Department Learning Goals


Curriculum of the Bowdoin Major in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies:

The Bowdoin Program in in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies takes a theoretically broad and methodologically varied approach to the study of gender and sexuality and their intersections with race, class, ethnicity, nationality, and religion across historical eras and transnational contexts. Our majors pursue a flexible course of rigorous study through the GSWS curriculum in order to become engaged, informed, and resourceful readers and writers, capable of critical thinking and cultural analysis.
The Program offers courses across all levels, from first-year seminars to advanced capstone courses, independent studies, and honor projects.  At the introductory level, the department offers first-year seminars and 1100-level courses, which are supplemented by courses at the intermediate 2000-level and advanced 3000-level.  In addition to the core courses taught by the permanent GSWS faculty, Bowdoin faculty from across the campus contribute classes from a wide variety of departments and programs including:  English, Sociology/Anthropology, Religion, Africana Studies, Latin American Studies, Russian, Romance Languages, Environmental Studies, and History.

Introductory Courses:

First-year seminars in GSWS provide structured opportunities for intensive reading and writing, introducing students to college-level analytical composition.
GSWS 1101 (Introduction to Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies) is an introductory lecture course, a gateway to the major and the prerequisite for some higher, 2000-level courses within the major.  The GSWS course also services the College’s “Exploring Social Differences” distribution requirement by addressing the social forces that produce and perpetuate sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism and ethnocentrism, with special regard to their historical, cultural, and transnational specificities.
Courses numbered in the 1000s are generally lecture courses which help students develop a fluency in how gender and sexuality (and their intersectional manifestations with race, class, and nationality) shape how individuals experience the world, and the impact of that experience on identity, community, economy, and governance.  1000-level courses in GSWS are taught by both core and affiliated GSWS faculty, and aim to help students become critical consumers of information, both of current events and historical description. 1000-level courses all encourage students to identify the gender and sexual frames by which consumers receive news and popular media in society.

Intermediate Courses:

GSWS 2201 and GSWS 2001 (Feminist Theory and Queer Theory) are intensive seminar courses, either one of which fulfills the 2000-level theory requirement for the GSWS major and minor.  These courses allow students to gain competence and confidence in engaging the dialectical relationship between theory and practice. At the end of these courses, students must demonstrate a critical awareness that social justice is a consequence of institutional change as well as individual choices and actions.

Intermediate seminars in GSWS are capped at 16 students per class, and offer opportunities for more intensive critical work in cultural analysis through directed research and writing.  Seminars also provide a forum for peer discussion and small group collaborations, building cooperative skills and encouraging intellectual cross-fertilization.

The remaining courses numbered in the 2000s are generally lecture courses, which cover a wide variety of topics in gender, sexuality, or women’s studies.  Many 2000-level courses are cross-listed from other academic departments and programs on campus, but they all share a focus on developing students’ capabilities as writers, readers, or public speakers through the completion of a diverse array of classroom assessments.


Advanced Courses:

GSWS 3301 or other 3000-level Seminars are designed to provide GSWS majors a capstone experience.  Usually taken in the spring semester of the junior or senior year, these small seminars (capped at 12 students per class) allow students to conduct research using primary and secondary source materials using feminist and queer methodological approaches.  In addition, students in 3000-level courses cultivate the habits of intellectual discipline and creativity that allow sustained, independent research, critical reading, and expository writing.  Students in 3000-level courses demonstrate their mastery through the production of a substantial piece of analytical writing based on primary research conducted independently over the course of the semester.  3000-level courses may also provide the foundation for advanced independent studies or honors projects within the GSWS major.

Upon the successful completion of a 3000-level seminar in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, students are able to pursue either graduate study in gender studies, feminist/women’s studies, sexuality studies or any Master’s or Ph.D. program that combines the study of two or more of these fields, or pursue professional training and/or careers in fields in which a background in gender studies, feminist/women’s studies, and/or sexuality studies may be beneficial (medicine, social work, public health, family law, etc.).