Last Fall, I taught graduate classical social theory for the first time. I’m teaching the course again in the coming academic year and I’m trying to decide what, if anything, to change. Last year’s version “worked” on the whole, though there were rough patches. Du Bois, who I had not read before, was a big hit, and I learned a ton from Black Reconstruction especially. This time I’ve upped the Du Bois content to two full weeks. So did the major course themes (“What is the social? How do we make knowledge about it?). My current draft syllabus is here, in case anyone is curious.
Although the course went fine, I remain frustrated with a couple things. First, I can’t figure out how to organically include feminist writing in the syllabus. Last time, I had included some bits of 1980s feminist standpoint theory alongside Du Bois, but the students (rightfully) complained that it felt tacked on, and did justice to neither Du Bois nor feminist thought. The founding fathers remain stubbornly men, and stubbornly not or even anti-feminist.
I’m also never sure how to begin the course – I like starting with a week of what sociology emerged in reaction to/distinction from (classical political thought, political economy), which is how I learned theory, but it’s a very dry, overview week.
For those of you teaching classical social theory, what’s working well for you? Are there particular assignments, readings, etc. that you’ve find surprisingly effective? How much do you incorporate secondary vs. primary texts? Do you include critical commentary alongside the primary texts? For those of you who recently took classical social theory, what worked well for you and what didn’t?
EDIT: I’ve toyed around with the syllabus a bit more. New version here, now including feminist criticism/reinterpretation alongside the major theorists. I’m pretty happy with it, except the absence of obvious readings to include alongside Weber. What are your favorite secondary sources for helping students understand Weber? What are the best feminist readings of Weber?