Reading queerly at Princeton

Campus Reform reports that Princeton University is offering a course next semester that aims to teach students to “read queerly” by examining “the ways in which desire, gender, and sexuality are queerly told.” Students will learn about the “theory, narrative, and aesthetics” of “queer literatures.”

The Princeton course guide explains:

We will consider the historical etymology of the term queer and think through its affiliate terms and acronyms: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans. We will investigate how discourses of power and institutions of normativity have come up against queer bodies, narratives, and politic—and how such encounters are historically situated.

Students will be urged to “pay close attention to the ways in which desire, gender, and sexuality are queerly told.”

The class is listed by the Department of English, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the Program in American Studies. It will feature readings by such authors as Eli Claire, Michel Foucault, and James Baldwin.

Students will examine the work of “queer spoken-word performer, visual artist, writer,” and schoolteacher Myriam Gurba. Through her memoir, Mean, students will have an opportunity to learn about the author’s experience growing up “as a queer, mixed-race Chicana.”

Gurba argues that “being mean to boys is fun and a second-wave feminist duty.” And “being rude to men who deserve it is a holy mission.”

Gurba seems worth examining, though not in a literature course.

I’m less bothered that Princeton is offering this course than I am by the prospect that students increasingly may be expected to “read queerly” in courses that study the traditional classics. In fact, I’m not at all bothered that Princeton is offering this course. Well taught, it might be interesting.

I just hope that taking such a course isn’t one day required at Princeton or anywhere else.

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