The Queerness of Love
office hours: M: 11:30-12:30; F: 1:30-2:20; or by appt.
The words "I love you" may come from the heart, but they are nonetheless a citation, even a cliché. What the heart would speak is no more than a commonplace. Utterances of love, it might be said, are always already somebody's else's. What is dearest and most heartfelt is thus rendered wholly unoriginal and certainly not one's own. The nature of love is thus self-estrangement; the lover, if (s)he truly is in love, can be nothing other than queer. But queer is not an easy term to define. If the term is embedded in the politics of gender, just as certainly does queer describe a relationship in which lover and loved do not relate. They remain inexplicably something "other" to each other and to themselves.
In this course, we will attempt to trace the limits and possibilities of queer love in the West, particularly since around 1800. Is it the absolute form of love Plato describes in the "Symposium" and what the 18th and 19th centuries smugly referred to as “platonic,”or is it simply monstrous as in Frankenstein? To explore these possibilities we will look at works from the Harlem Renaissance to the indie film circuit to Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight. We will conclude the course with a discussion of the AIDS quilt. What is the nature of love in the face of inexpressible loss? How do the assembled panels of strangers who died of a "queer's disease" overcome the ambiguity of the words, "I love you"?
Students can expect to learn the following from the course: an understanding of the historical contingencies that shape any expression of love, skills for close, analytical reading of a text, and an ability to shape a convincing argument based on evidence collected from a close reading.
COURSE EVALUTION: Class Participation: 25 percent; mid-term exam: 30 percent; final exam 45 percent.
Week 1: Introduction, Wicked (excerpt). What is “queer”? 3/26
Week 1: Plato, Symposium 3/28, 3/30, 4/2. Read entire text for 3/30.
Weeks 2 & 3: Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (also, selections from Shakespeare: The Sonnets. 4/4 read until the end of chapter 3; 4/6 read until the end of Volume I;
4/9 read until the end of chapter 7, 2nd. volume; 4/11 read until end of Volume 2; 4/13 finish book.
Week 4: Thomas Mann: Death in Venice. 4/16, 4/18, 4/20. Read entire text for 4/16.
Week 5: Nella Larsen: Passing. 4/23 read first half of text; 4/25 finish text.
4/27 Preparation for the mid-term.
4/30 (Monday) In-class Mid-Term.
Week 6: Cheryl Duye: The Watermelon Woman (film) 5/2, 5/4.
Week 7: Ang Lee: Brokeback Mountain (film) 5/7, 5/9, 5/11.
Week 8: Barry Jenkins: Moonlight (film). 5/14, 5/16, 5/18.
Week 9: Jennie Livingston: Paris is Burning. 5/21/, 5/23, 5/25
Week 10: The NAMES Project (AIDS Quilt). 5/28: Memorial Day. NO CLASS.
5/30: Reading materials available on-line for the quilt.
Week 6/1: Course Conclusion, Preparation for Final Exam.
THURSDAY, JUNE 7, 8:30-10:20. IF NECESSARY, AN EARLIER ACCOMMODATION WILL BE FOUND.
CLASS PARATICIPATION. Throughout the quarter you will be asked to work in groups and report back to class. That will serve as the key marker of class participation.
EXTRA CREDIT. DURING THE SECOND WEEK, A LIST WILL BE DISTRIBUTED WITH AT LEAST A DOZEN OPPORTUNITIES FOR EXTRA CREDIT. THESE INCLUDE MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS, LECTURES, FILMS, THEATER, ETC. INCLUDED WITH THAT LIST WILL BE AN INSTRUCTION SHEET FOR A ONE-PAGE JOURNAL ENTRY TO COMPLETE TO RECEIVE CREDIT FOR ATTENDING. EACH ENTRY INCREASES YOUR FINAL GRADE BY .15 PTS.
ACCOMMODATIONS FOR A DISABILITY. ANYONE REQUIRING AN ACCOMMODATION SHOULD NOTIFY THE TA Justin Mohler DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF CLASS (firstname.lastname@example.org). All of the texts, except Passing, are available on-line through a simple Google search. Other options are also available.