Women and Christianity

Professor C. Schroeder

Spring 2008

Description & Objectives
Academic Integrity

Mary Magdalene holds the status of first apostle and “apostle to the apostles,” because she was the first person to see the resurrected Jesus. Yet the Catholic Church does not allow women to become priests. Why not? This course will examine women in Christian history and literature as well as the construction of ideal models of womanhood and gender roles in Christian traditions.  What leadership positions have women undertaken in churches?  How has Christian theology and doctrine shaped the lives of average women?  What does Christian literature say about the relationship between women and sexuality?  How have women challenged and changed gender norms in Christian traditions?  If the Christian god is male, does that make male god?  The course will be divided into five units:
1. Women in the Bible: Scripture and the Construction of Christian Womanhood
2. Early Christianity: From Virgin Martyrs to Desert Mothers
3. Women in the Middle Ages and Reformation: Witches, Saints, and Sinners
4. Women in American Christianities
5. Contemporary Feminist Theology: Rewriting the Tradition

The course objectives are:
  • To gain a broader understanding of the social history of women’s participation in Christian movements as well as their resistance to patriarchal Christian traditions
  • To examine the relationship between religious claims to authority and the social and cultural construction of gender roles
  • To learn critical methods in the study of women, including questions about representation vs reality in male-authored texts and the role of historical context in asking questions about gender
  • To establish skills in historical research on women and gender
  • To further develop skills in analytical writing and oral communication

  • Elizabeth A. Clark, Women and Religion (rev. edition)
  • Barbara J. MacHaffie, Her Story (2nd edition)
  • R. Marie Griffith, God’s Daughters:  Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission
  • Additional required reading on Blackboard, in handouts, on websites, and in a course packet.


Attendance and Participation

Since we will all be members of a learning community this semester, enthusiastic class participation is essential.  We will discuss what makes a positive learning environment for you during the first week of class.  My own expectations for participation are:
  • Daily attendance.  Every absence beyond three absences may lower the participation grade by one letter level (A to B, B to C, etc.).*
  • Occasional in-class presentations, graded activities, or providing discussion questions for class
  • Regular participation in class, which means:
    • Informed, thoughtful, and respectful engagement in discussions, activities, and in-class writing assignments on a regular basis
    • Listening to the professor and the other students on a daily basis (including taking notes)
    • Bringing class readings and/or notes to class to enable discussion
    • Respectful behavior in class.  Disruptive or disrespectful behavior (including arriving late and leaving early) will lower Participation and Attendance grades.
  • Attending one session of the Gender and Science student conference March 29

*Absence policy: 
Students with extended illnesses, required sports games/meets, or other emergency situations have the opportunity to make up missed participation.  The fine print:
*  It is the professor’s discretion as to which absences can or should be made up.
*  At the beginning of the semester, athletes/debaters/etc. should provide me with the dates of class to be missed due to official university activities.  Alternative assignments to make up participation will be provided.
*  Students who are too ill to come to class should go to health services and provide documentation at the next class period.
*  Students with other emergencies should email me as soon as possible. 
*  The make-up policy is designed for students who have unavoidable commitments or emergencies, which will lead to more than three absences.
-  Students with multiple unexcused absences at the beginning of the semester should not expect -  accommodation late in the semester.  There are three freebies:  use them wisely, and document excused absences.
-  Students who miss class due to being hung over, feeling bored with the course, studying for another class’s exam, or taking a long weekend do not need to email me, as the absence cannot be made up.
*  Lying to avoid a penalty is a violation of the honor code.
*  Absent students should get notes and assignments from other students.

Critical Reading Assignment Papers
For every day on which there is a reading or other homework assignment, two or more students will provide critical reading papers (which may take the form of handouts, short papers read aloud, presentations, or some other assignment to be determined).  These assignments will change as the semester proceeds.

Research Project
Students will conduct a research project, culminating in a 10-12 page paper, over the semester.  Each student will choose a topic in consultation with the professor, write a paper proposal and bibliography, write and present a draft of the paper to the class, and then turn in a final research paper on the day assigned for our course’s final exam.  (There will be no final exam in the course.)

Grading and Evaluation
Assignments will receive letter grades with pluses and minuses according to the following criteria:
A    Reserved for excellence.  Assignment, paper, exam, class participation, etc., demonstrate all the qualities of a B and demonstrate originality or complexity in thinking.
B    Assignments, exams, and papers fulfill all the requirements of the assignment and demonstrate strong competency in the course material.  Essay exams and papers also demonstrate critical, analytical thinking about the material in the course, and provide a clear argument and thesis (where required) with documentation.  (Essays and papers are neither simple summaries of the readings/films/etc. nor personal reflection ungrounded in the course material.)  Typed assignments are well proof-read, with clear prose and accurate grammar.  Participation and Blackboard reading responses demonstrate preparation and critical thinking about the material.  For class participation, students provide quality questions and comments AND listen and respond where appropriate to the professor and fellow students.
C    Assignments, exams, papers, participation, and Blackboard reading responses demonstrate preparation and competency in the course material but are deficient in one of the key elements of B quality assignments, etc.
D    Shows little competency in the subject or is missing more than one key element of B quality assignments, etc..
F    Demonstrates little to no competency in the subject matter and/or is missing several elements of B quality assignments, etc.

See specific course assignments for more information on the evaluation of each assignment.

Policy on Make-ups, Extensions, and Late Assignments
Papers and other assignments submitted late will be penalized one letter grade per 24-hour period late. (E.g., an “A” quality paper that was due Wednesday in class but was submitted on Thursday at 9 am will receive a B; if submitted at 5 pm Thursday, it will receive a C.)

Students who miss a graded in-class assignment (such as a presentation, critical reading assignment, or discussion facilitation) will receive a zero for that assignment.

Extensions on assignments and rescheduling in-class assignments will be provided only in emergencies (e.g., death in the immediate family, severe illness, etc.) or unavoidable conflicts with another required university commitment (such as an athletic competition) with advance notice.  Students with an emergency should contact the professor to make alternative arrangements as soon as possible.

Students must complete the final research project to pass the course.  A student taking the course pass/no-credit must achieve at least the College-mandated grade of C- to pass the course.

Percentage to Letter Grade Conversion
100%        A+
93-99.9        A
90-92.9        A-
87-89.9        B+
83-86.9        B
80-82.9        B-
77-79.9        C+
73-76.9        C
70-72.9        C-
67-69.9        D+
60-66.9        D
0-59.9        F
Final Course Grades
Final course grades will be calculated as follows:
Attendance and Participation        20%
Critical reading assignment papers    30%
Research Project:
  Consultation            5%
  Proposal            10%
  Draft/presentation        10%
  Final paper            25%

Academic Integrity
I take academic integrity very seriously. As your professor, I pledge to be honest with you, and I hope that you will do the same for me as well as your peers.

Students are expected to understand and follow the University’s Honor Code.  I encourage any student with questions about academic integrity, plagiarism, or the Honor Code to ask me for clarifications. 

For this course, academic dishonesty includes any violations covered by the Honor Code (including but not limited to cheating, plagiarism, and lying to receive a higher grade), as well as submitting one’s own prior work for a new assignment—prior work from this course or another course, and prior work in whole or in part.  (Specifically assigned revisions to paper drafts are exempt.)  We will discuss plagiarism and citations in class.
Any alleged or suspected violations will be referred to the Office of Judicial Affairs.  All students who violate the Honor Code will receive a minimum penalty of a zero for the assignment or exam; a serious violation will merit failure of the course.

The Blackboard Site
Blackboard will have updated announcements, assignments, and additional resources including:
  * a list of recommended websites
  * a list of reserve and reference books at the library

Office Hours

My Office Hours are Tues 10-12 and by appointment.  Please feel free to come by if you have questions or just want to talk about the class.  Email me if you would like to meet at a time other than Tues 10-12.

Disability Resources
Any student with a physical disability or with a learning disability needing accommodations should register with the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities, in Bannister Hall.  The office will assist with any needed accommodations.  Please see me at the beginning of the semester to discuss needs for this course.  The OSSD website is: http://www.pacific.edu/education/departments/educational_resource_center/support_for_students.html

Education Resource Center
Also in Bannister Hall

See the resources at http://www.carrieschroeder.com/resources.html

Schedule of Assignments
I will be scheduling workshops in the Library and individual meetings with you during the semester.  To accommodate these special events, this syllabus is subject to change.  An updated schedule can always be found on Blackboard.

Prologue:  Methods and Problems in Studying Women’s Religious History
W Jan 16    The History of Women in Christianity
  Introduction to Clark
  Handout:  Joan Scott, “Women’s History”
F Jan 18    Gender Analysis and Women as Symbols
  Handout:  Scott, “Gender:  A Useful Category of Historical Analysis”

I.  Women in the Bible:  Scripture and the Construction of Christian Womanhood
M Jan 21    MLK Day:  No Class
W Jan 23    Eve:  Primal Woman
  Bible:  Genesis 1-3 (if you do not have a Bible, go to http://bible.oremus.org and search for Genesis)
  Handout:  article on Eve and Genesis
  Handout:  Clark, Early Church, 28-29, 33-36, 39-42, 42-44
F Jan 25    Mary, the New Eve
  Clark pp. 15-16
  Bible passages TBA
  CP:  Irenaeus in Clark, Early Church,
M Jan 28    Women as Disciples and Apostles
  Clark pp. 9-15
  MacHaffie pp. 1-12
  Bible passages TBA
  CP:  Brooten, “Early Christian Women and their Cultural Context”
W Jan 30    Women as Disciples and Apostles, Continued
  MacHaffie pp. 32-33
  Bible passages TBA
  CP:  Acts of Thecla
F Feb 1    Library Workshop or Internet Assignment TBA
M Feb 4    Household Codes
  MacHaffie pp. 12-20
  Bible passages TBA
  CP:  Margaret MacDonald, “Rereading Paul” in Women and Christian Origins

II.   Early Christianity: From Virgin Martyrs to Desert Mothers
W Feb 6    Female leaders in early Churches
  MacHaffie pp. 26-33, 36-45
  CP:  Apostolic Tradition and Didache
F Feb 8    Assignment TBA
M Feb 11    Women Martyrs and Visionaries
  CP:  Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas
  CP:  Clark Early Church pp. 106-14 (Ambrose and Prudentius)
W Feb 13    “Heretical” churches
  Clark pp. 19-37
  CP:  Selections from the Gospel of Philip and Montanist documents
  MacHaffie pp. 20-22
F Feb 15    Asceticism and Marriage:  In Theory
  MacHaffie pp. 22-25
  Clark pp. 38-66
M Feb 18    President’s Day:  No Class
W Feb 20    Asceticism and Monasticism:  In Practice
  CP:  Life of Mary of Egypt
  CP:  Clark Early Church pp. 213-23 (The Melanias), 137-44 (rules)
  CP:  Desert Fathers

F Feb 22   
III.  Women in the Middle Ages and Reformation: Witches, Saints, and Sinners
M Feb 25    Models of Womanhood
  Clark, pp. 67-89
W Feb 27    Virginity and Monasticism in the Middle Ages
  Clark, pp. 90-104
  MacHaffie pp. 50-65, 75-78
F Feb 29    Women as Witches
  MacHaffie, pp. 65-68, 78-82
  Clark, pp. 119-135
M Mar 3    Medieval Women Envisioning Jesus as Mother and Lover
  MacHaffie, pp. 68-74
  Clark, pp. 104-9
  CP:  Book of Margery Kempe & Love Songs of Hadewijch
W Mar 5    Medieval Women Challenging Authority
  MacHaffie, pp. 86-88
  CP:  Christine de Pisan
F Mar 7    Women in the Protestant Reformation
  CP:  Merry Weisner, “Religion” in Women & Gender in Early Modern Europe
March 10-14   No Classes:  Spring Break
M Mar 17    Luther on Women
  MacHaffie, pp. 89-96
  Clark, pp. 144-168
W Mar 19    Calvin, Women, and Catholic Responses
  MacHaffee, pp. 96-107, 111-24
  CP:  Teresa of Avila

IV.  Women in American Christianities
F Mar 21    Women in Colonial America
  Clark 135-43
  MacHaffee, chapter 4
M Mar 24    No Class:  Travel Day
W Mar 26    The Cult of True Womanhood
  MacHaffee, pp. 159-163, 179-83
  CP:  Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, selections
F Mar 28    Women and Reform
  MacHaffee, pp. 164-70, 207-11
  Clark, pp. 237-64
Sat Mar 29    Gender and Science Undergraduate Conference
Attendance at at least one session is required for this course.

M Mar 31    Missionary and Evangelical Women
  MacHaffee, pp. 170-78, 188-207, 212-27
W Apr 2    Women in Catholicism and Sectarianism
  MacHaffee, pp. 233-72
F Apr 4    No Class – meet with professor about papers this week
M Apr 7    Women’s Ordination
  MacHaffee, 273-322, 331-37
W Apr 9    Women and Sexuality
  Clark, 265-305
F Apr 11    Paper Proposals Due
M Apr 14    Meet at Library Special Collections:  Project on Women in Stockton Area Churches
W Apr 16    Meet at Library Special Collections:   Project on Women in Stockton Area Churches
Apr 18-23    Women in Fundamentalist and Evangelical American Churches
  Griffith, God’s Daughters

V. Contemporary Feminist Theology:  Rewriting the Tradition
F Apr 25    Feminists Leave the Churches
  MacHaffee, pp. 323-28
  Mary Daly selections in Clark
  CP:  Carol Christ, “Why Women Need the Goddess”
M Apr 28    Feminists Transform the Church
  MacHafee, 337-41
  CP:  Ruether selections
W Apr 30    Womanist Theology
  Jacquelyn Grant selections in Clark and MacHaffee
  CP:  Martin, “The Haustafeln (Household Codes) in African American Biblical Interpretation:  “Free Slaves” and “Subordinate Women”
F May 2    Feminist Liberation Theology
  Clark, 330-37
  Handout:  Article to be announced

M May 4    Student Presentations of Paper Drafts

W May 12    Final Paper Due 11 am


Page last updated 1/4/2009

Creative Commons License
Text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.  Some material in the grading guidelines has been adapted with permission from material from Ann Burlein.