English R1B

Reading and Composition: Queer I

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
16 Fall 2019 Stevenson, Max
TTh 5-6:30 121 Latimer

Book List

Augustine (trans. Sarah Ruden: Confessions; Bechdel, Alison: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic; Nelson, Maggie: The Argonauts; Staley, Lynn, trans. and ed.: The Book of Margery Kempe


This course asks how writers use the stories of individual lives to negotiate what it means to be "queer," in the widest possible sense of the term. Most of what we read will be pieces written by authors describing their own lived experiences, but given R1B's focus on research we'll also engage the unruly body of thought that is queer theory, asking how both it and writing itself can provide tools for living all sorts of lives.

The various Is (and hes and shes and theys) of the course include everything from funeral directors to college students, from artists to crossdressing saints in monastic drag. And much like the retrospective I of the memoirist, this course has a double vantage point: we'll study contemporary life writing side by side with life writing from the long Middle Ages, reading together two thinkers who offer their lives as opportunities for theorizing or theologizing (Augustine's Confessions and Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts) and two attempts at self-definition under the shadow of demons past, present, and familial (the Book of Margery Kempe and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home). Other authors we will study include Alexander Chee, M. F. K. Fisher, Chang-rae Lee, James Baldwin, Richard Rodriguez, and the writers of anonymous Old English elegies and saints' lives.

While those lives are our subject of study, they are not its object. As a course in the University's Reading and Composition program, our objective is your own improvement as a writer. While the requirements of R1B mean that you'll produce academic essays that put forward vigorous arguments supported with copious evidence gathered through careful research, you'll produce a range of writing over the course, in a range of other, less academic genres—including, yes, writing on your own life.

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