Simone de Beauvoir

Feminist Philosophy

Class Web Site:

Philosophy 3356, Fall 2004 (Section: 12162) Professor Cynthia Freeland, Room: 303 Agnes Arnold 10:00-11:30 a.m. TTH

Office: 511 Agnes Arnold Hall, (713) 743-3206, Office Hours TBA


This course is an advanced survey of recent developments in feminist philosophy, focusing on the unique nature of "theory" in feminist thought and on intersections between feminist philosophy and other developing disciplines within feminism. Topics include the definitions of gender and sex, ethical theories, feminist epistemologies, disputes about essentialism, and assessments of the position of women in the history of philosophy. We will study and compare the assumptions and aims of various types of feminism (radical, socialist, liberal, psychoanalytic, French, multicultural, "Third Wave," etc.). No philosophy background is assumed, but readings will typically be fairly long and abstract. The class will involve roughly 50% lecture and 50% class discussion in small groups; grading will reflect the requirements of regular reading, writing, and group participation. For details, see below.

Required texts

Feminist Thought, Rosemary Tong.Westview Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8133-3295-8
Feminism and Philosophy, Rosemary Tong and Nancy Tuana, eds. Westview Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8133-2213-8
Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation, New Expanded Edition, Barbara Findlen, ed. Seal Press, 2001. ISBN 1-58005-054-9

Recommended Texts

Philosophy of Woman, Mary Mahowald, ed.

Course Outline and Requirements in More Detail

There will be six units in the course, covering different varieties of philosophical approaches to and bases for feminism. These are covered to some extent in chronological order, that is, in relation to the successive waves of theorizing that have emerged within feminist thought. The primary text for these units is Rosemary Tong's Feminist Thought (FT). A key reading for each unit will be assigned from the collection of original sources, Feminism & Philosophy (F&P), edited by Nancy Tuana and Rosemary Tong. Because "third wave feminism" is the newest variety of feminist thought, as we proceed, we will also read selections from the anthology Listen Up: Voices from the next feminist generation (LU), edited by Barbara Findlen. We will use these readings to get a different perspective on each of the theoretical approaches we are considering as we proceed.


1. Students must write a short, informal paper almost each week in reaction to the assigned readings. More specifics will be announced in class with due dates and topics made clear at the start of every two-unit section of the course. Some papers will be exegesis papers explaining the ideas or arguments of complicated articles; others will be "response papers" discussing any personal response to assigned essays from the Listen Up volume. Credit for these papers is P/F. The relevant score for this part of your final grade will be based on the number of papers successfully completed.

2. Three Take-Home Exams, each covering two units of the course. These will be graded with letter grades by the professor and will be typed, essay-format papers. Take-Home Topics will be announced a week in advance of the due date. The final take-home will be due on Tuesday, December 7th..

3. (Required for Honors credit only) An Independent research paper, five pages, variable format, on a feminist author, artist, or theorist. Recommended: Gayatri Spivak, bell hooks, Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Spelman, Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, Iris Young, Martha Nussbaum. Class report on research due November 30th.

Grading: Unit Papers 20% each; Informal Papers 30% total; Class Participation 10%.

This plan that may be altered as we proceed, depending on how the schedule seems to work and on student reactions to the readings and other assignments. I will try to keep the latest version on the course web site.

Outline and Assignment Schedule for Units 1 and 2

Unit 1. Liberal Feminism

Main reading: FT Chapter 1, pp. 10-44.

Primary source reading: Melissa Butler in F&P, pp. 27-47

Key names: Wollestonecraft, Hume, Mill, Taylor, Friedan, Baier, Nussbaum

Third Wave reading: Essays in LU, pp. 3-47

Unit 2. Radical Feminism

Main reading: FT Chapter 2, pp. 45-93

Primary source reading: Catharine MacKinnon in F&P, pp. 134-161

Key names: Firestone, Dworkin, MacKinnon, Frye, Hoagland

Third Wave reading: Next six essays, LU pp. 51-100

Outline and Assignment Schedule for Units 3 and 4

Unit 3. Marxist and Socialist Feminism

Main reading: FT Chapter 3, pp. 94-129.

Primary source reading: Heidi Hartmann in F&P, pp. 104-128

Key names: Angela Davis, Ann Ferguson, Nancy Hartsock, Marx, Engels

Third Wave reading: Next six essays, LU pp. 103-149

Unit 4 Psychoanalytic and Gender Feminism

Main reading: FT Chapter 4, pp. 130-172

Primary source reading: F&P, Chapters 4 and Chapter 7

Key names: Freud, Lacan, Horney, Deutsch, Mills, Chodorow, Dinnerstein, Noddings, Gilligan, Gallop

Third Wave reading: Next six essays, LU pp. 153-205

Outline and Assignment Schedule for Units 5 and 6

Unit 5 Multicultural and Global Feminism

Main reading: FT Chapter 7, pp. 212-245

Primary source reading: Patricia Hill Collins in F&P, pp. 526-547

Key names: Gayatri Spivak, Angela Davis, Patricia Williams, Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Spelman, Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa

Third Wave reading: Next six essays, LU, pp. 209-250

Unit 6 Postmodern Feminism

Main reading: FT Chapter 6, pp. 193-211.

Primary source reading: Irigaray in F&P, pp. 457-466

Key names: Judith Butler, Luce Irigaray, Donna Haraway, Patricia Williams

Third Wave reading: Next six essays LU, pp. 253-293

Web Resources

Society for Women in Philosophy Web Page
Last updated August 23, 2004