Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Dr. Caroline Light, Director of Studies

The study of gender and sexuality has long constituted a vibrant and engaging arena for interdisciplinary work and intellectual inquiry. At the heart of this field is the assertion that gender and sexuality are fundamental categories of social organization and power that are inseparable from race, ethnicity, class, nationality, and other categories of difference. The concentration in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGS) brings together a wide range of academic fields in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences (including history, literature, visual studies, anthropology, sociology, political science, psychology, and biology, to name just a few). As an interdisciplinary field of study, WGS pays close attention to how social norms have changed over time and how they vary across cultures. The concentration also actively investigates the ways in which ideas about gender and sexuality have shaped public policy, civil rights, health care, religion, education and the law, as well as the depiction of women and men in art, literature, and the popular media. WGS courses are characterized by a strong commitment to critical thinking, as well as a spirit of open and sustained intellectual inquiry.

The WGS program prides itself on the intense intellectual engagement of its students and its close collaboration between students and faculty. Beginning with the small-group sophomore tutorial (WGS 97), WGS provides students with a rigorous grounding in the theory and methodology of gender and sexuality studies, helping students hone their skills in critical analysis, close reading, and effective research and writing. All full concentrators must enroll in WGS 1300 (methodology), one of the two other foundational courses numbered WGS 1200 (historical approaches) or WGS 1210 (theories of gender and sexuality), and a WGS or WGS-related 1400+ level seminar. Concentrators may also fulfill concentration requirements by taking courses on WGS-related topics in other programs and departments. (A list of pre-approved courses from other departments is available on the WGS website.) Students will work with concentration advisers to develop cohesive plans of study that are primarily situated within the humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences.

Starting with the class of 2011, WGS basic requirements will consist of 12 half courses, including the core courses – 97/Sophomore Tutorial, either 1200 or 1210, and 1300 – seven electives, a WGS course at the 1400+ level, and the WGS capstone during senior year. This new course - available for the first time in spring 2011 – will be structured as a small advanced reading group (instructed by a member of the core WGS faculty) that focuses on a set of WGS-related analytical questions chosen collaboratively by the students and instructor. The capstone will be open only to senior concentrators and will provide a more rigorous and sustained study of topics touched upon in earlier courses. The course will culminate in a 20-page independent research project.

Honors Track: Students pursuing Honors eligibility must complete a total of 13 half courses. Beginning in fall 2009, with members of the class of 2012, students interested in pursuing Honors recognition will apply to enter the Honors track directly following completion of WGS 1300 (methodology). The director of studies or assistant director of studies will review applicants' previous academic records as well as their performance in WGS 1300 and may also elect to interview students before admission to the Honors track. Students selected for the Honors track will enroll in the semester long Junior Tutorial (WGS 98r), a one-on-one course in which students explore a particular area in depth, grapple with sophisticated readings, and research and write a major analytic essay. The junior tutorial syllabus is designed by the tutor in consultation with the student and often serves to prepare the student for a thesis project in his or her chosen field of interest. During senior year, Honors students enroll in WGS 99a/b, where they design, research, and write senior theses. Honors-eligible students work individually with a thesis adviser, and they also participate in a group senior tutorial. Senior theses for all concentrators (including joint concentrators) must feature a WGS-related topic. In keeping with the interdisciplinary character of WGS, senior theses may draw upon a wide range of approaches, including literary analysis, ethnography, scientific investigation, archival research, visual analysis, and cultural or political critique. Honors students also take an oral examination that covers both the senior thesis and general knowledge of the field.

LGBT Focus: We expect that every WGS student will develop a facility with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Studies in their years in the program. However, some students may decide to concentrate their academic work on LGBT studies within WGS. These students should focus their junior tutorials and thesis projects on LGBT or queer subject matter, and they should take at least five additional LGBT courses, including a WGS 1200 or 1210 class on queer theory or LGBT history. (A list of LGBT-approved classes will appear on the WGS website under the “Courses” category.) For more information about the LGBT Studies track, please see the director of studies or the assistant director of studies.

Joint Concentrations: A joint concentration is an excellent choice for Honors-eligible students who want to integrate their studies, building toward a final combined thesis project. Students can pursue a joint concentration with WGS and a range of other concentrations including African and African American Studies, Anthropology, English, Environmental Science and Public Policy, History and Literature, History and Science, Literature, Mathematics, Music, Philosophy, Religion, Romance Languages, Social Studies, Sociology, and Visual and Environmental Studies. Since course requirements vary among the individual programs, students planning to concentrate jointly should meet with the director of studies to obtain specific guidelines.

Secondary fields: Students may also complete secondary fields either in Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies, or in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) studies. (See the section on Secondary Field Information for more details.) These secondary fields allow students to pursue an interest in either women, gender and sexuality studies or in LGBT studies outside of their work for their concentrations. Students must take one foundational course, which will ground them in the history, methodology or theory of gender and sexuality studies. The flexibility of the remaining four course requirements allows students to sample from the rich course offerings in WGS while developing core areas of interest.

We advise first-year students and sophomores interested in WGS to take a WGS course at the 1100 level. Students interested in WGS as a concentration or a secondary field should meet with either the director of studies or the assistant director of studies.

Further information is available in The Concentration in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Handbook and on our website. Students may wish to consult the Guide to Gender-Related Courses, Programs, and Other Resources, available in the WGS main office or online.

REQUIREMENTS

Basic (Capstone) Requirements
12 half-courses

For students entering the concentration in 2009-2010 or later, the basic requirements are as follows:

1. Required courses:

    1. WGS 97:  Sophomore Tutorial.  Students should take this course by the end of their sophomore year.  Restricted to concentrators.

    2. One of the foundational courses: WGS 1200 or 1210.

    3. WGS 1300: Methods Course.

    4. Any WGS course numbered 1400+ or another seminar substituted by permission of the director of studies.

    5. Seven additional half-courses in WGS or on WGS-related topics, one of which must be outside of the student's primary area of the humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences (e.g., a student focusing on the humanities must take one half-course in the social sciences or the natural sciences).  A list of pre-approved courses from other departments is available on the WGS website. Students will work with concentration advisers to develop cohesive plans of study that are primarily situated within the humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences. An additional foundational course (WGS 1200 or 1210) beyond that required can count within this group of required classes.  At least four of these seven courses must be drawn from WGS course offerings or taught by WGS affiliated faculty.

    6. Senior capstone: Offered yearly by WGS faculty starting spring 2011.

Requirements for Honors Eligibility
13 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

    1. One of the foundational courses: WGS 1200 or 1210.

    2. WGS 1300: Methods Course.

    3. Any WGS course numbered 1400+ or another seminar substituted by permission of the director of studies.

    4. Six half-courses in WGS or on WGS-related topics, one of which must be outside of the student's primary area of the humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences (e.g., a student focusing on the humanities must take one half-course in the social sciences or the natural sciences).  A list of pre-approved courses from other departments is available on the WGS website.  Students will work with concentration advisers to develop cohesive plans of study that are primarily situated within the humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences. Concentration credit will be granted for courses that provide context or further methodological or theoretical training for the student's thesis.  An additional foundational course (WGS 1200 or 1210) beyond that required can count within this group of six classes.  At least three of these six courses must be drawn from WGS course offerings or taught by WGS affiliated faculty.

  2. Tutorials:

    1. Sophomore year: WGS 97.  Students should take this course by the end of their Sophomore year.  Restricted to concentrators.

    2. Junior year: WGS 98 (one term) required. Letter-graded. A 20-25 page junior essay is required.

    3. Senior year thesis: WGS 99a and 99b, the writing of the senior thesis. Graded SAT/UNS. In order for a student to receive a grade of SAT for the fall term, a substantial part of the thesis work must be submitted by the end of the term.

  3. Thesis: Required of Honors-eligible students, who apply for Honors track admission after completion of WGS 1300.

  4. Oral Examination:  Each Honors-eligible concentrator takes an individually tailored oral general examination at the end of the senior year.

Requirements for Joint Concentration (Honors-eligible only)

Women, Gender, and Sexuality as the Primary Concentration
8 half-courses (including thesis)

  1. Required courses:

    1. WGS 97 (one term), WGS 98 (one term); 99a and 99b.

    2. Choose one of the following:  WGS 1200 or 1210.

    3. WGS 1300.

    4. Two half-courses within WGS or on WGS-related themes. (A list of pre-approved courses from other departments is available on the WGS website.)

  2. For more information on Honors track tutorials, thesis, and oral examinations, please see 2, 3, and 4 under Requirements for Honors Eligibility, above.

Women, Gender, and Sexuality as the Allied Concentration
5 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

    1. WGS 97 (one term), and WGS 98 (one term).

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

    3. Two half-courses within WGS or on WGS-related themes. (A list of pre-approved courses from other departments is available on the WGS website.)

  2. Honors-eligible students will take tutorials, thesis, and oral examinations in their primary department or program.

ADVISING

Whether they are full or joint concentrators, all students receive individual attention and advising from a core group of dedicated and highly-engaged faculty. The director of studies is the primary academic adviser for sophomores and juniors, and the assistant director of studies is the primary academic adviser for seniors. In consultation with their faculty advisers, students develop individual, cohesive plans of study tailored to their specific intellectual interests. Faculty members are closely involved with students’ academic development at every stage of the concentration, from sophomore year (in which students enroll in a small group tutorial) to senior year (in which Basic track students take the Capstone course and Honors track students take a one-on-one senior thesis tutorial). Many of the courses offered by WGS are seminars, allowing for an exciting and productive exchange of ideas between students and faculty.  

For up-to-date information on advising in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, please see the Advising Programs Office website.

RESOURCES

The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America is the leading research library in the field. The library holds more than 35,000 volumes, 800 collections of personal and organizational papers, 50,000 photographs, oral histories, videotapes, and other historical materials. The library collects information on women's rights, suffrage, social welfare and reform, pioneers in the professions, and the family. Carol J. Pforzheimer Student Fellowships are awarded annually to undergraduates to use the resources of the library.

The Henry A. Murray Research Archive is a multidisciplinary research center whose focus is the study of lives over time. It is also a national archive for social science data on human development and social change, especially data that illuminate women's lives and issues of concern to women. Students and researchers at all levels, from undergraduates to scholars, use the center's resources. These include studies of family life, careers, psychological development, political participation, and mental health.

The Open Gate Foundation, "A Fund for Gay and Lesbian Life at Harvard University," is a private charitable foundation established by members of the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus, which gives grants to student groups and faculty to help finance a variety of events and activities, including speakers, symposia, and film festivals.  Further information may be obtained from the Open Gate website.

STUDY ABROAD

With good planning, a term abroad or out of residence can be a very meaningful educational experience. In the past our concentrators have spent terms taking courses in countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Chile, Australia, Spain, and France. Most concentrators who go abroad to study do so in the fall term of junior year, which allows them to return to campus in time to take the junior tutorial (WGS 98) the following spring. Honors-eligible concentrators who wish to study abroad during the spring term of junior year must make special arrangements to complete the junior tutorial a term early (i.e., in the fall of junior year). If you are a concentrator considering a term abroad, please consult your concentration adviser as well as the Office of International Programs as soon as possible. Plans for study out of residence must be approved by the university significantly in advance of the term in which a student plans to be away.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

For further information, contact the main office at 617-495-9199 or via email at wgs@fas.harvard.edu. The office of the Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality is located on the ground floor of Boylston Hall. A handbook describing the concentration, a list of current course offerings, and application materials are available from the office and on our website.

CORE AND GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS

Non-exempt areas:

Exempt areas:

Foreign Cultures

Historical Study A

Historical Study B

Literature and Arts A

Literature and Arts B

Literature and Arts C

Moral Reasoning

Social Analysis

Quantitative Reasoning

 

Science A

 

Science B

 

For more information on fulfilling the Core requirement, see the Core Curriculum Requirement.

All students—regardless of concentration—planning to graduate under the requirements of the Program in General Education must complete one letter-graded course in each of the eight categories in General Education. The Class of 2013 is the first to enter the College under these requirements. Students who entered Harvard College in September 2008 or earlier are expected to fulfill the requirements of the Core Curriculum, but will be permitted to switch to the Program in General Education if such a change is possible and advisable given their overall schedule and plan of study. For more information on the requirements of the Program in General Education and the possibility of switching to it, please see The Program in General Education in Chapter 2 and the General Education website.

ENROLLMENT STATISTICS

Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

10

13

14

12

10

Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality + another field

2

2

1

2

4

Another field + Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

10

17

11

7

7