ENG 766: Studies in Contemporary american literature

Instructor: J. Harker
M 3 - 5:30, Bondurant 208C

“Outrageous, Dangerous, Unassimilable”:
The Idea of Lesbian Literature

 In 1977, Bertha Harris published a manifesto of lesbian literature that framed both lesbians and literature in revolutionary terms.  Rejecting popular lesbian stereotypes of the 1970s, she named her utopian dream: “Lesbians, instead, might have been great, as some literature is: unassimilable, awesome, dangerous, outrageous, different: distinguished” (6).  This class examines the idea of a revolutionary lesbian literature.  It was a notion conceived in the early days of women’s liberation and gay liberation, one that invented a usable past of Paris expatriates, picked up lesbian pulp writers along the way, and created a renaissance of lesbian writing from the 1970s to the 1990s.  We will consider the historical creation of “lesbian literature” and its continued resonance in contemporary writing. Together, we will read a wide range of genres: manifestos, novels, poetry, essays, and key works of theory and criticism. Possible writers include Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Virginia Woolf, h.d., Renee Vivien, Patricia Highsmith, Ann Bannon, June Arnold, Bertha Harris, Pat Parker, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Jewelle Gomez, Gloria Anzaldua, Cherrie Moraga, Barbara Smith, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Dorothy Allison, Leslie Feinberg, Sarah Schulman, Jeannette Winterson, Ali Smith, Jane Eaton Hamilton, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Students will write weekly response papers and a 20-25 page seminar paper.