We analyze representations of and by self-defined lesbians (including variant names such as dyke, Sapphist, dagger, etc.), primarily through the lens of history and ethnography, with some attention given to literature and to media (primarily film). Through this interdisciplinary approach we will attempt to map the 20th century emergence and growth of lesbian collective consciousness and networks in relation to the parallel but much more visible development of gay male cultures, and to the feminist movement. The course will emphasize factors that led to the development of commonalities among lesbians as well as striking divisions along lines of generation, class, and race.
Chronologically we will cover three general periods in 20th century American history: 1928-1945 (publication and trial of The Well of Loneliness to the end of World War II); 1946-1969 (Cold War and the ‘60s), and 1969-1990 (Stonewall through the “Sex Wars”).
Students will present outlines and commentary on the assigned essays, ethnographies, novels and films in the PowerPoint format. Final papers will be in the form of illustrated essays based on primary sources adding to the Lesbian Histories Website begun by my students six years ago (no prior knowledge of PowerPoint or Sitemaker is necessary).
This seminar is open to students from any graduate or professional program, and to advanced undergraduates with permission.
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