I started teaching the gay lit section of my diverse cultures class today. It went surprisingly well -- surprisingly, since I have been having tiny rumbles of rebellion since I put out the syllabus and the students found out that, along with Asian and Jewish cultures, they would have to read the literatures of Gay and Feminist cultures. (Ack! Not that!)
So I went in today with a fiery lecture about why, exactly, one needed to study and read gay literature: what exactly was interesting and important about gay literature/queer theory: why queer matters. Including side forays into the junctures of how porn is politics and putting sex on the page is a political act.
Forgot this was the day my chair was observing my class, incidentally.
I talked to them, I kid you not, about margins: I held up the page and I showed them how the print was in the center of the page. I asked them who was in the center of the page. Then I asked them who was in the margin. This metaphor -- no, I am not joking -- knocked them out.
I said, WASPs will let the gay guys live in the margins, they'll let the Hispanics live in the margins, they'll let the black folk live in the margins, so long as what?
"So long as they don't hold hands in public," said one of my black students. "So long as they act like white guys."
I told them the story one of my colleagues told me, about a woman in her class who complained about having to read a feminist essay: I'm so sick of this feminazi crap, the student said. "In a college classroom, she said this," I said. "Sitting in a college classroom, she said this. Why is that deeply ironic?"
The young woman in the front row got it: "Because feminists got her in that classroom," she said.
"Why would she say that, then?" I asked. "Why would she claim to hate feminists?"
"So everyone will think she's a good woman," said the bad woman in my class, with wicked grin.
"So she can be safe in the center," I agreed. "Because otherwise she's out there on the margin, in't she?"
I told them that's what queer theory is about: the world on the margin, and sex on the margins, and gender on the margins, and identity on the margin. I told them that's what gay literature was talking about -- and in fact, what all literature of diverse culture was talking about, and that's why we were reading gay lit in this class.
This idea seemed to interest them.
Then I talked about why the margins were important -- why they had to exist, why what happened out in them was important, why the literature that was written about them was important, all that. Got into ethics and the creation of the self and choice and all that.
It was a lively class, and the students seemed to be taking right to it. Hope for the Fort yet, I tell you.
21 hours ago