Transgender representation has increasingly gained visibility in popular media, with TV shows like Transparent, I am Cait, and Orange Is the New Black and films like Tangerine and The Danish Girl giving voice to the complexities of trans experience. At the same time, transgender communities have endured heightened discrimination through legislation like North Carolina's HB2 and others that equate transgender people to sexual predators. This course offers a genealogical perspective of transgender representation in cinema across time to grant greater perspective of the current moment, by asking how different cultures have depicted, redefined, and shaped public capacity to understand what it means to be trans. Noting the etymological meaning of “trans” as a movement across, this course moves across genres (exploitation, comedy, musical, crime, documentary, horror, serialized drama, and melodrama), regions (American, Mexican, German, French-Canadian, Spanish), and the evolution of “trans” as a category itself (including inversion, intersexuality, transvestism, transsexuality, transgenderism) in order to ask how the cinematic form mediates trans representation and how trans experience, in turn, reimagines cinematic form.
Films for this course will include: Queen Christina, Glen or Glenda, Some Like It Hot, Flaming Creatures, Screaming Queens, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Ma Vie en Rose, Paris is Burning, Boys Don’t Cry, Todo Sobre Mi Madre, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Wildness, Laurence Anyways, Tangerine, and select episodes from Transparent. We will read critical selections from Laura Horak, Chris Straayer, Susan Stryker, Laura Mulvey, Juan Suarez, Judith Butler, Cáel Keegan, David Valentine, José Esteban Muñez, and Jack Halberstam.
SEX ON SCREEN
This course explores the history of the representation of sex in cinema and media. When did sex move from insinuation to expression, from metaphoric imagery and veiled editing practices to visibility? How was that visibility managed, and what sexual practices were permitted as representations became increasingly explicit ? Looking to how depictions of sex on screen have shifted over time provides key insights into a range of issues, including: the reorganization of postwar American society; the rising influence of subcultural, grassroots, and avant-garde movements; changes in technology, distribution, and exhibition practices; institutional pressures and legal regulations; and a growing voice for sexual and gender minorities, etc. This course doubly traces the historical representation of sex, first through mainstream Hollywood, and second, through adult cinema. In the process, we will critically engage the “sex wars” debate within feminism in the 1980s, raise issues of censorship and regulation, and explore the impact of the Internet on present day sexual representation and practice. Our examination will make use of theoretical, cultural, feminist, queer, critical race, media, textual, social, and legal modes of analysis in order to consider the multi-faceted manner in which the sex we see on screen has come to inform and alter our cultural imaginary.
Films for this course will include: The May Irwin Kiss, Flesh and the Devil, Casablanca, Notorious, The Graduate, Last Tango in Paris, Barbarella, Blue Velvet, Shortbus, Deep Throat, Boys in the Sand, Lialeh, Not a Love Story, and Sexing the Trans Man. We will read critical selections from Linda Williams, Thomas Waugh, Richad Dyer, Eric Schaefer, Jennifer Nash, Laura Kipnis, Constance Penley, B. Ruby Rich, Andrea Dworkin, Susanna Paasonen, and Shaka McGlotten.
A seminar designed for the study of sexuality and gender, this course presents an overview of films that comprise what we might say is a queer cinema. Students will learn to read films not just for narrative significance, but also for historical contexts and theoretical interventions. Films that depict homosexuality flourish today, with examples like Call Me By Your Name, Moonlight, and Carol receiving popular as well as critical praise, but what led to the mainstream success of such films, and is there a difference between LGBT cinema and queer cinema? This course will examine precisely this question. In the process, we will track the cinematic representation of the queer figure through three periods: In the closet, or queer insinuation from the 1930s to the 1950s; non-Hollywood cult, art, and underground cinema from the 1950s to the1980s; and new queer cinema from the 1990s to the present day. We will ask how queer depictions have shifted over time from the status of an unspoken other to the sissy, villain, sexual deviant, revolutionary, outcast, every(wo)man, camp icon, superstar, etc. Our study of queer cinema will track changes in representations of not just diverse minority sexualities and genders, but additionally the interrelated constructions of race, class, and nation. In asking how queerness is represented, we will explore what institutional forces inhibit or engender such constructions, what anxieties and interventions these films make evident, and what critiques they offer? Along the way, we will periodically review basic film concepts to develop a formal analysis that links to critiques of ideology, narrative, production, distribution, and exhibition.
Films for this course will include: Mädchen in Uniform, Rope, All About Eve, Un chant d’amour, Scorpio Rising, Dyketactics, Pink Flamingos, Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, Taxi Zum Klo, How to Survive a Plague, Parting Glances, My Beautiful Laundrette, Paris is Burning, Tongues Untied, Bound, Carol, and Moonlight. We will read critical selections from Vito Russo, B. Ruby Rich, Richad Dyer, D.A. Miller, Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Patricia White, Juan Suarez, Lauren Berlant, Michael Warner, Thomas Waugh, José Esteban Muñoz, Darieck Scott, and Chris Straayer.
INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF SEXUALITIES
What is sexuality? If pressed to answer this question, what might we say? Is sexuality a structure—knowable in and of the world—an act we perform for pleasure, an identity that informs our sense of self-worth, an idea that limits and defines our lives? What is sexuality’s power in the current world, and where did that power derive from? What do we desire, and why do we desire it? If we wanted to change our sexuality, could we? This course offers a survey of methodologies and theories that attempt to answer these very questions, and serves as a core class in the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies major. Drawing from film, media, literature, anthropology, sociology, history, and feminist and queer theory, we will investigate the role of sexuality in structuring identity, gender, race, everyday life, popular culture, nationality, and geopolitics. In addition to scholarship, students will be asked to draw from popular culture and their own experiences to explore topics that include: the politics of sexual identities; representations of sexuality in film and media; debates surrounding pornography and erotica; technologies of pleasure; reproductive rights; erotic labor; sexual violence; and the geopolitics of sexuality.
Primary texts for this course will include: Fun Home; Dude, You’re a Fag; and Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. We will read critical selections from Gayle Rubin, Jeffrey Weeks, Krafft-Ebing, Freud, Foucault, Laura Kipnis, Siobhan Somerville, Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, David Valentine, Jack Halberstam, Carole Vance, and Jasbir Puar.
If media are extensions of our being, and if sexuality is a dominant site for identity formation, how do the two interact together to inform and instruct our behaviors and desires? This course explores how the media we consume, produce, and disseminate in increasingly networked ecologies have shaped the modern sexual subject. Doubly plumbing the technology of sexuality and the erotics of media will offer a more complicated and relational understanding of the two. Phone sex, pulp novels, cyber sex, teledildonics, web cam shows, amateur pornography, tumblrs, dick pics, chat roulettes, sex gifs, exploitation films, porno chic, stag films, manga, soft-core cable, dirty comics, nudie cuties, physique magazines, dating sites, hookup apps, snapchat, erotic video games, and more present glimpses into the many ways in which our consumer culture delivers sex to us with varying degrees of explicitness and across an expansive media landscape. How do we participate in and shape the circuits of desire through our contemporary digital world? How have taboos, prescriptions, and interdictions against various sexual identities and behaviors changed alongside technology’s adaptation, or, what do we desire in the age of technological hegemony? Have notions of intimacy and sex changed? G.N. Gordon noted that whenever a new instrument of communication emerged, its uses were immediately put to sexual aims, and this course explores that theorization across novels, magazines, films, videos, telephones, the Internet and beyond. In addition to providing an introduction to media theory, this course will make use of a genealogy of critical feminist and queer thinking to grapples with our modern culture’s management of sexuality.
We will read critical selections from Walter Benjamin, Marshall McLuhan, John Berger, Laura Mulvey, Linda Williams, Thomas Waugh, Eric Schaefer, Amy Herzog, Ian Bogost, Howard Rheingold, Peter Alilunas, Elena Gorfinkel, Brian Blanchfield, Robert Chesley, Elana Levine, Luke Stadel, and Noah A. Tsika.
GRAPHIC NOVELS / NOVEL GRAPHICS
This course explores the interplay of image and text in both graphic novels and postmodern literature. This investigation will give us a twofold perspective: first, we will see how the image is altered by the addition of text (graphic novels), and secondly, we will see how the text is altered by the addition of image (postmodern literature). A dual inquiry like this will allow us to ask how a practice like comics, through narrative and thematic rigor, develops into the graphic novel, and how more traditionally understood literary works like the novel, through collage, graphic design, and typographic play, gains visual significance. In both cases, these dual shifts toward hybridity affect our elemental understanding of the image and the text, their relationship to materiality, and their reliance on inscription technologies. Such an inquiry asks what kinds of narratives hybrid texts tell, and what identities they represent. Critical theorists from postmodern literature, comics, image theory, media studies, and narratology will lend special importance for this study and help us to consider how various experimentations in literatures can help us to understand better and critique our image-obsessed culture.
Primary texts for this course will include City of Glass: The Graphic Novel, Fun Home, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Dictee, People of Paper, Nox, Woman’s World, House of Leaves, and Toc: A New Media Novel. We will read critical selections from Scott McCloud, Will Eisner, Hillary Chute, Fredric Jameson, N. Katherine Hayles, Mark Hansen, Johanna Drucker, and W.J.T. Mitchell.