English 438
Literature and Sexuality
MWF 12:40-1:40
Eaton 308

Frann Michel
Eaton 204, x6389
fmichel <a> willamette.edu
MWF 10:20-11:20 and other times by appointment

texts schedule writing assignments  links other  

This course examines the cultural construction and intersection of gender and sexuality, particularly in the twentieth century, through study of selected theoretical and literary texts.  Our focus will be primarily on queer literature written or set in the era before Stonewall, and on queer theory after Stonewall.  In many of the literary texts we will explore, gender is called into question or problematized through representation of transvestism, gender inversion, or gender transformation. We will look at how theoretical and literary texts construct the relations among gender, sexuality, and identity, and how they place gender and sexuality in relation to other aspects of public and private life, including race. We will examine such notions as the "normal," the "natural," and the "deviant" or "perverse." We will consider the relation between social vision and literary form. 

Your participation is vital to this course. I will expect you to come to each class having read the assigned material, having thought about it, and having questions or ideas about it. For each class, you will write down a discussion question. In addition to writing daily discussion questions and participating actively in class, students will write four essays. Three of these will be brief response papers addressing individual texts; one will be a final essay analyzing a relationship between a literary and a theoretical text, on at least one of which you have not previously written a response paper. See below for more information.

Final grades will be determined as follows:
response papers 10 % each (30 % total)
final paper 30%
discussion questions 20%
partticipation 20%

 If you have a documented disability for which I can make accommodations, please speak with me individually. 

Required texts available at WU Bookstore:
Baldwin, Giovanni's Room
Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. I: An Introduction
Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality
Hall, The Well of Loneliness
Hwang, M. Butterfly
Kessler & McKenna, Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach
Woolf, Orlando

Required texts online or on reserve:

Print these out to refer to during discussion

Davis, "Rape, Racism, and the Myth of the Black Rapist" (e-reserve
Ellis, selections from Studies in the Psychology of Sex (e-reserve)
Gamez, "From the Gloria Stories" (e-reserve)
Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" (JSTOR)
Rubin, "The Traffic in Women"; "Thinking Sex" (e-reserve)
Sedgwick, “Epistemology of the Closet” (e-reserve)
Wright, "Man of All Work" (e-reserve)


Tentative Schedule

M Jan 19 Introductions
W Jan 21 Sedgwick, “Epistemology of the Closet" (e-reserve)
F Jan 23 No Class meeting: MLK Jr Day

M Jan 26 Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" (JSTOR) (response paper on Sedgwick due)
W Jan 28 Rubin, “The Traffic in Women” (e-reserve)
F Jan 30 Gamez, “From The Gloria Stories” (e-reserve)

Feb 2 Kessler & McKenna, Gender, Chapters 1 & 2 (response paper on Rich or Rubin or Gamez  due)
W Feb 4 Gender, 3 & 4
F Feb 6 Gender, 5 & 6

M Feb 9 Hwang, M. Butterfly (response paper on Kessler & McKenna due)
W Feb 11 continued discussion
F Feb 13 Davis, "Rape, Racism, and the Myth of the Black Rapist" (e-reserve)

M Feb 16 Wright, "Man of All Work"(e-reserve) (response paper on Hwang or Davis due)
W Feb 18 Ellis, Selections (e-reserve)
F Feb 20  Hall, Well, Book I

*M Feb 23 Well, Book II (response paper on Wright or Ellis due)
W Feb 25 Well, Book III
F Feb 27 Well, Book IV

M Mar 2 Well, Book V
W Mar 4 Freud, Three Essays, I: "The Sexual Aberrations"
F Mar 6  Freud, II: "Infantile Sexuality"

M Mar 9 Freud, III: "The Transformations of Puberty" (response paper on Hall due)
W Mar 11 Freud, "Summary"
F Mar 13 Woolf, Orlando, Chapter 1

M Mar  16 Orlando, Chapter 2 (response paper on Freud due)
W Mar 18 Orlando, Chapter 3
F Mar 20 Orlando, Chapter 4

M-F Mar 23-27 Spring Break

M Mar 30 Orlando, Chapter 5
W Apr 1 Orlando, Chapter 6
F Apr 3  Rubin, “Thinking Sex” (e-reserve)

M Apr 6  Foucault, Part One, "We 'Other Victorians'" (response paper on Woolf or Rubin due)
W Apr 8 Foucault, Part Two, "The Repressive Hypothesis"
F Apr 10  Foucault, Part Three, "Scientia Sexualis"

M Apr 13 Foucault, Part Four, "The Deployment of Sexuality," Chapters 1& 2: "Objective" and "Method"
W Apr 15 SSRD
F Apr 17 Part Four, Chapters 3 & 4, "Domain" and "Periodization"

M Apr 20 Part Five, "Right of Death and Power Over Life"
W Apr 22 Baldwin, Giovanni's Room Part One, Chapters 1-2
F Apr 24 Baldwin, Giovanni's Room Chapter 3

M Apr 27 Baldwin, Giovanni's Room Part Two, Chapters 1-3 (response paper on Foucault due)
W Apr 29 Baldwin, Giovanni's Room Chapters 4-5
F May 1 continued discussion

M May 4   Last day of class (response paper on Baldwin due)

M May 11 2pm Final essay due



Writing Assignments

Response Papers

Students will be responsible for writing three brief response papers of 3-5 pages (750-1250 words) each, addressing individual texts. At least one response paper must be based on a theoretical text, and at least one on a literary text. 

Response papers are due on the Monday following the last day of scheduled discussion of the work addressed in the paper. Response papers may address any aspect of the text they respond to; they may extend or critique a theoretical point, or analyze a literary structure (e.g., image, metaphor, parallels, setting, narrative stance). Response papers may be based on discussion questions.

You may not turn in more than one response paper at a time; you must have turned in at least one response paper by Monday February 23. 

Final Essay

In addition to the three response papers, students will write a final essay of 10-12 pages (2500-3000 words) analyzing a relationship between a literary and a theoretical text, on at least one of which you have not previously written a response paper.

Of the four or five works on which you write papers this term, at least one of the literary texts must be a book-length work (Hwang, Hall, Woolf, Baldwin) and at least one of the theoretical texts must be a book-length work (Kessler & McKenna, Freud, Foucault)

Final essays are due on or before May 11, 2pm.

Discussion Questions

For each class meeting, you will be asked to write down a discussion question. Discussion questions have multiple aims: they should demonstrate to me that you are doing the reading (so we don't need exams or quizzes), and they should provide you with an opportunity to reflect upon the assignment.

A discussion question is one that cannot be answered simply by looking the answer up somewhere, one that does not have an obvious answer, but that must be explored and argued. It is not completely open-ended, but specifically grounded in the text. It arises from careful consideration of the reading assignment: what the text says, and how it says it. In about half a page (150 words), explain what prompted the question, what thinking went into arriving at the question, what possible answers (if any) have been considered, and why those answers are unsatisfactory. Try to frame the question itself in one brief interrogative sentence.

Discussion questions must be typed, and will not be accepted late.

Discussion groups will have about four members; membership will rotate. Group process will be as follows:

1. Group members sit in a circle.

2. Each group member in turn shares her or his question. Those listening may wish to take notes.

3. When each question has been presented, group members begin responding to the questions that have been presented. This may entail brainstorming, finding and examining relevant passages in the text.

4. Discussion continues on whichever questions seem most fruitful; that is, whichever group members have the most to say about or disagree most about.

5. The group decides on one question to share with the rest of the class.

6. The group decides on a speaker for the group. The role of speaker should rotate.

7. The speaker will report the question and summarize the gist of the group's discussion of it.


Some Links of Interest: authors and texts
see below for links on research and writing

Adrienne Rich

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

David Henry Hwang

Angela Davis


Richard Wright

Havelock Ellis


Gayle Rubin

Sigmund Freud

3 essays



Virginia Woolf, Orlando


Michel Foucault

James Baldwin


Hatfield Library

MLA Bibliography

Voice of the Shuttle: Literary, critical, theoretical links

VoS has a Gender and Sexuality Studies page

WU Writing Center

My Writing Guidelines

Getting an A on an English paper

The Elements of Style

Brief MLA Style Guide

On Plagiarism and how to avoid it


Keep cell phones turned off or silenced during class.

Please do not use laptop computers in class.

Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the scheduled date.   You should bring to class any assignments, the assigned text (print out or photocopy readings on reserve or online), and appropriate notetaking material (notebook, pen). You should be prepared to discuss the reading and share your responses. Read actively, mark your texts, and take notes.

Try to contribute at least once to each general class discussion and at least once to each small-group discussion. Quality of response is more important than quantity, but you cannot offer thoughtful comments unless you speak up! Expect to be asked to support your observations with specific textual references. Stay on topic, avoid repetition.  Ask questions.

Be respectful of your classmates. Listen attentively.   Avoid side conversations.  Don't interrupt others; if you wish to speak next, raise your hand.  If you tend to speak a lot, keep yourself in check; make space for others to speak. Avoid personal attacks; challenge the idea not the person.


Questions? When you have questions about materials or assignments, please raise them in class--others are likely to have the same questions. When you have questions or concerns about your work, problems with the course, or suggestions for improving the class, please come see me as soon as possible. I will do my best to answer questions, resolve problems, and make use of your suggestions. Thanks. My office is Eaton 204. I will be available for conferences MWF 10:20-11:20 and other times by appointment. You can reach me or my voice mail at x6389, or you can email me at fmichel@willamette.edu.