------------------------------------------------------------ Gender and Sexuality Studies This fall, the School of Arts and Sciences is holding a wide assortment of classes in gender and sexuality studies, which bring new perspectives to history, literature, politics and the social sciences. This is the last of a three-part series examining some of the ongoing work. ------------------------------------------------------------ Campus Life Benefits from Gender Studies By Sujata Massey Judith Walkowitz arrived at Hopkins six years ago to launch the Women's Studies Program, with hopes of changing more than curricular life. "When I arrived, I sensed that Hopkins needed, aside from more women's studies course offerings, social and intellectual occasions that focused on gender outside of class and across disciplines. That's what I like to think we have accomplished," said Dr. Walkowitz, chair of the program and a professor in the Department of History whose latest book, City of Dreadful Delight, examines late-Victorian London. As the professor hoped, the Women's Studies Program has evolved into a meeting place for all--undergraduates who are drawn to the non-circulating library in the program's cozy office suite, and professors and graduate students who network at symposia, lecture series and brown bag lunches. The Women's Studies Program organized a small group of faculty, many of them new to gender studies, who met for two years to review each other's papers in progress. Word of mouth about the group spread enough that 60 are now participating in the second series. This year, more than 1,000 undergraduates will enroll in 61 courses cross-listed with Women's Studies, which requires at least one-third of class lectures and readings to relate to gender. "People have told me they feel the effect [of the Women's Studies Program] even in classes that are not cross-listed," Dr. Walkowitz said. "Students are raising issues of gender in the classroom before teachers introduce the issues. This is very gratifying to me." The program was born out of a request from the Provost's Committee on the Status of Women for more courses including scholarship by and about women. The university started the program in 1989, and received additional funding from the Ford Foundation through 1994, and from the Mellon Foundation, which currently funds a yearly postdoctoral fellowship. Two postdoctoral fellows in English and History are responsible for teaching and advising students and planning colloquia and lecture series. Visiting fellows teach and write The postdoctoral fellows, on leave from teaching appointments at other universities, have found at Hopkins the luxury of working intensely on their own books and research while teaching just one self-designed class per term. Maria Lima, the program's first Mellon fellow, enjoys the small size of the undergraduate seminar she teaches on the literature of Caribbean and other post-colonial women. Most of the novels on her syllabus were part of her University of Maryland dissertation, now being reworked into a book, Decolonizing Genre. "In African countries, the Caribbean and other places that became independent after World War II, the genre that seems to be favored is the novel of development," Dr. Lima said. Her research argues for the interconnections between that choice and Third World people's imagery of development. The work of contemporary Caribbean novelists uses growth of self as a metaphor for growth of a young nation, Dr. Lima said. With the colloquium she's planning, Dr. Lima seeks to challenge teachers of post-colonial literatures. Next spring's discussions on the theory and practice of post-colonial literature will examine the way Caribbean and African writers' work has become incorporated in the canon of English-language literature. "As teachers and theorists, we are looking at ourselves," Dr. Lima said. "How are we actually teaching these literatures in First World classrooms?" Dr. Burton, whose fellowship is sponsored by the School of Arts and Sciences, continues to teach this year as the Women's Studies Program senior lecturer. Her areas of interest are the history of Indian women and British feminists in colonial India. She organized a colloquium on the history of sexuality and colonialism in South Asia in spring 1994, and currently teaches an undergraduate seminar on women, feminism and colonialism in British India. Her book, Burdens of History: British Feminists, Indian Women and Imperial Culture 1865-1915, discusses the motivations behind British women's interest in India. "Concern for India was a phenomenon across British women's circles. All of them regarded India and Indian women as a site of social and political intervention," Dr. Burton said. Out of the crowd, only a few actually went to India: female doctors, mostly, who served in women's-only hospitals. British women were more interested in arguing their case to the government because by appropriating Indian women as a colonial clientele, they would enhance their own claims as women on the imperial nation state. The British feminists issued their government an imperative, Dr. Burton said: "In order for Indian women to be empowered, British feminists believed that women in Britain had to be emancipated first." Revealing the self-serving nature behind British women's interest in India opened Dr. Burton to criticism when she began her work. "When I first started giving papers, women in the feminist movement were not particularly happy. I've had it said, 'You're tarnishing the reputation of our foremothers.' One of the reasons I wrote this book is that I'm a feminist, and feminism needs to confront its imperfect past to debate issues like colonialism in an informed way," Dr. Burton said.
Go to Gazette Homepage