Skip to main content

EN387: Queering the Literary Landscape (15 CATS)


Module convenor for 2018/19:
Ross Forman (H539)

Seminar: Thursdays, 12:30-2pm

Optional module for the Theory, World and Comparative Literature, North American, and English Literature pathways.

Module aims: This new module aims to familiarise students with a range of literature by LGBTQ+ writers and filmmakers, largely from the Anglophone world. Through critical and theoretical readings, students will learn about the history of queer representation in the 20th and 21st centuries. Among the topics we may 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 prerequiste.

Primary readings for 2018/19 will include:

James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room
Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness.
Jackie Kay, Trumpet.
Andrew Salkey, Escape to an Autumn Pavement.
Colm Toibin, The Story of the Night.
Sarah Waters, Fingersmith.
Craig Womack, Drowning in Fire.

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 Aspire, the Library's course extract system.

Week One:


Required viewing:
Mädchen in Uniform (1931)

Available at Mädchen in Uniform. (Do not watch the 1958 version!) [Copies of the DVD are also in the library.]

Required Critical Reading:
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

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

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

Week Four:

Required Reading:
James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room

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

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

Week Five:

Required Viewing and Reading:
Basil Dearden, Victim
Peter Wildeblood, Against the Law (extract, pages 163-185)  

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"  

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:

Craig Womack, Drowning in Fire

Required Critical Reading
Mark Rifkin, "Tradition and the Contemporary Queer" in When Did Indians Become Straight?: Kinship, the History of Sexuality, and Native Sovereignty 275-316 and notes

Week Ten:

Colm Toibin, The Story of the Night
Oscar Moore, PWA: Looking AIDS in the Face (extracts)  

Recommended Critical Reading:
Kathleen Costello-Sullivan, "'Hiding from the Other Side': Politics and Sexuality in The Story of the Night" in Mother/Country : Politics of the Personal in the Fiction of Colm Toibin 97-122


Assessment: 100% assessed. One 3,500-word essay (70%, due Term 2, Week 1), one revision to a Wikipedia entry relating to the course material (10%, due Week Ten), and one 1,000-word short response to course material (20%, due Week Five).