By Dr. Karen Macfarlane and Dr. Diane Piccitto (English Department)
The English Department is pleased to introduce a new queer-centred course to our offerings in time to recognize the 2019 Halifax Pride Festival.
Dr. Karen Macfarlane and Dr. Diane Piccitto recently designed ENGL 2207: Queer Literature and Culture to explore themes in 2SLGBTQ+ literature from a range of historical periods in combination with theory, art, film, television, and/or other forms of popular culture.
Given its focus on 2SLGBTQ+ material and topics, this course speaks directly to Mount Saint Vincent University’s strong tradition of social responsibility and its commitment to the advancement of women. The course also reflects the English Department’s commitment to teaching courses and texts that examine gender and related topics. Last year, during Pride week, we highlighted our Queer Theory course (ENGL 4407/WOMS 4407/GWGS 6607), a course developed in the mid-1990s. This fourth-year course is designed specifically for students with a solid foundation in English and/or Women’s Studies and those trained to engage with theoretical concerns. Nevertheless, students across various disciplines and in varying years of study have also shown interest in the course, demonstrating the need for a more accessible offering.
It seems more important than ever to offer venues to learn about queer identities and communities, the ways in which they are formed, marginalized, and empowered, and to examine and critique not only controlling structures, systems, and institutions, but also the way socio-political power is harnessed, attained, and articulated.
Queer Literature and Culture fills this need. ENGL 2207 is a queer-centred 2000-level course that aims to introduce students to literature and culture through a framework other than that of heteronormativity. From year to year, the course could take various forms based on the research and teaching interests of the instructor. The goal is to encourage students to explore representations of marginal identities and experiences in the context of sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, embodiment, and desire.
The perspective of literary studies offers an important complement to other disciplinary approaches to 2SLGBTQ+ issues as it provides an opportunity to analyze, question, and better understand queer representations in a wide range of material, taking into account their history, significance, and contemporary impact.
In addition, this new course does several important things in the department and the wider university:
- it creates an extra thread in the cluster of English courses that focus on gender and sexuality, thus bolstering this area of study;
- it provides an anchor at the 2000 level for ENGL 4407: Queer Theory as well as ENGL 3363: Feminisms and their Literatures (which already has ENGL 2242: Themes in Women’s Writing as its lower-level springboard);
- with its interdisciplinary focus on both literature and popular culture, it provides a perspective on queer topics that will most certainly resonate with other disciplines;
- and it provides a lower-level course on queer material that requires less theoretical rigour than the 4000-level Queer Theory course, making it accessible to more students.
It has now been 50 years since the Stonewall riots in New York and the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada. Decades of work to counter oppression and raise visibility have followed. Despite the years, our current socio-political climate does not make the work any easier. It seems more important than ever to offer venues to learn about queer identities and communities, the ways in which they are formed, marginalized, and empowered, and to examine and critique not only controlling structures, systems, and institutions, but also the way socio-political power is harnessed, attained, and articulated. It is particularly important to do this in the academy, where critical thinking, textual analysis, testing ideas and theories, and debating and discussing are the means by which we achieve our goal: higher learning.
This fall term will mark the first time ENGL 2207: Queer Literature and Culture, taught by Dr. Macfarlane, will be offered, while Dr. Piccitto will once again offer ENGL 4407/WOMS 4407/ GWGS 6607: Queer Theory. We are delighted to offer and teach these courses at the MSVU. We also recognize that the addition of this queer-focused course is long overdue to both the English Department’s offerings and those of the University more broadly, and is only a start to redressing the lack in the curriculum. Here’s to the achievements made and the work ahead.