Contents of spoon-archives/french-feminism.archive/Syllabi/Goddesses
Kathleen O'Grady, Instructor
"This course is an examination of the concept of deity as feminine, examining
the images, symbols and myths of goddesses in selected societies".
1. Course pack (contents listed below)
2. Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an
3. David Kinsley, The Goddesses' Mirror: Visions of the Divine from East and
1. (Group) Seminar 25%
2. Research Paper 40%
3. Final Exam 35%
1. (Group) Seminar -- 25% of final mark. Final dates for presentations will
be announced. Each person in the class will be asked to give a short
seminar on a goddess topic of her or his choice (proposed topics will be
distributed). Topics should be selected by the student in consultation with
the instructor. Each person is responsible for preparing a presentation that
lasts approximately 10 minutes in length. Small group presentations (of three
or less) on a single topic are permitted.
The material presented must be a careful and thoughtful account of the research
conducted on the selected topic. This may include an in-depth discussion of a
single book (per person, in the case of group seminars), or a small sampling
from a variety of sources. The bulk of the seminar will be an interpretation
of this research, but a good seminar will also raise important questions that
the material does not answer and indicate possible directions for further
research. Creative presentations (dramatic interpretations, for example) are
encouraged, so long as the academic material is presented in a clear way to
Alternatively, a student can arrange with the instructor to write a small paper
(5-7 pages) in lieu of the seminar.
2. Research Paper -- 40% of final mark.
This assignment requires extensive research into a particular goddess or
goddess tradition. Suggested topics will be distributed during the first week
of classes. Topics must be selected in consultation with the instructor.
A research paper is a focused analysis of material obtained from any of a
number of different sources (course books, other academic books and
monographs, the Internet, magazines, newspapers, personal interviews). The
paper must not merely summarize the position maintained by another, but
present your own argument, opinions and reflections. Your argument must be
amply supported by the data reviewed. This paper should be carefully
structured and presented. The paper must include a title page, endnotes a
nd a bibliography. I will distribute a style guide indicating the format for
the essay. The paper should be approximately 8-10 pages in length. Late
papers will be penalized.
Please note: Plagiarism is easy to spot, and harshly penalized by the
University. Don't be afraid to trust your own words and opinions.
3. Final Exam -- 35% of final mark.
The final exam is a formal test of what you have learned during the class
lectures, seminars, guest lectures, films and assigned readings. The
questions on the exam will be taken from discussions generated during class.
I will indicate the types of questions that may be asked on the final exam
during the last class. Textbooks and notebooks will not be allowed in the
"Introduction" to the course materials and requirements.
"The Prehistoric Goddess Across Cultures" We will examine the archaeological
evidence of goddess worship and compare the interpretations given by different
schools of archaeologists. Careful attention will be paid to the work of
Marija Gimbutas. We will discuss how our position in society influences the
kinds of questions we ask and the assumptions we may make about another culture.
Readings: Baring, "Chapter I: In the Beginning"; "Chapter 2: The Neolithic
"Spiritual Goddess Movements" We will examine the claims made by a variety of
different feminist thinkers and theologians on the goddess worship of
prehistory. We will explore whether the existence of a goddess tradition
necessarily implies a matriarchal society. In the second half of the class,
we will look at the feminist spirituality movement of North America, from the
1970s to the present.
Film: "Goddess Remembered"
Readings: Course pack: Stella Georgoudi, "Creating a Myth of Matriarchy";
Sally Binford, "Are Goddesses and Matriarchies Merely Figments of Feminist
Imagination" (and all responses); Cynthia Eller, "Not Just God in a Skirt";
Merlin Stone, "The Great Goddess".
"Goddesses of Sumeria and Egypt" This class will focus on the goddess
mythology and archaeological evidence of Inanna/Ishtar from Sumeria and Isis
from Egypt. Parallels will be drawn between these goddess traditions and some
well-known Hellenic goddesses.
Readings: Baring, "Chapter 6: Isis"; Kinsley text, "Chapter 6: Innana"
Optional: Baring, "Chapter 5: Inanna-Ishtar"; Kinsley text, "Chapter 8:
"Asherah" This class will focus on the Canaanite goddesses, particularly
"the cult of Asherah". We will look at the references to the Canaanite
goddesses in the Hebrew Bible and also discuss the significance of gendered
language surrounding "god-talk" in the Bible. The class will conclude with a
discussion of the Shekhinah in the Jewish mystical tradition.
Film: "The Forbidden Goddess"
Readings: Baring and Cashford, "The Hidden Goddess in the Old Testament";
"The Shekhinah (pp. 638-643).
Optional: "Eve: The Mother of All-Living";
"Research Paper Guidelines" -- How to write and document a good research
"Mary as Goddess" This class will focus on the varied symbology of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, throughout the ages and in different cultures, and link
her worship to other goddess traditions of the past. We will also look
closely at "Our Lady of Guadalupe" and the "Black Virgin".
Film: "Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth: Love and the Goddess," Part II
Readings: Kinsley, "Chapter 10: Mary"; Baring text, "The Black Virgin"
Optional: Baring, "Chapter 14: Mary"
Part I: "The Moon, Menstruation and the Goddess". This class will deal with
the importance of menstruation and menarche (first menstruation) in the
writings, worship and imagery of a variety of goddess traditions.
Part II: "Sun Goddesses". Generalizations about goddess traditions abound.
One of the most prevalent is the proclivity of scholars to align all goddess
traditions with the cyclical movements of the moon and all god traditions with
the worship of the sun, goddesses with fertility and gods as warriors. We
will demonstrate how this generalization is part of a cultural stereotype of
the genders, and a marginalization of cultures which resist such polarized
categorization. We will then uncover the numerous traditions where the sun
is the realm and tool of the goddess, and the variety of interpretations that
result from this sun symbology.
The goddess traditions to be discussed in this class include the Aboriginals
from Australia, Native traditions from North America, Celtic and African
Readings: Kinsley, "Chapter 2: Kuan-yin"; Chapter 4: Amaterasu"
Course Pack: Judith Ochshorn, "Reclaiming Our Past"
"Contemporary Feminism and the Goddess" We will undertake an exploration of
the different ways in which the goddess is used to buttress writings from
contemporary feminist philosophers and theologians. Much time will be spent
on both contemporary French feminism (Irigaray and Kristeva) and American
liberal feminist writings.
Readings: Course Pack: Luce Irigaray, "Divine Women"; Julia Kristeva,
"Stabat Mater"; Emily Culpepper, "Are Women's Bodies Sacred?";
"Hindu Goddesses" Goddesses, such as Laksmi, Durga and Sita will be the
focus of this class. We will examine the living tradition of goddess
worship in Hinduism and the implications this has for the position of
Hindu women in society. We will also discuss the appropriation of Hindu
goddesses for the purposes of a feminist spirituality by people from
Readings: Kinsley, "Chapter 1: Durga"; Chapter 3: Laksmi"
"Hindu Goddesses, Part II" I will provide an introduction to Devi.
Readings: Kinsley, "Chapter 5: Sita"
Course Pack: Sandra P. Robinson, "Hindu Paradigms of Women"
"Jungian Psychology, Therapy and Self-Help through the Goddess" This
class will look at both the academic and popular therapeutic approaches
through the goddess.
Readings: Course pack: Judith Hoch-Smith, "Introduction"; Nelle Morton,
"The Dilemma of Celebration"; Judith Plaskow, "The Coming of Lilith"
"Wicca and Neo-paganism: Goddess Worship Today" We will examine the
contemporary practice of Wicca and neo-paganism. This class will
explore both the politics and the spiritual focus of these movements.
Film: "Full Circle"
Readings: Course Pack: Margot Adler, "The Craft Today"; Rosemary Ruther,
"Goddesses and Witches"; Mary Jo Weaver, "Who is the Goddess and Where
Does She Get Us?"; Rosemary Ruether, "Female Symbols".
Part I. "The Goddess in Popular Culture" An examination of the use of
Goddess imagery and mythology in comix, films, video games, music, and
in high art forms, including novels, paintings, operas. Class members
will be asked to bring in (or describe) examples (positive and negative)
of how the goddess is used in various art-forms today.
Part II. "Concluding Reflections: 'What would it have been like to grow
up in a world where God was a woman?'" (Shirley Ann Ranck)
Readings: Course Pack: Marsha A. Hewitt, "Cyborgs, Drag Queens and
COURSE PACK, TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Judith Hoch-Smith and Anita Spring, "Introduction" from Women in Ritual and
Symbolic Roles (NY and London: Plenum Press, 1978), 1-23.
2. Nelle Morton, "The Dilemma of Celebration" from Carol P. Christ and
Judith Plaskow, eds., Womanspirit Rising (San Francisco: Harper and Row,
3. Judith Plaskow, "The Coming of Lilith: Toward a Feminist Theology"
from Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow, eds., Womanspirit Rising (San
Francisco: Harper and Row, 1979), 198-209.
4. Mary Jo Weaver, "Who is the Goddess and Where Does She Get Us?"
Journal of Feminist Studies 5 (Spring 1989): 49-64.
5. Judith Ochshorn, "Reclaiming Our Past" from Janet Klaven and Mary I.
Buckley, Women's Spirit Bonding (NY: Pilgrim's Press, 1984), 281-292.
6. Merlin Stone, "The Great Goddess: Who Was She?" from Charlene
Spretnak, ed., The Politics of Women's Spirituality (NY: Doubleday,
7. Stella Georgoudi, "Creating a Myth of Matriarchy" from Pauline
Schmitt Pantel, ed., A History of Women (Cambridge MA.: Belknap Press of
Harvard, 1992), 449-63.
8. Cynthia Eller, "Not Just God in a Skirt" from Living in the Lap of
the Goddess (NY: Crossroads, 1993), 130-149.
9. Sally Binford, "Are Goddesses and Matriarchies Merely Figments of
Feminist Imagination?" from Charlene Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's
Spirituality (NY: Doubleday, 1982), 541-61.
10. Rosemary Ruether, "Goddesses and Witches: Liberation and
Countercultural Feminism" Christian Century Sept. 1980: 842-847.
11. Rosemary Ruether, "Female Symbols, Values and Context", Christianity
and Crisis January 12, 1987: 460-464.
12. Emily Culpepper, "Are Women's Bodies Sacred?: Listening to the
Yes's and the No's" from Elizabeth Dodson Gray, ed. Sacred Dimensions of
Women's Experience (Wellesley, MA.: Roundtable Press, 1988), 199-209.
13. Marsha A. Hewitt, "Cyborgs, Drag Queens and Goddesses:
Emancipatory-regressive Paths in Feminist Theory", Method and Theory in
the Study of Religion 5/2 (1993): 135-154.
14. Luce Irigaray, "Divine Women" from Sexes and Genealogies. Gillian
C. Gill, trans. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987).
15. Julia Kristeva, "Stabat Mater" from Tales of Love. Leon S.
Roudiez, trans. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), 234-263.
16. Margot Adler, "The Craft Today" from Drawing Down the Moon
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1986), 94-135.
17. Sandra P. Robinson, "Hindu Paradigms of Women: Images and Values"
from Women, Religion, and Social Change, Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and
Ellison Banks Findly, eds. (NY: SUNY, 1985), 181-202.
i Based on the course outline created by Prof. Kay Koppedrayer.
Baring, Anne and Jules Cashford (1991) The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of
Cahill, Jane (1995) Her Kind: Stories of Women from Greek Mythology.
Dexter, Miriam Robbins (1990) Whence the Goddesses: A Sourcebook.
Edwards, Carolyn McVickar (1991) The Storyteller?s Godess: Tales of the
Goddess and Her Wisdom from Around the World.
Eisler, Riane (1987) The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future.
Ferguson, Marianne (1995) Women and Religion. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Particularly Chapters 1, "Early Goddess Culture"; Chapter 2,
"Patriarchy and the Shift from Female to Male Deities"; Chapter 3,
"Creation Myths Reflecting the Demise of the Mother Goddess"
Frymer-Kensky, Tikva (1992) In the Wake of the Goddess: Women, Culture, and
the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth.
Gimbutas, Marija (1989) The Language of the Goddess.
Goldenberg, Naomi (1979) The Changing of the Gods: Feminism and the End of
Irigaray, Luce (1994) "The Forgotten Mystery of Female Ancestry," in
Thinking the Difference: For a Peaceful Revolution.
Irigaray, Luce (1987) "Divine Women" and "Women, the Sacred, Money,"in
Sexes and Genealogies.
Irigaray, Luce (1984) "Sexual Difference", pp. 5-19 and "Love of
Self," in An Ethics of Sexual Difference.
Kinsley, David (1989). The Goddesses? Mirror: Vions of the Divine from East
Kristeva, Julia (1987) "Stabat Mater", pp. 234-263 in Tales of Love.
Monaghan, Patricia (1981) The Book of Goddesses and Heroines.
Perera, Sylvia Brinton (1981) Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation
Sered, Susan Starr (1994) "No Father in Heaven: Androgyny and Polydeism"
in Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister: Religions Dominated by Women.
Stone, Merlin (1976) When God Was a Woman.
Warner, Marina (1976) Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the
Wolkstein, Diane and Samuel Noah Kramer (1983) Inanna, Queen of Heaven
and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer.
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