Transgender Studies Today: An Interview with Susan Stryker

litilluminations:

My interview with Susan Stryker for boundary2.

Originally posted on boundary 2:

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Petra Dierkes-Thrun interviews Susan Stryker, leader of an unprecedented initiative in transgender studies at the University of Arizona, and one of two founding co-editors of the new journal TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly (together with Paisley Currah). Stryker is Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, and Director of the Institute for LGBT Studies at the University of Arizona. The author or editor of numerous books and articles on transgender and queer topics for popular and scholarly audiences alike, she won an Emmy Award for the documentary film Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria, a Lambda Literary Award for The Transgender Studies Reader, and the Ruth Benedict Book Prize for The Transgender Studies Reader 2.
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Transgender Studies initiative at the University of Arizona. Left to Right (Front): Paisley Currah, Susan Stryker, Monica Casper, Francisco Galarte; (Back): Eric Plemons, Max Strassfeld, Eva Hayward. Not pictured: TC Tolbert. Transgender Studies initiative at the University of Arizona. Left to Right (Front): Paisley Currah, Susan Stryker, Monica Casper, Francisco Galarte; (Back): Eric Plemons, Max Strassfeld, Eva Hayward. Not pictured:…

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On the Road with Lolita and Humbert Humbert: A Public Literary Role-Play on Twitter

The most notorious road trip in American literature, live on Twitter next week!

24 hours only: THURSDAY, JUNE 5, 2014 (anywhere in the world)

Follow @LolitaRoadtrip, use hashtag #lolitatrip on Twitter to find and play with us!lolita2

Join our Stanford University Literature and Transgression class as we take to the road with two of American literature’s most famous characters, Lolita and Humbert Humbert. Follow and interact with them as they travel through America, meet many strange and interesting characters (some of whom may be on the run themselves), and stop at notorious sights and watering holes along the way. Embody your favorite character from Nabokov’s novel or tweet as an author or character of other scandalous literary works or films (road movies!), popular culture or history, or make up memorable characters of your own.

Make sure you include your character’s name at the start of each of your tweets so we know who “you” are. Feel free to switch your persona, include links and visuals, be creative and engage others directly. Make sure you include that hashtag, #lolitatrip, so we see your tweet!

Sample tweets:

  • LOLITA: Daddy-O is getting on my nerves again about enchanted hunters and stuff. I’d rather hunt for cute clothes. #lolitatrip
  • MOTEL OWNER: Why did they not ask for a rollaway? Better keep my eyes on this guy. #lolitatrip
  • EMMA BOVARY to Lolita: I know of a really lovely county fair nearby. Worth a stop! #lolitatrip
  • Milton’s SATAN: Getting ready for you any day now, Humb. Hear you’re a smooth talker like myself. Enjoy that evil #lolitatrip while it lasts!
  • HAROLD (from Harold and Maude): You’re so young. Not my thing. #lolitatrip
  • RYAN GOSLING: Hey girl, look here … #lolitatrip

More details:

Lolita is a 14-year-old, fully social-media-savvy teenager. She has a smartphone, secret thoughts and agenda, and lots of contact with other people as she travels with Humbert Humbert. She visits internet cafes, chat rooms, may sometimes even “borrow” strangers’ phones. She loves comics, fashion, pop culture, so she often also posts visuals or links to stuff she likes. Humbert Humbert is a true technophobe, so he mostly has no clue about Lolita’s electronic life as they travel–which may be one reason why he truly doesn’t know her. Through the Twitter role-play, we get a privileged insight into Lolita’s character and thoughts via her tweets, instant messages, and postings. Don’t forget that she may also be into emoticons …

You can invent new characters or expand existing ones in Nabokov’s novel, even dead ones ( e.g. Charlotte Haze, a brawny mechanic who talks to Lolita at a gas station, hotel chambermaid who makes up HH’s and Lolita’s room, a former student of HH’s, someone at a restaurant who looks at Lolita and HH and wonders what they are doing, etc.) Is anybody back home wondering about Lo and her stepfather? Had she confided in any friends at school or camp? Are any friends, moms or teachers suspicious or worried? What’s happening to the Hazes’ empty house?

Other characters, authors from literary texts, or authors or ideas from theoretical texts about transgression also tweet. E.g., what commentary or advice would Madame Bovary, Bataille, Madame Edwarda, Herod, Satan, or Sam Delany have for Humbert Humbert or Lolita? How would “the Limit” tweet? What would “Transgression” say? How would “Carnival” chime in? etc.

Suggestions for intertextual tweeting:

Some transgressive works that our Stanford class has read and discussed as a class this quarter (besides Lolita) and that may enter our mix of tweets include the following–but feel free to add your own books, movies, or favorite authors to our transgressive road trip!

  • Ibsen’s Ghosts
  • Flaubert’s Madame Bovary
  • Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell
  • Milton’s Paradise Lost (Satan passages)
  • Wilde’s Salome
  • Bataille’s Madame Edwarda
  • Excerpts from Joyce’s Ulysses, Samuel Delany’s Hogg, Kathy Acker’s Empire of the Senseless
  • Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home
  • Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto (and Valentine de Saint-Point’s Futurist-Feminist response)
  • Ionesco’s The Chairs
  • Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”

For information about previous literary Twitter role-plays about Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and a Decadent Twitter Soiree, please click here and here.

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Exploring New Boundaries in Gender and Sexuality Studies

Originally posted on boundary 2:

Petra Dierkes-Thrun commits The b2 Review to a focus on Gender & Sexuality

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It is with great pleasure that I have agreed to join the collective as an advisory editor to launch a new online initiative for Gender and Sexuality Studies for The b2 Review. While boundary 2 has a longstanding interest in the best scholarly work of any kind, it is both fitting and necessary that gender and sexuality become a more obvious area of interest for the journal’s intellectual inquiry. The new Gender and Sexuality section aims to provide a flexible and mobile platform for the discussion of important new work both in feminist and LGBTQ studies. We will publish brief essays on current trends or events, interviews, and reviews of interesting books and other projects (including digital ones), keeping in mind boundary 2’s commitment to identifying and pinpointing important contemporary intellectual, conceptual and performative…

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Dorian Gray and Friends: A Decadent Twitter Soirée

 

Update: The Storify of this Twitter role play is now at http://storify.com/petradt/dorian-gray-and-friends-a-decadent-twitter-soiree-1 …

 

It is time to do a public literary role play on Twitter again! After the smashing success of last year’s 24-hour role play, in which hundreds of people from all over the world participated and lit up the Twitterverse with their wit and creativity, my Stanford students and I are ready to do it again–and to add some new twists and tweaks. Play with fictional characters not just from from Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray but also from other Decadent novels, plays,  and visual artworks, impersonate a Decadent author or artist at our virtual soirée, or visit Dorian Gray’s Shopping and To Do List on our new PINTEREST page. There are also rumors of Dorian Gray’s Portrait getting ready to rumble over there in the Facebook attic. (I’m sure that old chum will have interesting things to reveal while Dorian fools around with his friends on Twitter.)

Please join us! Spread the word, invite your students and colleagues, and get ready for 24 hours of unabashed 19th- and 21st-century Decadence on Twitter!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014, lasting a full 24 hours, day and night (like any self-respecting Decadent party).  Feel free to dress up in mask, tie, or cocktail attire and read on for all the juicy details below.

THE TASK:   

Pick a fictional character from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray or from any Decadent or Symbolist literary work–such as Flaubert’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony, Huysmans’ Against Nature, Rachilde’s Monsieur Vénus, Wilde’s Salomé or  “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” Baudelaire’s or Mallarmé’s poetry, etc.–or from the visual art of the period, such as Gustave Moreau’s Herod in L’Apparition, Klimt’s Judith, Franz von Stuck’s Sin, etc.  Tweet at least three brief statements (140 characters or less) addressed to Dorian Gray or another guest at this Decadent Twitter party throughout the course of the day.  Alternatively or in addition, feel free to impersonate a contemporaneous Decadent, Symbolist, or other author or artist writing to Dorian.  Possible authors or artists to consider might be Huysmans, Flaubert, Zola, Mallarme, Aubrey Bearsdley, Odilon Redon, Gustave Moreau, etc. Your tweets can include links to visual art–for instance, imagine Redon trying to sell his Ammonaria lithograph to Dorian with a few juicy words, or Beardsley submitting a sketch of attendees at Dorian’s latest orgy for Dorian’s consideration, or Moreau insisting that Des Esseintes and Dorian really misunderstood his Salome pictures … 

You may tweet in character as one or more people throughout the play, and let your character speak from a 19th- or a 21st-century perspective, since we are pretty sure some ghosts from the pasts will turn up and be eager to catch Dorian up on current events, culture, and the latest Decadent haunts on the internet.

And if you have some lingering bad feelings about your host, give Dorian a piece of your mind! Tell him what you think of him and his actions, lament or rejoice at his demise, assure him of your sympathy, flirt with him, insult him, adore him, ask him about his private doings, offer help, offer goods or decadent indulgences, give advice, heckle or praise, etc.–whatever tickles your fancy. Tell Dorian what you’ve always wanted to tell him but never dared to say. Be creative, be bold, be daring.  Snark, wit, and nostalgia are all welcome.  If you’re lucky, Dorian Gray will personally reply to you via our direct and personal line to the fictional and real dead, @wildedecadents!

Important: Please include the name of your chosen character and the hashtag #digwilde somewhere in your tweet. Post your tweets any time during your calendar day (24 hours) on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.  

Here are some sample tweets so you can get an idea of the possible format:

  • DORIAN: Spent the longest time in the closet. Couldn’t decide what to wear to the opera tonight. #digwilde
  • BASIL: This is too much. Next time, I’m painting a landscape. #digwilde
  • SIBYL: Dorian, I pine for you. The water is so cold! Take care of mother… #digwilde
  • SAINT ANTHONY: I wonder if I was reading the wrong book. #digwilde
  • RAOULE: Dorian, I have a thing or two to teach you. Bring your tools. #digwilde
  • EVE (from Stuck’s “Sensuality”): I dunno why you prefer bees to snakes, Dorian. My garden: more fun than yours. #digwilde

Possible fictional characters you might want to consider impersonating are

  • Lord Henry Wotton, Basil Hallward, Sibyl Vane, Alan Campbell, Hetty, Gladys, Lady Henry (from Dorian Gray)
  • Dorian’s portrait
  • Des Esseintes, a Jesuit priest, Miss Urania (from A rebours)
  • Raoule de Vénerande, Raittolbe, Jacques, Aunt Ermengarde, Marie Silvert (from Monsieur Vénus)
  • Beauty from Baudelaire’s “Hymn to Beauty” or the swan of “The Swan”
  • Saint Anthony, Hilarion, the Buddha from Flaubert’s Temptation of Saint Anthony
  • The old man in Mallarmé’s “The Windows”
  • Jean Delville’s “Idol of Perversity”
  • a Rossetti or Waterhouse beauty, such as Pandora or Circe
  • or any other character from a Decadent or Symbolist novel, play, essay, poem, or art work you’d like to impersonate in order to “talk back” to Dorian
  • … but we know you’ll come up with even better ideas! Let’s play!

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Students Turning into Teachers: “Queer Literature and Film” Turned Inside Out

Update: the outcomes of the students’ ideas for their teaching projects in my Queer Literature and Film class at Stanford last quarter are now accessible through our class website.

Please check out the original assignment prompt and context here and find the students’ wonderful final projects here.

The number of students in this particular seminar was rather small (six students, mixed undergraduate and graduate), but I was blown away by students’ inventiveness and motivation as they designed their own syllabi/teaching sequences for others at the end of the course: one unit on bisexuality; a four-week sequence on trans of color critique; one unit on heteronormativity and queer identity aimed at high school students; an entire ten-week syllabus on the literary history of sex, including a unit on feminism and pornography.

Students turning into teachers, applying what they have learned and deepening it by teaching others: I hope this final class assignment and the students’ amazing responses to it will inspire others and live on. This is what learning in and for the public looks like!

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Digital Pedagogy: Twitter, Close Reading, and Learning/Teaching in Public

This is a quick overview of a variety of different digital pedagogy exercises and assignments I have developed for my traditional literature seminars and feminist, gender and sexuality classes at Stanford this past year.  Please take a look–feedback welcome!

Using Twitter for Crowdsourcing and Role-Play Exercises:

A Public Literary Twitter Role-Play: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (October 2012)

Literary Twitter Role-Play, Redux: Dorian Gray and Friends–A Decadent Soiree (March 2014)

My Queer Valentine: A Valentine’s Day assignment on queer literature, film, the arts, and popular culture

Close Reading and Communicative-Associative Reading:

An Image and Sound Interpretation of Wilde’s poem “The Harlot’s House”

A Collective Translation and Commentary for Charles Baudelaire’s “Hymn to Beauty”

Surrealist Visual Art and Literature, Collaborative Interpretation Exercise and “Exquisite Corpse Poem”

Thinking about Queer Genders and Sexualities, Then and Now: Bringing Past and Present Together

Learning and Teaching in Public:

Students’ Final Teaching Projects for a Queer Literature and Film Class: Turning Students into Teachers (developing their own Gender and Sexuality Studies mini-course and teaching materials for community groups, high schools, other college classes)

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Reimagining the History and Future of Queer Studies in Higher Education: By Students, For Students

This coming academic year, the HASTAC alliance is launching an exciting new project, a loosely affiliated collection and cross-pollination of courses and instructors interested in studying, probing, debating, and reimagining The History and Future of Higher Education. Initiated by Cathy Davidson (who will also teach a Coursera MOOC on the theme alongside her face-to-face class), colleagues and students will be interrogating the topic from various angles and from our current perspective on the past and present moment of higher education–through a glass, darkly, so to speak.  This seems like an especially apt metaphor since many of us are actively engaged in rethinking the relationship of (computer) screens to face-to-face education.

I won’t be offering a whole course on this topic, but I’m excited to contribute a teaching cluster on a topic near and dear to my heart: the history and future of LGBTQ studies in higher education.  My Stanford course entitled Queer Literature and Film, on the agenda for next Fall and meant for undergraduates and graduate students in Comparative Literature and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, will turn into a collaborative, hands-on digital teaching project by students, for students in the last three weeks of the course.  Students will learn how to apply and build on what they themselves have learned in the course, in order to teach others as they would like to see our topic taught: the history, present, and future of queer representation in literature and film from the 1890s to 2013 and beyond.  In small groups of two or three, they will develop a “mini crash course” on the history and present of representations of LGBTQ people in literature and film, designed as a compact three-week syllabus package complete with texts, handouts, assignments, and visual or video excerpts.  It will most probably be aimed at high schoolers, incoming college students, and the general public, the populations most likely to benefit most from our material. The students’ general task starts here:

After having learned about important milestones and developments for LGBTQ representation in literature and film since the 1890s, what would you want others to know and consider when they first learn about these topics, and why?  Ideally, what should teaching the history, present, and future of queerness in literature and film look like, for your generation, and why? What would you [Stanford students] do in a course for others that this course has not yet done?  

The goal is to use what you have learned, making choices, picking the most important ideas and points, milestones, problems, conundrums in the history of LGBTQ representations in literature and film and build a pedagogical sequence out of it—use both new knowledge and research skills to put together an interesting, engaging package for others that “makes sense” as a brief unit and has specific teaching goals, to be defined and explained in your course rationale, to accompany the syllabus and materials you will develop.

Public function: aim your course at a specific audience (define it, research it). Put your course rationale in context with current debates and controversies about LGBTQ rights in the United States.

Each student-developed mini crash course will engage the students who develop it in textual research, teaches them how to construct a pedagogically structured syllabus that makes sense and helps learners learn and connect the dots through a set of self-developed teaching materials (such as a certain number of handouts to support the syllabus topics and texts) and a written-up rationale for the course.  There will also be a class conference in which the final projects will be presented and undergo a peer review process: each group ranks and gives constructive feedback on the other groups’ projects, then gets a chance to revise its own based on others’ feedback.  (Hey, we may even develop our own sets of badges for the in-class conference.)  Finally, there will be an official launch of our teaching units made freely available to teachers and other students on the web, advertised on social media and our various personal and professional networks. I’ll encourage simple web pages–they can do this without much technical skill.  I’ll coach students along the way, but much learning will take place in the group setting as well, by design.  Reflecting and strategizing on how to get from A to B and the possible choices and steps along the way, will be integral components of this work.

Talk about grades as motivators? I hope that the grade I give each student at the end will be just one part of a much larger set of motivating factors for students’ work in this course, as they will know from the beginning that everything they learn about the history and present of queer literature and film will be building blocks for their own teaching projects and writing at the end of the course, and as they experience the collective brain of their peers who will know and critique their work along with me.  The idea of teaching others in the most responsible, interesting way, and publicly so, with intellectual accountability, can be downright thrilling.  For the purpose of spreading the word on the finished products, I could imagine the students writing to and offering their mini courses to LGBTQ community centers and programs at high schools and colleges around the country.  And finally, I hope that my class will get a chance to interact with students in other classes on The History and Future of Higher Education, to contribute our hands-on example of reimagining at least a small portion of it from the student perspective.  I bet these students will know their stuff by the end of the course!

In a recent talk at MLA 2013, Cathy Davidson publicly called for greater pedagogical investment in what she wonderfully termed “critical contribution,” students’ public service to society’s knowledge and skills as a necessary sister art to that holy grail of a college education, “critical thinking,” whose primary focus is on the individual, not the collective brain.  I fully embrace this notion, and I’d also add to it a “learning in public” component: throwing the classroom open to the world is a powerful tool and motivator for the students themselves and gives their work a sense of purpose that can go way beyond grades. I see wonderful potential in critical contribution and learning in public, not just for the public who benefits from the students’ expertise but also for the students themselves, who will live and breathe the contrat social of teaching and learning.

I love the idea of a teaching unit/cluster instead of a whole course, by the way. “The course” is an increasingly questionable unit in the digital pedagogy realm because it is so narrow and ill suited to the “always available, always open” nature of the web.  In addition, by dedicating only two or three, admittedly precious, weeks of a face-to-face class in a regular semester or quarter to a teaching experiment such as this one, we can experiment from where we stand, with what we usually teach, and try to learn something ourselves as well.  Another wonderful contrat social: teachers as co-learners.

If this experiment goes well, what a powerful experience it will be for the students and for me, and how much better and publicly useful than anything I (as the initial teacher of the Stanford course) ever could come up with.  As we imagine the History and the Future of Higher Education, let’s think about what we teach already, let’s experiment with how it could or should be taught with digital means not only to translate it but to make it better, and most importantly—let the students have a voice in the future of their own education.

NOTE:  An update on the students’ completed assignment can be found here, and students’ teaching projects can be found here.

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