English 171

Literature and Sexual Identity: Gender, Sexuality, Modernism

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2022 Abel, Elizabeth
TTh 12:30-2 Wheeler 108

Book List

Baldwin, James: Giovanni's Room; Barnes, Djuna: Nightwood; Cunningham, Michael: The Hours; Hollinghurst, Alan: The Line of Beauty; Larsen, Nella: Passing; Nelson, Maggie: The Argonauts; Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray and Other Writings; Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway; Woolf, Virginia: Orlando

Other Readings and Media

The bCourses site will include samples of modernist poetry (T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes), theoretical essays (Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick, Lee Edelman, Susan Stryker), short stories (Henry James, Bruce Nugent), and visual materials drawn from contemporary art installations.  


This course will focus on one area of the rapidly expanding field of literature and sexual identity: the early twentieth-century literary experiments that have earned the title “modernism.” Famously “queer,” modernism’s challenges to literary and social norms entangled formal and sexual “deviance.” To unravel these entanglements, we will read back and forth across the twentieth century 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 read texts by Oscar Wilde, Henry James, Djuna Barnes, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, and James Baldwin,  we will consider (among other issues) 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.  

The course will require two papers, a midterm, and a final exam.

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