The MSt in Women's Studies is now approaching its twenty-fifth year. Formally contributed to by five Humanities faculties (Classics, English, History, Medieval and Modern Languages, and Philosophy), it encompasses wider interdisciplinary perspectives (e.g. in Chinese studies, theology, and gender and development), and offers exciting scope to follow distinctive independent intellectual pathways. It has been a very important generative context within Oxford for radical critical thought, and graduates of the MSt have gone on to academic, policy and cultural positions across the world.
The name of the course has its own history and political significance. From the academic year 2021-22 it will change to being the MSt in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Whilst this is an acknowledgement that the politics and the resonances of naming have changed, it does not represent a substantive change of intellectual position. On the one hand, the course has always embraced that conceptual range. On the other, it remains committed to the ongoing dynamic potentialities of feminist thinking in the broadest sense.
This nine-month interdisciplinary Master's degree equips students with the critical and research tools needed for women's, gender, and sexuality studies in the Humanities. It provides a systematic introduction to feminist theory, including queer theory and transgender theory. It highlights women's contribution to culture and history alongside critical analysis and theorisation of the meanings assigned to the category 'woman' in philosophical, literary, socio-cultural, and historical thought. At the same time, it addresses conceptions of masculinity and gender diversity and fluidity. It provides the practical equipment necessary to engage in original research into topics in the humanities relating to women, gender, and sexuality, in a university with unrivalled facilities for both traditional and computer-age researches. Teaching is delivered through close individual supervision, as well as a carefully designed programme of lectures and classes led by specialists from a wide variety of disciplines; hence it promotes collaborative work as well as the development of independent and original scholarship. The course is distinctive in having an Academic Mentor – an early career researcher who meets regularly with the students to provide practical academic support, and who helps in the organisation of research seminars and other events.
Students follow an intensive core course, combining introductions to feminist theory and to methodologies/methods of research. They take, and are examined (by coursework essay) on, two Options, drawn from a list of up to thirty covering a very wide range of topics. The Options allow deepening of skills acquired in a first degree or the development of new skills under specialist teaching, which can be further practised in the third assessed element of the course, a closely supervised Dissertation on a subject of the candidate's own choice.
The five participating Humanities faculties contribute option choices and supervision expertise to the degree. The programme does not normally involve departments within the Social Sciences, although option choices and dissertation supervision are drawn beyond the contributing faculties and the Humanities.
Whilst students are pursuing the MSt in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, they are also encouraged to go to lectures and seminars organised by individual faculties, which might help them to frame their immediate or future projects.
If your interests lie particularly in History and women’s studies, you can also apply to the Faculty of History’s Women’s, Gender and Queer History Master’s programme, which introduces students to the latest research in these subjects and also provides a foundation for students’ independent research.