Language, Gender, and Sexuality in the Material World

Instructor(s): Mary Bucholtz and Kira Hall

Two decades ago, gender theory began to draw on linguistic concepts, creating the promise of a new convergence between linguistics and feminism. However, some critics viewed this focus on language as antithetical to feminism's concern with material issues, from the gendered and sexualized body to questions of labor and political economy. In recent years, the field of language, gender, and sexuality has increasingly challenged this divide between discursive and materialist approaches to feminism by examining language as an embodied and material phenomenon that is central to how gender and sexuality are constituted.

This course provides an overview of broadly materialist concerns in the linguistic study of gender and sexuality. Course topics include the production of language in and through the body via voice and intonation; the physical configuration and organization of bodies and their interaction in the built and natural environment, from facial expression to gesture to spatial arrangements; the linking of language to the semiotics of bodily adornment; labeling processes that classify bodies according to culturally available gender and sexual categories; the role of language in organizing sexual desires, practices, and ideologies; and the centrality of language to gendered and sexualized economic relations through processes of production and consumption. Students will conduct original data analysis on some aspect of the materiality of language in the production of gender and sexuality.

A previous course in language, gender, and sexuality or in feminist/gender studies is recommended but not required; a previous course in sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, or socially oriented discourse analysis is strongly recommended.