Syllabus

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Overview:

Close analysis of major works of LGBTQ literature, film, and visual art from the 1890s to today. Students will gain deeper knowledge and appreciation of historical and contemporary forms of queer representation in various national literatures, film, and visual art; understand relevant social and political debates; and gain a basic knowledge of feminist and queer theory. 

 

This course focuses on the comparative study of important gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual, and transgender writers and filmmakers and their changing social, political, and cultural contexts from the 1890s to today, discussed in the context of 20th- and 21st-century feminist and queer literary and social theories of gender and sexuality.  The aim of this class is to introduce you to some of the major critical questions and debates in feminist, gender and sexuality studies, as they apply to, and are illuminated or complicated by, the study of modern LGBTQ literature and film.

Topics include 19th-century scientific theories of male and female homosexuality (sexology) and legal backgrounds to novels and plays such as Rachilde’s Monsieur Vénus, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness and the early lesbian cult film Girls in Uniform; intersections and conflicts between queerness and race, as well as past and present, in Isaac Julien’s film Looking for Langston [Hughes] and Cheryl Dunye’s Watermelon Woman, as well as in James Baldwin’s novel Giovanni’s Room and in Cherríe Moraga’s theoretical and literary work; notions of queer genealogy and “family” in Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home or films such as Todd Haynes’ Velvet Goldmine, Pedro Almodóvar’s All About My Mother and the New York drag ball documentary Paris Is Burning; as well as transgender and transsexual representation in Rachilde’s decadent 1884 novel Monsieur Vénus and in independent and mainstream films/musicals such as Ma Vie en Rose, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, or Transamerica.  These primary texts will be supplemented with selected theoretical readings and various handouts to illuminate the cultural and historical context as well as provide students with theoretical and conceptual tools from feminist and queer theory.

I look forward to working with you this quarter.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions and make sure to come see me in office hour this quarter, both individually and as a group (see group project below).  Welcome!

List of readings and films:

  • Rachilde, Monsieur Venus. Modern Language Association of America, 2004. ISBN-10: 0873529308, ISBN-13: 978-0873529303.  AT BOOKSTORE SOON.
  • Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest.  Ed. by Samuel Lyndon Gladden. Broadview, 2010.  ISBN 978-1-55111-694-5.  AT BOOKSTORE.
  • James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room.  Delta Publishing, 2000. ISBN-10: 0385334583, ISBN-13: 978-0385334587.  AT BOOKSTORE.
  • Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragedy. Repr. ed. Mariner Books, 2007.  ISBN-10: 0618871713, ISBN-13: 978-0618871711. AT BOOKSTORE.

(plus a few supplemental articles and handouts in pdf, downloadable on our Coursework site soon)

Films (to be watched outside of class prior to discussion):

  • Girls in Uniform (Mädchen in Uniform, Germany 1931, dir. Leontine Sagan, 98 min.)
  •  Looking for Langston (UK 1989, dir. Isaac Julien, 42 min.)
  • Paris Is Burning (USA documentary, 1990, dir. Jennie Livingston, 78 min.)
  • Cheryl Dunye, Watermelon Woman (USA 1996, dir. Cheryl Dunye, 90 min.)
  • Velvet Goldmine (USA 1996, dir. Todd Haynes, 124 min.)
  • Ma Vie en Rose (Belgium 1997; dir. Alain Berliner, 89 min.)
  • All About My Mother (Todo sobre mi madre, Spain 1999, dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 104 min.)
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch (USA 2001, dir. John Cameron Mitchell) or Transamerica (USA 2006, dir. Duncan Tucker, 103 min.)  

Overview of Requirements

Requirements for 5 credits:

  • Attendance and active participation   10%
  • 7 reading/viewing responses on our course blog, under pseudonym/initials (ca. 500 words each, no more than 1 per week)  20%
  • Short midterm essay: Close reading on an aspect of a text or film of your choice; discuss topic/text with me beforehand. 5-7pp. Graduate students only: please incorporate min. 2 peer-reviewed scholarly research sources, list in bibliography.  20%
  • Group project: group collaboration and brief class presentation on the concept/materials/research for your chosen topic (20%) and individual writing to contribute to the group project (10-12 pp. for undergraduates, 15-20pp. for graduate students, 30%)     Total for group project 50% 

 Requirements for 4 credits:

  • Attendance and active participation    10%
  • EITHER 7 reading/viewing responses on our course blog, under pseudonym/initials (ca. 500 words each, no more than 1 per week)
  • OR Short midterm essay: Close reading on an aspect of a text or film of your choice; discuss topic/text with me beforehand. 5-7pp. Graduate students only: please incorporate min. 2 peer-reviewed scholarly research sources, list in bibliography.      40%
  • Group project: group collaboration and brief class presentation on the concept/materials/research for your chosen topic (20%) and individual writing to contribute to the group project (10-12 pp. for undergraduates, 15-20pp. for graduate students, 30%)     Total for group proiect 50% 

Requirements for 3 credits:

  • Attendance and active participation     10%
  • Group project: participate in the group collaboration and brief class presentation on the concept/materials/research for the group’s chosen topic                          20%
  • and do ONLY ONE of the following writing options throughout the course:
    • 7 reading/viewing responses on our course blog under pseudonym/initials (ca. 500+ words each, write no more than 1 per week)
    • OR Individual writing to contribute to the group project (10-12 pp. for undergraduates, 15-20pp. for graduate students)                          70%

Detailed Descriptions of Requirements (check against the 3, 4, 5 credit options above)

Attendance, active class participation, absence policy:

Your regular, on-time attendance and active participation in class are absolutely vital for this seminar, which is primarily based on our discussion, interspersed with my occasional lectures.  I expect you to come to each and every session on time, prepared, with the assigned readings for that day completed and right there in front of you, and ready to talk, ask questions, get engaged.

Ideally, you will contribute substantially to each class discussion in both quantity and quality; both are necessary to get an A for class participation. Do not be late to class, please—if you come in late repeatedly, your attendance grade will be marked down.

More than 2 absences for the quarter will adversely affect your grade; if you miss more than 4 classes overall, I strongly suggest you withdraw from the course.  More than 6 absences overall will result in failure (F) for the course. Please discuss any special circumstances with me.

Short midterm essay (5-7 pp.):

For this short essay, you will receive a range of suggested essay topics, asking you to discuss important literary or cultural themes, characters, or historical and theoretical issues, in our texts/films thus far.  From the list of questions, you only need to choose and respond to one, so you’ll have some choice as to topic and focus for your paper; you may also discuss your own idea for an essay topic with me.  The assignment will be handed out in the first few weeks of the course and may be completed at any time up to the end of Week 6.  Make sure you argue your points to the fullest extent possible, including quotes and examples from the text(s) wherever appropriate and necessary to qualify your argument (quote from literary texts as well as from films if your topic includes film—copy down dialogue, for example). Graduate students only: you must incorporate at least two peer-reviewed, scholarly resources (such as articles form reputable scholarly journals in the field, books—discuss any questions with me) and list them in a brief bibliography at the end.

This is a formal essay that must follow the guidelines for written work (see below).  Please leave enough time for proofreading and formal polishing before you hand it in to me—the formal issues are part of your grade for this essay.  No outside research is required for these papers, but any research you use for your paper must be properly cited and documented, including any online resources.  See honor code below.  I suggest the MLA style and citation format for this, but talk to me if you are used to a different citation style (such as APA, Chicago, etc.).

About the Group Project: collaborative and individual research and writing

Collaborative part: 2-3 students choose a common general literary or filmic topic to work on (such as “Transgender representation,” “Lesbian pulp fiction,” “The New Queer Cinema,” etc.).  They identify subtopics and tasks, discuss their individual research, and divide writing or production tasks on specific facets of the topic. Together, they develop a brief (1-2 pp.), well-argued rationale for their common “crash course syllabus” and prepare a brief class presentation on their work as a group and their reasons for doing it this way, to be given at our informal class conference in the final week of class. The class as a whole will give constructive feedback on the group presentation and identify strengths and potential weaknesses of the project. Work on the group project can start as early as the second or third week of the quarter and finish early, or take place as late as the eighth week and finish just in time, but all groups must present their work in the final class conference at the end.  Group project presentations will be graded both by me and by the other students in the class (we will develop a clear grading rubric together and you will receive ample feedback on your group project before it is due).  Throughout, groups are invited to work in close consultation with me and will meet at least once with me to discuss the project in its early stages.

Individual part: Each student in the group (with the possible exception of students who take the course for 3 credits and choose to write the blog posts instead) must contribute some individual writing to the group project.  Writings contributed by each student can include a portfolio of diverse materials such as handouts, a brief essay on an author or filmmaker to provide the target students with context, a writing or creative exercise for the target students, reading or viewing questions for a specific film or text, or a creative contribution such as a poem, a self-made video or audio contribution [such as an interview or a visual sequence of compelling images] that gets at the heart of the topic.

In general, the group project develops a “mini crash course” on a topic and cluster of texts/films of your choice, to teach others some aspect of “Queer Literature and Film” that specifically interests you. You can choose any facet of the history, present, and future of queer representation in literature and film from the 1890s to 2013 and beyond, and develop a very specific or a broader topic.  In small groups of two or three, you will develop a “mini crash course” on the history and present of representations of LGBTQ people in literature and film, designed as a compact three-week syllabus package complete with texts, handouts, assignments, and visual or video excerpts.  It will most probably be aimed at high schoolers, incoming college students, and the general public, the populations most likely to benefit most from our material, and the important part is that we will make these mini courses public on our blog after the course, as well as offer them to other college, university, or community organizations, for free.

In other words, the group project gives you the chance to apply and build on what you have learned or what you’d like to explore more, in order to teach others as you personally would like to see a specific textual or contextual aspect of our topic taught.  Some topics might include:  Oscar Wilde as a gay icon; lesbian pulp fiction; gay male comics; the legal history of homosexual prosecution and its influence on the writings or perceptions of specific writers (Wilde, Baldwin, Radclyffe Hall …); bisexual literature/films and bisexuality in queer theory; Almodóvar’s treatment of transsexuality  across two or more other films; the early German homosexual rights movement and its influence or non-influence on literature; the proliferation of gay or lesbian villains in 1960s movies (especially in film noir); LGBTQ-themed films that were particularly controversial in the LGBTQ community and why (such as The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which was accused of sexism and racism, etc.); literary or film scene (Frameline Festival) in San Francisco; the topic of gay marriage in recent novels or films; the enormously creative genre of the “lesbian short” [films]; what is Chinese tongzhi literature or film; sadomasochism in literature or film’ comparisons; LGBTQ visibility or invisibility on TV in the last two decades or so and issues of commercialization of queerness;  essentialist versus constructivist notions and examples of LGBTQ “identity” in specific literary texts or films; alternative “literary” or “filmic” venues of queer representation such as zines, comics, performances in clubs, the history of queer film festivals, etc. etc.

We’ll publish all group projects on our course blog (anonymously/under pseudonyms or initials only, of course) once they are done. For the purpose of spreading the word once your group product (consisting of the individual writings you collect and contribute for it), I could imagine your group writing to and offering their mini courses to LGBTQ community centers and programs at high schools and colleges around the country, as well as advertise it on social media.  That way, our work this quarter will live on and proliferate!

The following questions and ideas are meant to help you to start thinking about your project:

As you learn about important milestones and developments for LGBTQ representation in literature and film since the 1890s and go through several different topic clusters in this course, how would you personally want to see these topics represented and treated, if you were to teach others about them?  In other words, what would you want others to know and consider when they first learn about these topics, and why? Ideally, what should teaching the history, present, and future of queerness in literature and film look like, for your generation, and why?  (Keep in mind, you will only have to focus on one specific aspect, not have to reimagine a whole cours.)  eAnd what would you [Stanford students] do when teaching other students, that this course has not yet done?  The goal is to use what you have learned, making choices, picking the most important ideas and points, milestones, problems, conundrums in the history of LGBTQ representations in literature and film and build a pedagogical sequence out of it—use both new knowledge and research skills to put together an interesting, engaging package for others that “makes sense” as a brief unit and has specific teaching goals, to be defined and explained in your course rationale, to accompany the syllabus and materials you will develop.  Public function: aim your course at a specific audience (define it, research it). Put your course rationale in context with past or current debates and controversies about LGBTQ rights.

Guidelines for all written work (on the blog or final project):

All formal written work (papers) must be typed, 12 pt font, Times New Roman or similar font, and carefully proofread.  Please include your word count at the end. If submitted on paper or via an electronic Word or pdf document, the document must also double-spaced and include page numbers as well as a formal header (your name, class, quarter, type assignment, date).

Blog posts can be more informal and less structured than an essay (I will provide examples to you so you can get an idea of the format, style(s), and target audience), but all written work will be judged both on quality of ideas (intellectual level and depth of thinking, creativity, correctness of facts, quotations and argumentative use of text/s cited) as well as form (level of style, diction, syntax, grammar, spelling, etc.): since writing, thinking, and communicating your thoughts to your reader are intrinsically related activities, the overall quality of your paper or online post will inevitably suffer if it is poorly argued, presented, or proofread.  Please make sure you present your learning and ideas in the best form possible, and leave plenty of time for proofreading before you hand in your work to me.  Any out-of-class written assignment that looks careless or doesn’t follow the formal requirements may be returned to you ungraded and marked late for each day it takes you to revise it and turn it in again. Always keep a copy of our computer work on back-up disk, in the Cloud or portable memory stick—it is your responsibility to ensure your work reaches me on time.

Papers and reading assignments are due on the date and by the time indicated in the syllabus; lateness will inevitably impact your grade and revisions for re-grading will not be accepted.  Feel free to talk to me about any special circumstances.

  

Honor Code:

You are responsible for adhering to Stanford University’s honor code.  I do not tolerate any form of plagiarism, and depending on the severity of the plagiarism you may be asked to drop the class.  Please familiarize yourself with the code at http://www.stanford.edu/dept/vpsa/judicialaffairs/guiding/honorcode.htm, and ask me if you have any questions whatsoever.

Students with Documented Disabilities:

Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a
disability must initiate the request with the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) located within the Office of Accessible Education (OAE).  SDRC staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is being made. Students should contact the SDRC as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations.  The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone: 723-1066).

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