Beyond the Wave
Feminism from de Beauvoir to Pussy Riot
Periodization of feminist progress has traditionally relied on the wave metaphor, but is it, in fact, universal? What happens if we include the context of the former Soviet bloc into our zone of vision? While in the aftermath of winning suffrage Western feminist thinkers were dreaming about “a room of one’s own,” after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution the New Soviet women were actively exploring career paths prompted by movies featuring female pilots and tractor drivers. The Marxist promise of gender equality did not deliver momentarily (if at all), but it did affect both representation and lived experience of its female subjects in ways uncharacteristic for the West. Expanding our ideas of gender histories, this course looks at how the feminist cause developed in the West and ‘the socialist East,’ sometimes in synch, sometimes in parallel, sometimes in direct contrast to the other. Focusing on the opposition of the public and private, we will read well-known pieces by Simone de Beauvoir next to lesser known Soviet stories; thinking about the state penitentiary power and protest we will watch episodes of Orange is the New Black alongside the trial of Pussy Riot. We will explore the feminist potential of the American pin-up and the Soviet musical comedy as well as ways of seeing in Hollywood and Soviet film. Using the former socialist space as a testing ground for some of the claims of Marxist Feminism we will consider whether Soviet gender politics has potential to offer alternative histories and probe theoretical propositions. This course will challenge you to think across media working with literature, film, posters, and fashion magazines, learning to annotate images and videos online, and write blogposts. You will also have a choice of presenting your final paper in the form of a multimedia digital piece.
After completing this course students will:
1. Have developed their ability to present independent and reasoned analysis of primary and secondary sources relevant to the study of feminist thought, adopting appropriate academic conventions;
2. Be familiar and able to evaluate several theoretical approaches to women’s history, as well as situate primary sources in a wider historical and cultural context;
3. Be able to present their work in the digital form and acquire skills of Internet publishing