Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies

The Graduate Consortium on Women’s Studies (GCWS), based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, brings together faculty and students from nine Boston-area universities and colleges who share an interest in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. Consortium courses involve a team of faculty who hail from different institutions and different disciplines. Students also come from many disciplines and from the various universities which participate in the GCWS, including Harvard, MIT, Brandeis, Boston College, and Boston University. The GCWS’s team-taught, interdisciplinary courses can provide a fantastic supplement to the programs of graduate students at BU. One GCWS course is required for the Graduate Certificate in WGS.

GCWS website:

  1. With the approval of the faculty of his/her BU graduate program, a student may receive a grade and graduate credit for completing a GCWS course that has been established on the MIT inventory.  That approval is signified by the BU official signatures on the forms (step 2, 3 below).  An MIT twelve unit course is equivalent to a BU four-credit course.
  2. The student should fill out a BU Cross Registration Petition (available on the Registrar’s Office web site.
  3. The student must also fill out the GCWS Student Registration form, securing all signatures as indicated (the Director of Women’s Studies will sign for the ‘Academic Dean’ of school/faculty).
  4. Copies of the GCWS registration form will be forwarded to the BU Cross Registration staff member in the Registrar’s Office.
  5. Once the course has been completed and graded, an official MIT transcript will be forwarded to BU.  The grade and course title will be added to the BU transcript.
  6. Standard BU tuition charges will apply; BU financial aid may be used for these courses.

Boston University Graduates Students can enroll in GCWS courses.  There is no additional fee.

The GCWS is still accepting applicants to our Fall 2015 courses:

Workshop for Dissertation Writers in Women’s and Gender Studies, Tuesdays, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Understanding the Pornographic and the Obscene, Tuesdays, 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM

American Motherhood and Mothering: Theory, Discourse, Practice, and Change, Wednesdays, 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM

We hope you will urge your students and colleagues to look closely at these wonderful opportunities. The GCWS is one of the finest options graduate students have in the greater Boston area, providing intellectual, professional, and networking opportunities that are unparalleled and unique.  We will be accepting applications until our deadline:Monday, August 24th, 2015

Please find detailed course descriptions below.  If you have any questions about our courses or application process, please contact Andi Sutton at

Detailed course descriptions below:

Workshop for Dissertation Writers in Women’s and Gender Studies

Fall/Spring: Tuesdays, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM
September 15, 2015 – May 10, 2016
Meets *every other week* 

A writing workshop for graduate students at the dissertation level.  Classes will include presentations and discussions of dissertation writers’ work-in-progress.  Discussions will include both theoretical considerations and practical ones as we address feminist research in historical archives, feminist fieldwork, feminist interpretation of literary, visual and material culture, and feminist research that theorizes the political.  Students will be asked to reflect on their understandings of feminist research, and on the ways that feminism and gender studies have affected their views of what materials, archives, and methods are relevant, worthy, and timely.  We will also consider issues of scholarly voice, clarity, and vision.  The course will consider how dissertation writers address disciplinary and interdisciplinary readerships while maintaining a core feminist engagement.  Students will also prepare oral presentations of their work.


Lisa Lowe is a professor of English and American Studies at Tufts University, and a member of the consortium of studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora.  She works in the fields of comparative literature, comparative colonialisms, and the cultural politics of encounter.  She has authored books on orientalism, immigration and globalization. Her most recent book, The Intimacies of Four Continents, is a study of settler colonialism, transatlantic African slavery, and the East Indies and China trades, as the conditions for modern liberalism (Duke University Press, 2015).

Understanding the Pornographic and the Obscene

Fall semester: Tuesdays, 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM
September 8, 2015 – December 15, 2015

Expressions, images, and narratives labeled “obscene” and “pornographic” are often deeply charged. Pornography appears in a broad range of historical periods and cultural contexts; it varies drastically; and it is often influential in the way people define, think about, and understand sexuality. Both feminists and non-feminists from a range of disciplines, and outside the academy, have taken up the topic of pornography, producing dynamic debate but little consensus. Some have attended to the links between pornography and key concepts of personal autonomy, bodily integrity, and civil society. Others have set out to describe and analyze what pornography is and has been — its formal elements, proximity to other genres and media forms, and development over time. Still others have fought vociferously over it, some claiming that it degrades and distorts minds and societies, others seeing within it opportunities for subversion and resistance. Thus scholars work to investigate, describe, contextualize, analyze and regulate pornography. Battles rage, and the object of study continues to be both provocative and protean.

This course explores what feminist scholars in multiple disciplines have said about the pornographic and the obscene. We will explore criticisms of pornography and celebrations of it, as well as more ecumenical efforts to study and understand what pornography is and has been. We will look at its adjacency to other genres and media (including websites, fan fiction, and romance novels) and will discuss recent examples of sexually explicit media that can be placed in dialogue with the pornography (including works by Sally Mann, Robert Mapplethorpe, Lars Von Trier, and others).  As a class, we will work to understand how pornography has been defined by various cultures and across time periods throughout history, how it is produced and consumed and by whom, the impacts of pornography consumption on individuals, families, communities, and societal norms, and — importantly — how pornography interacts with the multiple forms of oppression and expression, based on race, class, national identity, gender and sexual identities. Students can expect readings and topics from various disciplines, including history, literature, cinema and media studies, and the social sciences.

NOTE: Although certain course material (for example, assigned secondary source texts and historical erotica or documentary films about pornography screened during class time) may incorporate sexually explicit content, students will not be required to engage with any sexually explicit course material in this class. Students may opt out of any assignment of or in-class exposure to sexually explicit course material at any time, without any effect on their course grades.


Sarah L. Leonard is Associate Professor of History at Simmons College. She is the author of several articles situating pornography in a historical context. Her book Fragile Minds and Vulnerable Souls: The Matter of Obscenity in Nineteenth-Century Germany was recently published by University of Pennsylvania Press.

Burlin Barr is Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Cinema Studies at Central Connecticut State University. He has published articles in Camera Obscura, Screen, Jump Cut, and other journals. His scholarly interests concern the constructions of gender in film, as well as the intersection of film form and cultural politics.

Madeline H. Caviness is Mary Richardson Professor Emeritus of Tufts University where she taught medieval art and gender studies. She is the author of Visualizing Women in the Middle Ages: Sight, Spectacle and Scopic Economy, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001, Reframing Medieval Art: Difference, Margins, Boundaries, Tufts University electronic book, 2001, and numerous articles on the history and reception of European art from the pre-modern era.

American Motherhood and Mothering: Theory, Discourse, Practice, and Change

Fall semester: Mondays, 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM
September 14, 2015 – December 14, 2015

Motherhood is often lauded as the most important job, and Americans regularly talk about valuing family.  However, as it tends to be women who are primarily responsible for caregiving in the family, the work is systematically devalued economically, socially, and legally.  The gendered nature of mothering also has a profound influence on women’s and men’s lives outside of the family, especially at work. To explore the complex intellectual and practical issues contemporary American motherhood raises for feminist scholars, this course draws on the strengths of two disciplines—rhetoric and sociology—to examine motherhood as an intellectual concern, a social institution, and a site of competing discourses.  The course structure interweaves theory, discourse, practice, and change as we explore a variety of approaches to motherhood and mothering as key theoretical concerns and as pivotal sites of women’s resistance, social action, and change.


Lynn O’Brien Hallstein, Associate Professor of rhetoric at Boston University, is an award winning teacher, and has published multiple journal essays and book chapters on contemporary motherhood.  Her recent book, Bikini-Ready Moms: Celebrity Profiles, Motherhood, and the Body is to be published by SUNY Press in Fall 2015.  The book investigates mediated motherhood at the intersection of post-second wave gender, neoliberalism, and celebrity mom profiles.

Ana Villalobos, Assistant Professor of sociology at Brandeis University, is a multiple award winning teacher with courses focusing on parenting, work, gender, and identity.  Her recent book, Motherload: Making it all Better in Insecure Times, published by University of California Press in 2014, investigates mothering within the context of various social, cultural, and economic pressures.