English 212: Thinking Sex: Representing Desire and Difference

Bryn Mawr College

Anne Dalke

TTh 1-2:30

Fall 2002

Vigeland Sculpture Garden in Oslo, Norway

Images on this page can be found at: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exhibitions/vigeland/vig1.html


This course takes its title from Gayle Rubin's (in)famous 1984 essay, "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality." Observing that feminism has not dealt adequately with diverse sexual practices, Rubin calls for a pluralistic sexual ethics, guided by the concept of benign sexual variation. The project of this course is related, but aimed more specifically at language use: we will examine here our ability to put sexual experience into language, and whether doing so is an expression of sexual (or some other kind of?) agency. We will be guided in part by the theoretical work of Elaine Scarry, who, in The Body in Pain, studies the ways in which suffering can be expressed linguistically. We will ask whether (and if so, why) it is "necessary" to "put sex into" language, and explore what various discourses of desire look-and-sound like. Readings will include a range of biological, psychological, graphic, social-scientific, statistical, allusive and literary texts. We will explore the capacities and limitations of each. We will ask what other languages might be used. Can we imagine a curriculum to do this work? Could we teach such a curriculum?


* attending class
* posting weekly on class discussion board
* leading two class sessions
* writing 25-pp.
* designing and teaching a sex-ed curriculum

The students will be assigned to a variety of field sites where sex ed is offered (or might be). They will interview the program directors about the parameters, review the current curricula being used, observe current classes, and interact in a range of other ways with the population for whom they will be writing the curriculum. They will then design a curriculum, attending to the degree it will need to fit (but also expand) a very particular context--and submit it to the director of the site (to do w/ what she will). The students will not actually teach the curriculum on site, but will teach a module to our class.

Praxis I course.

Enrollment limited to 25.

Preference given to Feminist and Gender Studies concentrators.