How do queer people, branded as social and sexual deviants, come to imagine and practice alternate forms of community? In this course, we will explore trysts with history, including practices of communal mourning in the face of HIV/AIDS; histories of gender nonconformity; nostalgia for a golden era of public sex; the relations between race and intimacy; and queer melancholia and queer kinship. Throughout the course, we will worry about the by no means settled relationship between gender/sexual deviancy and political radicalism. Desire for stories of queer lives in the face of scant or non-existent historical evidence is a special focus of this course; what do we find when we go looking for queer narratives?
We will read books and watch films that were largely produced after the Stonewall riots of 1969 but which situate themselves in relation to specific moments of a troubled past. Possible texts include Cheryl Dunye’s search for black women in Golden Age Hollywood in The Watermelon Woman, Samuel Delany’s recounting of the age of public sex in Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, and Monique Truong’s novel about the Vietnamese cook of two famous lesbians, The Book of Salt. Theorists we will read include Michel Foucault, Lauren Berlant, José Muñoz, and Susan Stryker. This is a Junior Research Seminar, designed to introduce students to a variety of literary research methods and academic writing skills. Assignments include an annotated bibliography, historical research in library archives, and a final research project.