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Willamette University

900 State Street
Salem, Oregon 97301

503-370-6300 voice

Women's and Gender Studies View this department's website

Feminist scholarship, which arose in the late twentieth century in response to the historically masculine bias of the academy, explores the important but often hidden ways that gender and gender inequality have shaped, and been shaped by, our cultural, social, and personal worlds. In recent years, scholars in the field have increasingly recognized that gender and gender inequality cannot be understood in abstraction from other axes of social identity and power, especially those of race, class, sexual orientation, and nation. Thus, the program in Women's and Gender Studies offers students the opportunity to examine, from both disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives, gender's intersections with other dimensions of social power and identity. In addition to addressing these intersections, courses may focus on developments within feminist thought, on applications of feminist scholarship to a particular field of study, or on selected topics concerning gender and gender inequality. All Women's and Gender Studies classes encourage students to think systematically and critically about gender and to confront the challenges of moving toward a more equitable world.

Structure of the Program

Courses counting towards the Women's and Gender Studies Major and Minor fall into one of three groups.

Group A: Basic courses focusing on traditions of feminist thought or activism

Group B: Courses that emphasize the intersection of gender with some other axis of social power or identity

  • ANTH 258 (US) Women in Islam (1)*
  • ENGL 116 Topics in Am Lit: Peculiar Intimacies (1)*
  • ENGL 438 Literature and Sexuality (1)
  • HIST 131 (TH) Historical Inquiry: Gender and Society in East Asia (1)*
  • HIST 131 (TH) Historical Inquiry: Gender and Power in Modern Africa (1)*
  • RHET 350 Race, Gender and the Public Sphere (1)
  • SOC 358 Special Topics in Sociology (.5 or 1)

Group C: Courses that examine particular disciplines or issues from feminist perspectives as well as other relevant courses on gender or women

  • ANTH 345 Sex and Gender in Anthropological Perspective (1)
  • CLAS 247 (IT; 4th Sem) Women in Roman Literature and Life (1)
  • CLAS 260 (IT; 4th Sem) Gender and Sexuality in Greek Society (1)
  • ENGL 355 (W) Feminist Criticism (1)
  • FREN 437 (IT) Female Voices in African Literature and Film (1)
  • HIST 262 American Women's History (1)
  • HIST 306 History through Biography: Women in World History (1)
  • PHIL 335 history, Sexuality and Power (1)
  • POLI 303 (AR) Topics in Political Theory: Politics of Sexuality (1)*
  • POLI 351 Women in American Politics (1)
  • PSYC 354 (US) Psychology of Women and Gender (1)
  • REL 256 (IT) Goddesses and Ghosts: Images of Women in Chinese Traditions (1)
  • REL 336 Women in World Religion (1)
  • SOC 121 (W; US) Gender Roles in Society (1)
  • SOC 358 Special Topics in Sociology: Sexualities (1)
  • SOC 430W-01 Families (1)
  • SPAN 435 Contemporary Latin American Women Writers (1)
  • SPAN 438 Contemporary Spanish Women Writers (1)
  • SPAN 445 Topics in Medieval and Early Modern Spanish Literature (1)
  • WGS 258 Women in the Arts (1)

Courses that may be in Group A, B or C depending on the content of the specific Topic

  • WGS 342 Topics in FEminist Analysis (1)
  • WGS 358 Topics in WGS (1)
  • WGS 390 Independent Study in Women's and Gender Studies (1)

*Topics courses with multiple iterations. Please only count the listed topics for WGS.

Requirements for the Women's and Gender Studies Program Major (8 Credits)

Students will complete eight courses, including:

  • WGS 353 (W) Feminist Theory (1)
  • WGS 499 Senior Thesis (1)
  • One course from Group B
  • An additional course from either Group A or Group B
  • Any four electives from Group A, B, or C which can include up to two courses by petition**

** Courses that may be counted by petition for the major are those that are offered one time only or have variable emphasis but that, in a given semester, focus on scholarship in Women's and Gender Studies.

Requirements for the Women's and Gender Studies Program Minor (5 Credits)

Students will complete five courses, including:

  • WGS 353 (W) Feminist Theory (1)
  • One course from Group B
  • One additional course from Group A or Group B
  • Two additional courses from Group A, B, or C which can include one course by petition**

** Courses that may be counted toward the minor by petition are those that are given one time only or have variable emphases but which, in a given semester, focus on the analysis of gender and gender inequality and which draw on current scholarship in Women's Studies.


  • Melissa Buis Michaux, Associate Professor of Politics, Chair
  • Mary R. Bachvarova, Assistant Professor of Classics (Sabbatical 2009-2010)
  • Emily Drew, Assistant Professor of Sociology and American Ethnic Studies
  • Marva Duerksen, Assistant Professor of Music (Sabbatical Fall 2009)
  • Leslie Dunlap, Assistant Professor of History
  • Meredyth Goldberg Edelson, Professor of Psychology
  • Ortwin Knorr, Associate Professor of Classics
  • Sally Markowitz, Professor of Philosophy
  • Cecily McCaffrey, Assistant Professor of History
  • Frann Michel, Associate Professor of English (Sabbatical Fall 2009)
  • Pamela A. Moro, Professor of Anthropology
  • April Overstreet, Associate Professor of Spanish
  • Wendy Boring Petersen, Assistant Professor of History
  • Sharon L. Rose, Professor of Biology
  • Rachel Kinsman Steck, Assistant Professor of Theater
  • Patricia E. Varas, Professor of Spanish
  • Xijuan Joanna Zhou, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Course Listings

WGS 134 (AR) Thinking Sex (1)

This course examines assumptions, arguments, evidence and underlying values about biological sex differences, sexuality and gender construction and asks: Who is a wo/man? Is sex a stable category? What is the future of sex and why does it matter? Drawing on interdisciplinary perspectives and approaches, we further analyze the packaging of sex by consumer culture, global markets and social movements with the goal of exposing some of the varied uses of sex and the implications of what we view as sex differences.

Prerequisite: Open to 1st and 2nd year students only.

General Education Requirement: Analyzing Arguments, Reasons, and Values

  • Offering: Annually
  • Instructor: Staff

WGS 245 Feminism, Gender and Society (1)

This interdisciplinary course will explore the ways that gender inequality structures aspects of personal lives and social institutions. We will examine a variety of feminist perspectives on work, family, sexuality and culture and will consider the role of class, race and ethnicity in feminist thought. Emphases will vary with instructor.

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Michel, Markowitz, Dunlap

WGS 256 (IT) Goddesses and Ghosts: Images of Women in Chinese Tradition (1)

[Crosslisted with REL 256]

This course examines images of women represented in various forms of texts including Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist scriptures, novels, poetry, Chinese art and films. Through close reading of these texts from 600 BCE to modern times, the course seeks to explore women's power, spirituality, and gender roles in different periods of Chinese history. The course will also focus on a comparison between the "woman" as an ideological construct and the actual living experiences of women, and between images constructed by male and female writers.

Mode of Inquiry: Interpreting Texts; Asia Cluster

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Zhou

WGS 258 (TH) Women in the Arts (1)

This seminar in women's history examines the lives and contributions of women in the fine arts primarily in Western Europe from the medieval period through the twenty-first century. A series of case studies facilitates historical understanding of women fine artists in the church, in secular society, in the domestic sphere, and in popular culture. Topics include: women's artistic products (music compositions; works of visual art; literature and poetry; videos); women's lives as fine artists in their respective historical period, demographic, and cultural milieu; women's representations of themselves as fine artists in letters and other documents; and present-day biographical narratives of women fine artists.

Mode of Inquiry: Thinking Historically

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Duerksen

WGS 336 Philosophy and Feminism (1)

[Crosslisted with PHIL 336]

Do traditional philosophical theories promote ways of thinking that perpetuate gender inequality? We will evaluate feminist criticisms of epistemology, ethics, social theory and aesthetics. We will also examine feminist alternatives to traditional philosophical perspectives.

  • Offering: Alternate years in fall
  • Instructor: Markowitz

WGS 342 Topics in Feminist Analysis (1)

[Crosslisted with POLI 303]

This course provides an opportunity for qualified students to examine, from an interdisciplinary perspective, a particular topic in feminist analysis. Seminar topics and staff will change from year to year. Closed to freshmen. May be taken a second time.

Prerequisite: Two previous courses focusing on feminist scholarship or instructor's permission

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Markowitz

WGS 353 (W) Feminist Theory (1)

This interdisciplinary course will examine such basic issues as gender difference and its relationship to women's subordination; the intersections of gender with other dimensions of social identity and power (e.g., class, race/ethnicity, sexuality, nation); the way gendered discourse shapes social reality. These issues will be discussed from a variety of feminist theoretical perspective (e.g., those influenced by liberalism, Marxism/socialism, psychoanalysis, radical feminism, post-modernism, and post-colonialism). Closed to freshmen.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

Prerequisite: One previous Women's Studies course

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Staff

WGS 358 Topics in Women's and Gender Studies (1)

This course enables faculty and students to focus on a specific topic in Women's and Gender Studies within an interdisciplinary framework. Topics will involve an exploration of some combination of sex, gender, sexuality. Designation of specific topics and relevant cases and theories will be made at the time of course offering.

Prerequisite: One credit in Women's and Gender Studies or consent of instructor.

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Staff

WGS 390 Independent Study in Women's and Gender Studies (1)

Qualified students will undertake a program of independent research with a Women's and Gender Studies faculty member. Closed to freshmen.

Prerequisite: WGS major or minor and consent of instructor

  • Offering: Every semester
  • Instructor: Staff

WGS 499 Senior Thesis (1)

Senior Women's and Gender Studies major will research and write senior papers on topics of their choice.

Prerequisite: Senior Women's and Gender Studies majors

  • Offering: Every semester
  • Instructor: Staff