Studies in Literature and Sexuality and Gender: Representations of Romance

DESCRIPTION: In this course we will consider contemporary texts (popular music, novels, short stories, memoir, poetry, films), from various contexts (i.e., regional white American, African American, Filipin@ in Hawai‘i, Dominican American, Blackfoot/Sami Laguna Pueblo, Nishnaabeg, Kanaka Maoli, diasporic Indian, Palestinian, white Canadian) that include representations of romance. Our premise in the class will be that there is nothing natural, timeless, or inevitable about romantic love—that it is a culturally produced ideology that is integral to the operation of many but not all societies and the various institutions that sustain them. As we engage with representations of it, we will consider the crucial economic and political as well as the social and more personal meanings that attend romantic love. We will read essays that approach romance from a theoretical (often feminist) perspective, and we will explore ways that romance, and narratives about romantic love, play an integral role in creating, sustaining, and naturalizing sex and gender roles, as well as national identities and hierarchies of race and class. We will consider ways romantic love serves not only as a way to perpetuate dominant social norms, but also as a way to challenge these norms. As well, we will consider the importance of alternatives to dominant representations of romantic love. Questions we will take up include the following: How and why are ideologies of romantic love necessary to the functioning of our society in economic and political as well as social terms? What is the relationship between romantic love and violence? Are the two necessarily opposed? Why and/or why not? What happens when romantic love is decoupled from heterosexuality and/or from marriage and the nuclear family? How and when can romantic love serve as a refuge from social norms, and/or as a source of social critique, political resistance, or even revolution? What alternatives exist to romantic love?

In addition to coming to a historical understanding and definition of romantic love and what differentiates it from other kinds of love, through analyzing representations of romantic love, we will take up questions and concerns such as the following ones:

REQUIREMENTS AND PROCEDURES: Because discussion is a crucial part of this course, attendance is mandatory. Grades will be determined by the following components: one 5-7 page essay and a 10-12 page research essay (300 points); a class presentation (35 points); in-class activities, quizzes, and short essays (75 points); group journal entries (90 points). The distribution given here is approximate. Missed classes or failure to attend required conferences will impact your grade negatively.


ASSIGNED TEXTS: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah; Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina; Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale; Junot Díaz, This Is How You Lose Her; Zamora Linmark, Rolling the Rs; Leanne Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love.

FILMS:Dir. Hany Abu-Assad, Omar; Hector Babenco, Kiss of the Spiderwoman; Dir. Barry Jenkins, Moonlight; Dir. Deepa Mehta, Fire; Dir. Gary Ross, The Hunger Games; Dir. Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Bihttos (2015)

Additional readings will include: fiction by Jhumpa Lahiri; poetry by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Haunani-Kay Trask; essays by Judith Butler, Junot Díaz, Michel Foucault, Gayatri Gopinath, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Laura Mulvey, Adrienne Rich, Gayle Rubin, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Steven Thrasher, and Aiko Yamashiro.