ENGL 556 A: Cultural Studies

Queer Theory: Foundations and Directions

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
* *
Gillian Harkins
Gillian Harkins

Syllabus Description:

"Queer Theory: Foundations and Directions”


Freed of its historical debt to same-sex sexuality, queer is defined as that which flies wherever the demands of political urgency might call it. 

-- Kadji Amin, “Haunted by the 1990s” (2016)


Original Course Description from Professor Clare: This course is two-fold. First, it provides students with an overview to key texts that have shaped queer theory, such as work by Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, and Audre Lorde. We then turn to an overview of contemporary problems or questions that currently animate queer and trans* studies, such as queer/trans* indigenous studies, queer and trans utopianism, transness in the afterlife of slavery, and auto-theory. Students write weekly, low-stake reading responses. They conclude the quarter by writing a longer seminar paper that draws on course material to analyze a cultural object of their choice.

Updated information from replacement Professor Harkins

* Student-Designed Content: This is a field-not-field.  Depending on one’s position or perspective or aim, collating this collection of inquiry as a “field” will have a range of effects (welcome or unwelcome). Luckily this argument has played out across a range of readings we can access as part of our field overview J.  My (Harkins) solution to this problem will be to create a student survey before we begin the quarter to ask what areas are of particular importance to you all as a group.  Our first week will then be a collective project to describe an archaeology of your own intellectual present (what you think you know, what you are pretty sure you don’t know, what you are worried you don’t know you don’t know) and design the second half of the course readings as a genealogy of this present (texts that discuss how or why this field emerged, that engage its gaps, critiques and questions, and that query its conditions of “knowledge” itself).  If you want, you can start thinking about these questions now by pre-reading our first essay, Kadji Amin’s “Haunted by the 1990s: Queer Theory’s Affective Histories” (2016).  But there is no expectation of any field knowledge at all before starting this course.  Course materials will be available in a Canvas course website by the end of August 2020.

* Format:  This course will be taught virtually with synchronous course meetings for discussion.  A short a-synchronous Panopto lecture may be provided to contextualize readings and reduce non-active zoom time, supplemented by more on-line writing to help us process the readings and create focus for zoom discussion.  Based on a class decision, we will then hold our synchronous zoom discussion for the period of time that best matches graduate learning.  If everyone prefers a straightforward 2 hour twice a week zoom meeting, including all contextual lecture and spontaneous discussion, we will use that format.

* Outcomes: The anticipated course goals are: 1) to introduce you to the interdisciplinary field of “Queer Studies,” with a particular focus on the humanities and adjacent fields; and 2) to give you practice responding informally to specific writings in this field. To meet these goals, each person will read the assigned materials, participate in shared discussions, and write an individual low-stakes portfolio entry each week.  We will review these requirements in class together and amend them to suit the access needs of our group. 

Additional learning goals will be set by you each individually (this will be your first portfolio assignment).  Once you have set your own course learning goals, you can select or design an assessment that best matches these goals in consultation with the professor. You might choose to write a research paper, a conference paper, an annotated syllabus, a bibliographic essay, a work of auto-theory, a creative piece, or something you propose.    

* Course Policies:

 * Additional Resources:

Additional support for technology access, writing and research support, financial and health needs, food, parenting, and legal resources and have been gathered at this link: https://english.washington.edu/resources-times-need (Links to an external site.) 

Last updated: 
August 12, 2020 - 11:00pm