“Queer Science: A History”
Course Description Sexual attraction is often represented as chemical, magnetic, or electric: think of cartoon characters with eyes that jump out of their sockets and ears that hiss with steam. This course will explore the history of eyes that spark desirous electric bolts and bodies that bubble when aroused. Importantly, we will think about how science might play a role in “naturalizing” or “biologizing” sexual attraction between men and women at the expense of other kinds of desire, as well as how raced and gendered practices have been relatedly excluded from mainstream science. We will discuss what scientific objectivism is, if it even exists, and we will see how language and metaphor inflect scientific method. Major questions of the course include: How do movements against gay marriage invoke the sciences to support their claims? In turn, how has the gay liberation movement internalized scientific definitions of desire by making homosexuality something that one is born with? In the words of Lady Gaga: baby, were we really born this way?
Over the course of the semester, we will examine the weird, strange, and queer scientific practices of the 19th and 20thcenturies, some of which include 19th-century “hook-up” culture and its enabling technologies, sex magic, and the science of the orgasm. We will read novels from the 19th and 20th centuries, watch science fiction films, and encounter major theorists of science, gender, and sexuality. While our primary object of study will be desire and its relationship to the chemical and biological sciences, the theoretical readings are structured so that students may get a general grasp of the fields of science studies and gender and sexuality studies. You will be given your very own research blog, which will track your interests and general thoughts about the readings and class discussions. Writing can often be a solitary enterprise; the research blog will help you think about how your writing exists within a larger community and not simply for my eyes. The blog will also help visually archive how your interests have progressed over the course of the semester; it will be especially valuable come final paper time. Thinking about writing for a larger community will help prepare for the final project, which will be a paper that addresses an existing scholarly audience. Other forms of writing will include two short response papers.
Writing 101 at Duke This class is part of the Thompson Writing Program’s Writing 101 course offerings. Writing 101 classes are described on the Program’s website as follows:
Writing 101 (20), Duke's one-semester, first-year course in academic writing, offers students a foundation for and introduction to university-level writing. Writing 101 courses enroll no more than 12 students per section, creating a seminar environment consisting of vigorous class discussion and careful consideration of student writing. As part of the Thompson Writing Program, Writing 101 helps students develop strategies for generating, supporting, and sharing their ideas within a community of scholars. Writing 101 faculty have doctorates in a variety of disciplines--including biology, English, history, literature, anthropology, ecology, and philosophy--and have completed specialized training in the teaching of writing. While specific reading and writing projects vary by professor, all sections of Writing 101 share the same course goals and practices. These goals and practices prepare students for the rigorous scholarly analysis of information and evaluation of competing claims they will encounter throughout their undergraduate careers. Students in all sections of Writing 101 to learn how to:
Engage with the work of others
Articulate a position
Situate their writing within specific contexts
Required Texts The following texts are available at the bookstore and are required for this course. I’ve included the ISBN number and the specific editions we will be using in case you’d like to order them from Amazon, etc.
—Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance. New York: The Modern Library, 2001. ISBN
—Hammer, Dean and Peter Copland. The Science of Desire: The Search for the Gay Gene and the Biology of Behavior. Touchstone, 1995. ISBN 978-0684804460
—Harris, Joseph. Rewriting: How To Do Things With Texts. Utah State University Press, 2006. 978-0874216424
—James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw and In the Cage. New York: The Modern Library, 2001. ISBN 978-0375757402
Course Bibliography Much of the reading will be available on our course website. These readings are often chapters of books or articles. You can access these reading on our course site at sakai.duke.edu, under the resources tab. Click on the reading folding and readings are organized according to date. I’ve included a bibliographic list of the texts we will read, so you get a sense where these selections are coming from.
Ahmed, Sara. Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Durham: Duke University
Williams, Linda. Screening Sex. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008. Print.
Films In the last few classes of the semester, I’ve assigned a number of films. We will not be screening the films in class; instead, we will devote class time to discussion about the film. This means that all films must be watched before the date it is listed on the syllabus. The films will be placed on reserve at Lilly. To make use of the reserve, just look up in the film in the library’s catalog at library.duke.edu and jot down the reserve number. Once you’ve got the number, you can go to the circulation desk at Lily and request the film. Films on reserve are given a 3 hour viewing period. You can watch the film in Lilly. Some of the films may be available on Netflix instant play or Amazon/Amazon prime instant play.
Students are expected to attend all classes and demonstrate active engagement. Please note that engagement in the classroom is not only communicated through vocal participation. I fully understand that some of you may be quieter and not as comfortable with participating in class. This is absolutely fine. You will have plenty of opportunities to talk with me outside of class about your interests/project, so please do not feel obligated to participate in class if you do not feel comfortable. Ideally, by the end of the semester, a safe classroom environment will be generated where everyone will feel welcome to participate. Additionally, all assigned homework, in-class writing, and generally ungraded writing will count as your participation grade. If you are absent for more than 2 classes, this will effect your participation grade.
Mandatory Office Hour Meetings
I will require that you meet with me at least two times over the course of the semester: once at the beginning so we can start to talk about your interests/concerns, and a second time after you have received comments on your research proposal. I will hand out a sign up sheet for available times so we can meet one-on-one. You are welcome to schedule as many meetings over the course of the semester, but I make these two meetings mandatory so I can get to know you better. I will send out a sign-up sheet of times for each meeting.
Research Blog: Each student will be given their own research blog that will be linked to in our course blog. Students will be expected to post every two weeks or so (at minimum). I will also give you prompts occasionally that you will post on your blog. The earlier posts will, of course, be more free-form and sketchy. Feel free to blog on topics we discussed in class, on points in the reading we didn’t get a chance to discuss, or on anything you find confusing. Ideally, as the semester advances, you will begin using the blog to help prepare you for the final research paper. You’ll find as the semester progresses that your posts tend to focus on a particular topic or theme—you may choose to explore this theme in your final paper. I would like you to get into the habit of regularly using your blog and using it as a way to document and visualize your thinking. You will also be expected to comment on other students’ posts. The comments can be as a short or long as you like. Research can be isolating and we often forget that there are others working on similar topics. The research blogs will make our research visible to one another so that we can begin creating a community of scholars in our very own class. I will be keeping my own research blog and be a participant in our class’s blog community. Feel free to comment on my posts!
Critical Response and Literary Response (2-3 pages each): You will be expected to respond to one Critical Response Prompt and generate one Literary Response. For the Critical Response, you will choose a reading or readings from the syllabus that critically engage with a question I assign. You can use any combination of texts to answer the question. The goal of this assignment is to start getting you to think critically. For the literary analysis, you will pick any of the literature we have read on the syllabus and carefully close read the piece in order to generate an argument or position by paying attention to language and metaphor. The responses are intended to prepare you for the formal academic paper at the end of the semester, which should generate an argument that employs both critical responses and literary analyses. The prompts are assigned earlier in the course so that you can get practice writing to prepare you for the kind of writing you will do for your research paper. You will find that writing is thinking. In other words: the process of writing is itself of way of thinking through an idea. At these early stages in the semester, you will do your best to think through difficult concepts of the course (ie: What is normal science? What is queer science, etc.?). For the critical response, I will ask that you post your responses on your blog. I will assign you with a peer-review partner who will engage with your post at home. This will also help prepare you for the in-class peer-review workshops we will do later in the semester. The Literary Response will be peer-reviewed in class. Because these assignments are so early in the semester, I will not expect you to revise them.
Tentative Paper Proposal and Working Bibliography (1-2 pages): You will be required to draft a research proposal that will give a general idea of the topic you would like to pursue for you research paper. Since you will have ample time for revisions, the very first draft you hand in I will treat as a tentative paper proposal. This means that you are not locked into that paper topic. You may find as we go through the course material that you would like to write on an entirely new topic; or, you may decide that you like your general topic and would like to stick with it.
Final Paper (10-12 pages): Your final paper will be on a topic of your choice, loosely related to this course, that is communicated to me in your paper proposal. I am pretty flexible and want you to write on topics you are invested in, so please feel free to be creative.
Final Semester Grade Breakdown
Class Participation 15%
Research Blog (in its entirety) 20%
Critical & Literary Prompts 25%
Research Proposal 15%
Final Paper 25%
By the end of this course, you will learn…
That quality formal writing requires multiple drafts and revisions.
That “talking out” ideas is an important part of the writing and research process.
That the classroom creates its own community of scholars, whether you’re conscious of it or not. You will find in this course, as well as others, that classmates are often writing on a similar topic you have chosen and that discussing overlapping projects together will produce better individual projects in the end.
What a research blog is and why it may be useful to have one.
How to approach different forms of academic writing (ie: more traditional formal writing vs. informal blog updates).
How science, language, and culture are connected.
That existing theoretical models (ie: feminist science) may be helpful for theorizing new models (ie: queer science).
To consider the ways in which gender, sexuality, and race have been treated by science.
August 27 Introduction
Unit 1: Queering Science, What is “Normal Science?” August 29 —Berlant & Warner, “What Does Queer Theory Teach Us About X?” Sakai.'>Sakai._September_5'>Sakai.
— Kuhn. Introduction and Chapter 2. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Sakai.
September 3 —Introduction to Harris, Rewriting
—Lavoisier, Antione. Preface to Elements of
Chemistry. 1-7. Sakai. September 5—Chapter 3, Emily Martin, The Woman in the Body Sakai.
September 10 ***Critical Response Due: Post To Blog
—Selections from Harding, Sandra. The Science Question in Feminism (1986).
—Hawthorne, “The Birthmark” Sakai.
—Child, Lydia Maria. “Hilda Silfverling.” Sakai.
—Introduction. Queer Universes: Sexualities in Science Fiction.Sakai. Science and Desire September 17 ***Revised Critical Response Due for Turn-In***
—Freud. Essay 1 in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality(read pages 1-21).
—Selections from Ahmed, Sara. Queer Phenomenology. Sakai.
September 19 —Selections from Fisher, Helen. Why We Love: The Nature of Chemistry and
Romantic Love (2004). Sakai.
—Selections from Paschal Beverly Randolph, Eulis!
September 24 Literary Response In-Class Workshop
September 26 CLASS CANCELED: Yom Kippur
October 1 *Revised Literary Response Due for Turn-In*
Selections from Hamer and Copeland. The Science of Desire: The Search for the Gay
Gene and the Biology of Behavior. Sakai. Science, Technology, and Desire in Film and Literature October 3 Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance. Chaps. I-xi. pps. 1-90
October 8 *Tentative Paper Proposal Due, In-Class Workshop*
October 10 Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance. Chaps. Xii-xxi. Pps. 91-166.
October 15 Fall Break October 17 Library Visit
October 22 *Tentative Paper Proposal Due for Turn-In*
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance. Chaps xii-end. Pp. 167-224
October 24 —Stein, Jordan Alexander. “The Blithedale Romance‘s Queer Style.” Sakai.
—White, Craig. “A Utopia of ‘Spheres and Sympathies’: Science and Society
in The Blithedale Romance and at Brook Farm.” Sakai October 29 James, Henry. In the Cage. First 50 pages
October 31 James, Henry. In the Cage. Last 50 pages.
November 5 Revised Paper Proposal Due
—Laughlin, Thomas A. “The Double Life in the Cage: The Queering of the
Social in Henry James’s Late Short Fiction.” Sakai.
—Smith Caleb. “Bodies Electric: Gender, Technology, and the Limits of the
Human, Circa 1900 (2008). Sakai. November 7 Downton Abbey. Season 1, Episode 1.
November 12 First Draft of Paper Due for In-Class Workshop
November 14 Selections from Linda William’s Screening Sex.
Edison’s “Kiss” (1896).
Andy Warhol’s “The Kiss” (1963).
November 19 H.T.’s “The Kissafone.”
Jean Toomer’s “Her Lips Are Copper Wires.
November 21 No Class: Thanksgiving Break
November 26 First Draft of Paper Due for Turn-In
Godard, “Alphaville” (1965).
November 28 Tarkovsky, “Solaris” (1972).
Very short selection from Kuhn
December 3Haynes, “Horror Segment” of “Poison” (1991).
December 5 Revised First Draft Due for In-Class Workshops