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The Mapping Brandeis Project

English 181A. Making Sex, Performing Gender.

Brandeis University

Spring 2011

MWR 11:10 a.m. - 12:00 noon

Location: TBA 

Associate Professor Thomas A. King

Department of English, MS 023           
Rabb 244  x62149


Making Sex, Performing Gender will investigate sex assignment, genders, and sexualities as categories of social knowledge conditioning our everyday presentations of self and providing cues for interactions among social actors.  The theorists we will read suggest that sex assignments, genders, and sexual identities are neither biologically inevitable nor culturally stable but are social constructions reproduced by social actors and differing across cultural spaces and historical time.  As social actors we repeatedly and coercively produce our sexes, genders, and sexualities in everyday social practices including the medical description and display of anatomy, reading and writing, gesturing, speaking, sitting, walking, seeing, taking space, having sex, and enacting roles within family, corporate, religious, and academic structures.  Because sex, gender, and sexual identities are social, they are neither embodied nor can be analyzed apart from material interactions that include relations of class, race, nationality, ethnicity, and religious and political party affiliation.  If it is true that sex assignments, genders, and sexual identities are neither biologically innate nor psychologically essential, to what extent are differently organized gender and sexual practices possible for both men and women?  Moving beyond binary thinking, our theorists ask:  How many sexes, how many genders, and how many sexualities could there be?


Across the semester, you'll be working on a written or creative project in which you'll offer critical readings of assigned materials and apply theory to the practices or artifacts of your choice. You'll analyze how we perform sex, gender, and sexuality in any domain of social or cultural production, with particular attention to sex/gender performance here on campus at Brandeis.  Examples might include: the gendering of private and public spaces on campus, from dorm rooms to sidewalks to the Shapiro Atrium to campus restrooms; the gendered politics of reading and writing, or of speaking in the classroom; the gendered negotiation of looking and being seen; the display of cultural artifacts in the Rose and the gendering of one's participation as an observer of those artifacts; gender performance during Family Week or at Pachanga, the Bachelor Auction, or the Trisk Drag Contest; organizing on campus in support of LGBTIQ students; the construction of gender in dance rehearsals and sports practices; the construction and regulation of gender in religious and cultural rituals; the gendering of child care on campus; and creating formal performance (dance, theatre, film, music and singing) reflecting on sex, gender, and sexuality.  Through analyzing a particular practice, you'll engage and expand the theories we read.


Course members will participate in THE MAPPING BRANDEIS PROJECT, an online, digital archive or "memory theatre" of spatial practices at Brandeis University.  Surf to: <>.


English 181a is a Women's and Gender Studies elective and a Theatre Arts elective.


English 181a is a Writing Intensive course.


REQUIRED TEXTS  Available at Brandeis University Bookstore and on Reserve.

Grosz, Elizabeth.  Space, Time, and Perversion: Essays on the Politics of Bodies.  New York and London: Routledge, 1995.  ISBN 0-415-91137-0

Mitchell, John Cameron (book) and Stephen Trask (lyrics). Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Overlook Hardcover, 2000.  ISBN: 1585670340.

Muñoz, José Estaban.  Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics.  Cultural Studies of the Americas, Vol. 2.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.  ISBN 0-8166-3015-1.

Nestle, Joan, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins, eds.  GenderQueer: Voices from beyond the Sexual Binary.  Los Angeles and New York: Alyson, 2002.  ISBN: 1-55583-730-1.

Stryker, Susan, and Stephen Whittle, eds.  The Transgender Studies Reader.  New York: Routledge, 2006.


REQUIRED READING PACK, may include additional essays by: Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner, Judith Butler, Lisa Cartwright, Sue-Ellen Case, Hélène Cixous, Lawrence Chua, Mary Ann Doane, Qwo-Li Driskill, Ann Ducille, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Rita Felski, Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Richard Fung, Collette Guillaumin, Judith Halberstam, Donna Haraway, bell hooks, Luce Irigaray, Suzanne J. Kessler, Roger Lancaster, Martin F. Manalansan IV, Kobena Mercer. Laura Mulvey, Marlon Riggs, Gayle Rubin, Mary Russo, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Kaja Silverman, Jennifer Terry, Kathleen Zane, and others.



Luis Alfaro, Downtown

Bloolips and Split Britches, Belle Reprieve

Kate Bornstein, Virtually Yours

Hélène Cixous, Portrait of Dora

Karen Finley, The Constant State of Desire

Craig Hickman, skin & ornaments 

Holly Hughes, with Split Britches, Dress Suits to Hire

Robbie Mccauley, Sally's Rape

Peggy Shaw, You're Just Like My Father

Denise Uyehara, Hello (Sex) Kitty: Mad Asian Bitch on Wheels

George C. Wolfe, The Colored Museum



Bend It Like Beckham, directed by Gurinder Chadha

Bound, directed by Andy Wachowski

Boy I Am: A Documentary, a film by Sam Feder and Julie Hollar.   

Boys Don't Cry, directed by Kimberly Peirce

Hedwig and the Angry Inch, written and directed by John Cameron Mitchell; music and lyrics by Stephen Trask

How Do I Look?, created by Wolfgang Busch for Art From The Heart LLC.

Looking for Langston, a film by Isaac Julien

Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink), directed by Alain Berliner

Paris Is Burning, produced and directed by Jennie Livingston

A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan

Venus Boyz, directed by Gabrielle Baur

Vertigo, produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock

The Watermelon Woman, a film by Cheryl Dunye.

You Don't Know Dick: Courageous Hearts Of Transsexual Men, directed and produced by Candace Schermerhorn and Bestor Cram.



Gender Constructions, Part One: Constructing the Field of Inquiry

Gender Constructions, Part Two: Queer Childhoods

Gender Constructions, Part Three: The Medicalization of Gender

From Masculinities and Femininities to Queer Genders

Biopower and Intersectionality: Materializations of Gender

Mapping Gender / Queering Space, Part One: Phenomenology

Queer Childhoods, Part Two: "Psychosexual Development"

Playing with Freud and Lacan

Que(e)rying the Field, Part Two: From Border Wars to Queer Ethics

Caught Looking: Desire and the Visible

Queer Performativity

Mapping Gender /Queering Space, Part Two: Spatial Politics

Mapping Queer Space, Part Three: Body, Voice, Enunciation

Abjections and Ecstasies

Radical Somatics: Masquerade, Drag, Camp

Mapping Gender, Queering Space, Part Three: Queer Publics

Queered Humanisms: Post-/Transhumanisms and Queer Ecocriticism