
16:988:530 The Mark of Gender (“Gendered Borders, Changing Boundaries”) Tuesdays, 12:35-3:35 RJC 011 Professor Mary Gossy, Department of Women’s and Gender Studies Office hours: Thursdays, 1:15-3:15 This course analyzes questions of borders, frontiers, boundaries, separations, decisions, and other forms of cutting apart (–cis, that Latin root, will matter) and joining together with specific reference to the differences that gender makes. (Please bring your knowledge of languages other than English into class work.) The matter of gender and its making (its poeisis, a Greek word from which both the English words ‘pottery’ (container) and ‘poetry’ are derived) must be as fully theorized as possible, as language acts out on and with bodies. Theory and poetry, in their broadest senses, save lives in all sorts of interstitial places. The course has a Marxist materialist underpinning and an investment in close reading. We will read Roland Barthes’ S/Z: An Essay, with Monique Wittig, especially her “The Mark of Gender.” Current challenges and possibilities with reference to borders will arise in discussions of Slavoj Zizek’s The Year of Dreaming Dangerously. This text is Zizek’s reading of global attempts at revolution in 2011. Zizek is informed by Lacan, Marx, Hegel, and (should we need him) Alfred Hitchcock. Correctives and illuminations will be applied by way of Audre Lorde’s infinite essays, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” and “Uses of the Erotic: the Erotic as Power.” One of my scholarly interests in this topic has to do with “enclosure,” or the monastic practice of choosing to set limits of space in which one will live out one’s practice of life. Given that most of us do not live in monasteries, and supposing that enclosure can be a life-giving feminist practice, how can that space be shaped, created, opened, closed, and protected? These questions arise for me with respect to a guiding statement about meaning-making, even in the worst of social and political circumstances: “Literature is the cultural work of giving-to-read that which cannot yet be spoken (Barbara Johnson).” Literature helps us live when life is intolerable. It gives rise to a meaning to which we could not say we had access, before we read of it; or before, for those who cannot yet read, to that poetry of meaning that had not yet sung itself free into the mouth. Students should prepare now to bring an article-length secondary text from the graduate program’s reading list or from their own research interests to class for discussion. A final research paper and engaged discussion are the course requirements.