Some time ago, I recommended Texas A&M University as a good place to get an education. Now that it has added a course in the English Department called “Gay and Lesbian Literature” I need to reconsider. Generally, when a school dedicates entire courses to homosexuality its days are numbered as a university to be taken seriously.
Dr. Krista May now offers a course that “surveys the historical and social constructions of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender identities, primarily as they are expressed in the literature of British and American writers.”
That sounds innocent enough. But why spend a semester studying such a narrow aspect of literary works of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? The syllabus continues: “The course also investigates earlier literary periods in order to contextualize relatively recent notions of sexual identity by situating them within cultural and historical frameworks.”
Interesting, isn’t it? The issues covered in the class include “literary expressions of homo-social behaviors in ancient Greece and Rome; development of homosexual subcultures in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; construction of female ‘romantic friendship’; the influence of late nineteenth-century sexologists and of Freud; intersections of racial, class, and sexual identities; and postmodern interrogations of identity.”
The stated purpose of the course is to provide students with “a starting point for understanding historical concepts that inform contemporary notions of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender identities …” This is done in order to challenge students to “think critically about strategies deployed in literary expressions of sexual identity.”
There is so much more to the reading in “Gay and Lesbian Literature” than the obvious Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Students also get to read The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature as well as The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male. Now that’s intellectual progress! Who said the Aggies were a bunch of backward hicks?
Despite my distaste for the subject matter of her class, Dr. Krista May impresses me with one portion of her syllabus. She says something similar to what I say to all of my classes the first day of each semester: