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Thinking Sex:
Representing Desire and Difference
English 212
Bryn Mawr College
Fall 2003
Anne Dalke
TTh 10-11:30

Vigeland Sculpture Garden in Oslo, Norway

A gallery of Vigeland's sculptures, including those on this page, can be found at
Gustav Vigeland: An Appreciation

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?

Requirements:

* 3 hours/ week: field site praxis work
* twice/week: attending and participating in class
* weekly: posting in class web forum
* 25 pp. of writing, including a 12-pp. (or equivalent) project for use at your praxis site.

The students will be assigned to a variety of field sites where the language and education of sexuality is a matter of interest. They will interview their program directors about the parameters of the projects, review the current programs, observe and participate in current activities, and interact in a range of other ways with the clients served at the site. They will then devise a project that will meet the needs of that particular context, and submit copies at semester's end both to the site director and the course instructor.

Praxis I course.
Enrollment limited to 25.
Preference given to Feminist and Gender Studies concentrators.




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