For this assignment you are to read a scholarly book on the topic of queer identity and popular culture and write a review essay on it. You must receive approval on your book selection by the end of class on Thursday, February 28th (a list of suggested books is available below). Your review is due via email (email@example.com) by the beginning of class on Thursday, March 14th. I will read and provide feedback on rough drafts, but only in person during office hours.
Writing up your review
A book review should summarize the major points of the book and briefly explain how the book is structured. It should also sum up the author’s central thesis or argument. It should then provide your own assessment of how well the author communicates this thesis or argument to the reader. You may want to think about how well the specific cases examined support the thesis and illuminate it for the reader. Finally, you should discuss how the book relates to the major concepts from the class (queerness, performativity, normativity, visibility, etc.). You may choose to discuss places where you think a queer analysis is lacking. In other words, you might offer suggestions as to how the book could more deeply take up some of the aspects of queer theory we’ve discussed in class.
Your review will be assessed on the degree to which you fulfill the above criteria, as well as the degree to which you demonstrate your understanding of major course themes.
You are welcome to bring in ideas and quotes from the other assigned readings and in-class screenings, if they are helpful in connecting your book to course themes. Make sure to properly cite these references. You don’t need outside sources for this assignment – it’s designed to measure your ability to analyze and marshall evidence from the class material (not your ability to conduct independent research).
Your review should be approximately five pages long (double-spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins). The length requirement is not strict, but you should make sure you hit all the points mentioned above, while aiming for clarity and conciseness. Please also number your pages and staple them together. You’re welcome to print double-sided.
You will probably want to use direct quotations from the book. These should be cited properly, with page numbers, according to a recognized citation system (e.g. MLA, APA). You should also be sure to use appropriate citation even when you are not directly quoting: if you discuss or paraphrase an idea that can be located in a specific place in the book, you should specify where the reader can find it.
Suggested books (with links to Amazon pages):
Leo Bersani, Homos
George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940
Ann Cvetkovich, An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures
Alexander Doty, Making Things Perfectly Queer: Interpreting Mass Culture
Susan Driver, Queer Girls and Popular Culture: Reading, Resisting, and Creating Media
Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive
Roderick Ferguson, Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique
Joshua Gamson, Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity
Gayatri Gopinath, Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures
Mary Gray, Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America
Larry Gross, Up From Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Media in America
Judith Halberstam, Female Masculinity
Judith Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives
Judith Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure
Roger Hallas, Reframing Bodies: AIDS, Bearing Witness, and the Queer Moving Image
Martin Manalansan, Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora
Jose Esteban Munoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity
Jose Esteban Munoz, Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics
Erica Rand, Barbie’s Queer Accessories
Juana Maria Rodriguez, Queer Latinidad: Identity Practices, Discursive Spaces
Media Analysis/Project: You will produce either an in-depth queer media analysis paper (~1500-2000 words) or a creative media project with a brief write-up (we’ll discuss examples in class). You may work in pairs or alone on this assignment. You will submit a proposal outlining your project, which you must receive approval on before submitting the final work. Papers/projects will be presented informally during the last week of class.
Final Essay: The final will be an essay-format, take-home exam (~750-1000 words). It will require you to demonstrate understanding of the readings and topics covered throughout the semester, and to synthesize ideas from across the course.
Response Blog Posts (2): Part of your homework for this course will be to keep up with Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race each week throughout the semester (we’ll discuss it briefly in class each week too – I will call on you at random to hear your thoughts, so be sure to watch every week). Over the course of the semester, you are to post 2 responses (~500-750 words each) to the course blog in which you critically reflect on what you have seen on the show, bringing the analytical tools from the lectures and readings to bear on your critique. You may also relate the program and readings to other examples you observe in popular culture.
For one of your posts, you will be assigned a week to write an initial reflection. Your other post should be a response to a classmate’s initial reflection that expands upon it with new analysis of your own (this can be any week you choose, but it must be posted before Monday 5/6). You should post this as a new post and include a hyperlink to the original post to which you are responding. Because the WordPress theme does not put your name on your posts, please sign each post or comment with your name/initials/pseudonym/drag name, etc. Please also be sure to select the “Drag Race” category for each post you write.
Initial Reflection Schedule:
(These posts are always due before the Monday following the air date. So if you are assigned Episode 501, which airs on January 28th, you must have your recap up by midnight on Sunday, February 3rd.)
Episode 501 (1/28): RT
Episode 502 (2/4): MR
Episode 503 (2/11): KG & SH
Episode 504 (2/18): LC & NP
Episode 505 (2/25): SK & JB
Episode 506 (3/4): JG & EH
Episode 507 (3/11): IS & JC
Episode 508 (3/18): SD
Episode 508 (3/25): KV & RC
Episode 509 (4/1): LP & CP
Episode 510 (4/8): GC & CK
Episode 511 (4/15): JS & QK
Episode 512 (4/22): WC & MS