ENGLISH 821 - Seminar: Critical Theory
Section: 001 Queer Love
Term: FA 2017
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
With permission of department.
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing in English, Women's Studies, or English and Education Program. Permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

Queer theory has had plenty to say about sex — well, at least it has had something to say about sex — but until recently it has had almost nothing to say about love. Love has seemed too inextricably linked to narratives and institutions of the “normal” to be available for “queering.” Whereas sex, as queers know well, is all too easy to stigmatize (or to celebrate) as kinky, perverse, or transgressive, love is typically represented as lying at the heart of normal life, at home in conventional social structures (such as marriage and the nuclear family). Indeed, one of love’s most important social functions nowadays is to endow accepted forms of personal life with a look and feel of intrinsic normality.

But what if love proved to be weirder than sex? This is in fact how it appears in a scattered range of literary, philosophical, and cinematic texts that imagine love as unassimilable to the standard romantic template or the social institution of marriage — and, moreover, as irreducible to sexuality. These texts do not have the consistency of a “tradition,” which may explain why so little attention has been paid to them. Most of the literary texts remain too close in spirit and in politics to the gay and queer subcultures that inspired them to qualify as mainstream literature and are not necessarily transgressive in ways that would make them seem appealingly avant-garde. But in diverse, and non-programmatic, ways, they invite us to reflect on love — erotic love — as a queer mode of feeling and relating, an impetus towards relationality that troubles (rather than bolsters) normative social forms.

Queer love in this sense might be love that takes an unexpected or deviant shape, that appears in unconventional contexts, that produces a shocking or scandalous outcome, that expresses itself in unacceptable ways, or that simply impels the lover to depart from feelings, social arrangements, or styles of life deemed to be normal. Queer love might open onto or derive from adjacent terms like intimacy and friendship, while not coinciding with either. While queer love appears as something other than an expression or sublimation of sexuality, it retains — just as importantly — its erotic dimension.

What kinds of queer thinking, and what queer modes of being and relating, might the concept of love promote? In this seminar, we will examine works of literature, film, philosophy, and theory that offer models of love as a force that disrupts, alters, refuses, or troubles conventional norms of sociality. Queer love, by this definition, need not spring from homosexual desire (though many of the works studied will deal with gay male love), but it raises questions about the relations among desire, social norms, and social form. The ultimate aim of this course is to explore how well love and society actually go together.

ENGLISH 821 - Seminar: Critical Theory
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
M 1:00PM - 4:00PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 9780679727293
The annotated Lolita, Author: Vladimir Nabokov ; edited, with preface, introduction, and notes by Alfred Appel, Jr., Publisher: Vintage Books Rev. and u 1991
ISBN: 9781590175255
We think the world of you, Author: J.R. Ackerley ; introduction by P.N. Furbank., Publisher: New York Review Books 2000
ISBN: 1781259313
Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall, Author: Neil Bartlett, Publisher: Serpent's Tail 2017
ISBN: 9781616954840
Martin and john., Publisher: Soho 2015
ISBN: 9781584350347
I love Dick, Author: Chris Kraus, Publisher: Semiotext(e) 2006
Other Textbook Editions OK.
ISBN: 9781852425906
In my room, Author: Guillaume Dustan ; translated by Brad Rumph., Publisher: Serpent's Tail 1998
Other Textbook Editions OK.
ISBN: 9780374532314
A lover's discourse : fragments, Author: Roland Barthes ; translated from the French by Richard Howard., Publisher: Hill and Wang Pbk. ed. 2010
Other Textbook Editions OK.
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