Introduction to Lesbian and Gay Studies (3) An introduction to the study of homosexual identities across a wide range of disciplines and methodologies.
ENGL (WMNST 245 Introduction to Lesbian and Gay Studies (3)
An introduction to the study of homosexual identities across a wide range of disciplines and methodologies, this course explores the history of modern, “western” ideas about sexual identity as manifested in both writing and images. The class examines sexuality not as a “natural” or consistent phenomenon, but as a set of beliefs that have changed over time and manifest themselves differently in different cultural and historical contexts.
Starting in the late nineteenth century, scientific and medical authorities began categorizing individuals into sexual types based on their manifestations of gendered characteristics and their erotic attractions and practices. This medical typing corresponded with the development of subcultures associated with deviance from sexual
norms; these subcultures produced a rich variety of texts, images, performances, and social forms, many of which are now considered central to both vernacular and high culture.
This course explores this rich archive. It investigates constructions of sexual conformity and how sexual nonconformists positioned themselves as a shared group identity. It examines how sexual distinctions between gendered, raced, and classed bodies were historically produced and culturally contested. It considers what commonalities gay identities may – or may not – share with lesbian identities and how the increasing visibility of bisexuality, transgender, and transsexuality has altered perceptions of sexual identity. The course explores the relationship of the avant-garde to mass-mediated politics of GLBTQ subcultures and the impetus to “normalcy.” Comparative study of issues of sexual mobility beyond and between the borders of the United States expands the course’s critical scope beyond dominant forms of western culture.
This course does not propose definitive answers to the questions of identity it addresses. Instead it negotiates the ways sexualities have enabled individuals to articulate – and disarticulate – themselves within social bodies past and present. This course, therefore, has wide relevance for students interested in how group identities come into being and transform over time in dynamic relation to other historical forces. Exploring a wide variety of texts and images associated with the history of sexual identity as well as a variety of interpretations of that history, this course opens students to an archive with the potential to inform and enrich their understandings of many kinds of challenges to regimes of normativity today.
Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.