Studying Race, Gender and Sexuality in Earlier Periods: Lessons, Limits and Intersections

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

English Department Grad Lounge (FBH 330)

The MedRen, GenSex, and Latitudes working groups (Department of English) are hosting a special event welcoming Professors Ania Loomba, Melissa Sanchez (both APC/GSWS Core Faculty) and Cord Whitaker for a group discussion - Studying Race, Gender and Sexuality in Earlier Periods: Lessons, Limits and Intersections.

In the current political and cultural climate, questions of how our scholarship can and should inform the issues of our contemporary moment (and vice versa) loom large in our academic conversations. For those of us working in earlier periods, this can be a particularly vexed set of questions. The historical differences between then and now can cast doubt on the importance of earlier study to contemporary issues, as can the specific procedures and methodologies of literary theory. Additionally, though responses to contemporary politics have renewed their call for a more intersectional feminism, it is only in more recent scholarship on premodern literature that gender, race, sexuality and other issues have been successfully wedded. This brings up several important questions. What kind of feminist work is facilitated by periodization and an awareness of historical specificity? Conversely, what are the limits of periodization and of working in earlier periods for theorizing categories like gender, race, and sexuality? What is the continued urgency of feminism, and particularly feminist scholarship, in today’s academy? Finally, which modes of presentist scholarship are most productive?

The event will be an open discussion, where participants can ask questions and our featured faculty will discuss and debate. In the interest of establishing a common vocabulary among participants, we are circulating Professors Loomba and Sanchez’s essay, “Feminism and the Burdens of History,” from their recently published co-edited volume, Rethinking Feminism in Early Modern Studies: Gender, Race and Sexuality. We hope that the discussion will not be a response to the chapter persay, but rather will move outward from this essay to discuss the issues most of interest to the three participating working groups. A small reception will follow the event where we can continue the conversation informally.

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