ENGL359A - Special Topics in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Literatures; American Autobiographics

Also offered as LGBT359A.

Beginning with a review of captivity narratives, classic autobiographies such as that by Ben Franklin (though he called the unfinished record of his life Memoirs), we will then pursue questions of autobiographics through various, usually queer texts—narratives, poems, songs, films, and other modes of public expression. This intensive study of self-expression in a variety of media and across a couple of centuries examines writing of, on, about, through, around, over, and under “the self.” We will begin by examining the queerness of nineteenth-century poets Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson and will then turn to the productions and cultural reproductions of modern and contemporary poets and writers such as Elizabeth Bishop, H.D., Gertrude Stein, Judy Grahn, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, and Minnie Bruce Pratt, as well as Hart Crane, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Frank O’Hara, Essex Hemphill, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nikki Finney, and Claudia Rankine.  While we will probe ways in which lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer expressions are inflected by issues of race, gender, class, and high/low culture, we will especially scrutinize ways in which the performances and receptions of writers identified (by themselves or others) as LGBT or queer or writing from a racially-imbued perspective may perpetuate, challenge, and modify cultural mythologies about sexualities, queernesses, and modes of being and writing in the Facebook age.  Another central inquiry in our course of study, then, will be to investigate various implications of the fact that in the early 21st century, “25 Random Things About Me” and other online writing performed by individuals in group settings queer notions about social networking and autobiographical expression.

Written assignments will be a short paper and a longer, more ambitious essay (10-15 pp.) or online writing (critical blog or other web presentation) exploring in depth some aspect raised by our course of study, as well as a reading journal (maintaining this journal will count as one of your exams).  Collaborative writing endeavors are welcomed.  Our meetings will often depend upon group work for leading discussions in the individual sessions, and each class member will participate in a project presentation, which may well be a group presentation.