Special Topics Modern: Art and Sexuality Before Gay Rights

To be ‘artistic’ or an ‘aesthete’ has long held significances extending far beyond the limits of either art or aesthetics. This seminar will explore the persistent connections between modern art and non-normative sexualities. To provide an historical context for the dramatic visibility achieved by the gay rights movement, and a timely reminder of the repressions it confronted, the class will focus its attention on art and artists from between the Oscar Wilde trials and the Stonewall riots. Students will survey this history through a core reading list of exemplary texts in queer art history, exploring how these writers have negotiated a cultural history defined by invisibility, and limited by the shifting paradigms of naming and identification. By focusing on the innovations of queer art history over the last two decades, the class offers broader methodological lessons relevant to the study of oppositional and outsider practices from a variety of places and periods. Objects of study in the class will also extend to other forms of cultural production, such as Hollywood film and pulp magazines, especially in so far as the consideration of these fields in tandem can help reconstruct the codes and covers that have so often characterized queer modernisms.

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Alex Taylor

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Category C: Cultural Antagonisms and Cultural Crises

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