LESBIAN AND GAY CINEMA
Julia Lesage, Nov., 1999
COURSE RATIONALE AND OBJECTIVES
1. To introduce a cross-cultural historical survey of films and videotapes by lesbian and gay artists, both mainstream and independent, within their various historical, cultural and political contexts, principally European and North American.
2. To introduce, in relation to film and video, the lively theoretical and critical literature that has accompanied the evolution of queer communities/ politics, mostly since the 1970s, and the emergence of lesbian and gay/queer studies. The course design is interdisciplinary, with attention to the cinema both as art and media discourse.
3. To encourage interdisciplinary, co-operative learning about representation of sexual marginality in cultural forms and to provide a safe environment for that learning, emphasizing discussion and exchange.
4. Balance: This introductory survey has certain unavoidable emphases and gaps, reflecting the instructor's interests and choices, as well as the accidents of availability, the restrictions of budget, and the contradictions of covering a universe in ten weeks. I have made an effort to balance women's and men's histories and cultures in this syllabus, recognizing both their autonomies and their interfaces.
Because of the course has a complex relation to identity politics, we all need to work on creating a good learning environment.
The films and reading focuses attention on aspects of personal identity, sexuality, gender and the body that are often culturally taboo.
You are not expected to comply with any set of sexual values, and you may always retain the right to disagree. I do assume that the students in the course minimally agree on the granting of basic civil rights to homosexuals and transgendered people, respect for those who choose these lifestyles, an interest in learning about how the media represent gender, and a lively curiosity about gender subcultures.
The images shown and discussed are sometimes explicitly sexual and they may be controversial or offensive for some students. You are free to leave the room during the screening of materials you find disturbing. However, you are expected to return to the classroom for the post-screening discussion. In general, you are expected to approach sexual references or images in a spirit of scholarly inquiry and open-mindedness, respecting the positions of others in the classroom and those expressed in materials presented in the course.
Privacy and Confidentiality:
No student has to relate personal information of any kind in coursework or group discussions; you are, however, expected to keep strictly confidential any information garnered from those who do. Enrollment in the course implies no personal identity choices on the part of individual students. We should all keep this in mind when offering or listening to others'assumptions or statements.
Because of the nature of the course material and the need to build a community of trust in the class, no guests or people who are not enrolled in the course will be allowed to attend class.
Book: Out in Culture, eds. Cory Creekmur and Alex Doty (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995). Abbreviated below as OC.
Reading packet on reserve and for sale in THE COPY SHOP. Abbreviated below as Pack
Assignments for undergrads: weekly quizzes on reading, team presentation, team dossier on selected film, take-home midterm and final, listserve postings.
Assignments for grad students: No final. 15-20 pg. paper due dead week, revision due finals week.
Class format: One three-hour session for film screening and discussion. One two-hour session for teacher-led discussion of reading, quiz (individual and team grades on quiz), team presentation for one hour.
Course is organized with first half of course dealing mainly with feature fiction film and second half mainly independent media.
Week One: Film -- MAEDCHEN IN UNIFORM
1. Michael Bronski, Culture Clash: The Making of Gay Sensibility (Boston: South End Press, 1981), Chapter 1, pp. 1-90 [an historical overview]. In Pack.
2. Richard Dyer, "Weimar," Now You See It: Studies on Lesbian and Gay Film (NY: Routledge, 1990), pp. 7-46. In Pack.
3. B. Ruby Rich, "MAEDCHEN IN UNIFORM: From Repressive Tolerance to Erotic Liberation," OC.
Week Two: Film -- ROPE
1. Essays on Hitchcock in OC.
2. D.A. Miller, "Anal ROPE," Representations 32 (Fall 1990), 114-33; also in Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories, ed. Diana Fuss (NY: Routledge, 1992). In Pack.
3. Parker Tyler, "Fatal Kinks," Screening the Sexes (NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1972), 285-323. In Pack.
Week Three: Film -- VICTOR VICTORIA
1. Chris Straayer, "Redressing the "Natural": The Temporary Transvestite Film," Deviant Eyes, Deviant Bodies (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 42-78. In Pack.
2. Jump Cut editorial. Special Section--Lesbians and Film, Jump Cut 24/25 (March 1981), in OC.
Week Four: Film -- TORCH SONG TRILOGY
1. Thomas Waugh, "The Third Body: Patterns in the Construction of the Subject in Gay Narrative Films," Queer Looks: Perspectives on Gay Film and Video, ed. Martha Gever et al (NY: Routledge, 1993), 141-161. In Pack.
2. Essays on Queens and on Drag, in OC.
Week Five: Films -- TONGUES UNTIED, PARIS IS BURNING, VOGUE (Madonna music video).
1. Chuck Kleinhans, interview with Marlon Riggs on TONGUES UNTIED, and essay on that film and ETHNIC NOTIONS, Jump Cut 36 (1991). In Pack.
2. Essays on Madonna and on Marlon Riggs, in OC.
3. Judith Butler, "Gender is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion," Bodies that Matter (NY: Routledge, 1993), 121-40. In Pack.
4. Kobena Mercer, "Dark and Lovely Too: Black Gay Men in Independent Film," Queer Looks, 238-256;
OR Isaac Julian and Kobena Mercer, "True Confessions: A Discourse on Images of Black Male Sexuality," in Male Order: Unwrapping Masculinity, eds. Rowena Chapman and Jonathan Rutherford (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1988), 131-141. In Pack.
Week Six: Film -- BOUND
1. Essays on Commodity Lesbianism, in OC. [Ask Arlene Stein to be a guest speaker.]
2. Essay on BOUND from CineAccion.
OR Sue-Ellen Case, "Towards a Butch-Femme Aesthetic," Discourse 11:1 (Fall-Winter 1988-89), 55-73. In Pack.
3. Ellis Hanson, "Introduction," Out Takes: Essays on Queer Theory and Film (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999), 1-19. In Pack.
Week Seven: Films -- work of James Broughton, film on Tom of Finland, Safe Sex films from Gay Men''s Health Crisis, NUDES: A SKETCHBOOK by Curt McDowell, UN CHANT D'AMOUR by Jean Genet.
Take-home Midterm Exam due.
1. Essays on Gay vs. Straight Men's Pornography and on Tom of Finland and Leathermen's Iconography, in OC.
2. Cindy Patton, "Safe Sex and the Pornographic Vernacular," in How Do I Look? Queer Film and Video, ed. Bad Object Choices (Boston: South Bay Press, 1991), 31-63. In Pack.
3. Richard Dyer, "Shades of Genet," Now You See It, 47-101. In Pack.
Week Eight: Film -- THE DEVIL'S CLEAVAGE by George Kuchar
1. Essays on Camp, in OC.
2. Michael Bronski, Culture Clash, Chapter 2, pp. 92-187, on current gay male cultural history in U.S. In Pack.
OR other essays on Camp by Susan Sontag, Richard Dyer, Esther Newton, Michael Bronski, Jack Babuscio.
Week Nine: Films -- Choose among the following: DOUBLE STRENGTH and WOMEN I LOVE by Barbara Hammer, AMONG GOOD CHRISTIAN PEOPLES by Catherine Saalfield and Jacqueline Woodson, JUGGLING GENDER by Tami Gold, OUTLAW by Alicia Lebow, LET'S PLAY PRISONERS by Julie Zando, short video work of Sadie Benning.
Graduate Papers due, all back work due.
1. Chuck Kleinhans, Catalogue for show of Barbara Hammer's work. In Pack.
2. Chris Straayer, "Transgender Mirrors: Queering Sexual Difference," in Between the Sheets, In the Streets: Queer, Lesbian, Gay Documentary (Minneapolis: University of MN Press, 1997), 207-223. In Pack.
Week Ten: Film -- BALLOT MEASURE NINE by Heather McDonald
1. Ronald Gregg, "Queer Representation and Oregon's 1992 Anti-Gay Ballot Measure," in Between the Sheets, pp. 15-29. In Pack.
2. Frank Pearce, "How to Be Immoral and Ill, Dangerous and Pathetic, All at the Same Time: Mass Media and Homosexuality," in The Manufacture of News, eds. Stanley Cohen and Jack Young (London: Constable, 1973), 284-301. In Pack.
3. Jan Zita Grover, "Visible Lesions: Images of the PWA," in OC.
TEAM FORMATION, QUIZZES, RESEARCH PROCESS, DOSSIERS, AND CLASS PRESENTATIONS
Students will be placed into one of several teams the first day of class, and they will stay in the same team throughout the term. By the second day of class, they will have chosen a name for their team--based on names of a gay or lesbian theme, movie character, movie star or director. The teams will each lead one half hour of a class discussion on their research into a specific film. See list below.
Every team will get a folder with the names of its members and a calendar for the term on the front. Each day I will pass out the folders, which will contain any quizzes that need to be returned that day, and I will collect the folders during class. The calendar on the front is for your team to keep track of your own attendance. If you are going to be absent, you must contact either your team members or myself before class. Because the team score on the quizzes is almost always higher than that of the team's highest scoring individual member, if someone on your team is absent, they will be unable to contribute to the team quiz and your team will most likely perform worse than it otherwise would have. In addition to whatever other criteria you develop as a team, keep attendance in mind when you evaluate each other at the end of the term.
WEEKLY FILM AND DISCUSSION OF FILM -- first class of week, a three hour period.
There will be a brief quiz to check on the readings on the second class period of the week, at the beginning of class. The quiz will have two grades, each equal in value. First, individuals will take the quiz and hand it in. Then the team will discuss the questions and take the exam collectively and hand that paper in. Each student gets a team grade and an individual grade for the quiz.
Two teams present information and lead discussion for one half hour each week. The topic of the discussion will be their findings from their research dossier on a specific film, as described below. The students from two specific teams will present the discussion (in the second class period of the week). Each student should speak for about five minutes and give a specific presentation. A week after class, the team will hand in its dossier on the film (see below), indicating in writing who did what part of the research. The team grade will be based on effectiveness in presentation and in leading discussion, and on the written dossier handed in.
In the classroom presentation, the findings about the film studied should be summarized, and key issues or questions raised for class discussion. An individual response to the film as a whole or to specific themes in the film should be prepared by one or more of the team members and read to the class as a discussion starter. Also, you may want to bring in clips to analyze in detail, with specific questions or ideas for the class to consider. [I will cue up the clips as needed.] The team will pass out a printed summary of their conclusions to the class and perhaps a list of films related to the week's film or director that they recommend classmates see on their own. It is crucial that you stick to the time limit, since I will cut you off to move on to the next presentation.
I will also be available, especially by email or in office hours to help team members prepare their presentations. If a team needs my help, they should come to me in advance of the class period itself. We can all work together so that the teams make the best possible presentation.
The team grade for the presentation will be based on how effective the team is in getting the class to consider the main ideas in their research, the main aesthetic and thematic issues that the film raises, and some of the larger issues and controversies around this film.
THE RESEARCH DOSSIER
The team will choose a dramatic feature film, available on video, and research its circulation and reception in their historical context. A list of eligible films follows, to be selected one per team, first come, first serve. Deadline for team formation and topic selection, the second week of class.
In addition to viewing the film, the team will
1. Assemble documentation of the film's release, circulation, and exhibition history: i.e. script sources, reviews, publicity, media coverage, box office data, socio-political context. Submit your package of photocopied documentation--suggested length is between 20 and 30 pages. Be selective: include the most interesting and telling documents to submit. A minimum of ten different sources must be included. Aim also for a variety of sources, from gay community publications to mainstream dailies to censor's reports.
2. Draw up an analytic breakdown and synopsis of your documentation. Make sure you also summarize the cues the film itself offers about its objectives, its intended circulation and reception. End with a tentative conclusion on the significance of the various patterns you detect. The total suggested length for this analytic component of the assignment is 10 pages. If you want to have students receive individual grades on this dossier, include a written component of five pages by each person, signed by that person. If you want everyone to get the same grade, do not do this. The choice between receiving individual grades on the dossier or a joint team grade that will be the same for each person is a decision that the team will have to make.
3. In class, each team will present a half-hour oral report of their findings. In addition to a 2 or 3-minute VHS or laser clip of the film, the presentation should be supported by visual materials, e.g. transparencies of media coverage and publicity, etc.. You should also print or photocopy a brief summary of your findings to be distributed to classmates. Please rehearse your team presentation for timing and logistics: under no circumstances will you be allowed to go beyond 30 minutes. You must have your video-cassette cued up prior to the class meeting. One week after your presentation, hand in your package of research findings to the instructor.
Box office information is best obtained from such trade periodicals as Variety, Monthly Film Bulletin (U.K.). Discuss with the reference room librarian other ways to research your film. A synopsis of film reviews, by year, is found in Film Review Annual.
THE FILMS TO CHOOSE FROM:
Each team will choose one of these films, first come, first served. Only one team can do a specific film, no duplications. The team can also suggest some other relevant film to me, which I will most likely accept.
BOYS IN THE BAND, THE
CAGE AUX FOLLES, LA
CELLULOID CLOSET, THE
CHILDREN'S HOUR, THE
COLOR PURPLE, THE
COMING OUT UNDER FIRE
CRYING GAME, THE
DEATH IN VENICE
DONA HERLINDA AND HER SON
FORTUNE AND MEN'S EYES
I'VE HEARD THE MERMAIDS SINGING
INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY OF TWO GIRLS IN LOVE
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE
KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE, THE
MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE
ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT
REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE
WEDDING BANQUET, THE
WORD IS OUT
Additional Bibliography From Which Readings May Be Chosen Or Substituted:
Alcock, Beverly and Jocelyn Robson. "CAGNEY AND LACEY Revisited," Feminist Review 35 (Summer 1990).
Babuscio, Jack, "Camp and Gay Sensibility," in Dyer, Gays and Film.
Bronski, Michael. "Judy Garland and Others: Notes on Idealization and Derision," in Lavender Culture, eds. Karla Jay and Allen Young (NY: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovitch, 1978).
Crimp, Douglas. "Mourning and Militancy." In Russell Ferguson, Martha Gever, Trinh T. Minh-ha and Cornel West, eds., Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures (New York, Cambridge, MA and London: The New Museum of Contemporary Art and MIT Press, 1990), 233-245.
Dyer, Richard. "Children of the Night: Vampirism as Homosexuality and Homosexuality as Vampirism," in ed. Susannah Radstone, Sweet Dreams: Sexuality, Gender, and Popular Fiction (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1988), 47-72.
Dyer, Richard. "Homosexuality and Film Noir," Jump Cut 16 (1977).
Dyer, Richard. "It's Being So Camp as Keeps Us Going," Only Entertainment (NY: Routledge, 1992), 133-147.
Dyer, Richard. "Seen to Be Believed: Some Problems in the Representation of Gay People as Typical," Studies in Visual Communication 9:2 (Spring 1988).
Dyer, Richard. "Stereotyping," Gays and Film (London: BFI, 1991).
Ellsworth, Elizabeth. "Feminist Spectators and PERSONAL BEST: Illicit Pleasures," Wide Angle 8:2 (1986), 45-46.
Gever, Martha. "The Names We Give Ourselves," Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Culture, eds. Russell Ferguson et al (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990), 191-202.
Goldsby, Jackie. "Queens of Language: PARIS IS BURNING," Afterimage 18:10 (May 1991), 10-11. Reprinted in Queer Looks.
Goldstein, Richard. "The Gay New Wave," Village Voice (April 22, 1986), 51-53.
Greyson, John. "Strategic Compromises: AIDS and Alternative Video Practices." In Mark O'Brien and Craig Little, eds., Reimaging America: The Arts of Social Change (Philadelphia and Santa Cruz: New Society Publishers, 1990), 60-74.
Gupta, Sunil. "Desire and Black Men," Ten.8 No. 22 (Summer 1986), 17-22.
Hanson, Ellis. "Lesbians Who Bite" [on THE HUNGER], in Out Takes, ed. Ellis, pp. 183-222.
Hayward, Susan. "Gender Politics: Cocteau's Belle Is Not that Bete," in Hayward and Ginette Vincendeau, eds., French Cinema: Texts and Contexts (NY: Routledge, 1989), 127-135.
Hemphill, Essex. "To Be Real," [on PARIS IS BURNING] Ceremonies (NY: Penguin, 1992), 111-121.
Juhasz, Alexandra. AIDS TV: Identity, Community, and Alternative Video (Durham: Duke, 1995). [Excellent bibliography and videography on AIDS activist media and AIDS representation].
Kleinhans, Chuck and Julia Lesage, "The Politics of Sexual Representation," Jump Cut 30
Landers, Timothy. "Bodies and Antibodies: A Crisis in Representation," The Independent 11:1 (Jan.-Feb. 1988), 18-24.
Mayne, Judith. "Lesbian Looks: Dorothy Arzner and Female Authorship," in Queer Looks.
Mayne, Judith and Andrea Weiss, "A Queer Feeling When I Look at You," in How Do I Look?
Meyer, Richard. "Rock Hudson's Body" in Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories.
Newton, Esther. Mother Camp: Female Impersonation in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979).
Patton, Cindy. Inventing AIDS (NY: Routledge, 1990).
Parkerson, Michelle. "Beyond Chiffon: The Making of STORME," in Blasted Allegories: An Anthology of Writings by Contemporary Artists, ed. Brian Walls [sp?] (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987), 375-379.
Perkins, T.E. "Rethinking Stereotypes" in Michele Barrett, et al, eds, Ideology and Cultural Production (London: Croon Helm, 1979), 135-60.
Sontag, Susan. "Notes on Camp," Against Interpretation and Other Essays (NY: Dell, 1966).
Tyler, Parker. Photoessay. Screening the Sexes.
Villarejo, Amy. "FORBIDDEN LOVE: Pulp as Lesbian History," in Out Takes, pp. 316-345.
Watney, Simon. Policing Desire (Minneapolis: University of MN Press, 1982).
Weiss, Andrea. Vampires and Violets: Lesbians in Film (NY: Penguin, 1993).
Whatling, Claire, "'In the Good Old Days When Times Were Bad': The Nostalgia for Abjection in Lesbian Cinema," in Screen Dreams: Fantasising Lesbians in Film (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), 79-115. [On THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE?]
Whitaker, Judy. "Hollywood Transformed--Interviews with Lesbian Spectators," Jump Cut 24/25 (March 1981).
Zimmerman, Bonnie. "Lesbian Vampires: DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS," Jump Cut 24/25 (March 1981).
BOOK-LENGTH STUDIES THAT HAVE EXTENSIVE BIBLIOGRAPHIES WITH OTHER TITLES OF BOOKS AND ARTICLES TO CONSULT AND READ IN:
Deviant Eyes, Deviant Bodies
How Do I Look?
Now You See It
Out in Culture