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ENGL 378 A: Special Topics in Theories/Methods

Meeting Time: 
MW 12:30pm - 2:20pm
SMI 305
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Stephanie Clare

Syllabus Description:

ENGL 378 - Special Topics in Theories/Methods: Trans* Theory

This course provides an overview to prominent texts and debates within the history of trans* theory from the 1990s until the present. While we will consider the limits to identitarian approaches, the course centers texts by written by trans* identified scholars, activists, and writers. We begin by tracing the emergence of the field of trans* studies in its critique of sexology and queer theory and in its exploration of narrative, affect, technology, and embodiment. We then study recent work in trans of color critique, work that argues that attention to slavery and its afterlives trouble the distinctions between cis- and trans-. We also consider the relations between transgender politics, settler colonialism, and the nation state. The course includes the analysis of two contemporary novels: Kai Cheng Thom’s Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars and Imogen Binnie’s Nevada. Course meetings focus extensively on the assigned readings. We analyze the texts together, carefully and slowly. Students write one essay: either focusing on the theoretical texts or bringing the theory to bear on the analysis of the assigned novels.

Broad Learning Goals:

  • Students should develop a comprehensive understanding of trans* theory. They should be able to draw on aspects of that theory in the analysis of culture.
  • Students should engage in critical writing sufficient to introduce them to argumentation built upon theoretical discourse.

Required Texts:

  •  Readings are on Canvas.
  • Please also get a copy of Kai Cheng Thom’s Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars and Imogen Binnie’s Nevada. I have ordered both to the University Bookstore

Course Schedule:

Monday, March 30: Course introduction on Zoom

The Emergence of Trans* Theory

Wednesday, April 1: Sandy Stone, “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto,” Camera Obscura 10.2 (1992): 150-176.

Monday, April 6: Susan Stryker, “My Words To Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix.” GLQ 1 (1994): 237-254.

Wednesday, April 8: Katrina Roen, “Transgender Theory and Embodiment: The Risk of Racial Marginalization,” Journal of Gender Studies 10.3 (2001): 253-263.

David Valentine, Introduction. Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006).

        Friday, April 10: Zero draft 1 due

Trans* Felt Sense/ Trans* Phenomenology

Monday, April 13: Jay Prosser, “A Skin of One’s Own: Toward a Theory of Transsexual Embodiment,” Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).

Wednesday, April 15: Dean Spade, “Mutilating Gender,” Makezine (Spring 2000).

                        Friday, April 17: Zero draft 2 due

Monday, April 20: Andrea Long Chu, “The Wrong Wrong Body: Notes on Trans Phenomenology,” TSQ 4.1 (2017): 141-152.

Wednesday, April 22: Jian Neo Chen, “Performing Racial Trans Senses,”  Trans Exploits: Trans of Color Cultures and Technologies in Movement (Durham: Duke University Press, 2019), p. 30-57.

                        Friday, April 24: Zero draft 3 due

Capitalism and Transness

Monday, April 27: Michelle O’Brien, “Tracing This Body: Transsexuality, Pharmaceuticals, and Capitalism,” in The Transgender Studies Reader 2, ed. Susan Stryker and Aren Z. Aizura (New York: Routledge, 2015): 56-65.

Dan Irving, “Normalized Transgressions: Legitimizing the Transsexual Body as Productive,” Radical History Review 100 (2008): 38-59.

Wednesday, April 29: Reading day

                        Friday, May 1: Zero draft 4 due


            Monday, May 4: Discussion of Nevada

            Wednesday, May 6: Discussion of Nevada                   

                        Friday, May 8: Zero draft 5 due

Contemporary Trans* of Color Critique

Monday, May 11: Marquis Bey, “The Trans*-ness of Blackness, the Blackness of Trans*-ness,” Transgender Studies Quarterly 4.2 (2017): 275-295.

Wednesday, May 13: Jules Gill-Peterson, “Trans of Color Critique before Transsexuality,” TSQ 5.4 (2018): 606–620.

                        Friday, May 15: Zero draft 6 due

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars

Monday, May 18: No class, reading day

Wednesday, May 20: Discussion of the novel

                        Friday, May 22: Zero draft 7 due

Monday, May 25: Discussion of the novel

After Trans Studies?

Wednesday, May 27: Andrea Long Chu and Emmett Harsin Drager, “After Trans Studies,” TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 6.1 (February 2019): 103 – 116.

Jules Gill-Peterson with Gabby Benavente. “The Promise of Trans Critique: Susan Stryker’s Queer Theory.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 25.1 (January 2019): 23-28.

                        Friday, May 29: Zero draft 8 due (brainstorm for your final essay)          

Monday, June 1: No class, work on your essays

Wednesday, June 3: Peer review, rough draft due

Wednesday, June 10: Final draft due, Canvas



Catalog Description: 
Introduces and explores a specific area of theory or method as it has influence the production, practice, or study of literature, language, and culture in English.
Last updated: 
January 17, 2020 - 2:00am