Thursday, January 27, 2011

Symposium on Lesbian and Queer Historiography‏ (U of Mich.)


9:15 Welcome and thanks: Valerie Traub and Nadine Hubbs

9:30-11:00 The Sexuality of History
Chair, Matthieu Dupas, Ph.D. Candidate, Romance Languages (French)
Susan Lanser, Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Women's and Gender Studies, Brandeis University
Response: Jarrod Hayes, UM Romance Languages and Literatures

11:00-12:00 Lunch

12:00-1:30 Genealogy as Historical Practice
Chair, Cookie Woolner, Ph.D. Candidate, History and Women's Studies
Laura Doan, Professor of Cultural History and Sexuality Studies, Manchester University
Response: David Halperin, Professor of English, Women's Studies, Classics, and Comparative Literature

1:30-2:00 Break

2:00-3:30pm The New Unhistoricism in Queer Studies
Chair, Ari Friedlander, Ph.D. English, University of Michigan
Valerie Traub, Professor of English and Women's Studies
Response: Karma Lochrie, Ruth N. Halls Professor of English and Chair, Department of Gender Studies, Indiana University

3:30-3:45 Break

3:45-4:45 Roundtable Kathryn Babayan, Professor of Near Eastern Studies and History
Matthieu Dupas
Ari Friedlander
Nadine Hubbs, Professor of Women's Studies and Music
Scott Specter, Professor of History and German
Cookie Woolner

4:45-5:00 Break

5:00-6:00 Reception

The symposium will highlight the range of methodological approaches currently being devised for writing the history of same-sex love and desire in periods before the emergence of a widely-perceived, distinct homosexual identity. Experts will cross historical periods in an effort to think comparatively about the methodological issues involved in writing a non-identitarian history of sexuality. Each of the participants has contributed significantly to the history of sexuality in previous work, and is currently embarked on a project that reformulates central principles of the field.

The symposium will consider as well why the writing of lesbian history, in contrast to gay male and transsexual history, remains primarily the endeavor of scholars trained in literary studies. The day will consist of three 50-minute public lectures, each followed by a response, Q&A, as well as a working lunch and a final roundtable.

Each of the three featured speakers is in the process of finishing a monograph on the history of sexuality. Professor Doan's book, Disturbing Practices: History, Sexuality, and Women's Experience of Modern War, 1914-18, is forthcoming from University of Chicago Press. Partly dedicated to examining the utility of the concept of genealogy for queer history and partly dedicated to historical case studies, this book examines the lives of women who did not identify as lesbian despite the presence of a cultural discourse on homosexuality. A chapter from the book, "Topsy-Turveydom," was published in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies.

Professor Lanser's monograph, Mapping Sapphic Modernity, 1600-1800, is a major rethinking of the history of western European lesbianism over the long eighteenth-century. A comparativist, Lanser charts differences among English, French, and German discourses of Sapphic desire, arguing that sapphic subjects function as a signifier of modernity and national identity. Aiming to "flip the scholarly coin from the history of sexuality to the sexuality of history: from the premise that sexuality is historically constructed to the claim that history is also sexually constructed," Lanser has published essays from this project in such venues as Textual Practice and Journal of the History of Sexuality.

Valerie Traub's current project, Making Sexual Knowledge: Thinking Sex with the Early Moderns, is an outgrowth of The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England, which won the Best Book award from the Society of Early Modern Women in 2002. Poised at the intersection of historical and literary studies, it explores the methods by which we come to "know" the history of sexuality, including definitions of what sex is. With chapters ranging from sexual pedagogy to the sexuality of Shakespeare, from popular films to women's sexual knowledge in Renaissance drama, it considers the various ways in which sex is "good to think with." Essays from this project have been published in such venues as GLQ, A Companion to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Studies, and various edited collections.

This talk is part of IRWG's Lesbian, Gay, Queer Research Initiative series. It is free and open to the public.

This event is co-sponsored by Department of American Culture, Department of Comparative Literature's "Year of Comparison", Department of English Language and Literature, Department of History, Department of Women's Studies, Labadie Collection, Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop "Doing Queer Studies Now", Spectrum Center, The Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies and The Institute for the Humanities.

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