Gay, Lesbian, and Queer Culture
This course explores the cultural life of homosexuality in America. What might it feel like to be gay or lesbian or queer, as both fantasized by heterosexuality and as lived by gays and lesbians? How is gay life different from straight experience? How do gays, lesbians, and queers understand themselves as gay? What are the aesthetics and sensibilities—losses, fantasies, desires, fears, and joys—which frame and enable gay identity, desire, and enjoyment, in the past, the present, and the future? This course addresses specifically gay, lesbian, queer, transgender, and bisexual selfhood and sociality in order to illuminate homosexual identities, desires, and pleasures. What is gay desire, both in culture, in history? How do homosexuals learn how to desire what they want to have and who they want to be? The purpose of the course is to illuminate the ways in which gayness expresses not simply a sexuality but also a personal lived experience through which queers grasp a sense of themselves and each other. In an historical and cultural examination of theory, philosophy, and literature, this course traces the transformations in gay culture over the latter half of the twentieth century to today. Does gayness have an essence, an identifiable center at its foundation which spans all spaces and times? Or, is queerness a playful masquerade in the negotiation of identity and desire in transient moments in culture and history? This course examines the modes of desire and demand, forms of identification and becoming, and styles of play and amusement through which gays, lesbians, and queers relate to themselves and each other. What does it mean to occupy the mind and the body—thinking, feeling, and being—of a gay individual? What does "gay" mean for straight outsiders and queer insiders? The horizon of the course is to enable us to better understand what we might mean when we say: “I am gay.” Who are we when we are homosexual? And who, "we"?