English 250

Research Seminar: Gender, Sexuality, Modernism

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Fall 2017 Abel, Elizabeth
Thurs. 3:30-6:30 102 Barrows

Book List

Baldwin, James: Giovanni's Room; Barnes, Djuna: Nightwood; Bechdel, Alison: Fun Home; James, Henry: The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Fiction; Larsen, Nella: Passing; Nelson, Maggie: The Argonauts; 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; Woolf, Virginia: Orlando;

Recommended: Butler, Judith: Gender Trouble; Foucault, Michel: The History of Sexuality (Volume 1); Nutt, Amy Ellis: Becoming Nicole; Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky: Epistemology of the Closet

Other Readings and Media

Critical essays, short fiction, plays and poetry will be available on our b-Courses.


“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 (Henry James to Colm Toibin, James Joyce to Alison Bechdel, Oscar Wilde to Yinka Shonibare, Virginia Woolf to Caryl Churchill, 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, transvestism, abjection, and shame; the mutual implication of race, gender, and sexuality; the formal attributes of the closet; the legibility of 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 satisfies the Group 5 (20th Century) requirement.

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