My favorite time of the quarter is finally here: the time to start planning next quarter’s classes! (And I’m only half joking about that!)

As usual, I’m teaching my Lesbian & Gay Literature class during the winter quarter. Every time I teach it, I try to include some new works that I’ve not taught before. I also try to keep a few books I’m familiar with so that everything isn’t starting from scratch. So, deciding what to keep from last time and what to add is the main difficulty. The basic course description is always the same:

This course studies the political, artistic, and rhetorical uses of the erotic/sexual in gay and lesbian literature with particular emphasis on the ways in which gay and lesbian identities and experiences have been represented in post-Stonewall (i.e., post-1969) literary discourse. Regardless of how homosexuals self-identify, the heterosexual mainstream by and large defines us according to its perception of lesbian and gay sexual identities, desires, and activities. Queer writers have therefore struggled with the issue of representing sexual identity, desire, and practice in their literary works. Should representations of sex work to make homosexual identities, desires, and practices aesthetically pleasing in an effort to gain acceptance in heterosexual society? Or should queer writers revel in what makes us different, using explicit descriptions of sex as a literary corollary to the phrase, “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!”? We will try to answer these and other related questions as we read this term.

In a way, insisting that the class focus on post-Stonewall literature makes it even more difficult sometimes. There are a lot of great texts from before 1969, but I am ultimately committed to teaching a class centered of gay and lesbian identity and that arguably means post-Stonewall. I once tried teaching the class as a survey of “queer” texts since Shakespeare, but neither I nor my students enjoyed that kind of broad sweep in a 10-week class.

So, I tend to select 5 or 6 authors/books for us to study (usually with some smaller texts thrown in). This past spring, for example, I taught Leslie Feinberg‘s Stone Butch Blues, Katherine Forrest‘s Curious Wine, Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Wayne Hoffman’s Hard, and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. (I threw in a little Richard Amory, Andrew Holleran, Chrystos, Dorothy Allison, and Jewelle Gomez.)

While that class went well, I’m ready to change it up a bit. In particular, I was unhappy with how little racial diversity I had among the writers we studied last quarter. I also want to give my students more generic diversity — non-fiction, fiction, drama, poetry, etc. I usually chose to keep a couple of texts that I’ve taught before and add a few news ones to the syllabus. So, I’ve been thinking about what to add and what to subtract.

I starting by thinking about which texts I absolutely wanted to keep. I quickly decided that there are two of them: Angels and Fun Home. Angels is one of the most important gay texts, and I really like to include its ultimately optimistic view of the next millennium. And Fun Home has become one of my favorite texts to teach. Everyone I’ve recommended it to has loved it. And my students really responded well to it last term.

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