Laurie Essig
Office
Chellis House 202
Tel
(802) 443-5355
Email
lessig@middlebury.edu
Office Hours
Please schedule at https://calendly.com/lessig/fallofficehours2023?month=2023-09

Laurie Essig is Professor of Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies at Middlebury College. She is a sociologist who teaches courses on how power shapes our bodies and our desires Her courses include Sociology of Heterosexuality, White People, and Making Feminist Media. Her first book, Queer in Russia: A Story of Sex, Self and the Other (Duke, 1999) considered how sexual others are imagined and thus imagine themselves in Russia. Her second book, American Plastic: Credit Cards, Boob Jobs and Our Quest for Perfection (Beacon, 2010) argued that cosmetic surgery in the US is the subprime mortgage crisis of the body, with corporations squeezing profit from working class Americans who hope a more perfect body will lead to a better future. Her most recent book, Love, Inc.: Dating Apps, the Big White Wedding, and Chasing the Happily Neverafter (UC Press, 2019), argues that romance as an ideology became even more powerful in the last few decades even as actual marriage rates declined. Romance promises us a safe and secure future as a private love affair even as our future is more and more precarious. Rather than demanding the necessary political and structural changes today for a secure tomorrow, we are too busy reading romance novels, obsessing over royal weddings, or swiping through our dating apps to pay much attention to the world around us. Essig has written for a variety of publications including the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Conversation and the Chronicle of Higher Education. She is working with feminist collaborators all over the world on a new podcast “Feminism, Fascism & the Future.” “Feminism, Fascism, & the Future” explores the global rise in anti-gender ideology movements and what we can do as feminist academics, activists, and artists to fight back. Listen to it on Spotify or here.

Courses Taught

Course Description

Gender and the Body
What is your gender and how do you know? In order to answer this question, we need to consider how gender is known through biology, psychology, consumer capitalism, and our everyday embodiment. We will also look at how the meaning and performance of gender have changed over time from Classical Greece to Victorian England to the contemporary U.S. Throughout, we will consider how gender does not operate along, but is always entangled with, race, class, sexuality, nationality, and ability. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

Requirements

CMP, SOC

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Course Description

Making Feminist Media
Feminist media has always been from a particular place and engaged with how forms of power like race, gender, sexuality, and nationality get layered not just onto bodies, but into the way we express ourselves. For at least fifty years, feminists have utilized emerging technologies to put feminist theory into the world. In this course we will begin with 1970s mimeographed feminist polemics, move onto the zine movement of Riot Grrls, land in the feminist blogosphere of the first few decades of the 21st century and end with current feminist media on TikTok, podcasts, and other emerging technologies. In this course we will think about feminist media making as a genre and how feminist theory can infuse that genre into a more vibrant, complex, and even transformative site. Throughout the course we will read feminist theory, analyze feminist media, and produce our own feminist media. 3 hrs. lect. This course is part of the Public Humanities Labs Initiative administered by the Axinn Center for the Humanities./

Terms Taught

Fall 2023

Requirements

AMR, CMP, CW, LIT, NOR, SOC

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Course Description

White People
White people did not just appear out of nowhere. Instead, they are the result of a long history of structural and everyday racism that was always intertwined with class, sex, sexuality, and nation. We will explore how whiteness became a foundational category for citizenship in the US, especially after the Civil War when the Color Line was drawn through the legal, cultural, and spatial practices of Jim Crow. We will consider how "new immigrants" and even white "trash" became white primarily through the exclusion of Black Americans. Finally, we will look at the formation of whiteness today as a site of privilege, aggrieved entitlement, and violence. 3 hrs. sem. (GloDeFem)/

Terms Taught

Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, SOC

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Course Description

Sociology of Heterosexuality
Most people believe that heterosexuality is natural or rooted in biology and so never look very closely at it as a product of culture. In this course we will examine the artifacts, institutions, rituals, and ideologies that construct heterosexuality and the heterosexual person in American culture. We will also pay close attention to how heterosexuality works alongside other forms of social power, especially gender, race, and class. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2021

Requirements

AMR, NOR, SOC

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Course Description

Feminist Theory
The course offers an overview of key feminist texts and theories that have shaped the analysis of gender and sexuality. We will examine foundational theoretical texts that have animated the field of gender, sexuality, and feminist studies. Working within a transnational perspective, the course encompasses texts which fall under the categories of critical race and critical sexuality studies. (GSFS 0200 or GSFS 0191 or GSFS 0289) 3 hr. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2023, Spring 2024, Fall 2024

Requirements

CMP, SOC

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Course Description

Decolonizing Porn: Circulating Desire between Europe and the Americas
In this course we will use feminist, queer, critical race, and decolonial theories to analyze porn in Europe and the Americas. The goal is to give students the analytic tools they need to think deeply about the centrality of porn to our lives and to global capitalism, creating jobs in the “gig economy” as well as huge amounts of profit even as it extracts unpaid labor from trafficked bodies. We will consider pornographic photography, cinema, AI, and deep fakes. Texts will include Linda Williams’ Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible,” Gayle Rubin’s “Thinking Sex,” Heather Berg, Porn Work and Jennifer Nash’s The Black Body in Ecstasy. In the SPAN section of the course, students will also be asked to participate in Spanish at least three times on the Spanish-language day of the class. All students will present their public-facing projects at the end of the class. (GloDeFem)/

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

Requirements

CMP, SOC

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Course Description

Men and Masculinities
In this course we will consider the creation and performance of masculinities in the American context.  We will ask how men are made and how that making relies on class, race, sexuality, and nation. We will begin with early capitalism and the birth of the ideal man as “market man.”  We will then look at how ideal masculinity depends on the creation of “degenerate” men, like the myth of the hyper-masculinized Black male “beast” and the creation of the mythic mannish lesbian.  We will then trace these late 19th century men and masculinities into our current moment of political machismo, trolling misogyny, bromance, feminist men, hipster men, dandy bois, transmen, and more.  Readings will include: Michael Kimmel, Guyland; C.J. Pascoe and Tristan Bridges, Exploring Masculinities: Identity, Inequality, Continuity and Change; C.J. Pascoe, Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School; Judith Halberstam, Female Masculinity, and bell hooks, We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity.  (GSFS 0191 or GSFS 0200 or GSFS 0289) 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020

Requirements

AMR, CW, HIS, NOR, SOC

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Course Description

Feminist Engaged Research
What makes research feminist? How does one conduct feminist research? How has feminist research been useful to social movements and how have movements informed feminist research? What happens to feminist research when it moves to the public sphere? In this class students learn how to produce original feminist research—how to craft research questions, write a literature review, choose relevant methodologies, and collect and analyze qualitative data. In addition to writing a research paper, students will translate their research findings into an alternative (non-academic paper) format and for an audience beyond our classroom. (Minimum of 3 GSFS classes. Class intended for GSFS majors and minors and students in the IGS Gender Track.) 3 hrs. Sem.

Terms Taught

Fall 2020, Fall 2024

Requirements

AMR, CW, SOC

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Course Description

Independent Study
(Approval required)

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Winter 2024, Spring 2024, Fall 2024, Winter 2025, Spring 2025

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Course Description

Senior Essay
(Approval required)

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Winter 2024, Spring 2024, Fall 2024, Winter 2025, Spring 2025

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Course Description

Senior Thesis
(Approval required)

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Winter 2024, Spring 2024, Fall 2024, Winter 2025, Spring 2025

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Decolonizing Porn: Circulating Desire between Europe and the Americas
In this course we will use feminist, queer, critical race, and decolonial theories to analyze porn in Europe and the Americas. The goal is to give students the analytic tools they need to think deeply about the centrality of porn to our lives and to global capitalism, creating jobs in the “gig economy” as well as huge amounts of profit even as it extracts unpaid labor from trafficked bodies. We will consider pornographic photography, cinema, AI, and deep fakes. Texts will include Linda Williams’ Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible,” Gayle Rubin’s “Thinking Sex,” Heather Berg, Porn Work and Jennifer Nash’s The Black Body in Ecstasy. In the SPAN section of the course, students will also be asked to participate in Spanish at least three times on the Spanish-language day of the class. All students will present their public-facing projects at the end of the class. (GloDeFem)/

Terms Taught

Spring 2024

Requirements

CMP, LNG, SOC

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Independent Research
(Approval Required)

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

View in Course Catalog