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Feminist Histories - Feminist Historiography - WOM00013M

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  • Department: Centre for Women's Studies
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Rachel Alsop
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

This module explores the history of feminist ideas and activism, critically engaging with mainstream western feminist historiography and homing in on a diverse range of historical moments and texts in the long twentieth century. 

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

This module explores the history of feminist ideas and activism. It starts by critically engaging with mainstream western feminist historiography, problematizing the concept of ‘feminism’, including its application in diverse cultural and historical contexts, as well as the ideas of ‘waves’ and ‘generations’ of feminism. With that critique in mind, it then proceeds chronologically, homing in on a diverse range of historical moments and texts in the long twentieth century, focusing in on for example: debates around women’s suffrage, feminism, class and sexuality in the early twentieth century; Simone de Beauvoir’s pioneering The Second Sex (1949); radical ideas and feminist militancy during the so-called ‘second wave’; Judith Butler, queer theory and activism; intersectionality and issues of diversity; and the recent #MeToo movement. Throughout the module, we pay particular attention to the politics of what does and does not get picked up at particular cultural and historical moments. We also seek to ‘trouble’ established histories of feminism and feminist ideas.

Module learning outcomes

After successfully completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical and nuanced understanding of key feminist ideas and the historical and cultural contexts in which they emerged;
  • Critically analyze the complex issues around how feminist ideas and activism have been periodized and historicized;
  • Interrogate and explain the politics of what does and does not gain cultural traction at particular historical moments and in particular cultural contexts;
  • Apply a ‘long view’ perspective to the intellectual ideas that have animated feminist thought and activism;
  • Present complex arguments cogently and with nuance, both in oral and written form.

Module content

Indicative Programme:

Week 2: Locating ‘Feminism’ and the ‘Feminist Subject’

Week 3: ‘Waves’ of Feminism and the Generational Paradigm

Week 4: Feminist Ambivalences: Suffrage, Sexuality and Class

Week 5: Simone de Beauvoir and The Second Sex


Week 7: Radical Ideas and Feminist Militancy: Shulamith Firestone and Valerie Solanas

Week 8: The Queer Turn: Judith Butler and ACT UP

Week 9: Intersectionality: A New Paradigm?

Week 10: #MeToo


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback for the assessed essay will normally be given within 20 working days in line with University policy.

Indicative reading

Butler, Judith (2006 [1990]) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York, London: Routledge.

de Beauvoir, Simone (2011 [1949] The Second Sex, trans by by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier. London: Vintage.

Crenshaw, Kimberley (1991) ‘Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color’, Stanford Law Review 43(6): 1241–1299.

Firestone, Shulamith (1979 [1970]) The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. London: Women’s Press.

Goldman, Emma (1969) Anarchism and Other Essays. New York: Dover.

Halberstam, J. Jack (2012) Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press. 

Hemmings, Clare (2011) Why Stories Matter. The Political Grammar of Feminist Theory. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Hemmings, Clare (2018) Considering Emma Goldman: Feminist political Ambivalences and the Imaginative Archive. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Hill Collins, Patricia (1996) ‘What’s in a Name? Womanism, Black Feminism and Beyond’, The Black Scholar 26(1): 9-17.

             hooks, bell (1981) Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. Boston: South End Press, 1981.

Kollontai, Alexandra (1977 [1917]) Love of Worker Bees, trans. by Cathy Porter. London: Virago. 

Special Issue (2010) ‘Rethinking the History of Feminism’, Women: A Cultural Review 21(3).

             Solanas, Valerie (2015 [1968]) SCUM Manifesto. London, New York: Verso.

Walker, Alice (1990) ‘Definitions of Womanist’, in Gloria Anzaldua (ed.) Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.




The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.