English 171

Literature and Sexual Identity: Gender, Sexuality, and Modernism

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2015 Abel, Elizabeth
TTh 12:30-2 123 Wheeler

Book List

Baldwin, James: Giovanni's Room; Barnes, Djuna: Nightwood; Bechdel, Alison: Fun Home; Cunningham, Michael: The Hours; James, Henry.: Selected Tales; Larsen, Nella: Passing; Stein, Gertrude: Tender Buttons; Toibin, Colm: The Master; Truong, Monique: The Book of Salt; Wilde, Oscar.: The Picture of Dorian Gray; Woolf, Virginia.: Mrs. Dalloway

Other Readings and Media

An electronic course reader will contain poetry, essays, and short stories. Films will be available for screening at the Media Resource Center.


“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 Henry James to Colm Toibin, from James Joyce to Alison Bechdel, from Gertrude Stein to Monique Truong) to stage a series of encounters between the aesthetic practices and discourses of modernism and those of contemporary queer theory and cultural production.  As we map the shifting contours of some key forms and terms, we will pause to consider (among other things) the mobile dimensions of queer time and space; the historical migration of concepts such as perversion, inversion, masquerade, abjection, and shame; the mutual implication of race, gender, and sexuality; the formal and hisorical components of the closet; the legibility of transsexual/transgender bodies; and the composition of affective histories. 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  modernist experimentation: London, New York, and Paris. 

This course is cross-listed with LGBT 100 section 1.

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