ENGL 3217 Topics in Gender and Sexuality
Grace Rexroth, PhD
About the Course:
This course will take “queer memory” as both its topic and its mode of literary investigation. In this course, we’ll explore how queer identities and experiences are coded in literature—how they become a form of counter-memory within mainstream culture. We’ll also examine how and why queer writers of the past are so often misremembered—we’ll learn about writers who had to keep coded diaries, writers whose journals were destroyed by family members, writers whose lives were rewritten and sometimes erased from the canonical record all together. We’ll also read contemporary queer literature and consider the questions and tensions facing us now. In this way, “queer memory” will become for us both a set of topics and a way of reading.
Queer memory as theory: The inspiration for this class comes, in part, from postcolonial theory, where the term “counter-memory” is often used as a methodological tool for remembering the past in a creative way, clearing space for alternative perspectives of history. As Gayatri Spivak claims, the minority (or “subaltern”) consciousness is always subjected to the memories and generalizations of the élite, which means that it depends on the élite’s ideas of what should be remembered and why. Memory is not simply factual or impartial. Instead, we are socially and culturally enclosed in the political structures of an official memory-system, which organizes the processes of remembering—even our personal ones. Literature can be both a part of that official memory-system and an opposition to it—a way of creating and encoding counter-memories. To attune ourselves to “queer memory” is, then, an act of resistance—an attempt to recover what has been lost, forgotten, or rejected.
- Gain an initial exposure to queer theory and literature
- Demonstrate comprehension of the historical and cultural circumstances in which each work was produced
- Identify and describe characters, plots, significant passages, and themes in selected works
- Develop and use a vocabulary of literary terms and concepts to describe the aesthetic form or theoretic context of a given work
- Apply techniques of close reading to texts to be able to identify, define, and discuss genre, tone, audience, allusions, imagery, rhetorical devices, etc.
- Demonstrate comprehension of queer scholarship influencing the way we read texts written by and about queer authors
- Formulate an interpretative thesis and defend it with analysis of textual evidence, as demonstrated in frequent writing assignments (discussion posts and papers)
- Distill the breadth of class discussion, lecture material, and literary musing into concise, focused, and formal prose pieces of literary analysis
Required Texts may include:
Baldwin, James. Giovanni’s Room. Vintage Books, (1956) 2013.
Evaristo, Bernardine. Girl, Woman, Other. Black Cat Publishing, 2019.
Rooney, Sally. Conversations With Friends. Hogarth, 2017.
Vuong, Ocean. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Penguin Press, 2019.
In addition to the above texts, this class will consider short stories, poetry, YouTube videos, as well as articles/extracts about queer theory.
Grading (out of 1000 points):
|Syllabus Quiz & Self-Introduction||5%||50 points|
|Lecture Participation Exercises||15%||150 points|
|Perusall Annotations||35%||350 points|
|Reading Quizzes||15%||150 points|
|Midterm Paper||15%||150 points|
|Final Paper/Creative Project Proposal||5%||50 points|
|Final Paper or Creative Project||10%||100 points|