ENGL359C - Special Topics in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Literatures; Queer Comedy
Comedy is always queer, challenging conventional perspectives, turning our attentions to the unexpected, and turning the expected and accepted on its head, as it were. In this course, we’ll be asking what counts, then, as “queer comedy”? Though we will make extensive use of the world wide web throughout the semester, especially at the beginning, WWW stands for Witty Women Writers—bold, wry, playful, challenging “women” (both actual females and males in drag) who use humor to facilitate more full expression and more effective protests, and to foster positive change. Feminist comedy is especially resonant with queer comedy and so will serve as part of the foundation for investigating queer comedy.  Especially important for our course of study is that queers, women, and other groups traditionally regarded as minorities or disfranchised have long used humor to contest rigid and repressive orthodoxies in the hope of resituating their own relationships to society as a whole and thus transform society, or at least their relation to and status in society.  Such use of humor will center our critical inquiry.  We will explore by reading and rereading, from the page and from screens (of computer, cinema, and television), selected works from centuries of transatlantic literature and artistic performance. Though they are not quite like Wanda Sykes or Margaret Cho (whom we will examine), we will read writers such as Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, Allen Ginsberg, Essex Hemphill, as well as examine the work of a number of gay comedians, and Whoopi Goldberg, Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore (!), Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner, and Ellen Degeneres as we rethink customary divisions between high and low, public and private art and artistic performance.  Queer cartoonists such as Alison Bechdel and Howard Cruse are also likely to be part of our “mystery ride” through queer comedy. Issues of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, and class will inform our critical inquiry.  If there’s a comic or writer whom you’d really like to study, email me and make a suggestion. Two papers, keeping a reading journal online, an oral presentation, a final, and an appreciation for the importance of having fun required.


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

Note: Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs. Also offered as LGBT359M.