Tainted Love: Queer Narratives Course Profile

October 25, 2017
Course-Spotlight
“If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” -Audre Lorde

Knowing oneself can be extremely difficult; many spend their entire lives undertaking the task. Professor Nick White’s course, English 4575: Special Topics in Literary Forms and Themes—Tainted Love: Queer Narratives, 1963 to Present Day, explores this question of self definition as it is explored in contemporary queer narratives. This particular lecture involved a discussion of the Audre Lorde’s 1982 novel Zami.

The class started informally. In response to a student mentioning free cookies in the undergraduate lounge (Cookies & Milk Mondays!), White explained his conundrum of having a weakness for Oreos (his “kryptonite”) while being diabetic. White then began class by writing the word “biomythography” on the blackboard. “Bio” and “ography” were easily defined as “life” and “written record,” respectfully, but White provided multiple possibilities for “myth.” The ultimate definition he relayed to the class regarding “biomythography” was “a person or thing with unverifiable existence.” The class related this form of biography to Zami because the book explores the framing of a black, lesbian woman as a type of mythical figure. Much of the remaining class involved every student sharing a quote that spoke to them from the reading. A small discussion would follow each of the quotes led by White, who offered insightful commentary for each and every entry shared. White was the last to share (and was excited that no one had picked his quotes!).

Appropriately, the class radiated inclusivity for human and non-human members alike. White only stood once during the class to write on the board, and then sat with the students for the rest of the time. In the middle of the sharing of quotes, a stink bug landed on the center table and was lovingly escorted out of the room by a student.

Before the class even began, I was introduced to everyone by professor White and instructed to photograph from the top down, because that was his “ better angle.” These details may seem frivolous, but in a class that discusses the trials of being different, it is heart-warming to see such a positive and supportive environment for students.

students seated around a conference table have discussion