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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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7. Cross Dressing in Early America: A Course in Transgressive Figures Before 1865 (Cathy Rex)

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7. Cross Dressing in Early America: A Course in Transgressive Figures Before 1865

CATHY REX

When teaching a course within the broad purview of early American Studies (most often defined as focusing on the history, culture, and literature of the Americas, the Atlantic, and Caribbean before about 1830, but often continuing to the start of the American Civil War), it can be very difficult to include LGBTQ literature, texts, and perspectives. Not only were LGBTQ identities not openly recognized in early America, but they were also denied the full range of expression and rights that LGBTQ populations have today. Additionally, marginalized groups in early America were often barred access to print culture and authorship because publishing was a privilege reserved for those with agency and elite status, i.e., white, male, land-owning, educated, wealthy. As a result, early American texts easily recognized as LGBTQ by today’s standards are few and far between. However, as a dedicated early Americanist and an ally, I was unwilling to accept this. I wanted to include LGBTQ perspectives in my course syllabi and expand discussions about LGBTQ issues and identities by bringing early American texts, documents, and sociocultural perspectives into conversation alongside contemporary gender and queer theory without diluting or compromising either area. I wanted to offer a class in which early American historical background about LGBTQ identities and texts would be shared with students so they could begin to understand the frameworks within which...

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