HUMS 622
The Third Woman

Indira Karamcheti       

Course Description

How are "Third World" women, both in the First World and in the Third, represented and understood by others? How do they represent and understand themselves? Analyzing images such as the Orientalized woman, the exoticized/eroticized woman, the earth mother, the debased and exploited laborer, or the witch/temptress, we will study how these representations developed historically, questioning how they persist and how they are resisted. Studying films, still images, and written texts, we will compare western views of Third World women with their representations of themselves.

Beginning with images from the popular media, such as magazine advertisements and book covers, which appeal to the representation of the "other" woman as exotic and erotic, we will examine how such advertisements contribute to representations of both the first and third world woman's sexuality and virtue.  Are third world women objects for our delighted or lascivious contemplation? Or are they the objects of our pity and social concern? Or are they something else entirely?   And how best can third world women be represented?  Some writers from Africa and India, like Ama Ata Aidoo of Ghana and Lalithambika Antherjanam of India, ask how oral cultures can be represented in print, while others ask about how we can learn to listen to women in cultures where they are traditionally silenced.   We will study these and other issues.


Regular attendance and participation.  Students will be responsible for six response papers (1-2 pages each), one class facilitation, two essays (3-4 pages each), and a final paper (5-6 pages).

Required Texts

Alloula, Colonial Harem
El Saadawi, Woman at Point Zero
Kincaid, Lucy
Emecheta, Second-Class Citizen
Levy, Small Island
Desai, Clear Light of Day
Roy, God of Small Things
Hulme, Bone People
Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions
Conde, I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

Course Schedule
September 11 Introduction
September 18 The Veil: Colonialism and Power
The Colonial Harem
Response paper #1 due in class
September 25 The Veil: Representation
Woman at Point Zero
Response paper #2 due in class
October 2 Writing and Self-Representation
Essay #1 due
October 9 Immigration and Gender Relations
Second-Class Citizen
October 16 Fall Break
October 23 The Power of Domesticity
Small Island
Response paper #3 due in class
October 30 The Value of "Home"
Clear Light of Day
Essay #2 due
November 6 Sexuality and Power
God of Small Things
Response paper #4 due in class
November 13 Engendering the New
The Bone People
Response paper #5 due in class
November 20 The Master's Voice
Nervous Conditions
Response paper #6
November 27 Rewriting "History"
I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem
December 4 Conclusions
Last GLSP Class
December 11 Final paper due in my office by 5PM