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First-Year Seminar (101-6-22)


Suburbia is Burning: Queer Liberation & UK/US Lit


Tyler Scott Talbott

Meeting Info

University Hall 018 English: Mon, Wed 3:30PM - 4:50PM

Overview of class

LGBT rights and culture in the US are often neatly framed in terms of a national story, "beginning" with the 1969 Stonewall Riots and "ending" with the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage. However, recent cultural depictions of historical LGBT activism like It's a Sin (UK, 2021) and BPM (Beats Per Minute) (France, 2017) remind us that queer life and liberation have always been global. This course returns to the 1980s and early 1990s, a period of concentrated political and cultural exchange between the UK and US. During this era, the unfolding HIV/AIDS crisis and the "special relationship" between the conservative parties of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher inspired a definitive rise in LGBT activism on both sides of the Atlantic. We will examine a range of artistic and literary responses to this moment to consider how these national contexts are both distinct, with their own prehistories, politics, and cultural forms, and interrelated through the prism of LGBT film, art, and literature. We will ask: how are questions of gender, sexuality, race, and nationhood impacted by making the LGBT canon transatlantic? Was there a prevailing queer "mood" or "attitude" in this period, and was it nationally specific? How does this comparison change the way we understand the recent past, both in terms of the experiences of sexual and gender minorities and the wider culture? How can reflecting on this history be instructive in the present, as a feedback loop between the US and UK fuels resurgent culture wars around gay and transgender lives and politics in both countries? In addition to visual art, we will consider authors and films like Hanif Kureishi, Paris is Burning, Jeanette Winterson, Audre Lorde, My Beautiful Laundrette, Young Soul Rebels, and Tony Kushner.

Teaching Method

Our class time will center around discussion of 2-3 short novels or plays, 2-3 films, and some essays, along with small in-class presentations on visual art. We'll also explore university resources related to research and writing.

Evaluation Method

You can expect a series of shorter writing assignments and Canvas discussion posts, which are meant to develop skills necessary for writing formal college papers. I will encourage revision and resubmission of written assignments throughout the quarter. Additionally, students will be expected to give short presentations (around 5 minutes) on assigned pieces of art to hone presentation skills.

NUMBER OF WRITING ASSIGNMENTS AND THEIR LENGTHS: Students in each First Year Seminar are expected to produce 15-20 pages of writing during the quarter. In this class, there will be 2-3 short writing assignments (ranging from 3-5 pages) and required discussion posts, with the required pages not exceeding the 20-page amount.

Class Materials (Required)

(subject to change)

Hanif Kureishi, The Buddha of Suburbia

Jeanette Winterson, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider

Tony Kushner, Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches

Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty

Class Notes

BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OR PERSONAL STATEMENT: Tyler Talbott is a PhD candidate in English. His dissertation, "Plotting Ethnonationalism: Race and Novel Theories of the Nation Since the Victorians" brings together the cultures of Victorian empire and postcolonial Britain to examine the relationship between the form of the novel and forms of ethnonational belonging. While at Northwestern, he has also worked as a Searle Graduate Teaching Fellow, Graduate Writing Place Fellow, Summer Bridge Teaching Assistant, and Block Cinema Fellow. He enjoys discussing teaching, writing, film, music, literature, and things to do around Chicago.

Class Attributes

WCAS First-Year Seminar

Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment Requirements: Reserved for First Year & Sophomore only