Rowan University
Ellen Miller, Ph.D.
Department of Philsophy & Religion
Rowan University
Glassboro, NJ 08028
Dr. Ellen Miller
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Introduction to Philosophy   (Mon. & Weds.)
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Contemporary  Moral Problems
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Feminist Theory
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Jump to:
 Goals and Objectives
 Policies and Procedures
 Required Texts
 Assignments and Grading
 Contacting Professor Miller
 Writing Assignments
 Details on News Analysis and Position Paper Assignments
 Final Essay Guidelines
 Updated Schedule
 Web Links

Goals and Objectives  

In this course, students will critically analyze, explore, and discuss diverse readings in Feminist Theory. In order to appreciate the history of feminism’s contribution to philosophy, we will engage with readings from eight categories of feminist thought: Liberal, Radical, Marxist, Socialist, Psychoanalytic, Existentialist, Postmodern, Global, and Ecofeminism. We will ask about the connection between theory and practice by examining the methodological principles embraced within feminist thought. Feminist thinkers ask how theory can address real life problems that invite social and personal transformation. Even though not all feminists think alike, most contemporary feminist thinkers tend to agree that racial, classist, ageist, ableist, and heterosexist oppressions are usually inseparable.

The format for the majority of our classes involves active exchange and dialogue in the classroom. In order to fully participate in these discussions, please read the assigned material prior to the scheduled class.

If you have a disability which may require assistance or accommodations, or you have questions related to any accommodations for testing, note takers, readers, etc..., please speak with me as soon as possible. Students may also contact the Office of Student Affairs (755-4534) with questions about these services.

Policies and Procedures  

Academic Honesty Policy
All forms of academic dishonesty, namely, cheating on exams, submitting plagiarized or fabricated work from another person’s book or web-site, submitting another person’s work without informing the instructor, or engaging in any kind of deception that would bear on the evaluation of submitted work will be dealt with in a strict manner. If you find yourself questioning whether you have documented your sources properly, it is your responsibility to come see me about these issues prior to submitting your assignment. If you find yourself thinking about submitting work that is not your own due to pressure, frustration, or perfectionism, please come talk to me. I am here to help you resolve these issues before they become a problem for your academic career at UTC and beyond. The University has an Honor System that is printed in the Student Handbook.

Attendance and Lateness Policy

This course will emphasize dialogue, exchange, and debate with your peers and the professor. It is important that you attend class so that you can participate in the discussions. There will be opportunity for students to practice writing through informal class writing activities. Please respect your classmates and professor by coming to class on-time.

Late Papers
Students are allowed two “grace days” which can be applied towards one assignment or spread out over two assignments. After you have used your 2 day grace period, late papers will receive a grade depreciation. If a student requires further extensions, a request for an extension beyond any assignment date must be made in writing, with supporting reasons, at least 72 hours prior to the due date. Unexcused late submissions will result in a grade depreciation

Required Texts  

Rosemarie Putnam Tong, Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction, Second Edition, Westview Press, 1998.

Nancy Tuana and Rosemarie Tong, editors, Feminism and Philosophy: Essential Readings in Theory, Reinterpretation, and Application, Westview Press, 1995.

Please Note: I will also put materials on reserve in the Lupton Library for students to read and/or photocopy. I will provide a handout indicating the bibliographic information for these materials in class.

Assignments and Grading  

Essay #1(25%) 4-6 pages; Due:September 26

Essay #2(30%)8-10 pages;Due:December 11

In-Class and Assigned Writing (10%)Questions will be Given in Class and posted on our Course Website for Reference.

Oral Presentation (20%) Students choose either a position paper or News Analysis (Other formats are welcome--please come see me first).Student’s Choice of Topics Determines Date of In-Class Presentation. This may be a group project if you choose (2 or more students). I will discuss the details of presentations in class.

News Analysis or Short Position Paper (15%)If your oral presentation was a news analysis, submit a position paper in writing. If your oral presentation was a position paper, then hand in a written version of your news analysis. These can be handed in at any time during the course. However, the last date for submissions is November 30, our last scheduled class meeting.

Contacting Professor Miller  

Office Hours

MWF 8:50-9:50 a.m.
TTh 10:40-11:40 a.m.
or by Appointment, or just stop in

Office: 232G Holt

Philosophy and Religion Department: 232 Holt
Dept. Fax 755-4153

Writing Assignments  

Due Nov 21

1. Why does Tong place Bordo's article under the rubric "Postmodernism"?
2. What are the challenges that confront African American women who wish to challenge not only racism but sexism as well?

Due Nov 9
1. Explain the concept of "reading like a woman" in "Beautiful Exiles" and "Women, Morality, Fiction." Do you agree with Wiseman's claim that reading in this way can retrieve meanings unavailable in dominant ways of reading? Why or why not?

Questions due Nov 14
1. From our readings and lectures concerning "Postmodern Feminism," do you think postmodern feminists are interested in feminist theory to the exclusion of feminist practice? Explain your answer.

2. Why might postmodernist aesthetics lead to what Newman calls an art where "even feelings of victimization are transformed into artistic triumph...effective form of social criticism" (Newman, 196). What kinds of experiences do you think Newman has in mind? What sorts of artworks might fall under her description?
September 7, 2000
Do you think that Bartky's picture of becoming a feminist is bleak or liberating? Both? In what ways? Do you agree with her description of feminist consciousness as "the consciousness of a being radically alienated from her world and often divided against herself, a being who sees herself as victim and whose victimization determines her being in the world as resistance, wariness, and suspicion?" (p. 404)
Tuesday, September 26, 2000 (Due next Tuesday)
Why has 'essence' become something that we can't live with and can't live without?

Details on News Analysis and Position Paper Assignments  

1) Presentations: See Previous Handout 2)Paper Length: Approximately 2 pages.

News Analysis
News: Your presentation/paper should analyze and discuss a media story or event. In your work, you should analyze the gender assumptions in the news event and/or its presentation in the media, and should make use of feminist and other theories from class readings to understand the way in which gender is understood in your example.

Purpose: Analyzing a news story will help you put theory to work in the world around us.

Method: Choose a news story from the current media (past 5 years or so). You can get your story from print sources (newspapers or news magazines); online sources (e.g., Starnet, the New York Times [], the London Times); or broadcast media (radio or television). I have posted web sites on our course web page that you may find helpful. If you are presenting your news analysis to the class, please provide the rest of the class with access to the source on the day of your presentation, either through Xerox copies or tape. You should mark Xerox copies so that your audience can quickly understand the points you wish to make.
Your presentation should briefly summarize the context and content of the news story. Most of your time should be devoted to a feminist analysis, either of the story itself, or of the presentation of the story (e.g., what are the assumptions made about women by the writer, how are women erased or fore grounded in the account, etc.), or both. The best News Analyses will connect the news event to specific readings and/or theorists.

Assessment: Your News Analysis presentation will be graded on the complexity and thoroughness of your analysis, your incorporation of course readings and theories into that analysis, and clarity of presentation (including marking of handouts).

Position Papers:
You can analyze 1 article/ issue or compare and contrast several articles/issues (from either of our course books). The main goal of this assignment is to articulate your own position on the reading(s) you choose and provide support for your position. This entails that you will engage in a thoughtful and fair dialogue, including details concerning the position you are evaluating. Think of yourself as thrown into an on-going debate. You have to report what the participants are saying to someone unfamiliar with the issues and concerns under discussion. You will need to be as fair as possible in order to avoid confusion.

Suggested Format:

1.A statement that establishes the problem or controversial issue that your paper will examine
2.A summary of the issues
3.Definitions of key terminology
4.Quotation and paraphrase of sources to build the controversial nature of the subject, properly documented
5.Background to establish a past/present relationship
6.A thesis to assert your position -IMPORTANT!
1.Arguments in defense of your position
2.Analysis of the issues, both pro and con
3.Evidence from your reading, including paraphrases and quotations as appropriate, properly documented
Reestablishment of your thesis to make clear your position, which should be one that grows logically from your analysis and discussion of the issues

Final Essay Guidelines  

Essay #2: Due Date-December 5 (Tuesday) Papers Due At the Beginning of the Make-up Class. As stated earlier this term, LATE PAPERS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED without prior permission of instructor. This is also the last day to turn in your short position paper/news analysis.

Length: 8-10 pages (double-spaced). This is a suggested length guideline. Please respect this guideline, but do not worry if you are a few pages over the guideline. Submitting a paper a few pages under the 8 page suggestion should be avoided though.

For your final papers, I would like you to choose your own topic. The topic must be substantially different from your first essay. However, you can write on the same topic as your presentation (as long as this was not the subject of your first paper of course!).

In choosing a topic for your essay, you will want to look for some particular issue or argument that gives rise to philosophic and feminist criticism. Your paper should introduce the topic with enough summary of the relevant author's (or authors') views to set it into context. You should then present the criticism and discuss possible responses on the part of the author(s) in question. Your own view should emerge from a careful consideration of the author's views and the criticism leveled against it.

It is not necessary to reach a firm conclusion. More important is understanding and exploring the issue. My emphasis in evaluating the paper is on the coherency of your explanations and the reasons you present for your own positions or criticisms of others' positions. Your paper should display an understanding of the relevant discussions and lectures provided on those issues and questions that apply to your topic.

I do insist, on the other hand, that the paper actually engage with the issues and arguments dealt with in this course. You can choose to write on an issue that has not been covered in class if you connect this issue with the relevant course materials. For example, you can write about issues concerning nuclear weapons by analyzing the ethics of care and socialist feminist principles even though we have not specifically discussed nuclear warfare. What's wanted is original criticism--not a manifesto proclaiming your views on the general subject, but an exploration and sustained engagement with the branches of feminist theory, concepts, and problems discussed in the course.

This is not primarily a research paper, though your individual topic may require outside reading. Your paper must critically analyze and show the courage to take a position on the issues under discussion.

One of my main goals in this course was for you to learn enough about the various branches within feminist theory to apply this theoretical issue to issues of practical import. The interconnection between theory and practice was one of the recurring questions throughout the course. This issue is one possible way to approach and frame your final essay. You can apply the research methodology of 2 feminist methodologies to an issue of personal interest.

Please follow the essay guideline distributed for your first essay.

Possible Essay Topics
Evaluation of psychoanalytic feminism in light of our readings on the essentialism debate in feminist theory
Elements of an adequate feminist theory
A Phenomenology of Becoming a Feminist
Difficulties for Feminists who attempt to re-read the Philosophical Canon
Reading the texts of Pornography, Beauty, and Art from a feminist perspective
Strengths and Weaknesses of Postmodernism(s) for Feminist Thought
The relationship between spirituality and feminism (See Ecofeminism and Hart's article "Taking the Risk of Essence"
Interconnections between Gender and Class in Global Feminism and its Significance for Other Feminist Methodologies

Updated Schedule  

Nov 14: Writing Assignments due: Continue with Newman article and Postmodernist Philosophy, Discuss Bordo's article,Karen Walker's presentation

Nov 16: Read Global Feminism: FT 212-245;(F&P: Collins) 526-547

Nov 21: Jessica Schmidt's Presentation: Read F&P: Lugones and Spelman) 494-507

Nov 28: Eco-feminism: FT 246-276

Nov 30: No Class

Dec 7: Final Papers Due by 4 p.m. (No Late Papers Accepted): Also: Last day to hand in Short Papers and Coursework

Please note: I have to cancel office hours on November 28th and will be out of town from Nov 28th after class until Dec 2nd. I will check in for messages on Friday, November 30th and will return calls on Friday (please leave a phone number where you can be reached). Please come see me prior to that time to discuss papers in detail. I am available to review drafts and answer any questions you have.

Please let me know if there any questions I can address.

Web Links 

US Society for Women in Philosophy

Hints for Oral Presentations

Feminist Theory Website

A comprehensive site that covers individual feminists, branches within Feminism, and Global Feminism.

Feminism Resources

Men's Movement

Women's Studies at UTC

Contains useful links to other websites as well as information about Women's Studies on campus.

Feminist News

A good resource for your news analysis assignment.

MacKinnon/Romano Debate

MacKinnon/Romano Debate #2

Another story on the debate surrounding Romano's review of MacKinnon's work.

Globe and Mail article on Radical Feminism

A possibility for a news analysis

NY Times on the Web

An on-line version of the NY Times. A good place to look for news articles for analysis.

Copyright 2001 Dr. Ellen Miller. All rights reserved. Document last modified