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Upcoming Courses

Fall 2024

GSS 1111: Gendered Lives

Taught by Elizabeth Covington

Counts toward: First Year Writing Seminar   |   AXLE: Perspectives

This course examines how literature and cultural criticism represent and theorize human lives as gendered lives. Using contemporary critical techniques and historical approaches, the course will explore how gender is determined intersectionally through environment, personal choice, and social expectations.


GSS 1150-01/02: Sex & Gender in Everyday Life

Taught by Kristin Rose

Counts towards: Intro   |   AXLE: Perspectives   |    Eligible for African American and Diaspora Studies and Latino/Latina Studies

This course is about sex, sexuality, and gender. Centrally, we will be interrogating what these terms mean, and how they might mean differently for different people in different contexts. Through our readings, discussions, and film analyses, we will consider how issues of sex and gender come to be impacted by their intersections with race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, age, and disability, both historically and contemporarily. This course will provide you with the toolkit you will need to develop the kinds of persuasive, thoughtful arguments that responsibly engage the themes and questions of the class at hand.


GSS 1150-03/04: Sex and Gender in Everyday Life

taught by Kristen Navarro

Counts towards: Intro   |   AXLE: Perspectives   |    Eligible for African American and Diaspora Studies and Latino/Latina Studies

Sex and gender roles in culture and society. Gender, race, and class. Women and men in literature, art, culture, politics, institutions. Repeat credit for students who have completed 1150W.


GSS 1150W: Sex and Gender in Everyday Life

taught by Stacy Simplican

Counts towards: Intro   |   AXLE: Perspectives   |    Eligible for African American and Diaspora Studies and Latino/Latina Studies

Sex and gender roles in culture and society. Gender, race, and class. Women and men in literature, art, culture, politics, institutions. Repeat credit for students who have completed 1150W.


GSS 1160: Sex and Society

Taught by Jessica Lowe

Counts toward: Intro   |     AXLE: Perspectives

Sex is everywhere, or it seems to be. Yet sex is not a monolith, not something static and unchanging. Instead, sex and sexuality are particular to social, cultural, and historical contexts; sex is both socially constructed and historically specific. Beginning with these ideas, this course divides our ensuing discussion into five sections: sexual bodies, sexual acts, sexual identities, sexual violence, and sexual politics. In these thematic sections we will investigate the historical construction of sex and sexual identity in North America, the social experience of sex and sexual identity in the twenty-first century United States, and the critical cultural discourses that emanate from these histories and experiences. We will read historical primary sources, scholarly secondary sources, and engage with an array of modern cultural commentary to think deeply about sex and with sex in both the past and the present.


GSS 1160: Let’s Talk About Sex

Taught by Jennifer Gutman

Counts toward: Intro   |   AXLE: Perspectives

It is difficult to talk about sex. As a topic charged with shame, doubt, secrecy, trauma, misinformation, ideology, desire, and bipartisan conflict, one cannot help but wonder: how to even begin such a conversation? This course aims to introduce students to the discourse of sex in society. We will read and view primary sources, scholarly articles, archival documents, cultural ethnographies, and contemporary literature and media that examine what it means to engage in discussions about sex and where such conversations feel meaningfully absent. Core units of this class will revolve around anti-LGBTQ+ policy and legislation, sex education and consent, the safe sex movement, and language-based forms of queer reclamation and resistance. Course assignments will ask students to examine how topics related to sex in society are communicated in public and private contexts, including critical analysis of sex in the media, engagement with public archives, and development of creative media projects that contribute to specific discourse communities. By the end of this class, students should feel equipped to critically analyze sex-related discourse in their social environments and view sexual literacy as a social responsibility.


GSS 2245: Feminist Geographies 

Taught by Lara Lookabaugh

AXLE: Perspectives

This course explores the gendered, colonial, and racialized articulations of the spaces we inhabit – from our classrooms and campuses to sites and struggles across the globe. We will take seriously bodies and land as sites of theorizing and start with the geographies of our campus landscapes to expand our analysis to global and transnational locales. We will understand the global as not “out there” in a distant land but as unevenly and unequally connected to us through historical and ongoing processes of colonialism, extraction, consumption, and activism. We will start from Indigenous feminist theories of the connections between bodies and territory (Cabnal, Zaragocin, Milán, Paredes) and land as pedagogy (Simpson) to understand how these processes connect the landscapes we traverse daily and global struggles.

In this course you will complete two research projects. The first will take us to university archives and across campus to learn about the gendered and racialized geographies of the Vanderbilt and the city of Nashville. In the second project, you will look for connections between systems of difference in our present space and a national or transnational topic to analyze using the concepts and skills we’ve learned over the semester. We will create a public class project using ArcGIS Storymaps to share our research beyond the classroom.


GSS 2246: Banned Books

Taught by Rory Dicker

Counts towards: Sex, Sexuality, and Society   |   AXLE: Humanities and the Creative Arts

This course examines novels that are among those most frequently challenged, censored, or banned from schools, colleges, and libraries in the United States. Many of these books are considered modern literary classics, and several of them have won prestigious awards. But these books also contain language and ideas that have sometimes been considered politically subversive, socially disruptive, sexually explicit, or offensive. We will study the historical, cultural, and political context for such texts and consider why they have been found offensive by certain individuals. Throughout the course, we will discuss intellectual freedom, censorship, and advocacy in relation to banned books.


GSS 2256: Literary Lesbians

Taught by Kristin Rose

Counts towards: Sex, Sexuality, and Society   |   AXLE: Humanities and the Creative Arts

From the nineteenth century to the present, this class explores how girls’ and women’s intimacies are monitored, policed, and represented in literature and culture. Examining a variety of fictional texts and films, we will consider the impact of race, class, religion, and disability on expression and reception of lesbian relationships. In doing so, we will also give careful study to literary form, history, and the poetics of queer womanhood.


GSS 2259W: Reading and Writing Lives

Taught by Nancy Reisman

AXLE: Humanities and the Creative Arts & 2000-level and above W course | Eligible for American Studies/CAL Major

No previous creative writing experience required | This course is eligible for English Department credit

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” This was the poet Muriel Rukeyser’s view, and our course takes on significant ways of telling, illuminating truths, bearing witness to other lives, using language and image to convey one’s own vision. This course is a hybrid of textual readings, artist conversations, discussion of craft, and original writing. It’s a sampler of works, possibilities, and explorations of our own. We’ll consider fiction, poetry, essays, graphic novel, and personal documentary from a wide range of artists, some of whom will visit our class. Your writing will include short response papers, a related longer analytical piece; we’ll focus on process, paths to your strongest work. We’ll also delve into your own storytelling with short creative fiction and nonfiction (flash forms), and discuss other creative options.


GSS 2260: Histories of Drag Performance

Taught by Staff

AXLE: Perspectives

Cultural analysis of drag performance and histories of drag practice in ancient Greece, Elizabethan and Restoration England, Japan’s Edo period, British and American stages 17th-21st centuries.


 GSS 2610: Womanism in Global Context 

Taught by Danyelle Valentine

Counts towards: Global Fem   |   AXLE: International Cultures

Survey of global Womanist (Black Feminist) theory and praxis. Race, class, sexuality, spirituality, and activism. Controversies over female bodies.


 GSS 3030: Feminist Disability Studies

Taught by Stacy Simplican

AXLE: Perspectives

Disability through a feminist lens. Changes in the meaning of disability over time and across cultures. Intersectional focus on gender, race, ethnicity, class, age, sexuality, and nationality. Embodiment, eugenics, performance, social movements, and violence.


 GSS 3307: Racial Justice

Taught by Shatema Threadcraft

AXLE: Perspectives

Major contemporary racial justice debates. Theories of racial justice; inclusion of women of color, LGBT, and trans persons of color. Articulations of race, racism and pathways to racial justice. Intersectional feminist thinkers and queer theorists.


GSS 3850: Independent Study

Taught by Elizabeth Covington

Counts towards: Advanced   |   AXLE: NONE

A program of reading and research for advanced students in an area of women’s and gender studies arranged in consultation with an adviser. Prerequisite: 1150 or 1150W. May be repeated for a total of 6 credits if there is no duplication in topic, but students may earn only up to 3 credits per semester of enrollment. [1-3; maximum of 6 credits total for all semesters of WGS 3850]


GSS 8301: Gender and Sexuality: Feminist Approaches

Taught by Laura Carpenter

Interdisciplinary introduction to the major debates, theoretical terms, and research methods in feminist, gender, sexuality, and queer studies.