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Curricular Innovations

LGBTQ Literatures and the New English Studies

Edited By William P. Banks and John Pruitt

Where others have explored the teaching of LGBTQ literature courses, Curricular Innovations: LGBTQ Literatures and the New English Studies explores the impact that queer writers and their works are having across the broader undergraduate curriculum of English departments, as well as beyond those department spaces. While courses that focus on queer texts provide more space for students to think about the complexities of queer lives, this book breaks out of the specialized LGBTQ classroom to consider how we might also restructure and reframe a diverse set of undergraduate courses by paying attention to the contributions that LGBTQ writers make. Beyond simply including a text or two to represent "difference," contributors to this volume take a more structural approach in order to demonstrate ways of theming or designing courses around language, desire, and sexuality. They also demonstrate what happens when queer texts are given freedom to shape other classroom spaces, discussions, and reading/writing practices. This collection offers a practical intervention into conversations about the purposes and places of LGBTQ literatures by making good on the challenges that queer theories have posed to higher education over the last forty years.

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4. Past, Present, and Potential: Teaching LGBT+ Poetry Historically (Eric Keenaghan)

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4. Past, Present, and Potential: Teaching LGBT+ Poetry Historically

ERIC KEENAGHAN

The teaching of poetry then is teaching the recognition of feeling, is the teaching of survival. It is neither easy nor casual, but it is necessary and fruitful.

—Audre Lorde (2009)

Introduction: Activism and Literary History

With the emergence of LGBT+ activism in the United States during the 1970s, many activists appreciated the power of literary representation. Even when images of gender and sexual minorities are not self-evidently affirming, including in works by queer authors, activists believed a positive form of social representation could result from readers’ encounters with, and reflections on, literature. Less than five years after the Stonewall riots, the academic journal College English published its groundbreaking special issue The Homosexual Imagination, which addressed universities’ need for gay and lesbian studies courses to perform precisely this kind of politicized cultural work. In their editorial introduction, Louie Crew and Rictor Norton (1974) argue that literature, criticism, and pedagogy by gays and lesbians long had to counter what they call “the homophobic imagination,” internalized negative ideologies shaping and restricting sexual and gender minorities’ senses of self. Inevitably, these feelings affected lesbian and gay authors’ writing since they had to “accommodate their work” to the worldview of “an audience that largely consists of hostile heterosexuals” (274). Too often, scholars hitherto similarly engaged “a conspiracy of silence” by not bringing to light either the...

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