Shame and its Neighbors


Spring 2014 quarter

Taught by

social psychology, gender and women's studies
aesthetics and philosophy, critical theory, psychoanalysis

How does shame differ from disgust, guilt and embarrassment? How does shame function both socially and individually? In this program, we will pursue a set of themes and questions clustered around shame. We will look at attempts in social psychology, sociology, psychoanalysis, and philosophy to define shame, to differentiate it from its neighboring emotions and states, and to understand how it functions both socially and individually. We will look at both general theories and case studies, ranging from topics like morality and moralization, marginalization, bodies and shame, the social life of the emotions, feminist critiques of shame, as well as turning our attention to “counter-shame” movements like sex positivity.

Our work in psychoanalysis and philosophy will likely include readings by Freud, Lacan, Donald Winnicott, Slavoj Žižek, Hannah Arendt, and Michel Foucault.  Our work in social psychology and sociology will draw from Silvan Tomkins, Erving Goffman, Michael Lewis, Thomas Scheff, June Tangney, and Susan Miller.  And we will examine at least one novel that deals thematically with shame: Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama. We will be reading broadly in both contemporary and historical texts, engaging in seminar discussion and writing workshops, and writing reflective, expository, and research papers on shame and related phenomena throughout the quarter.

Although any background in the fields of psychology or philosophy will be helpful, successful participation in the inquiry does not depend on it. However, we do recommend the program for students with some lower division experience with the humanities and/or the social sciences. 

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

gender and women's studies, philosophy, psychology and sociology.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$60 for museum tickets and one-day registration to attend the Western Psychological Association conference in Portland, OR.


Date Revision
January 23rd, 2014 Fees increased to $60.
April 5th, 2013 New opportunity added.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 30376

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