Show More


Course Catalog

Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

In the past 30 years, Women's Studies has produced a compelling body of interdisciplinary and multicultural scholarship that has challenged traditional interpretations of history, experience, culture and even science. Women's Studies courses (offered in 16 academic departments) encourage students -female as well as male -to reconsider the diversity of women's experiences in the past and the changing roles of women and men today. Women's Studies at DePauw offers outstanding opportunities to develop critical thinking, interpretive and writing skills as well as the cultural knowledge necessary for a liberal education. Many of the nation's finest graduate schools offer advanced degrees in Women's Studies. Women's Studies majors find employment in the same broad range of fields as do graduates of other liberal arts disciplines. The Women's Studies major and minor offer students an opportunity to concentrate on an area of passionate interest while acquiring skills, and interrogating perspectives, from many different disciplines. Women's Studies majors complete an ambitious independent research project of their own design in the senior year. Students may choose to major in Women's Studies, or simply to take one or more courses in the field. Many students begin with Introduction to Women's Studies (WS 140), but one can begin almost anywhere: there is a range of courses cross-listed with traditional departments from which to choose. For minors, Feminist Theory (WS 340) serves as the capstone experience. Studying in an off-campus DePauw-sponsored or GLCA program, such as the Comparative Women's Studies Program in Europe, is encouraged for majors and minors. Appropriate courses from off-campus may be applied toward the minor or major upon approval by the director of Women's Studies.


Requirements for a major

Women's Studies

Total courses required Ten
Core courses WS 140, WS 340, WS 350, WS 440.
Other required courses At least one of the following:
  • WS 250, Queer Theory, Queer Lives
  • WS 260, Women of Color in the U.S.
The remaining courses, one of which must be at the 300-level, may be drawn from the following regularly offered courses and/or from affiliated electives approved by the Women's Studies Steering Committee:
  • WS 262, Transnational Feminisms
  • WS 342, Women, Health and Social Control
  • WS 362, Feminist Approaches to Environmentalism
  • WS 355, Women in Education
  • WS 332, Women, Culture and Identity
Number 300 and 400 level courses Four
Senior requirement and capstone experience The senior requirement consists of the completion of WS 440.
Additional information Students must also take at least 16 courses outside the list of women's studies courses. No more than two courses of off-campus study may be counted toward the major. Studying in an off-campus DePauw-sponsored or GLCA program such as the Comparative Women's Studies Program in Europe is encouraged for majors and minors. Appropriate courses from off campus may be applied toward the major upon approval by the Director of Women's Studies.
Recent changes in major The list of core courses and other courses was revised effective 7/1/2012.
Writing in the Major

The Women's Studies program is committed to writing that engages an audience about complex issues regarding gender, race, class, and sexuality. Social change is inextricably linked to language and powerful writing and the program is designed to provide students with the skills to write persuasively. The fundamental skills of argumentation and data analysis are emphasized in all Women's Studies classes, and are given special priority in the two courses designated for the Writing in the Major requirement: WS340, Feminist Theory, and WS350, Feminist Inquiry.

In WS340, students practice and develop writing skills geared towards argumentative papers based on theoretical concepts of feminism. The course investigates various types and styles of feminist reasoning and writing, while also looking at how feminist analyses can help approach and attack some of the urgent problems of today. In this course, students are asked to develop two research projects, in line with their own interests and commitments, and sustained by scaffolded writing assignments.

In WS350, students engage in the methods, ethical practices and concerns, and social implications of conducting feminist research. The course provides an in-depth overview of both feminist methodology, including theories of what constitutes an ethics of feminist research, and appropriate methods to conduct inter/disciplinary research for outcomes in support of social justice. In this course, students conduct their own research project that is grounded in one of the feminist methodological frameworks discussed and that utilizes one or more of the tools of inquiry (or methods) outlined in the syllabus.

Together, these courses will provide students with the ability to write about both the philosophical principles of feminism and to exercise its methodology. Both skills are necessary to engage in the work of critique and social justice that feminism has shaped.


Requirements for a minor

Women's Studies

Total courses required Five
Core courses WS 140, WS 340
Other required courses At least one of the following:
  • WS 250, Queer Theory, Queer Lives
  • WS 260, Women of Color in the U.S.

The remaining courses, one of which must be at the 300-level, can be drawn from the following regularly offered courses and/or from affiliated electives approved by the Women's Studies steering committee.

  • WS 262, Transnational Feminisms
  • WS 342, Women, Health and Social Control
  • WS 362, Feminist Approaches to Environmentalism
  • WS 355, Women in Education
  • WS 332, Women, Culture and Identity
Number 300 and 400 level courses Two

Courses in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

WGSS 140

Introduction to Women's Studies

This course introduces some key issues in contemporary women's studies and provides a starting vocabulary and background in the field. Because Women's Studies is an interdisciplinary field, readings come from a number of different areas, including literature, history, philosophy, psychology and sociology.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Social Science-or-Privilege, Power And Diversity 1 course

WGSS 190

Topics in Women's Studies

An interdisciplinary exploration of a particular theme, area, or period, with respect to issues of women and gender.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1 course

WGSS 197

First-Year Seminar

A seminar focused on a theme related to the study of women. Open only to first-year students.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1 course

WGSS 225

Sexuality, Culture and Power

An exploration of the diverse ways in which human sexualities have been conceptualized, molded, policed and transformed in particular cultures, social contexts, moral climates and political terrains. Investigated are how the seemingly personal and natural world of sexual desire and behavior is shaped by larger societal institutions (e.g., law, medicine, religion) and by cultural ideas. Also examined is how social categories that have primacy in a culture,(e.g., gender, race, class and age) are expressed in sexual ideas, behavior and politics. Prerequisites: SOC 100 or sophomore standing.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
SOC 100 or sophomore standing 1 course

WGSS 250

Queer Theory, Queer Lives

An interdisciplinary exploration of the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and intersexed people through historical, sexological, scientific and literary texts, media respresentations and autobiographies. We will examine scholarly and activist definitions of sexual identity, especially as these have intersected with race, class, gender, ethnicity and age, and discuss ways sexual desire often escapes, complicates or is mismatched with fixed gender roles and dominant cultural categories. We will also discuss the insight queer perspectives can bring to our understanding of masculinity and femininity, cultural constructions of the body, the social construction of heterosexuality, and the future of difference.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Social Science-or-Privilege, Power And Diversity 1

WGSS 260

Women of Color in the U.S.

The course draws on the disciplines of history, sociology, anthropology and literary study to offer an in-depth look at the experiences and concerns of women of color, with an emphasis on hearing women's voices. The course is divided approximately in thirds: accounts of the experiences of various ethnic groups (e.g., African-American, Native American, Asian); issues facing women of color in the U.S. today (e.g., culture, the body, family, work); and theory. The class involves frequent writing (formal and informal), including a research paper and in-class presentations.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Privilege, Power And Diversity 1 course

WGSS 262

Transnational Feminisms

An interdisciplinary exploration gender and sexuality in a transnational context. We examine a variety of global processes, including colonialism and present-day capitalism and development studies; topics may also include military conflict, transnational ecofeminisms, and the use of art in developing solidarity across transnational feminist movements.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Social Science-or-International Experience 1 course

WGSS 290

Topics in Women's Studies

An interdisciplinary exploration of a particular theme, area or period, with respect to issues of women and gender.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1 course

WGSS 332

Women, Culture and Identity

Drawing on work in sociology, psychology, and cultural and feminist studies, the course investigates how women from various ethnicities, socio-economic strata, and age groups make sense of gendered expectations, opportunities, and constraints. Particular emphasis is placed on the ways women encounter and resist circumstances they find limiting of their human potential. Prerequisites: W S 140 or permission of instructor. Cross-listed with SOC 332, Women, Culture and Identity.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Social Science W S 140 or permission of instructor 1 course

WGSS 340

Feminist Theory

This course focuses on contemporary feminist thought. Throughout the semester, students emphasize the relationship between feminist theory and feminist practice and ways in which feminism changes our fundamental understanding of the world.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1 course

WGSS 342

Women, Health and Social Control

In this course, we will focus on the intersection of health, illness, and gender. This course combines classic and contemporary feminist and sociological ideologies to explore how health and illness have been defined and experienced for different women across historical time and space. There is considerable attention to how conceptualization of women (and their bodies) as inferior has led to the medicalization and control of women's bodies. We will especially highlight the role of women¿s health movements in shaping how women's health is understood, embodied and contested. We start the course addressing theoretical frames for understanding gender and health. We then assess contemporary women's health status. The course then loosely follows a life course approach in that we explore women's experiences with menstruation, sexuality, reproductive technologies, childbirth, and menopause. Prerequisites: one course in sociology or permission of instructor.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Social Science One course in sociology or permission of instructor. 1 course

WGSS 350

Feminist Inquiry (formerly WS 240)

This course offers hands-on experience in the interdisciplinary field of Women's Studies. Students will survey research methods by reading excellent examples that show how various research methods have been applied; by reading about, and discussing, the practical details and the ethical issues involved in doing research; and by applying research methods themselves in class exercises and the undertaking of an individual project. Prerequisite: W S 140.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Social Science W S 140 1 course

WGSS 355

Educating Women

Women in Education is an interdisciplinary discussion of how girls and women have affected and been influenced by K-12 schooling and post-secondary education over the last 125 years. Drawing on the fields of education studies, sociology, women's studies, and history, we will examine areas such as the rise of co-education, the feminization of teaching, 'feminine' learning styles, and the impact of race, ethnicity, sexuality, and social class on women's aspirations, interactions, and experiences within learning institutions. Prerequisite: WS 140 or permission of instructor. Cross-listed with EDUC 350.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Social Science W S 140 or permission of instructor 1 course

WGSS 362

Feminist Approaches to Environmentalism

Are women really closer to nature? Are women more deeply impacted by environmental degradation than men? Why do women make up the majority of the world's environmental activists? We will debate these questions and more as we consider how ecological narratives and practices are constructed at the intersections of gendered, raced, classed, and sexual identities. This course explores the work of artists, activists, and scholars to show how women and men have been at the forefront of struggles to reclaim their homes, communities and lands from patriarchal and (neo)colonial oppression. Topics include: ecofeminism, environmental racism and the environmental justice movement, queer ecologies, food politics, ecological economies, and eco-spiritual traditions. By the end of the term, you will be able to map some of the key debates in these fields and determine your own beliefs about philosophies and best practices for social-environmental justice.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1 course

WGSS 370

Topics in Women's Studies

An interdisciplinary exploration of a particular theme, area or period, with respect to issues of women and gender.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1/2-1 course

WGSS 390

Independent Study

Independent Study.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1/2-1 course

WGSS 440

Women's Studies Senior Thesis

Required of all Women's Studies majors. Students design and carry out an original, interdisciplinary project or paper on a women's studies topic. The thesis is directed by the Women's Studies coordinator or other designated faculty member, and the candidate is interviewed by an interdisciplinary committee of three.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1/2-1 course

WGSS EXP

Senior Thesis Workshop

Any student, regardless of major, who is writing a senior thesis or project with a focus on women and/or gender is invited to sign up for this writing workshop. Students will exchange drafts and share strategies for research and revision. Pass/Fail.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1/4 course