English 190

Research Seminar: Transsexual Literatures and Cultures


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2019 Lavery, Grace
MW 12-1:30 305 Wheeler

Description

Trans people are not a novelty. A desire to change sex, or else the fact of an individual whose sex has changed, is depicted in some of the most canonical texts of the literary canon: from the Metaphorphoses of Ovid, through the cross-identifications of Shakespearean comedies, through the plastic and dissenting flesh of the novels of Charles Dickens, to the primacy of castration and penis envy in the sexual theories of Sigmund Freud. Though these highly authoritative elaborations of trans desire and embodiment were not, generally, written by people who underwent social or medical transitions, nonetheless they have conditioned the lives of trans men and women, who have written out their desires and experiences in terms they did not set out for themselves.

In this class, we will critically examine the interactions between these canonical explorations of changeable sex (also: Gore Vidal, Virginia Woolf, and the TV show Transparent) and the self-exploration of transsexual writers who did undergo social and/or medical transition: writers such as Earl Lind, Poppy Z Brite, Janet Mock, and Leslie Feinberg. We will also examine the marginal cases of authors for whom literary writing itself was a kind of gender transition—figures like George Eliot, for example, who used a masculine pseudonym throughout a long career. Students will develop their own detailed research projects on trans authors and their generic and political contexts.

Please read the paragraph about English 190 on page 2 of the instructions area of this Announcement of Classes for more details about enrolling in or wait-listing for this course.

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