Universität Wien FIND
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240098 PS Gender Trouble: Gender Benders in English Literature (2020W)

Wahllehrveranstaltung Individuelle Schwerpunktsetzung (pi; 4 ECTS)

Continuous assessment of course work

MA Gender Studies (Version 2013):
IS Individuelle Schwerpunktsetzung

MA Gender Studies (Version 2020):
PM 3 Individuelle Schwerpunktsetzung
Wahllehrveranstaltung Individuelle Schwerpunktsetzung


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 25 participants
Language: English



Until further notice, the following modalities apply:

11.11.2020 (online/asynchronous)
18.11.2020 (online/videochat 16:45-18:15)
25.11.2020 (online/asynchronous)
02.12.2020 (online/videochat 16:45-18:15)
09.12.2020 (online/videochat 16:45-18:15)
16.12.2020 (online/asynchronous)
13.01.2020 (online/videochat 16:45-18:15)
20.01.2020 (online/asynchronous)
17.01.2020 (online/videochat 16:45-18:15)


Aims, contents and method of the course

As Judith Butler observed in her seminal book Gender Trouble, gender is neither a natural nor a stable category. On the contrary, gender must be understood as a 'free-floating artifice', a fluid concept in which 'man and masculine might just as easily signify a female body as a male one, and woman and feminine a male body as easily as a female one' (Butler, Gender Trouble 9).

Throughout history, many literary texts have proven themselves sensitive to the troubling qualities of gender stereotypes and have attempted to break with them by depicting men and women who defy neat classifications. Literary representations of such ‘gender benders’ are the focus of this course.

Students will be acquainted with literary character types that challenge established notions of femininity and masculinity but also with their more conventional counterparts. Through teacher and peer input, students will be familiarised with the historical cultural and political backgrounds that promoted an age’s respective gender ideals (as well as their subversion) and that led to the emergence of certain literary character types. Moreover, students will be familiarised with the key concepts of gender studies by reading a wide variety of key theoretical texts and will be encouraged to apply these concepts to the analysis of selected literary texts. By means of group and classroom discussions, we will explore the narrative functions of gender benders in literary texts and how literary images of ‘troubled’ femininities/masculinities relate to the categories of class and race.

Assessment and permitted materials

Active in-class and online participation, timely preparation of the assigned reading material and of discussion questions (or other tasks), preparation of and participation in an expert session (involving expert input during the session as well as the preparation of a handout and of discussion questions or other tasks), term paper on a self-chosen topic (ca. 3,500 words).

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Assessment will be based on students’ active in-class and online participation, their performance as experts in the expert session and a term paper. Students will be awarded points for their performance in these three areas.

In order to get a pass grade, students have to at least score 60 out of 100 points and fulfil all course requirements (i.e. participate actively in discussions (both online and on site), act as experts in an expert session, and hand in a term paper at the end of the term).

Plagiarism will automatically result in a failing grade.

Students can miss two sessions (with a doctor's note an additional third session may be missed, but needs to be compensated for at the teacher's discretion).

Expert session: 30 points
Active in-class and online participation: 25 points
Term paper: 45 points

Grading Scale:
1 (sehr gut): 90-100 points
2 (gut): 89-80 points
3 (befriedigend): 79-70 points
4 (genügend): 69-60 points
5 (nicht genügend): 59-0 points

Examination topics

The primary and secondary literature discussed in class.

Reading list

Longer texts (in order of discussion):

Ben Jonson’s Epicoene; Or, The Silent Woman (the play text can, for example, be found in The Routledge Anthology of Renaissance Drama, which is available as ebook via the university library)

Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko

Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White

Virginia Woolf’s Orlando

We are also going to read a range of shorter texts, which are going to be provided in full or as excerpts on Moodle.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 09.11.2020 05:09