English 1101: Composing Gender & Sexuality

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English 1101: Composing Gender & Sexuality
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Professor(s)
Department
English
Course Code
Semester / Year
Fall 2018
Course Description

Feminist philosopher Judith Butler famously theorized over a quarter century ago that a person’s gender is an ongoing performance: “there is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; […] identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results” (Gender Trouble 25). Rather than being determined in some divine or legal sense, then gender is socially constructed: it is what it is because of how individual people behave and impose (or refuse to impose) limits on others. In this class, we take ideas like Butler’s as part of a deep investigation into gender and gender-bending in music (as well as other performative spaces like movies, drag, and stand-up comedy) from the 1950s to today.

We’ll consider questions like: What is gender, and how have different creative and cultural artists, academics, activists, and thinkers subverted and even upended gendered expectations? How is gender expression expected of people? Why do we believe there is a gender binary, and what does white supremacy have to do with it? How do the ways society enforces gender impact your life and what can you do to shift it?

This course is an adventure in collaborative and student-centered learning (often called student-centered pedagogy). That means that we all share responsibility for the quality of discussion and kinds of learning that we do (and it also means that you will invest in your learning in this course in ways that might be new or unfamiliar to you). Part of my job is to help you learn to express ideas cogently, reasonably, and effectively, and part of your job is to enter into that learning enthusiastically and whole-heartedly (which doesn’t mean you have to love it, just that you should engage as best you can). Part of learning to write on the college level is taking these kinds of responsibility, by diving in, by asking questions, and by sharing your knowledge as you work with each other (and me) to learn.

(IMAGE: Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe at a Hollywood nightclub, November 19, 1954.)

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