Information about the topic:
As we have seen, reading the queer element in pre-modern literatures and cultures calls for a wide range of reading strategies. Let’s review some of the basic premises. (As with the midterm essay prompt, these preliminary comments may help you narrow and shape your topic.)
- The use of the word queer as a marker of non-heteronormative identity is a modern development, just as the concept of sexualityas a marker of personal, subjective identity is a modern development.
- As Foucault suggests, this development has a long history, and the history is not straightforward. Same-sex desires and preferences are obviously not absent from the pre-modern era, but they are situated in culture differently from modern norms of thought, feeling, and behavior.
- Culture means, among other things, being situated in a variety of ambient forms of meaning(narratives, patterns, habits of memory and expectation, and images that serve as placeholders for these patterns and habits). Experience and identity are made of these elements.
- Some brief examples of how the above propositions come together in texts we’ve examined so far:
- The biblical canon shows how the form of community called “covenant” leads to crises (e.g., forced choices) that carry implicit critiques of prevailing norms.
- The discursive form of Plato’s work – dialog and dialectical argument – shows a broad spectrum of myths (narratives, guiding scripts) that enable persons to imagine how their desires, expectations, and aspirations may fit into their community’s habits of life. Importantly, the dialog form, as we see it unfolding in The Symposium,shows a mix of historically real, conjectural, and imaginary forms of life: some correspond to what seems to have been the norm in classical Athenian society; some capture patterns of behavior that were practiced but were not typical; and some reflect imaginary forms that extend the virtual boundaries of the culture’s “rules of the game.”
- Alain de Lille’s Complaint of Nature presents a provocative, and influential, rationale for understanding how sexual practices and erotic desires correspond to – and challenge – rules of grammar (of all things!). If we remember that Alain’s text is an allegory, we can see how the gist of his argument remains pertinent. How so? The Complaint challenges us to take notice of the ways in which ideas about gender, desire, and the domains of erosand sex participate in a cultural grammar, a grammar that evolves and mutates. Literary texts both reflect and contribute to this transformation.
- Richard Barnfield’s poetic experiments (of which we have read a small sample) show how two inherited poetic forms – the Virgilian pastoral eclogue and the Petrarchan sonnet – may be combined to create a virtual world (part real, part imagined) where the representation of homoerotic desire and behavior is “naturalized,” even though it is not fully reflective of prevailing contemporary social norms in Barnfield’s (16th-century) world.
write an essay that shows how the array of discursive forms at work in the option you select present a “queer” angle of vision on the represented world(s). Bear in mind that the queer elements are not reflective mirrors of 20th– and 21st-century practices and debates over sexuality. The queer elements are a combination of the seemingly familiar and the strange. They include modifications of gender roles, socio-political conflicts, sexual transgressions or experiments, and erotic fantasies – all of which may be examined for the particular challenge they pose to the dominant or “taken for granted” forms of social, domestic, religious, or political life. Remember that the concept of “form” is very broad. It includes notions of genre, imagery, allusions, patterns of dialogue, and strategies of narrative development.
Topic: Marlowe’s Edward II: How does Marlowe’s play show critical understanding of the force of the kind of argument that Alain de Lille makes in the Complaint of Nature? Remember that the queer element of the play does not present the lethal Mortimer / Edward relation in a vacuum: the tension between Edward and his court is part of a cultural grammar. For this option, remember also to choose only the scenes or passages that help you build a coherent picture of the issues you want to isolate. There is no need to paraphrase the entire plot.
DO NOT STRAY OFF TOPIC FROM ANYTHING I HAVE WRITTEN ABOVE. THIS TOPIC IS VERY SPECIFIC TO WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN. NO OUTSIDE SOURCES. Let me know if you need any of the readings I mention in the instructions. I am attaching the play Marlowe, and a slide show to help if needed.