homosexual literature

Queer Lit

I’m the first one up in my house (if you don’t count the cats) and since J is still asleep, I get ready in total silence, which is great except that it gives me a lot of time in my head and that is not always a good thing.  So recently I was thinking about a post I was going to write in response to this one on marriage and then I started thinking about how a high school friend announced his marriage to his partner on FB recently (congrats!) and then I started thinking about a very memorable class I took in college.  Welcome to my rabbit hole.  It can be a very strange place.

Anyway. My senior year of college I had only two required courses that I needed to take, but my scholarship dictated that I take a minimum of 12 hours a semester, so I signed up to take two grad courses in English at NC State because I planned to enter grad school there in the fall and thought I’d knock out a few hours.

One of the courses was a standard class on the development of the novel/18th Century literature. The other class was a seminar in world literature.  What I didn’t know was that the seminar had a special topic that semester.

It turns out that I had signed up for a course on 19th and 20th Century British and French homosexual literature.  Or as the professor, the new head of the French department, called it “Queer Lit.”

I don’t think I said a word in class for the first month.  I prided myself on being liberal and edgy – after all, I was the one doing her senior thesis on the highly sexual, pornographic Lady Chatterley’s Lover instead of Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice. It wasn’t that I found the subject matter of the class objectionable.  I literally had no idea how to talk about it.  I worried about inadvertently saying something offensive or seeming naive. I had to learn the vocabulary and observe before I could contribute.

After I got over my shock and nerves, I really enjoyed the class.  Other than Oscar Wilde, I had never read any of the other authors, so the class broadened my horizons.   The students were a diverse group too.  We had a few English grad students, a couple of undergrads (one in political science and another in French), a creative writing grad student and a doctoral candidate in sociology.  We held one of our classes at Mitch’s Tavern (with beer), which for a Meredith student was the equivalent of having class in a strip club.

It was a really good class, and I enjoy the looks on people’s faces when I tell them about it (though it took me the entire semester before I could refer to it as “Queer Lit” like my professor did).  And that, my friends, is how there came to be a book that has butt plugs on its cover in my house.  Although I didn’t know that’s what they were until a Meredith classmate asked me why I was reading a book with butt plugs on them.  Maybe I should have wondered how she knew?

The reading list if you’re interested:

  • The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Lifting Belly
  • Giovanni’s Room
  • The Well of Loneliness (loved it)
  • A Boy’s Own Story
  • The Rubyfruit Jungle
  • Oranges are Not the Only Fruit
  • Les Guérillères

I apologize in advance if this post seems flippant compared to the last two posts.  I just needed to write on something other than preschool drama and sick grandmothers.

What is the  most memorable class you took in college?