POL S 513 A: Issues in Feminist Theory

Meeting Time: 
M 1:30pm - 4:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
POL S 401 A
Prof. Noga Rotem
Noga Rotem

Syllabus Description:

Politics, Feminism, Emotions

Political Science 513/401

Spring 2021

Seminar zoom link: https://washington.zoom.us/j/93104119797

Noga Rotem

Mondays, 1:30-4:20 pm


Office hours: Thursdays, 11:30 am- 1:30 pm, or by appointment



Political Theory has long been suspicious of subjective emotions and private feelings. Negative feelings in particular, are often studied as destabilizing threats to reasoned democratic judgement; as animalistic and violent; as “ordinary vices” that democratic citizens should rid themselves of; and/or as private and personal matters, antithetical and irrelevant to politics.

Over the last few decades, however, some Feminist and Queer scholars argued that negative feelings such as rage, anxiety, mourning, paranoia, exhaustion and others, might actually be politically salient. More specifically, they argue that (1) private emotions are many times not private at all: they are reflections or dramatizations of political crises, and hence worthy of our attention, and (2) that in bleak and oppressive political situations negative feelings may be a meaningful way of expressing political protest and resistance; a kind of a ‘weapon of the weak.’

What should we make of this turn to the political study of emotions (also known as “the turn to affect”)?

After familiarizing ourselves with the main theoretical concepts of the class, this seminar will turn to focus each week on one particular negative feeling, reading modern and contemporary feminist and queer theorists including Sara Ahmed, Lauren Berlant, Judith Butler, Jack Halberstam, Bonnie Honig, Naomi Schor, Eve Sedgwick and others.

Some of the question that will interest us are: what does it mean to think about negative emotions as political rather than merely private and personal? What are the risks of politicizing such feelings? And what do we gain by doing that? Does the focus on small emotions as political mean that we give up hopes for big political change?

Evaluation will include two 8 pp. essays, one in class presentation accompanied by a 3-4 pp. paper, short weekly discussion posts, and class participation.


Texts (available at the bookstore)

Cathy Park Hong, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, 2021


Requirements and evaluation, 513 students:

  1. Quality of participation + one weekly post about the readings (due 8 am on the day of the seminar, either Monday or Wednesday. 1-2 paragraphs): 20%
  2. One in class presentation about the week’s readings: 20%
  3. 1-page research paper prospectus (due on week 7): 10%
  4. Final research paper (15 pp): 50%.


Requirements and evaluation, 401 students:

  1. Quality of participation + a weekly post about the readings (due 8 am on the day of the seminar, either Monday or Wednesday. 1-2 paragraphs): 20%
  2. One in class presentation about the week’s readings, accompanied by a 3-4 pp paper: 20%
  3. Two short essays (7 pp), 30% each. Prompts will be distributed on weeks 5 and 9. Both are due 10 days after the prompt has been distributed.



If you would like to request academic accommodation due to a disability, please contact UW Disability Resources for Students (DRS), uwdrs@uw.edu. Please also discuss any accommodations you might require with me, so that we can arrange for it.


Religious accommodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (https://registrar.washington.edu/staffandfaculty/religious-accommodations-policy/). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/).




Class Schedule (tentative and will be finalized on the second week of classes):

*=on canvas


Week 1, March 29:



Week 2, April 5: Wounded attachments

Wendy Brown, “Wounded attachments,” in: States of Injury*

Sara Ahmed, “Feminist Attachments,” in: The Cultural Politics of Emotion*

Eugenie Brinkema, “Preface,” and “A Tear that does not Drop but Folds,” in: The Forms of the Affects*


Week 3, April 12: House, Home, Body

Simone de-Beauvoir, The Second Sex (intro, and selections from vol. 2: “Lived Experience”)*

Lori Marso, “Perverse Protests From Chantal Ackerman to Lars Von Trier,” in: Politics with Beauvoir*

Iris Marion Young, “House and Home,” in: Throwing Like a Girl*

Recommended: Anu Koivunen “An Affective Turn”?*


Week 4, April 19: Paranoia

Naomi Schor, “Female Paranoia: The Case for Psychoanalytic Female Criticism”*

Jack Halberstam, “Reading Counterclockwise: Paranoid Gothic or Gothic Paranoia?” in: Skin Shows*

Cyndy Hendershot, “Feminine Paranoia and Secrecy,” in: Paranoia, the Bomb and 1950s Science Fiction Films*

Bonnie Honig, Shell-Shocked, chapters 2*

Recommended: Sigmund Freud, “A Case of Paranoia Running Counter to the Psychoanalytic Theory of the Disease”*


Week 5, April 26: Depression

Melanie Klein, “Notes on some Schizoid Mechanisms”*

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Melanie Klein and the Difference Affect Makes”*

Libby Anker, “Melodramas of Failed Sovereignty,” in: Orgies of Feeling*

Ann Cvetkovich, Depression: A Public Feeling* (selections)

Recommended: Gabriel Winant, “We Found Love in a Hopeless Place: Affect Theory for Activists,”*


Week 6, May 3: Vulnerability, mourning

Sara Rushing, “The Body as a Site of Politics,” in: The Virtues of Vulnerability*

Judith Butler, Precarious Life (selections)*

Bonnie Honig, “Antigone’s Two Laws: Greek Tragedy and the Politics of Humanism”*


Week 7, May 10: Love

Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex, chapter 6: “Love”* 

Lida Maxwell, “Queer/Love/Bird Extinction: Rachel Carson's Silent Spring as a Work of Love,” Political Theory, 2017*

Jennifer Nash, “Practicing Love: Black Feminism, Love-Politics, and Post-Intersectionality”*

Week 8, May 17: Minor Feelings

Cathy Park Hong, Minor Feelings


Week 9, May 24: Trouble

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble (selections)*

Saidiya Hartman, “The Anarchy of Colored Girls Assembled in a Riotous Manner”*

Laura Sjoberg and Caron E Gentry, Mothers, Monsters, Whores (selections)*


Week 10, TBD : (Rage? Toughness? Exhaustion?)



Catalog Description: 
Contemporary issues in feminist theory as they affect studies of women, politics, and society. Content varies according to recent developments in the field and the research interests of the instructor.
Last updated: 
March 29, 2021 - 10:57pm