Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Volume 6, Issue 1
fall 2015
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Moe Gardner
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

History of Sexuality in Modern Europe (WGSS 667)

by Matt Calhoun Shafer

Carolyn Dean's excellent research seminar in the Western intellectual history of the study of sexuality was my introduction to graduate studies in WGSS — and I couldn't have asked for a better one. Professor Dean builds a picture of a coherent field of intellectual inquiry that moves across texts in areas as diverse as post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, nineteenth-century sexology, science studies, and contemporary feminism. Despite the many ways — both methodological and substantive — in which these texts seemed to present divergent traditions of thought, Professor Dean wove ideas together to give us a sense of the many options for how we as emerging scholars can more fully incorporate questions of gender and sexuality into our own programs of research. With several weeks at the end of the course devoted entirely to developing student projects, the seminar helped me pivot towards the unique demands of PhD coursework within the broader context of doctoral research as I began my time in the graduate school here. But the beauty of the class wasn't just in the syllabus she prepared but also in the classroom environment she fostered; in a seminar with students from a wide range of schools and departments and with varying levels of familiarity with the subject matter, Professor Dean created a space in which intellectual diversity led to collaborative conversation rather than isolated or solitary research. I come to WGSS from a department—Political Science—that has very little crossover with the interdisciplinary program, and though my own research in political theory inclines me more than many of my colleagues towards the methods and ideas common in classes like Dean's, I knew as soon as I got to Yale that I'd have to be very intentional about establishing a place for myself at the intersection of social science and feminist and queer theory. Carolyn Dean's class gave me the opportunity to begin to do just that, and for anyone who wants to connect their research to the broader intellectual history of sex and gender, it’s a fantastic introduction.

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