Such Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

I’ve just finished teaching an undergraduate Shakespeare class at Baruch College—
CUNY to a class of mostly business majors. For many of the students, English is not their
first language, so predictably, they had some trouble parsing Shakespeare’s text. But they
had no difficulty at all understanding what was going on between Patroclus and Achilles in
Troilus and Cressida, or, arguably, between Antonio and Sebastian—or Olivia and Viola or
Orsino and Cesario—in Twelfth Night. In general, they were not in the slightest surprised to
find homoeroticism in the works of the Greatest Writer Ever. (Indeed, critically analyzing
Bardolatry was a harder sell.) It had been some years since I had taught an undergraduate
Shakespeare course, and I was astonished by the sea-change.
I don’t think it’s just because we at CLAGS have been in a reflective mood in this, our
10th anniversary year, that I have been thinking about the implications of my students’ ease
in—even expectation of—discussing queer themes among many others. Of course, that
simply shows how deep an impact LGTBQ Studies and activism have had in the last decade
or so. What a relief to be able to spend class time discussing the significance of these themes
instead of having to plead that they merely be recognized. Indeed, that recognition has been
secured places a healthy pressure on us as teachers and scholars.
Extrapolating from many such instances, we’ve been asking ourselves at CLAGS what
implications the changing landscape of LGTBQ Studies has for our work. What does it mean
for our programming, for instance, that you can find some kind of LGTBQ talk at a campus
or community space on almost any given evening in New York? And, in turn, what does it
mean that so much activity is happening even as funding sources for LGTBQ scholars have
not expanded to keep pace? How can we continue to support emerging and seasoned,
university-based and independent scholars? As teachers, how might
we continue to challenge our students—and our colleagues—
toward ever deeper and more complicated analyses?
Many such questions were energetically debated at our
April conference, Futures of the Field: Building LGBT Studies
into the University. (See reports beginning on p. 16.) Internally,
we have been chewing on them at CLAGS as we have been
planning our 2001-2002 programs. Emphasizing our mandate to
bridge university and non-academic communities, and to keep
theory and practice in constant conversation with each other, we will present two focused fall
symposia. One, on September 21, on the 100th anniversary of the publication of Freud’s “Three
Essays,” will bring together psychoanalytic theorists and practicing clinicians to consider Freud’s
impact on LGTBQ lives and our understanding of them. Then, on October 11, along with a
screening of the ground-breaking documentary “Out at Work,” union organizers, LGTBQ activists
and scholars will discuss the way the labor movement has – or has failed to – deal with LGTBQ
concerns, and how the LGTBQ movement has – or has failed to – deal with labor and class
concerns.
On December 7, at the culminating celebration of our 10th anniversary, we are thrilled to
honor Judith Butler as the 10th annual David R. Kessler lecturer. Her lecture will be followed by a
blowout CLAGS birthday bash. So mark your calendars now – and don’t forget your dancing
shoes.
In the meantime, our colloquium series will continue, with renewed emphasis on work-inprogress
and on research that makes connections among LGTBQ concerns and race, class and
gender. (See reports on two of last semester’s colloquiua on p. 14 and 15.) Queer CUNY III is
already in the planning stages. (See p. 11 for Kerri McCormack’s take on Queer CUNY II.)
Seminars in the City launches a special summer session in August on Black Feminisms and Queer
Theory, taught by Prof. E. Frances White. And our pedagogy workshop, Lesson Plans, conducted
in collaboration with NYU’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, will kick off the new
term in early October. (You’ll find a personal reflection from a workshop participant on p. 7.)
Drawing a diverse
group of teachers, that
workshop has, among
many things,
demonstrated what
disparate circumstances
we all work in. Some of
my colleagues there
would ferociously envy
my recent experience
with my Shakespeare
students, finding their
own still resistant,
suspicious, or just plain
queasy about queer
themes; others would
wonder what I’m
making such a big deal
about. That range of
experiences alone
compels us to continue these conversations.
More than that, we are instituting some Pedagogy Pages with this issue of the newsletter,
hoping to expand the conversation. (See p. 6.) We invite your submissions: What innovations
have you made in your classes dealing with LGTBQ material? What new find worked like a dream
on your syllabus? What strategy provoked the most lively and thoughtful discussion among your
students? Please send your 500-word accounts to CLAGS!
This is also the time of year that we enthusiastically welcome new members to our board –
see p. 13. And the time we must wish farewell – along with ENORMOUS thanks – to those who
are stepping down from our board: George Custen, Robert Kaplan, and E. Frances White, whose
dedication, energy, and many labors added so much to our efforts.
Thanks to our active and passionate board – along with our splendid staff and all of you —
we anticipate another productive and provocative year at CLAGS and thank you, as ever, for your
support through our first decade. I look forward to seeing you at many of our Fall events – and to
dancing in celebration with you on December 7.