Exploring Feminist Literature: Simone de Beauvoir


When The Second Sex first appeared in 1949 the book was widely attacked by its critics as an outrageous insult to the sexual morals of the day. That did not stop it from selling twenty-two thousand copies in the first week alone. Today the book is seen as a rallying cry for the feminist movement and its author, the French feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, is celebrated as as one of the most important figures in twentieth century thought.

On this course we explore Beauvoir's milestone work The Second Sex step by step and in an approachable and accessible way, all the while paying tribute to the originality and continued relevance of her thought. As a leading light of French existentialism, Beauvoir examines woman's condition and the limits of female freedom challenging society's deeply entrenched beliefs about femininity. Her concepts of 'becoming woman' and of woman as absolute 'Other', and her discussions on gender, sexuality, the body and ageing, are still amongst the most influential ideas in feminist enquiry and debate. 

Programme details

Courses starts: 23 Apr 2024

Week 1: Who was Simone de Beauvoir? Life and influences

Week 2: Atheistic existentialism and phenomenology

Week 3: Situation, reciprocity, ambiguity in The Ethics of Ambiguity

Week 4: Facts and Myths: The construction of female subjectivity in The Second Sex

Week 5: Destiny: Biology, psychoanalysis, and historical materialism

Week 6: Myths: Mythical representations of women

Week 7: Formative Years: The conditioning of girls

Week 8: Situation: The roles adult women inhabit

Week 9: Justifications: Reinforcing one's own dependency

Week 10: Towards Liberation

Digital Certification

To complete the course and receive a certificate, you will be required to attend at least 80% of the classes on the course and pass your final assignment. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Julia Weckend

Julia joined the OUDCE in 2014. She published papers and edited books in the history of philosophy. Her teaching and research interests include studies in human nature and the human condition and the philosophies of mind, perception and emotion.

Course aims

The course sets out to enable students to gain a good understanding of the key themes in Beauvoir's celebrated text The Second Sex.

Course objectives:

  • To enable students to develop a keen appreciation of Beauvoir's philosophical concerns.
  • To develop a strong insight into the text and the implications of its themes.
  • To situate Beauvoir within the context of Twentieth Century philosophical thought as a whole

Teaching methods

This course is composed of two-hour weekly sessions which will contain both power point lecture and discussion elements. Ample handouts are provided for each topic. Students will be asked to read sections of the book and other distributed materials in advance of our get-togethers. I also recommend taking notes and contributing to group discussions in preparation of producing, if that's the aspiration, a short but informed philosophical essay. Suggested essay titles will be rooted in the primary and secondary material used for the course.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • be able to discuss the central concepts of Beauvoir's philosophical thinking in The Second Sex
  • have developed critical and analytical skills in relation to close textual readings
  • be able to express their views on Beauvoir's proposals within the framework of a group discussion.

Assessment methods

Students are welcome to submit work up to 1,500 words in length either as two or more shorter pieces (Option A), or as a single piece (Option B). There is also the possibility of acquiring accreditation by giving a short 15 minute presentation accompanied by a script that is to be handed in (Option C).

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

Everyone is welcome. No prior knowledge of philosophy or feminist literature are required, just an interest in reading and discussing Beauvoir's The Second Sex.

Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)