During the past decade feminist scholarship and theory have enriched the humanities by exploring fresh areas of research and addressing new questions within existing disciplines. They have also challenged the bases on which those disciplines are traditionally conceived, especially the assumption of neutrality and universality in humanistic scholarship. In selecting "Feminism and the Humanities" as its theme for 1988-89, the Society for the Humanities seeks to bring together scholars from the fields of language and literature, history, philosophy, anthropology, political theory, and the arts, whose work might address such questions as:
- How have feminist criticism, theory, and scholarship of different sorts affected academic fields and disciplines by posing new questions, identifying new issues or areas of research, or promoting new pedagogical relations? How might putting women at the center of intellectual inquiry affect our study and understanding of literature, art, and popular culture, as well as history, psychoanalysis, and political theory? What are the relations between woman-centered and feminist investigations? What might be the characteristics of a feminist philosophy of mind?
- How do various feminisms question humanistic disciplines themselves? Are the traditional disciplinary boundaries an obstacle to our understanding of women's minds and lives? What is the effect of rethinking the humanities from the perspective of sexual difference? Does that rethinking affect the division between the humanities and science or the humanities and the social sciences? Can feminist scholars inhabit the same professional and institutional structures as their nonfeminist colleagues without having their endeavors shaped by those structures in profoundly nonfeminist ways?
- Are there assumptions in feminist scholarship and debate – such as notions of "woman" or "feminine sexuality" – that themselves require critical examination? How might feminist accounts of the construction of sexual difference serve to put the neutral concept of "gender studies" in question? What effect does the omission of racial difference have on discussions or theories of sexual difference themselves? How do feminist concerns intersect with analyses focused on race or class? Finally, what sort of intellectual or disciplinary legitimacy should feminist inquiry seek in defining its own future directions?