Tyll Zybura

Sinngetriebener Mensch

Written On the Body: British Queer Fiction

Tyll Zybura, 06.02.2018

Summer 2018.

Course commentary

“Queer is the deferal of meaning, the resistance to ascription and to fixation of identity.”

—Kathryn Bond Stockton

In this seminar, we will develop Queer Theory as a lens to explore a variety of British fictional media. We will mostly look at contemporary media but we will consider them with an eye to the historical specificity of public discourses on (sexual) deviance and normality in Britain since (at least) the Victorian nineteenth century.

The seminar has three parts:

  • In a first step, we will look at various theorizations of queerness: Beginning with poststructuralist critical theory that focuses on non-normative sexual identity (LGBTQIA+ – look it up!), we will broaden that outlook to theorizations of non-normativity in other areas of social life, and discuss them with regard to issues of fictional representation.

  • In the second part of the seminar, we will discuss a small selection of must-know queer literature (I will make the reading list available during the term break) to apply and test our theoretical toolbox.

  • Finally, participating students will have time to pursue their own research interests (which can focus on queer representation in film, TV, music, performance art, video games, or any other fictional media) to present and discuss their findings in a colloquium style class setting.

I will assume that participants have basic knowledge of critical cultural theory, especially feminist theory and gender theory, but I will not expect previous knowledge of queer theory. Interested BA students who don’t shy away from the high workload of this MA class are very welcome to attend (they cannot earn credit points, though)!

Required reading

Buy the following works (if you buy digital versions, make sure you have a means to bring them to class and to mark up the texts or make margin comments):

  • William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night. Buy a proper edited version, e.g. from either of the following series: “The New Cambridge Shakespeare”, “The Arden Shakespeare”, or “The Oxford Shakespeare”.

  • Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928).

  • Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body (1992).

We will discuss Orlando in session 5 (14 May), Written on the Body in session 6 (28 May), and Twelfth Night in session 7 (4 Jun), so you’ll need to have finished them by these dates; but you might consider reading the two novels before classes start. Reading Twelfth Night without instructions (which I will provide in the seminar) will be difficult for most of you – but there is a brilliant stage adaptation by Tim Carroll (premiered at The Globe in 2013) which you might want to watch as preparation (available on DVD in the library).


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