COMP 402 Spring 2015 Senior Seminar: Before We Were Queer: Gay and Lesbian Lives before 1990 (D)

Cross Listed as WGSS404
Reclaimed by activists in the 1990s as an expression of defiance and pride, the word queer has come to be identified with a wide range of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identities, as well as entire fields of intellectual theory, popular culture, and political engagement. The past 25 years of queer studies, media, and activism (1990-2015) have led to unprecedented visibility and great advances for many LGBT people, especially in North America and Western Europe: from breakthroughs in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, to victories for Gays in the Military, Employment Non-Discrimination, and Gay Marriage in 16 US states and another 16 countries around the world. For many, however, this new era of queer life during the past 2 decades has eclipsed the time before, when those who were pejoratively labeled as queer struggled with homophobic discrimination, isolation, and violence, by seeking one another out in major cities, specific neighborhoods, underground bars, and in the narrative spaces of novels and films. As a result, many young people born after 1990 are largely unaware of these struggles that predate their lives, the internet, and social media; and several LGBT leaders worry that this has left many 18-25 year olds with a false sense of security, a decreasing interest in political engagement, alarming new rates of sexually transmitted infections, and a growing disinterest in queer social spaces beyond the virtual. In this course, we will explore the literary, cinematic, and cultural history of gay and lesbian lives before the 1990s, and consider what has been gained and lost. Topics to include the early twentieth-century isolation of the closet, (1890s-1950s), the formation of clandestine gay and lesbian communities during and after World War II (1940s-60s), the Stonewall riots and the first decade of Gay Liberation (1969-1979), and the devastating losses and community responses to AIDS (1979-1995). For its critical engagement with cultural diversity, comparative investigation of gender, sexuality, and ethnicity, and historical analysis of queer identities, this course fulfills the goals of the Exploring Diversity Initiative.
Class Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: active participation, two short papers, an oral presentation, and a final paper
Additional Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the Gaudino option
Additional Info2:
Prerequisites: WGSS 101 or 202, or another 200-level or 300-level course in WGSS, COMP, HIST, ENGL, or AMST, or other courses focusing on gender and sexuality. Email Prof. Martin ( to inquire
Enrollment Preference: WGSS and COMP majors, as well as HIST, ENGL, and AMST majors. Other sophomores, juniors, and seniors are invited to email Prof Martin ( and explain your interest in the course
Department Notes: Senior seminar for WGSS listing only; is not a Senior seminar credit if taken under COMP
Material and Lab Fees:
Distribution Notes: meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under COMP; meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under WGSS
Divisional Attributes: Division I,Exploring Diversity
Other Attributes:
Enrollment Limit: 16
Expected Enrollment: 16
Class Number: 4006
COMP 402 - 01 (S) SEM Sr. Sem: Before We Were Queer (D) Division 1: Languages and the ArtsExploring Diversity Initiative Brian Martin
TR 11:20 AM-12:35 PM Hollander 240 4006
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