Graduate Program

350:510 - Queer Theory: Literary Critics and Others

Course No:  350:510
Index # - 18716
Distribution Requirement:  B
Wednesday - 4:30 p.m.
MU 207

Queer Theory:  Literary Critics and Others

David Kurnick

This course has two main goals: first, to introduce students to the intellectual sources and main theoretical lines of what is (or was) “queer theory,” and second, to reflect on the central but problematic place of literary studies in that tradition. That first goal encompasses a bunch of mini-projects: in order to understand the theoretical work that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s and that eventually got named “queer theory,” we’ll need to acquire some familiarity with the intellectual traditions from of which this theory descends (psychoanalysis, sexology, feminist theory); then to understand some of the precipitating contexts for queer theory’s emergence (AIDS, third-wave and third-world feminism, the feminist “sex wars,” post-structuralist thought); and finally to track the directions in which the field has moved in recent years (queer of color critique, transgender studies, transnational studies, affect studies). The second overarching goal would allow us to trace this historical trajectory while paying attention to issues of particular interest to literary scholars: the prominence of literary critics and of literary readings in the moment of queer theory’s naming prompts questions about the transportability (or not) of literary critical methods in addressing political, theoretical and historical dimensions of a topic like sexual normativity. I’d like us to understand why literary critics were at the center of this emerging discourse and to think about how we can continue to contribute to an ongoing project whose central energies are arguably no longer centered in literary studies.

This is a 500-level course, with several short papers.