Monday, January 07, 2008

Just When You Thought The University of Minnesota Was The Most Liberal Place In The World

The University of Michigan slaps them down with a limp wrist.

Section 002 — How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation.

Credits: (3; 2 in the half-term).

Instructor(s): David M Halperin (

Course Description:

Just because you happen to be a gay man doesn't mean that you don't have to learn how to become one. Gay men do some of that learning on their own, but often we learn how to be gay from others, either because we look to them for instruction or because they simply tell us what they think we need to know, whether we ask for their advice or not.

Step 1: Drop your drawers and bend over.

This course will examine the general topic of the role that initiation plays in the formation of gay male identity. We will approach it from three angles: (1) as a sub-cultural practice — subtle, complex, and difficult to theorize — which a small but significant body of work in queer studies has begun to explore; (2) as a theme in gay male writing; and (3) as a class project, since the course itself will constitute an experiment in the very process of initiation that it hopes to understand.

In particular, we will examine a number of cultural artifacts and activities that seem to play a prominent role in learning how to be gay: Hollywood movies, grand opera, Broadway musicals, and other works of classical and popular music, as well as camp, diva-worship, drag, muscle culture, taste, style, and political activism. Are there a number of classically 'gay' works such that, despite changing tastes and generations, all gay men, of whatever class, race, or ethnicity, need to know them, in order to be gay? What is there about gay identity that explains the gay appropriation of these works? What do we learn about gay male identity by asking not who gay men are but what it is that gay men do or like? One aim of exploring these questions is to approach gay identity from the perspective of social practices and cultural identifications rather than from the perspective of gay sexuality itself. What can such an approach tell us about the sentimental, affective, or subjective dimensions of gay identity, including gay sexuality, that an exclusive focus on gay sexuality cannot?

At the core of gay experience there is not only identification but disidentification. Almost as soon as I learn how to be gay, or perhaps even before, I also learn how not to be gay. I say to myself, 'Well, I may be gay, but at least I'm not like that!' Rather than attempting to promote one version of gay identity at the expense of others, this course will investigate the stakes in gay identifications and disidentifications, seeking ultimately to create the basis for a wider acceptance of the plurality of ways in which people determine how to be gay.

Additional note. This course is not a basic introduction to gay male culture, but an exploration of certain issues arising from it. It assumes some background knowledge. Students wishing to inform themselves about gay men and gay culture in a preliminary way should enroll in an introductory course in lesbian/gay studies.

English 317 info page >

This course falls under the Nihilist's rule of identity politics in the classroom: If a course sounds like political correct BS, try replacing the protected minority name with a majority group. If the new class would never be taught, you've found a BS class. I sincerely doubt they would teach a class anywhere on "How to be heterosexual." This makes "How to be gay" a class unlike something that sounds PC, but might be legitamite such as "Poverty in Sub-saharan Africa." "Poverty in Western Europe and North America" could be real per the Nihilist's rule.

Anyway, I thought people were born gay. Weren't people born gay? Isn't that the liberal orthodoxy? If you are born gay, why do you need a class on how to be gay?


Anonymous john f not kerry said...

Actually, it sounds like a great way to pick up chicks, if you are patient. Convincingly act like you are gay, and gain the confidence of some hot (or not so hot) chicks. Then maybe one of them might make you their "project", trying to see if they were womanm enough to "break" you. Or, you could act like a moron and see how far that gets you.

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Larry Craig said...

This blog has become so hateful, bitter, and bigoted of late. Where is the meaningful public discourse? I can't believe that City Pages named you Gayest Blog of the Year just a few years ago. For shame!

4:35 PM  

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