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Desiring History

Instructor Dawson Writing history is always motivated by some kind of desire. The speaker in Shakespeare's Sonnets, addressing the young man for whom he has fallen, wishes that a written "record could with a backward look... show me your image in some antique book." This course explores the various forms of yearning, imitation, and fantasy through which queer history continues to speak in the present. We will take as our guiding object the reception of Shakespeare's Sonnets, whose lyric expressions of same-sex desire have provoked passionate identifications, playful revisions, and charged repudiations in readers like Oscar Wilde, Emily Dickinson, and Derek Jarman. In dialogue with this history, we will study queer theorists who have discussed the differing modes in which gay, lesbian, transgender, and other histories might be made to live on and politically resonate in the present. By placing these texts in dialogue, we will see that literature, film, and even editing theorize queer history.