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EN2G9/EN3G9 Queering the Literary Landscape (15 CATS)

Module convenor -

2022/23 students: The syllabus below will be revised slightly over the coming weeks. Changes are like to include a co-creation week for members of the seminar to propose their own texts and some other texts that may be altered, such as Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt. Please contact Dr Forman with any questions. Thank you.

Module aims: This module aims to familiarise students with a range of literature by LGBTQ+ writers, filmmakers, and artists, largely from the Anglophone world. Through critical and theoretical readings, you will learn about the history of queer representation in the 20th and 21st centuries. Among the topics we will cover are: the reclaiming of the gay and lesbian past, the effect of obscenity trials on queer expression, narrating the AIDS crisis, homosociality, queer reading practices, the development of the LGBT canon, intersectionality (with critical methodologies surrounding race, gender, imperialism, and historical and anthropological approaches), and remediation. We will also look at debates around introducing queer identities to children through literary texts. A particular focus will be on fiction and the novel as forms that have a particular (though not necessarily privileged) relationship to questions of queer interiority and the narration of same-sex acts and identities.

The module complements the 15-CATS module “EN372: Queer and There: Queer Theory and the History of Sexuality in the Global Context,” but there is no prerequisite.

Primary readings that you are expected to purchase in electronic or print form for 2020/21 are:

James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room.
Saleem Haddad, Guapa.
Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness.
Jackie Kay, Trumpet.
Édouard Louis, History of Violence.
Andrew Salkey, Escape to an Autumn Pavement.
Sarah Waters, Fingersmith.

[There are some short stories and other materials, which will be available through the library or online.]

We will also look at several films: Leontine Sagan's Mädchen in Uniform, Basil Dearden's Victim, and Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden.

Note that most secondary readings will be available via Talis AspireLink opens in a new window, the Library's course extract system.

Week One: Introduction

Required Reading:

Ismat Chughtai, "The Quilt" (1942). CLICK HERE for the link to this short story online.Link opens in a new window

Required viewing:
Mädchen in Uniform (1931)

Available at Mädchen in UniformLink opens in a new window. (Do not watch the 1958 version!) [Copies of the DVD are also in the library.]

Required Critical Reading:

Hannah McCann and Whitney Monaghan, "Defining Queer Theory" in Queer Theory Now: From Foundations to Futures (London: Springer Nature Limited, 2020) 1-21.

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, "Axiomatic," Epistemology of the Closet

Recommended Critical Reading:
Annamarie Jagose, "Introduction," Queer Theory

Week Two:

Required Reading:
Sarah Waters, Fingersmith*

*This is a long novel, so please try to read it before term starts.

Required viewing:
Park Chan-wook, The Handmaiden*

*Available to rent for a small charge (under £3) at Amazon, Google, and Youtube and in HD form from Apple.

Recommended Critical Reading:
Cora Kaplan, "Feminism and Victorian Studies" in Journal of Victorian Culture 13.1 (2008): 42-55.

Week Three:

Required Reading:

Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness [Some parts may be skimmed. Note: What parts speak most to us as individual readers will vary from person to person, and I encourage you to make your own judgments about where best to skim. Part of this exercise is to help you to develop independent reading practices as you progress through your degree course.]

Required Critical Reading:
Laura Doan, "The Mythic Moral Panic: Radclyffe Hall and the New Geneology" in Fashioning Sapphism: The Origins of a Modern English Lesbian Culture 1-30 and notes

Jay Prosser, "'Some Primitive Thing Conceived in a Turbulent Age of Transition': The Invert, The Well of Loneliness and the Narrative Origins of Transsexuality" in Second Skins: 135-169 and notes 248-253.

Recommended Critical Reading:

Katherine A. Costello, "A No-Man's Land of Sex: Reading Stephen Gordon and 'Her' Critics," Journal of Lesbian Studies 22.2 (2018): 165-184.

Heather Love, "Unwanted Being: Stephen Gordon's Spoiled Identity" in Feeling Backwards: Loss and the Politics of Queer History.

Week Four:

Required Reading:
James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room

Required Critical Reading:
Kevin Mumford, "Losing the March" in Not Straight, Not White: Black Gay Men from the March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis 11-38 and notes 202-206

Recommended Critical Reading:
Colm Toibin, "James Baldwin: The Flesh and the Devil" in Love in a Dark Time: And Other Explorations of Gay Life and Literature 185-214Link opens in a new window

Matt Brim, "Paradoxical Reading Practices: Giovanni's Room as Queer/Gay/Trans/Novel" in James Baldwin and the Queer Imagination 55-91

Week Five:

Required Viewing and Reading:
Basil Dearden, Victim [Available from the Library via the Box of Broadcasts database.]

Peter Wildeblood, Against the Law (extract, pages 163-185)  Link opens in a new window

Required Critical Reading:
Matt Houlbrook, "Daring to Speak Whose Name? Queer Cultural Politics" in Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957 241-263

Recommended Critical Reading:
Richard Dyer, "Victim: Hegemonic Project" in The Matter of Images: Essays on Representation, 71-88


Week Six:

Week Seven:

Andrew Salkey, Escape to an Autumn Pavement

Required Critical Reading:
Kate Houlden, "Andrew Salkey, the British Home, and the Intimacies In Between"

Recommended Critical Reading:

Nadia Ellis, "Andrew Salkey and the Queer Diasporic" in Territories of the Soul: Queered Belonging in the Black Diaspora 95-146 and notes

Week Eight:

Required Reading:
Jackie Kay, Trumpet

Required Critical Reading:
Matt Richardson, "My Father Didn't Have a Dick: Social Death and Jackie Kay's Trumpet," GLQ 18.2-3 (2012): 361-379.

Week Nine:
Édouard Louis, History of Violence

Required Critical Reading:
Jason Farago, "J'Accuse," New Yorker 18 April 2019


Week Ten:
Saleem Haddad, Guapa

Mark Gevisser, "Maha and Amira's Story: Cairo-Istanbul-Amsterdam" in The Pink Line: Journeys across the World's Queer Frontiers, chapter 6.

Required Critical Reading:

Nadia Atia, "Queering the Arab Spring: Belonging in Saleem Haddad's Guapa," Wasafiri 34.2 (June 2019): 54-60.

Recommended Viewing:

Half A Life, dir. Tamara Shogaolu (13 minutes).

Recommended Critical Reading:

Ghassan Moussawi, "Queer Exceptionalism and Exclusion: Cosmopolitanism and Inequalities in 'Gay-friendly' Beirut," Sociological Review 66.1 (2018): 174-90.

Mehmet Sinan Birdal, "The State of Being LGBT in the Age of Reaction: Post-2011 Visibility and Repression in the Middle East and North Africa" in The Oxford Handbook of Global LGBT and Sexual Diversity Politics

Joseph A. Massad, "Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World" in Desiring Arabs 160-190.




Year 2:

  • 1,000-word short response to course material (20%, due Week Five);
  • Revision to a Wikipedia entry relating to the course material (10%, presentations throughout term; written analysis due by Week 10);
  • 3,000-word essay (70%, due at the start of Term 2)


  • A 1,000-word analytical essay on an independently chosen non-literary text (such as a film, work of art or music, webpage, phone app, game, etc.) not included on the module, to include a rationale for whether/why the module might expand to include this text in future (30%, due week 10)
  • One 3,500-word essay with an explicit use of theory and criticism (70%, due at the start of term 2)