WMST-L logo

Teaching Butler and Haraway

The following brief discussion of strategies for teaching difficult
texts by Judith Butler and Donna Haraway took place on WMST-L in
February 2001.  For additional WMST-L files now on the Web, see the
WMST-L File Collection.
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2001 14:56:45 -0500
From: Anna Silver <silver_ak @ MERCER.EDU>
Subject: Teaching Butler and Haraway
In my feminist theory course, I will be teaching selections from
Butler's *Gender Trouble* and Haraway's essay "The Cyborg Manifesto."
I'm wondering whether anyone on the list has suggestions for how to
teach the texts, either in terms of making very difficult material
accessible/relevant for students, and in terms of activities/exercises
that work.  We have just finished reading Gilligan and Hartstock.

Thanks in advance--

Anya Silver

Dr. Anya Krugovoy Silver
Assistant Professor of English and Interdisciplinary Studies
Director of Women's and Gender Studies
Mercer University
1400 Coleman Ave.        "Tell me, what is it you plan to do
Macon, GA 31207-0001        with your one wild and precious life?"
(912) 752-5641                                   --Mary Oliver
silver_ak  @  mercer.edu
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2001 17:12:58 -0500
From: Ilana Nash <inash @ BGNET.BGSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Teaching Butler and Haraway
As a doctoral student in a feminist theory class, who just finished reading
_Gender Trouble_ 2 weeks ago, I can tell you what would have helped me:
Tell your students that Butler's argument comes only in about the last 30
pages of the book.  The whole rest of the book is a summary and disputation
of all the other previous thinkers on the subject.  This will save them an
enormous amount of puzzlement and frustration, as they will have been
whacking their heads against walls trying to find the damn argument.

Second, prepare them by telling them that Butler is a classically trained
philosopher who uses the traditional method of "beating the reader into
submission" by recounting all the pre-existing arguments for the purpose of
revealing their limitations & flaws.  This method of argumentation, and this
"shape" of presentation (for lack of a better word) are not at all common
anymore in many disciplines. Knowing beforehand what the overall shape of
the book is will help your students to stay on track as they try sorting
through her various layers of argument.

Third, warn them about Lacan.  Perhaps give them a handout that explains
what Lacan means by Real, Imaginary, etc., so that they can follow what
Butler says about psychoanalytic feminist theorists.  The Lacan is a pretty
big sticking point.

Last, tell them that this book is enormously indebted to Foucault's theories
in the _History of Sexuality_ and _Discipline and Punish_.  If they haven't
read those texts, I'd recommend giving them a brief summary of what F. says
about discourses and the circulation of power.  That will give them
something to hang on to.

Ilana Nash
American Culture Studies
Bowling Green State University
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2001 19:04:19 -0330
From: Jeff Braun-Jackson <jjackson @ MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA>
Subject: Re: Teaching Butler and Haraway
I taught Butler's *Gender Trouble* in an undergraduate feminist theory
course last fall.  Although the students grumbled because Butler's
writing style is dense, what worked for me was that I gave my class an
intro lecture on postmodern theory and postmodern feminism.  Once we got
into Butler, the main points became more apparent.  The other thing I
did was show some clips from one of Madonna's videos (Down Under Tour)
to try to bring Butler's theories about gender as performative to life
through the lens of popular culture.  The students quite liked this and
it helped to get the point across.  Best of luck!

Jeff Braun-Jackson
Department of Political Science and Women's Studies Program
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John's, NF  Canada
Date: Sat, 10 Feb 2001 19:46:26 -0500
From: Joan Callahan <buddy @ POP.UKY.EDU>
Subject: Re: Teaching Butler and Haraway
Why not have your students read Susan Bordo's work instead of Butler's?
Bordo does much the same, but values accessiblility in her writing.
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 22:09:44 -0500
From: Cynthia Deitch <deitch @ GWIS2.CIRC.GWU.EDU>
Subject: Re: teaching Butler and Haraway
I teach a selection from Gender Trouble found in Nicholson's Second Wave
anthology or one in the Kolmar and Bartkowski Feminist Theory Reader.
I show the video "Juggling Gender" by Tami Gold in conjunction with the
reading by Butler from Gender Trouble.  This illustrates some ways of
viewing gender as performance and seems to work very well
with both undergraduate and graduate students.  I
believe I got the idea the idea to use "Juggling Gender" from a long ago
posting on wmst-l.

Last semester, the week before reading Butler in a first year grad
seminar, we had an optional field trip to a local drag king show.

For Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto I provide as supplemental reading a web
link to a Feb. '97 interview with/article about Haraway in Wired magazine

Cynthia Deitch
Women's Studies Program
George Washington University

For information about WMST-L

WMST-L File Collection

Top Of Page