Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Queer Theories and Histories

ENGL 592.401
also offered as: GSOC 592
W 3-6


This course offers an introduction to the field of queer studies with a primary focus on historiography. The fields of lesbian, gay, and queer studies were founded in part through powerful acts of reframing the history of same-sex desires and identifications. Still today, contemporary debates in the field are often played out through questions of “how to do the history of homosexuality.” We will trace the transformations in lesbian, gay, and queer historiography over the last several decades, paying special attention to the recent turn from epistemological questions (“Were there gay people in the past?”) to issues of affect and identification (“What relations can we imagine between ourselves and queer figures in the past?”). 

Topics will include: the history of the field; the role of anthologies; the history of friendship and same-sex desire; the “invention of homosexuality”; the “empty archive”; pre-Stonewall “structures of feeling”; HIV/AIDS and its impact on histories of sexuality; transgender histories; the colonial archive; transnational histories of sexuality and race; the history of the body; and the relation between temporality and history.

Readings by Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Gayle Rubin, John Boswell, David Halperin, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Adrienne Rich, Robert Reid-Pharr, Lillian Faderman, Neil Bartlett, Valerie Traub, Walter Benjamin, Siobhan Somerville, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Lee Edelman, David Eng, Neville Hoad, Audre Lorde, Christopher Nealon, George Chauncey, Lisa Duggan, Roderick Ferguson, Carolyn Dinshaw, Christopher Castiglia, Patricia White, Alan Bray, Ann Laura Stoler; Carla Freccero, Sharon Marcus, Miranda Joseph, Ann Cvetkovich, Joanne Meyerowitz, Leila Rupp, Martin Duberman, Barbara Smith, Licia Fiol-Matta, John D’Emilio, Jonathan Goldberg, D. A. Miller, Martha Vicinus, and others. We will also consider some literary texts and films as case studies and as contributions to queer historiography.

Requirements: active class participation; one five-page paper; a class presentation; either a final paper or a final exam.

fulfills requirements