Write a 1-2 page paper, double-spaced, addressing the questions below:
- After taking this course, what is your understanding of Sociology?
- What are two topics you learned in this course or that surprised you? What did you learn and/or why did it surprise you?
- What knowledge can you take from this class that you can apply to the outside world?
- If we were to meet in five years from now, what would you remember from this class?
Explanation & Answer length: 3 Paragraphs
his Module’s Topic is: The sociological theories of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Introduction Welcome to the module on Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Gilman offers us an array of important concepts that relate to her overarching theories of the world. Like many we’ve read, Gilman holds a view of people as fundamentally social creatures. This matters because she observes that the world, as it is ordered in her time, produces unnecessary human pain. This is due to the way that we organize labor. For her paid labor is a means to economic independence but also to expression of the self and thus the reaching of ones full human potential. The trouble is, the organization of paid labor in her day is fundamentally problematic. She argues that this is the case because our common conscience (our culture) is misguided; we “think wrongly” about the world, believing in an array of “false concepts.” Here, Gilman is providing a radical critique of our culture. If you read her work on the false concepts, you’ll see how she criticizes their premises, the individualistic, economistic assumptions that so many people still take as their starting point for understanding the world. By “thinking wrongly,” we produce unnecessary human pain. It might be fruitful to think about her concern with “thinking wrongly” and how it might relate to Marx’s concept of the “camera obscura.” Moreover, our wrong-headedness also yields a world that is organized in deeply gendered ways, what she refers to as the sexuo-economic relation. You should see the links between her treatment of the “sexuo-economic relation” and the materialist feminism we discussed when reading Marianne Weber’s work. Gilman’s argument is that we organize the world, including our thoughts about the world, in ways that produce “excessive sex distinction,” what we today might call gender. She basically thinks humans all have similar capacities and potentialities, but our common conscience produces deeply gendered understandings and thereby produces unnecessary human pain. This is not beneficial to men or women, but, she argues, that the world is organized around “androcentric culture.” Her concerns with androcentric culture make visible that she’s a proponent of a particular type of “cultural feminism,” the idea that women, due to their lives and experiences, produce a unique culture of their own, a culture that is generally ignored or even derided by dominant, androcentric institutions and discourses. Some cultural feminists base their sense of women’s uniqueness in women’s ability to give birth (Links to an external site.), a subset of these folks has developed maternal feminism (Links to an external site.). Other cultural feminists, like Gilman, don’t believe women and men are essentially different due to biology, but persistent differences emerge due to culture. View this short video clip with some additional introductory comments on Gilman: Gilman Clip-1.m4v Download Gilman Clip-1.m4vPlay media comment. As you work through this week’s materials, keep in mind the materials we covered in Week 1’s module, specifically how theorists’ social location shapes 1) their ideas/theories and 2) the reception of those ideas. Also, we’ll be reading different theorists all semester long. As you read those theorists, it’s important that you do so strategically. I recommend taking notes as you read and structuring those notes along the following points: 1. What aspects of the social world does the theorist address? What topics/issues are the focus of their work? This question helps you highlight the purview of the theorist and thereby understand the domains of the social world to which the theorists’ ideas apply. 2. What specific concepts does the theorist develop to help us understand the topics they focus on? Specifically, what is the definition of the concepts, as provided by the theorist? Always use the theorists’ own words to define concepts (avoid going online and using dictionaries, wikipedia, etc. for your definitions!). This question helps you develop your skills to coherently explain specific concepts and base those explanations within the theoretical writings themselves (rather than websites that summarize the work for you). 3. Given #’s 1 & 2, what is the contribution that the theorist makes to the topics/issues that is their focus? Put another way, what does the theorist help to explain (recall my discussion of the importance of explanations to social theory)? What does a given theorist help us to see or understand? And what role do the theorist’s concept(s) play in their explanation? This question gets at developing your ability to identify and explain the contributions of theorists to given topics/issues. 4. What is the contribution that the theorist makes to one or more of the three main theoretical paradigms in sociology? How do the specific concepts they use and explanations they provide relate to the major paradigms? This question helps you develop your skills in situating the theorists’ ideas in a “big picture” way, understanding where and how they fit in the terrain of social theory. 5. How do the concepts and explanations provided by the theorists relate to one contemporary example? Why is the example you select an example of the specific concept/explanation? It’s important to be very clear and specific when discussing examples. This question gets at developing your ability to apply concepts or explanations to the contemporary world. 6. How do the concepts and explanations relate to others we’ve read? How are they similar to another theorist we’ve read or which you’ve covered in another course? How are they different from another theorist we’ve read or which you’ve covered in another class. This question gets at developing your ability to compare/contrast theorists’ concepts/explanations. Important Concepts/Ideas As a student in the course, you should be able to define and explain the following concepts. You should also understand the relationship between the concepts, where relevant: • • • • • • The centrality of paid work to Gilman’s thinking Common conscience (culture) The sexuo-economic relation Excessive sex distinction Androcentric culture False concepts Learning Objectives Through completing this module, you will demonstrate your ability to: • • • • Identify the main concepts/ideas and explanations of the theorist and to which arenas of social life they apply; Situate and evaluate the theorists’ ideas relative to the the main paradigms in social theory; Apply theorists’ concept to contemporary examples; and Compare and contrast theorists’ concepts and explanations to other theorists’ ideas. Assignments Overview In order to complete this module, you will complete the following: Required Reading/Viewing • (L&N) “Chap 4: Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)—Gender and Social Structure” (105-148) • (Lemert) Charlotte Perkins Gilman—“The Yellow Wallpaper” (134-135) • View “The Yellow Wallpaper: Crash Course Literature #407” from Crash Course (captions in video). Note that this video is not really oriented to sociological question, yet it provides a nice summary for how to appreciate what’s being conveyed in the video. For our purposes, it is helpful to link the discussion of the video to our required readings from Gilman, noting the feminist themes running through her work. Graded Assignment(s) • After completing all required reading and viewing for this module as well as the required materials for the module on W.E.B. DuBois and Georg Simmel, • post an entry to the Graded Discussion 5 group discussion by Friday (by 11:59 pm). Return to Graded Discussion 5 and give thoughtful feedback (including supporting citations) to two peers by Sunday (by 11:59 pm). Supplementary Resources (not required) • I’ve created a Course Ungraded Discussion so that you can post comments and questions and respond to each other about these thinkers’ theories.
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