English 250

Research Seminar: Gender, Sexuality, and Modernism

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Spring 2015 Abel, Elizabeth
W 3-6 note new location: 108 Wheeler

Book List

Barnes, Djuna: Nightwood; Bechdel, Alison: Are You My Mother?; Bechdel, Alison: Fun Home; Cunningham, Michael: The Hours; Foucault, Michel: The History of Sexuality; Freud, Sigmund: Dora; James, Henry: The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Novels; Larsen, Nella: Quicksand and Passing; Stein, Gertrude: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; Toibin, Colin: The Master; Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray and Other Writings; Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway; Woolf, Virginia: Orlando

Other Readings and Media

Electronic files of critical essays,book chapters, and poetry will be available on bCourses; we will also screen several films.


“Is queer modernism simply another name for modernism?” The question Heather Love poses in her special issue of PMLA will also guide this seminar on the crossovers between formal and sexual “deviance” in modernist literature. We will read back and forth across a century (from Oscar Wilde to Alison Bechdel) to stage a series of encounters between the aesthetic practices of modernism and the discourses of queer theory.  As wemap the shifting contours of some key terms (“queer,” “trans,” “modernism”), we will pause to consider (among other things) the mobile dimensions of queer time and space; the historical migration of concepts such as hysteria, inversion, abjection, and shame; the mutual implication of race, gender, and sexuality (from the Harlem Renaissance through the rise of European fascism); the formal attributes of the closet; the legibility of transsexual/transgender bodies; the composition of affective histories; and contemporary queer revisions of modernist fiction. To complement (and complicate) the chronological axis of this inquiry, we will also attend to the metropolitan spaces in which sexual boundaries blurred and subcultures thrived, especially the three urban sites central to the modernist experiment: London, New York, and Paris.  A 20-25 page research paper will be due at the end of the semester.

This course satisfies the Group 5 (Twentieth Century) requirement.

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