9518 - Queer Theory and Cultural Production -
A change in the concept of sexual identity is essential if we are not going to see the old political order reassert itself in every new revolution. We need to know the writing of the past, and know it differently than we have ever known it; not to pass on a tradition but to break its hold over us.
Beginning in the late 1980s, a range of largely North American and European cities witnessed the rise of political activisms and art that resignified the former epithet ““queer”” into a term of pleasurable, anti-assimilationist self-identification. Concurrently, theorists across disciplines in the academy began to examine the increasingly mobile borders between gay, lesbian, and straight identities in a range of historical and (trans)national contexts, investigations that have formed and continue to transform the category ““queer theory.”” This course will examine the rise of this category of theory, and do so through a particular lens: we will explore the role that cultural production plays in shaping queer theory, activisms and subjects, looking largely at theorists in western contexts, but also more recent queer writings from non-western and diasporic locations. We will look at a number of enabling fictions for understanding the central ideas and texts of queer theory, including examples from literature (the novel and memoir), media (film and television), theatrical performance, dance, popular music, and photography. We will trace queer theory broadly, but not toward the goal of producing a definitive survey of canonical texts. Instead, we will investigate the ongoing, cross disciplinary formation of what constitutes an archive of queer theory. As we will see, this formation raises a productive meta-theoretical question: what can or should function as "theory" when the object is sex and sexuality?
Timeline (20%): In the last week of class, you will type a 2-page oral presentation of what you envision as the key ideas, texts, and/or history of queer theory, as seen in this class, and what you see as its current and future directions. At the end of class you will turn in a hard copy of the material you present.
Seminar presentation (20%): Each student in the class will present a brief discussion of one of the assigned readings that week, and bring in an example of an enabling fiction from outside the class, a form of cultural production that helps to illustrate some of the central ideas of that text (a clip from a film, visual art, other media texts, a fragment of a literary text etc.)
Research Paper Assignments (45% total): Your major work for the semester will be a 15-page research paper on a topic from the syllabus or some other dimension of queer theory. Details will follow but you will turn in a 2-page proposal and annotated bibliography (10%). Note: you must meet with me in person and receive written permission for your topic in advance.
Attendance, Reading, and Participation (15%): Active and constructive participation in class discussions will count favorably toward your final grade. Since the semi-weekly film screenings and readings are designed to illuminate the week's theoretical topics (and the materials screened may not be available elsewhere), attendance is required at all class meetings ——and for the full duration of the class. Occasional tardiness and absences will certainly lower your grade a full mark (if not more); regular tardiness and unexcused absences (3 or more a term) will be grounds for failure, regardless of how well or how many assignments are completed.
Note: not all films will be screened in full, and some of the following longer literary texts may be excerpts, but the following is a provisional list of where I see the course heading.
Unit I: Around 1989: Delineating the Field Week 1 Introductions, Dislocations •• Audre Lorde, ““Poetry is not a Luxury”” and "The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power" •• Gayatri Gopinath, ““Introduction”” •• screening: The Edge of Each Other’’s Battles Week 2 Uses of the Erotic: The Emergence of Queer Theory and Activisms •• Allan Béérube, Jeffrey Escoffier, Alexander Chee, and Maria Maggenti, "Birth of a Queer Nation" issue of OUT/LOOK •• Teresa de Lauretis, "Introduction" to "Queer Theory: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities" special issue of d i f f e r e n c e s •• Jollies; This is Not an AIDS Advertisement; Khush; Go Fish Week 3 Academic Queer Theory’’s Contexts and Questions •• Judith Butler, "Critically Queer" •• Lisa Duggan, "The Discipline Problem: Queer Theory Meets Gay and Lesbian Studies" •• Michael Warner, "Introduction" to Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory Week 4 AIDS I: Memoirs of Disappearance •• Eve Sedgwick, ““Epistemology of the Closet”” •• Douglas Crimp, ““Portraits of People with AIDS”” •• Blue; Poison Week 5 AIDS II: Intimate Coalitions •• Amy Hoffman, Hospital Time •• Gregg Bordowitz, ““The AIDS Crisis is Ridiculous””
Unit II: Culture Matters — Film, Photography, Music, Dance, and Television Week 6 International Cinemas as Queer Public Spheres •• B. Ruby Rich, "New Queer Cinema" and Pratibha Parmar, "Response" •• Patricia White, B. Ruby Rich, Eric Clarke, and Richard Fung, ““Queer Publicity: A Dossier on Lesbian and Gay Film Festivals”” •• Queer Film and Video Festival Forum, Take One: Curators Speak Out •• Mysterious Skin Week 7 (De)Constructing Borders: Butch, Queer, Transgender •• Judith Halberstam, ““Transgender Butch: Butch/FTM Border Wars and the Masculine Continuum" •• Gayle Rubin, ““Talking Sex”” •• Drag Kings on Tour;photos from Del LaGrace Volcano The Drag King Book Week 8Queer Dance and Music Cultures •• Judith Halberstam, selection from In a Queer Time and Place •• Ann Cvetkovich, selection from An Archive of Feelings •• Club Q: The Legendary Dance Party for Women; Rise Above: The Tribe 8 Story Week 9 Epistemologies of the Console: Televisual Queers •• Lynne Joyrich, ““Epistemology of the Console”” •• Margaret DeRosia, ““Witches, Vampires, Slayers: Practicing Sexualities on Buffy the Vampire Slayer”” •• Excerpts from Queer as Folk, Buffy, and Dark AngelUnit III: Queer Geographies of Identity Week 10 Intimate Public Spheres •• Michael Warner, ““Zoning Out Sex”” •• Helen Hok-sze Leung, ““Queerscapes in Contemporary Hong Kong Cinema”” •• Toronto Women’’s Bathhouse controvery articles •• Tarnation (United States: dir. Jonathan Caouette, 2003. 80 min.) Week 11 Contemporary Queers on the Street •• Michelle Tea, Valencia •• Queer Geography: Mapping Our Identities (United States: dir. Rachel Bolden-Kramer/ Theresa Hernandez, 2003); Life on Christopher Street (United States: dir. Maria Clarke, 2002. 28 min) Week 12 Recasting La Malinchéé/Malintzíín: Chicana Queer Theory •• Cherrííe Moraga, Loving in the War Years: Lo que nunca pasóó por sus labios •• Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano, "Laying it Bare: The Queer/Colored Body in Photography by Laura Aguilar" •• The Devil Never Sleeps; selections form Laura Aguilar’’s photography Week 13 Postcolonial Queers, Decolonial Imaginaries •• Cindy Patton and Benito Sanchez-Eppler, ““Introduction”” to Queer Diasporas) •• Carmelita Tropicana, "Milk of Amnesia" •• Joséé Muññoz, "Sister Acts: Ela Troyano and Carmelita Tropicana" •• Screening: Carmelita Tropicana: your kunst is your waffen (US: dir. Ela Troyano, 1993. 30 min)
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