Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

The concentration in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies brings together a wide range of academic fields (history, sociology, literature, philosophy, religion, and psychology, to name just a few) united by a common interest in the ways in which various cultures express ideas about gender, race, class, and sexuality. As a discipline, WGS pays close attention to how social norms have changed over time, and how the “nature versus nurture” debate has shaped public policy, civil rights, health care, and education, as well as the depiction of women and men in art, literature, and the popular media. The WGS program prides itself on the intense intellectual engagement of its students. Students have conducted research on a variety of topics, from women's political campaigns, to public financing for safe sex education, to the representation of lesbians and gay men in traditional literature. Many of the courses in WGS seek to bridge the gap between academia and “the real world” by investigating the relationship between theory and practice — a subject that has long motivated WGS scholarship. Whatever the subject, WGS courses are characterized by a strong commitment to rigorous analysis and critical thinking, as well as a spirit of open and sustained intellectual inquiry.

Students may pursue two secondary fields: a general secondary field in Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies, or a more specific secondary field in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies. Both of these secondary fields will appear as “Women, Gender, and Sexuality” on students' transcripts. The general WGS secondary field allows students to pursue a broad interest in studies of women, gender, and sexuality outside of their work for their concentrations. For the LGBT secondary field, students may take courses on topics such as the history of LGBT social movements; literary, cinematic and other representations of queerness; and political and theoretical constructions of sexuality and sexual difference. For both of the secondary fields, students take one foundational course in the history, methodology, or theory of gender and sexuality studies. The flexibility of the four remaining course requirements allows students to sample from the rich course offerings in WGS while developing core areas of interest.

Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Requirements: 5 half-courses

  1. One of the following: WGS 1200, 1210, or 1300.

  2. Four other courses drawn from the WGS course offerings. Students may petition to have one course from another department count toward the secondary field. Petition forms are available in the WGS office.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies

Requirements: 5 half-courses

  1. A WGS 1200 or 1210 class on queer theory or LGBT history.

  2. Four other courses drawn from the list of LGBT classes on the WGS website. At least two of these courses must be offered through the WGS program. Students may petition to have a course count count toward the secondary field that is not on the WGS list of approved courses. Petition forms are available in the WGS office.

Other Information

Students may petition to have one course from another department count toward the secondary field. Petition forms are available in the WGS office.

Students may petition to have a Freshman Seminar or a course from study abroad, Harvard Summer School, or other Harvard Faculty count for the secondary field. If the Freshman Seminar or the summer school course is taught by a faculty member with an appointment in WGS, the course would count as a “WGS course.” If the course is not taught by a WGS faculty member, it would count as one of the student's non-WGS course; other courses would need to be drawn from WGS course offerings.

No more than one course can be taken Pass/Fail or SAT/UNS. There is no grade minimum (as long as it is a passing grade) for the courses taken for secondary field credit.

Students pursuing a secondary field in WGS will receive preferential access to limited enrollment courses. Concentrators will be admitted first, but secondary field students will be the next preferred group.

Advising Resources and Expectations

Students who are considering a secondary field in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality should meet with the Director of Studies, Caroline Light (clight@fas.harvard.edu) or the Assistant Director of Studies, Linda Schlossberg (617-496-9853, schloss@fas.harvard.edu), as soon as possible. Students should also inform the program using the Secondary Fields Web Tool in order to receive preferential access to limited-enrollment courses. Secondary field students are required to have an advising meeting with the Director of Studies or the Assistant Director of Studies by the end of their junior year to discuss their plans of study.

Please note: Students are responsible for observing the Registrar's deadlines for filing secondary field forms in order to receive institutional acknowledgment of their completion of a secondary field. Visit the secondary field website to determine appropriate deadlines.