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Professors rethink women’s and gender studies in new book

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

MEDIA CONTACT: Hilary Dickinson at dickinsonh@beloit.edu or 608-363-2849

Examining key terms in the field of women’s and gender studies is the concept behind a new book edited by Beloit professors Diane Lichtenstein and Catherine Orr. “Rethinking Women’s and Gender Studies,” published by Routledge, was released earlier this month.

“There’s a lot of terminology, and people begin to assume what these terms mean,” said Lichtenstein, a professor of English. “So we invite them to step back and consider what the terms mean and what’s at stake if we don’t ever stop and ask about these assumptions.”

Some of the terms the 18 various authors deconstructed in the book include feminism, identity, community, activism (a section written by Orr), and interdisciplinarity (written by Lichtenstein).

Ann Braithwaite from the University of Prince Edward Island was a co-editor of the book, which is targeted at advanced undergraduate students.

“This book is an ‘inside job,’ a conversation amongst folks passionate about the field to really interrogate and reflect on what it is we claim to be doing and what it is we claim to be accomplishing,” said Orr, who plans to use chapters of it in her classes. “I’m really hoping that undergrads will be forced to reconsider what it is they thought they were joining up for – not a lot of disciplines do that.”

Lichtenstein said women’s and gender studies also differs from other disciplines because it is much newer than others such as history and English. The first courses did not begin until the 1960s and the first programs not until the 1970s.

Since the field is so new, the book asserts the future and vitality of women’s and gender studies are at stake if these key terms and its assumptions are not questioned.

For more information, visit the “Rethinking Women’s and Gender Studies” Facebook page.

Source: Diane Lichtenstein is a professor of English who teaches courses on U. S. literature (personal narratives, African-American fiction, Jewish-American fiction, 19th- and 20th-century novels by women), in Women’s and Gender Studies, and in interdisciplinary studies (Pursuing Happiness, and Crossing Borders). She has published articles on U. S. women writers as well as a book, Writing Their Nations: The Tradition of Nineteenth-Century American Jewish Women Writers. Lichtenstein holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania. Lichtenstein can serve as a media resource on topics related to her research and teaching interests.

Source: Catherine Orr is a professor of women's and gender studies and teaches Introduction to Feminisms, Academic Activism, Readings in White Privilege, Translating the Liberal Arts, Gender and Media, and Feminist Theorizing. Her research interests include institutional analyses of women's and gender studies in the US academy, social justice movements and higher education, and third wave feminisms. Orr received an M.A. in Communication Studies from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. In Communication Studies and Feminist Studies from University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Orr can serve as a media resource on topics related to her research and teaching interests.