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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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6. Slipping Queer Underneath the Radar: A Reflection on Teaching “Bizarre Love Triangles in Fiction” (Mica Hilson)


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6. Slipping Queer Underneath the Radar: A Reflection on Teaching “Bizarre Love Triangles in Fiction”


There is a saying, attributed to early computer programmer Grace Hopper, that “it is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission.” As a queer scholar who works on controversial topics and with unconventional archives, I have often had to keep this saying in mind. This was particularly true when I was a doctoral student designing courses in literature and writing. Although I have always acted in good faith, taking care that my syllabi aligned with the official objectives of the courses I was teaching, I rarely asked for permission before experimenting with innovative themes, texts, or assignments. Such behavior might seem risky, yet I seldom found myself in the abject position of “asking for forgiveness.” Rather, when I seized opportunities to design daring courses, they were highly successful, yielding positive student evaluations and high-quality student work. In this essay, I would like to focus on one such course I designed and taught in the summers of 2009 and 2010, officially titled “Introduction to Fiction” in the course catalog but better known to me and to my Indiana University students by its theme of “Bizarre Love Triangles.” I will describe my motivations for designing the course, the theories that informed it, the literary works, the writing prompts, the work my students produced, and the refinements I made to the...

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