ENGL465 - Theories of Sexuality and Literature

Drawing primarily upon feminist and queer approaches, this course examines the ways that sexuality, sexual difference, and gender both create and confound the conditions of meaning in the production and the analysis of literary (and other cultural) texts. In this course, we will pay particular attention to how race intersects with sexuality, sexual difference, and gender, while simultaneously exploring the operations of and resistances to both heteronormativity (“the institutions, structures of understanding, and practical orientations that make heterosexuality seem not only coherent – that is, organized as a sexuality – but also privileged” [Berlant and Warner]) and homonormativity (“a politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions, but upholds and sustains them, while promising the possibility of a demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption” [Duggan]).

We will read essays by Alan Sinfield, Lauren Berlant & Michael Warner, Lisa Duggan, Jack Halberstam, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and Jose Esteban Munoz as well as the excellent essays collected in Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology. In addition, we will read Samuel R. Delany’s non-fiction masterpiece Times Square Red, Times Square Blues, along with novels by Audre Lorde (Zami: A New Spelling of My Name), Leslie Feinberg (Stone Butch Blues), Nella Larsen (Passing), and James Baldwin (Giovanni’s Room), poetry by Essex Hemphill & Bruce Nugent, The Toilet (a one-act play by Amiri Baraka), and films by Jennie Livingston (Paris Is Burning) and Isaac Julien (Looking for Langston).

Aside from punctuality, attendance, and ample in-class participation, each student’s grade will be based on diligent, vigorous use of the course’s discussion board, a mid-semester close reading assignment, and a final project in which each student puts to use sex/gender/queer theory in an analysis of a text of hir own choosing – in consultation with me. Plus, at the end of semester, each student will give a brief presentation on the progress of hir final project.

Also offered as: LGBT465. Credit only granted for: ENGL465 or LGBT465.


Two lower-level English courses, at least one in literature; or permission of ARHU-English department.