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A Multi-media Exploration of Transgender(s) and Gender-difference
Course Syllabus by Lexi, Zoë M., & Holly S.-D.

Revised December 14, 1998

Analytical Perspective
Course Goals

This course was developed as a group independent study at Brown University for the fall, 1998 semester. We are publishing the fruits of our experience on the web in order to spark interest and facilitate learning and hope that this course may be taught again in other institutions of learning. Our ultimate goal is a wider awareness of trans issues. What follows is a revised course prospectus and syllabus. Also included are recommendations of the relevant issues raised by each text and teaching suggestions based on our experience that attempt to demonstrate what we found to be the most engaging approach to each topic.

We conceive of this course as an introductory survey of transgender issues. A knowledge of post-structuralist and/or queer theory is assumed, particularly in areas of subjectivity formation, the intersection of sex and gender, theories of narrative in both film and literature, performance and performativity theory, and of course, a familiarity with Judith Butler's Gender Trouble. Because of the assumed knowledge, this course is not conceived of as an introductory course in the sense of a first-year-course, but meant to be taken after the first year of college in order to use the above assumed knowledge as one is introduced to a related discourse.

We envision this course as a seminar meeting twice a week (each time for an hour or an hour and a half if possible) with an hour section each week. (The section is optional if your course schedule does not allow for three meetings per week.) The first two meetings of each week will address issues raised in the texts. The section will provide an opportunity for each student to personalize the course. and explore the ramifications of the concepts studied to their day to day lives, not necessarily in an academic context. Each section asks a question, related to the theme of the week, that is to be answered in an in-class writing. After the writing the class will discuss the question as a group. Sections also function to synthesize each week's topic into broader themes of the course.

This course is located as an interdisciplinary exploration anchored in literary and cultural studies. It could be taught through (though not limited to) an English, American Civilizations, Comparative Literature, or Modern Culture and Media department.

The analytical perspective is as follows:

  • This course is concerned with the interrogation of a transubjectivity.
  • Is there such a thing? What are the rules of gender and what does it mean to break them? How does trans disrupt the binary system of male/female and what are the results?
  • What are the limits of language and representation? How does the available linguistic and visual vocabulary influence the structure and content of the texts examined here?
  • What does a social or political movement based on gender-difference have to offer?

    • For social gender roles?
    • For civil rights?
    • For academic responsibility?
    • For the medical establishment?


The course goals are as follows:

  • To provide an introduction to the theoretical concepts used in studies and narratives of gender-difference and transgender issues.
  • To foster an ability to apply the concepts learned in class to lived experience, especially the at the intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality, and community.
  • To develop and feel comfortable communicating a culturally-informed understanding of subjectivity, especially in relation to gender identity.

  • To encourage critical evaluation of the strengths and weakness of current research and publication on gender-difference, transgenderism, and identity politics, including the material read in this course.
  • To provide students with the tools they need to use theoretical reasoning to formulate recommendations for (as well as to engage themselves in) further research in the area.


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