Johns Hopkins Gazette: November 7, 1994

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
     "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

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
     "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.  

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