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ENGLISH 25Q: Queer Stories

Cross listed: FEMGEN 25Q

Course Description

In this creative writing class, we'll read stories, essays, and poems written by queer writers in the 20th and 21st centuries and consider some of the questions raised by their work. How have queer romance and relationships been represented over the years--in both coded and explicit ways? How have writers grappled with our evolving sense of gender as a continuum rather than a binary? How have queer writers interrogated or understood the concept of family? How do queer writers handle the question of the "universal" reader to whom, arguably, they might be speaking? (In a 2012 interview with Lambda Literary, book critic Daniel Mendelsohn argued--contentiously--"It is precisely the gay book's ability to be interesting to a straight reader that makes it a great book.") And what does it even mean to be a queer writer--or to write queerly--in a cultural and social landscape that is ostensibly more accepting than ever? 

We'll investigate queer aesthetics as well as content in this class, striving to articulate our sense of queer style (or styles) and sensibility. We'll look at writers ranging from Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, and Frank O'Hara to Maggie Nelson, Alexander Chee, and Carmen Maria Machado. And in response to all this wide-roaming reading, we'll do our own writing --both (short) critical and (somewhat longer) creative pieces, in which students will seek to engage with both the questions raised and the aesthetics practiced by the published work.

This is a class open to all students, regardless of how they define their gender or sexuality. No writing experience necessary--merely curiosity about alternative forms of writing.

Meet the Instructor: Mark Labowskie

Mark Labowskie

"I am a queer fiction writer, and most of the stories I try to tell--in short story, novel, or script form--are queer stories of one stripe or another. The questions raised by this class are questions I grapple with in my own work all the time--they are questions for which I have a lot of thoughts, but not necessarily definitive answers. Is there such a thing as 'queer style'? How much do I have to explain to straight people? What kinds of stories beyond romance and coming-out (both important stories) still need to be told? My primary aim in teaching this class is to think through these questions with writers and readers of a different generation, because I think we have a lot to teach each other.

"I am a Jones Lecturer in the Creative Writing program here at Stanford, where I primarily teach classes in fiction writing and screenwriting. Prior to becoming a lecturer, I was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction from 2014 to 2016. I have published stories in journals such as ZYZZYVA, American Short Fiction, and Subtropics, and I am currently working on a novel. I also wrote the libretto for an opera called Tenderhooks, about a queer dating app, which was performed by San Francisco's Left Coast Chamber Ensemble in April 2023."



Cross-listed Department(s): Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies