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UVA WGS 3800 - Syllabus - Queer Theory

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Queer Theory WGS 3800-001, Spring 2021 TuTh 3:30-4:45pm Instructor Doug [email protected] Office hours: Wednesday 3:00-5pm, Tuesday and Thursday 4:45-6pm, and by appointmentCourse Description: This course covers key theoretical texts that make up the field of queer theory. We will consider the beginnings of queer theory and also look at more recent work in the field. The approach of the course will be interdisciplinary. My goal is for you to leave this class knowing considerably more about queer theory – its main ideas, its goals, and some of the debates in the field. If you’re planning on attending graduate school, this class will certainly help prepare you; if not, that’s certainly ok, too – you’ll leave this class knowing more about where queer theory fits in relation to feminist and sexualities scholarship, in addition to knowing more about LGBTQ studies. Toward the beginning of the semester, we will focus on the work of Michel Foucault, who is sometimes characterized as “the grandfather” of queer theory. At least one-third of the semester will focus on his work and by the end of this course you will be familiar with Foucault’s ideas. We will also spend much of the course discussing the differences between queer theory, feminist scholarship, and intersectionality theory, as well as the overlap among them. Other topics covered will include queer politics, homonationalism, and queer views of identity and sexuality. We will spend some time covering the ideas of Judith Butler and some of this course will be historical, as we will examine the history of LGBTQ-rights activism, especially around the time that queer theory was emerging. We will adopt a critical approach throughout the semester, which means that we will examine the problems of – for lack of a better term – “mainstream” gay rights approaches (i.e., traditional forms of LGBTQ activism and scholarship). This class will be taught from a feminist and queer perspective, which assumes that we live in a society where gender inequality and discrimination against queer people are built into how our society operates. Although the majority of this course will focus on arguments made by queer theorists, we will also spend some time examining critiques of this body of scholarship, especially those from feminists and scholars of color. At the same time, you will be reading queer theory produced by scholars of color throughout the semester as well. 1A Note about Our Classes on Zoom:The zoom links for all of our classes are on collab (click on our class and then they’re under “online meetings”). When you’re in our classroom meetings, please mute your computer when you’re not speaking, since we want to limit background noise. I have set it so that when you “enter” our classroom sessions on zoom, your microphone will automatically be muted. Make sure to unmute it when you want to speak. Please use the “raise the hand” feature to answer any questions I ask or to ask me a question. It is under “reactions” on zoom. I have configured zoom so that it will automatically record our meetings as they start. Thus, if you miss any part of class, you will be able to go back and view these recording for the times or days you missed (under the “cloud recordings” tab on collab). You can also re-watch these recordings for a class you attended to help you further learn the course material. I hope this practice helps you, but you should also be aware that what you say will be stored on these recordings and will be viewable to other students in this class for them to watch at a later time. These recordings will be password protected and stored on collab so that others outside of this class do not have access to them (for security reasons and to protect our privacy). The only part of our class that will not record is when we do “breakout rooms” (the recording will just be of allof us together, each individual group will not record), so you do not need to feel like I am monitoring you in individual group breakout sessions. Keep in mind, however, that you will NOT have access to your breakout room if you choose to go back and view these recordings. I have also set up zoom so that a transcript of our classes will be generated automatically (please note: this transcription is likely to include errors, but it can help those of you who learn better with written material than visually or audially). Please note: Students may not copy, reproduce, display, distribute, or share any of our classroom recordings with individuals outside of this class. Recordings may only be used for the purpose of individual or group study with other students enrolled in the same class during the same term. Students must destroy recordings at the end of the term in which they are enrolled in the class unless they receive the instructor’s written permission to retain them or are entitled to retain themas an accommodation authorized by the Student Disability Access Center (SDAC).Course Goals:My goals for the course include helping you to learn more about the following: (1) how, when, and why queer theory came about; (2) what the central ideas of queer theory are; (3) how Foucault approached a variety of topics, including sexuality, power, and discipline and punishment; and (4) how queer theory differs from, and yet overlaps with, other bodies of scholarship, including postmodern theories and feminist intersectionality theory. Overall, my goal is for you to come out of this course knowing more about queer theory and being able to engage with its central ideas. 2Required Texts:Foucault, Michel. 1978. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. New York: Vintage.Hall, Donald and Annamarie Jagose. 2012. The Routledge Queer Studies Reader. New York: Routledge.The bookstore has both of these texts available for you. You will have to read the second text listed above throughout the semester, especially toward the end of the semester, which is why I am requiring you to buy it. Your first reading from that text is not until March 25th, so you can certainly buy it online if you want. You will be reading The History of Sexuality toward the beginning of the semester, so you need it very soon. Many people find reading queer theory intimidating – and it can, undoubtedly, be challenging – but it can also be a rewarding experience. These books are quite theoretical –


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