« Julia Kristeva's "Interpreting Radical Evil" | Main | Video: Kristeva at the Chicago Humanities Festival »

Feminism is Flourishing at the University of Memphis


Though Julia Kristeva has often expressed ambivalence toward feminism and feminist movements, feminist philosophers and theorists have been among the leading scholars, especially in the United States, to engage with her work. Kristeva’s themes, from the abject to her revaluation of motherhood, have been both appropriated and attacked by feminist philosophers. This tradition makes the Department of Philosophy at the University of Memphis especially suited to host this year’s Kristeva Circle meeting.

            Feminist philosophy has a strong home in Memphis. Though the push to include diverse figures in course syllabi is not department-wide, many professors and graduate instructors, each in her or his own way, incorporate female and feminist philosophers into their undergraduate courses. This is not just true of introductory courses. The department regularly runs courses on feminist philosophy at the upper-undergraduate and graduate-levels. Professor Mary Beth Mader, for example, has taught courses, such as “Continental Philosophy” and “The Family, Gender and Sexuality,” which have had strong components of feminist philosophy. Courses like “Philosophy of Law” and “Philosophy of Literature” taught by Professor Verena Erlenbusch and “African American Philosophy” by Professor Luvell Anderson also incorporate diverse, feminist figures. Professor Deborah Tollefsen recently led a graduate seminar on the epistemologies of ignorance. Several years ago, former Memphis professor, Dr. Sarah Clark Miller, led a seminar on the ethics of relationships which incorporated many feminist challenges to canonical ethical theories and inspired the following year’s Philosophy Graduate Student Association Conference on “Feminism and Liberalism.” Last semester, Professor Shaun Gallagher taught a seminar on action and interaction in which the works of fifteen female philosophers were studied. And two recent seminars led by Professor Pleshette DeArmitt have explicitly taken up feminist themes, one on Kristeva’s most recent work, and the other on understandings of narrative and subjectivity by female and feminist philosophers.

In addition to bringing feminist themes into the classroom, Memphis is home to Philosophical Horizons, a volunteer program in which students from the department discuss philosophical themes with students in local K-12 schools and incarcerated persons at the Shelby County Correctional Facility. The program’s aims of bringing philosophy to underrepresented persons and encouraging more diverse thinkers to enter the field of philosophy is a fundamentally feminist one.

In these ways, the Department of Philosophy at the University of Memphis promises to be an excellent host for the 2015 Kristeva Circle.