LIT 146: Queer(y)ing Victorian Literature Syllabus

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LIT 146C: Victorian Prose

Queer(y)ing Victorian Literature

Spring 2019

Instructor Tara Thomas

Required Texts

  • Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
    (Penguin Classics 0140439269)
  • Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla
    (Syracuse University Press 0815633112)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
    (Dover Thrift 0486266885)
  • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
    (Oxford World’s Classics 0199535989)
  • Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain, Sultana’s Dream and Padmarag
    (Penguin, 0143430181)
  • Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet
  • Course Reader (materials also available on Canvas)

Course Description

The Victorian era in the popular imaginary are often viewed as a period of social conformity, establishing gender hierarchies and reinforcing heteronormativity. Gender and sexuality studies have critiqued the perpetuation of nineteenth-century England as a homogenized society, demonstrating the ways in which the Victorians were not sexually repressed, how queer, counternormative culture thrived, and how popular culture was at times comfortably queer. This course turns to fiction in mid-to-late-nineteenth-century England to survey representations of non-normative gender and sexuality in popular culture. We will consider the extent to which representations of non-normative, transgressive figures in fiction conform to or resist established perceptions of gender, sexuality, race, and empire. Because our inquiry is both historical and theoretical, our supplementary readings draw both from nineteenth-century and modern critical essays on gender and sexuality.

We will examine authors such as Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Oscar Wilde, putting popular fiction into conversation with sexologists like Havelock Ellis and Sigmund Freud, as well as modern queer theorists like Michel Foucault, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Sara Ahmed. We begin by discussing the racialized homophobia and suppressed homoeroticism in Charles Dickens’s final, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, before turning to representations of same-sex desire between women in Carmilla, before moving on to discuss changing attitudes about deviant gender and sexuality that led to the criminalization of homosexuality between men with the passage of the Labouchere Amendment in 1885. This leads us to consider the effects criminalization had on literature at the time: from the use of literature as evidence of ‘sexual inversion’ with Dorian Gray, to the threat of blackmail by former lovers represented in The Blackmailers. We will explore the ways in which the Victorians blatantly disregarded efforts to criminalize same-sex desiring and gender non-conforming people in late-Victorian decadent literature by Max Beerbohm and Vernon Lee. Then we will examine representations of queerness in the empire through Victoria Cross’s “Theodora” and Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain’s Sultana’s Dream before turning to the neo-Victorian novel, Sarah Water’s Tipping the Velvet, to discuss representations of same-sex desire and gender performativity.

WEEK 1 INTRODUCTION: QUEER THEORY AND THE VICTORIANS
Tuesday Course Introduction: Queer, Victorian Studies

In class overview of queer theory and Victorian understandings of sexuality

John Ruskin, “Of Queen’s Gardens” (selections; in class)

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, “Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire”

Robyn Wiegman, Object Lessons, “Telling Time: When Queer Theory and Feminism Diverge” (selections)

Keywords: (linguistic, gender) performativity, lesbian, gender/sexual hierarchies, universality, drag

Thursday

 

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1-55)

Robyn Wiegman, Object Lessons, “Telling Time: When Queer Theory and Feminism Diverge” (selections)

Keywords: gender, sexuality, sex, intersectionality, race, queer, feminism,

masculinity, femininity

WEEK 2 HOMOPHOBIA AND THE VICTORIANS
Tuesday

 

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (56-110)

Sigmund Freud, Three Essays (selections)

Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality vol. 1 (selections)

Keywords: repression, sublimation, normative sexuality, sexual inversion

Thursday The Mystery of Edwin Drood (111-end)

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men, “Up the Postern Stair: Edwin Drood and the Homophobia of Empire”

Keywords: homo/heterosexual binary, homosocial, homosexual panic, erotic triangle, racialized homosexuality, heterosexual plot, Englishness

WEEK 3 SAME-SEX DESIRE, WOMEN, AND THE VAMPIRE
Tuesday

 

Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla (1-35)

Sue-Ellen Case, “Tracking the Vampire”

Keywords: lesbian, queer desire, same-sex desire, (un)natural, Oedipal

triangle, heterosexual gaze, the phallus, the uncanny, jouissance

Thursday

 

Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla (36-end)
WEEK 4 HYSTERIA AND SEXUALITY
Tuesday

 

 

Short Essay Due

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Elaine Showalter, Sexual Anarchy, “Dr. Jekyll’s Closet”

Keywords: hysteria, queer codification of language, sexology and pseudoscientific classification, contagion, perversion

Thursday

 

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
WEEK 5 SEXOLOGY IN LITERATURE
Tuesday

 

 

Havelock Ellis, Sexual Inversion (Selections)

Edward Carpenter, The Intermediate Sex

Max Nordau, Degeneration, “The Decadents and the Aesthetes” (selections)

Max Beerbohm, “The Happy Hypocrite”

Keywords: sexual inversion, homosexuality, degeneration, decadence

Thursday

 

Gerard Genette, Paratexts, “Introduction”

SPECIAL COLLECTIONS DAY: Meet in McHenry Library Special Collections & Archives (3rd Floor)

WEEK 6 QUEERNESS AND EMPIRE
Tuesday Special Collections Assignment Due

Vernon Lee, “Dionea,” “A Wicked Voice”

Ardel Haefele-Thomas, Queer Others in Victorian Gothic, “Vernon Lee”

Keywords: gothic, imperialism, other, orientalism

Thursday

 

Victoria Cross, Theodora, a Fragment
WEEK 7 CRIMINALIZATION OF HOMOSEXUALITY
Tuesday

 

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1-9)

Joseph Bristow, “Wilde, Sexual Difference, and Gross Indecency”

Keywords: gross indecency, sexual difference, Labouchere Amendment

Thursday

 

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (10-end)

Dirk Schultz, Setting the Record Queer (selections)

WEEK 8 SEXUALITY AND SCANDAL
Tuesday

 

John Gray and Marc-Andre Raffalovich, The Blackmailers

Joseph Bristow, “The Blackmailer and the Sodomite: Oscar Wilde on Trial”

The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 (selections)

Keywords: blackmail, homosexual panic, sodomy (as defined in Labouchere Amendment), sex/race/class/gender criminality

Thursday

 

Research Paper Proposal Due

John Gray and Marc-Andre Raffalovich, The Blackmailers

WEEK 9 GENDER, SEXUALITY, FEMINISM, AND BRITISH INDIA
Tuesday Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain, Sultana’s Dream (1-65)

Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology, “The Orient and Other Others”

Thursday

 

Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain, Sultana’s Dream (66-end)
WEEK 10 (NEO)VICTORIAN FEMALE MASCULINITY
Tuesday Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet (1-111)

Jack Halberstam, Female Masculinity, “The Androgyne, the Tribade, the Female Husband”

Keywords: (19th and contemporary) female masculinity, gender and sexual codes, tribade (in sexology), androgyne

Thursday Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet  (111-end)

 

FINAL PAPER

DUE BY 5 P.M.

DAY OF FINAL