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Workshop for Dissertation Writers in Women's and Gender Studies

Thursdays, 5:30pm – 8:30pm
Please note that this course meets every other week.

Location: MIT building & room TBA
MIT Course Number: WSG.600

The main goal of this dissertation workshop will be to teach students three specific skills to help them become not only better writers of their own work but also better readers of scholarly work besides their own. My philosophy is that good writing and reading skills go hand in hand. 

Skill #1: How to listen attentively and generously. Too often when graduate students are in the throes of working on their own projects, the ability to think beyond that specific focus gets stunted. To prevent that kind of perceptual atrophy, I plan to teach students how to listen on behalf of the development of projects that are not their own. I want how students listen to their peers to offer evidence that they wish their peers’ scholarly pursuits well. This kind of attentive-generous listening will allow students to be more capacious and flexible in their thinking overall. I also think it is a skill that teaches students how to be collegial—and collegial in a way that truly counts—as they prepare to become contributing members of academic institutions and other organizations. 

Skill #2: How to parse a research topic into its literature review, problem statement, and methodological approach. Such parsing prepares the written research work for compelling, rigorous, suggestive and satisfying analysis. 

Skill #3: The art of asking germane, pointed, and chapter-provoking questions. The way to gain this skill will require that students hone their ability to interpret and synthesize the ideas that their peers present via written chapters and during class discussions.


Sandy Alexandre is Associate Professor of American Literature at MIT. She is a former Board member of GCWS, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture, and Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature. Her first book examined the relationship among the history of lynching violence, ecocriticism, environmental racism, and nature writing in African-American literature. Her current manuscript in progress traces a trajectory from the condition of enslaved blacks being treated as chattel to their status as consumers, inventors, and curators of the things they ultimately incorporate into their individual and collective experiences of freedom.

Earlier Event: January 30
Women in Contemporary U.S. Science
Later Event: September 10
Understanding Pornography