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American Studies 385: Special Topics
Queer Intersections, American Outlaws
Course Description


“The gay revolution began as a literary revolution,” Christopher Bram writes in Eminent Outlaws: the Gay Writers who Changed America. What is the “gay revolution” in America, and when did it occur? Is this “gay revolution” still occurring? Is this revolution strictly literary? Is the revolution even “gay”? What central figures and trends can we trace in our exploration of the macro and micro histories of the American LGBTQ+ activist tradition?


In “Queer Intersections, American Outlaws,” we will explore the LGBTQ+ activist movement in the United States via historical analysis of convergent and divergent trends and close readings of cultural artifacts by figures like James Baldwin, Tennessee Williams, Tony Kushner, and Gloria Anzaldúa (among others) produced in the midst of this activist revolution. We will follow the historical and cultural development of the movement from before and during the homophile period, through the Stonewall riots and the HIV/AIDS crisis, and finally into the culture wars of the 1990s and the present day. We will examine this tradition through lectures, readings, viewings, class discussions, research projects, and service learning opportunities.

The Outlaw Guidebook


“Only that once again they broke the Love Laws. That lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much.”

- Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things


“Who are gay people? Where have we been in history? And most important, What might we be for?”

- Harry Hay (c. 1950)


“The girl was getting used to queer adventures, which interested her very much.”

- L. Frank Baum, The Road to Oz


“Who are these outlaws? Single men, married men; youngmen, older ones; black, white; your brothers, your fathers; students, teachers, bodybuilders, doctors, construction workers, coaches, writers, cowboys, truck drivers, motorcyclists, dancers, weightlifters, actors, painters, athletes, politicians, businessmen, lawyers, cops.”

- John Rechy, The Sexual Outlaw


“Movement, from the post-classical Latin movementum, meaning ‘motion,’ and earlier, moviementum, meaning ‘emotion,’ and then later, ‘rebellion,’ or ‘uprising.’ The movement in ‘social movements’ gestures toward the realm of affect; bodily intensities; emotions, feelings, and passion; and toward uprising.”

- Deborah B. Gould, Moving Politics


“Very few groups exist, however, that encompass the full rainbow that is gender outlawism.”

- Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaw


“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”

- James Baldwin

Required Texts


Text Books:

Christopher Bram, Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America, Twelve Editions, Hatchette Books (ISBN-10: 0446563137)


Linda Hirshman, Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution (Olive Editions), Harper Perennial (ISBN-10: 9780062692306)


Cultural Artifacts:

James Baldwin, Another Country, Vintage

(ISBN-10: 9780679744719)


Tony Kushner, Angels in America, Theatre Communications Group

(ISBN-10: 9781559363846)


Silas House, Southernmost, Algonquin Books (161620625X).



Mark Blasius and Shane Phelan, editors, We are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook of Gay and Lesbian Politics, Routledge (ISBN-10: 9780415908580)

Outlaw Guide to the Semester


Throughout the semester, we will journey through the following 5 units and 1 mini-unit:

  • Unit 1: The Wilderness Years: What to the Queer is the U.S.A.?

  • Unit 2: “The Agony of the Mask”: The Homophile Movement and the Lavender Scare

  • Unit 3: “Gay is Good”: Stonewall, Pride, and Sex in the Seventies

  • Unit 4: “Under Pressure”: HIV/AIDS and ACTing UP

  • Unit 5: The Trouble with the Normalcy Wars (DADT, DOMA, Same-Sex Marriage, and Beyond)

  • Mini-Unit 6: “The Everything”: Newer Frontiers, Further Outlaws

Grade Distribution

Your grade will be based on the following:


  • Now Queer This: Outlaw Research Project (45%)

  • Essay 1: The Literary Revolution (15%)

  • Essay 2: What to the Queer is the U.S.A.? (10%)

  • Outlaw Letters: TPQ and BP (15%)

  • Film Review (5%)

  • Collaboration and Participation Grades (10%)


Please see Assignment Overview below for more details. All assignments will be introduced in further detail during the relevant class session.

Assignment Overview
Individually Graded:

With the following, you will generally be graded based upon your successful completion, display of writing growth, and development as a critical thinker:


Outlaw Letters: TPQ <=> BP*
  • Each week, you are required to post “two points and a question” (TPQ) on the readings to our “Outlaw Letters: TPQ” discussion board on Canvas. You should post once per week on that week’s readings. TPQ asks you to dig in to the reading: you might, for example, do a close reading of particular passages, develop contrasts between two author’s arguments, or outline a key concept deployed across multiple readings. Your question should be critical and substantive, one that moves beyond summary to argument. There is no length requirement, but you will likely need a few sentences to develop your two points and your question. Aim for questions that “intersect” with other important ideas or topics, get at the heart of some thorny issue, or open up new avenues of thinking. Formulate your TPQs after you have completed the reading. Post your TPQs to the Canvas board before class so that you can refer to it during class discussion. During the semester, you may be asked to direct our class discussion using your TPQ.

  • Each week, you will have the option of publishing blog posts to our course Canvas discussion board: “Outlaw Letters: BP.” These blog posts ask you to “extend out” beyond the class texts, cultural artifacts, and historic documents via linking any of the week’s readings to other images, stories, billboards, websites, and other shareable artifacts you may have encountered in your own lives that relate to the week’s content, themes, or ideas. Unlike TPQ, the BP is not a weekly requirement. Across the semester, you must complete at least 5 blog posts to receive completion credit.

       *Adapted from Margot Weiss’s AMST 286.

“OUT Takes: Then, Now” Film Review (2 options, 1 Required, 1 Extra Credit Possibility)*
Essay 1: “The Literary Revolution”: A Critical Book Report

Introduced: 1/24

  • Due Date Option 1: 2/12

  • Due Date Option 2: 4/4

  • Due Date Option 3: 4/25


Essay 2: Final Reflection: “What to the Queer is the U.S.A.?”
(Due during Exam week).

Throughout the semester, we will analyze various queer American cultural artifacts under my selection of the keywords “intersections” and “outlaws.” In this final 1,500-word reflective essay you will return to the course readings and synthesize your own response to the questions: What to the Queer is the U.S.A.? Of course, you may alter the question to fit your own critical thinking development. Return to your Outlaw Letters discussion boards for clues as to how you will answer the question(s) you develop.


Now Queer This: The Outlaw Assignment
Research Proposal, Process, and Product

Introduced: 2/5

  • “Footsteps” Project Due: 2/14

  • Individual Project Proposal Due: 3/7

  • Meeting with Me: Week of 3/18–3/22

  • Peer Process Workshop: 4/16

  • Final Due Date: 4/28 by 5 pm 


Collaboratively Graded (Participation Credit for Outlaws):

With the following, you will generally be graded based upon your participation and engagement.


Barbaric Yawp/ Rebel Yell/ Queer Howl

Introduced: 2/7

Due: By Semester’s End (Completion Credit)


Something Cloudy, Something Clear: Tennessee Williams Midterm Assignment

Introduced:  3/5

Collaborative Workshop: 3/7 (Outside of class time).

Discussed: 3/19


Stages of AIDS: A Benefit Reading and Performance

“CT-CA”: Group Reading and Discussion Leading

As you will note in the course calendar, on 4/9 you will be asked to present various cluster texts in small groups. Groups will be chosen/assigned in advance. You will read and coordinate your responses before class. In roughly twenty minutes, your group will present a brief summary of the texts and background information on the authors while enacting the intersectional, comparative methodology of reading “class text” alongside “cultural artifact.” (Note: You are not responsible for reading the pieces assigned to other groups. Part of the goal of this exercise is to be able to articulate the content, themes, and import of a cluster of writings to an audience who may not have read the pieces in question).

Projected Course Calendar*

*All items in the calendar are subject to change at the professor’s discretion pending student needs.

* All daily reading amounts for each longer-form text are ENCOURAGED. I want you to read, but I do not want you to struggle. Remember: time management is part of the learning process.

*WAE = We Are Everywhere; CAGL = Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature



Unit 1: The Wilderness Years: What to the Queer is the U.S.A.?

“America when will you be angelic? / When will you take off your clothes?”

            - Allen Ginsberg

Week One:

Tuesday 1/15

  • Syllabus Overview.

  • In Class: Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?


Thursday 1/17

  • Victory, “Introduction: How an Army of Good Gays Won the West” (ix–xvii) and “Chronology” (447–449) (PDF online).

  • Eminent Outlaws, “Introduction,” (ix–xi) (PDF online).

  • What is Queer?


* Resource online: “Chronology,” Completely Queer (1998).

Week Two:

Tuesday 1/22

Historic Documents: A Few Foundational Texts for the study of “American” Queer Culture

  • “Introduction” (WAE)

  • Germany and the Origins of Sexology:

    • Paragraph 175 of the German Imperial Penal Code and Nazi revision.

    • Magnus Hirschfeld, “Petition to the Reichstag” (1897) (PDF online).

  • Soviet Russia:

    • From the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (WAE, 214–215).

  • England:

    • Jeremy Bentham, from Offenses Against Taste (1814–1816) (WAE, 32–33).

    • The Law (1861) (CAGL, 268).

    • From the Trial of Oscar Wilde (WAE, 111–113).

    • The Law: The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 (CAGL, 335).

    • Lord Alfred Douglas, “Two Loves” (1894) (CAGL, 295–297).

    • Oscar Wilde, [De Profundis] (1897).

    • John Addington Symonds, from “A Problem in Modern Ethics” (1891) (pp. 302–304, PDF online).

    • Edward Carpenter, from “Homogenic Love” (1894) (PDF online).

  • America:

    • “Professor X” [James Mills Pierce], from “A Letter to Havelock Ellis” (1897) (PDF online).

    • Xavier Mayne [Edward Prime-Stevenson], from The Intersexes (1908) (pp. 602–610) (PDF online).

    • “Prejudice Against Homosexuals” (1932) (WAE, 229–230).

    • Robert Duncan, “The Homosexual in Society” (1944) (WAE, 230–233).

    • James Baldwin, from Preservation of Innocence (1949) (WAE, 234–236).


Thursday 1/24

  • Region: “Floyd (1948),” Ayana Mathis (2012) (14–37).

  • Victory, Chapter 1, “Gays and the Cities: Community First, Politics Later” (1–35).

  • Eminent Outlaws, Chapter 3, “Howl,” (24–38) and Chapter 4, “Soul Kiss,” (39–53).

  • Eminent Outlaws, from Chapter 7, “The Medium Is the Message,” (only pp. 96–104).


Introduce Book Report Assignment.


Week Three: Another Country

Tuesday 1/29

  • James Baldwin, Another Country (1960), Book One: Easy Rider (3–179).


Thursday 1/31

  • James Baldwin, Another Country (1960), Book Two: Any Day Now (183–377).

Week Four: Another Country

Tuesday 2/5

  • James Baldwin, Another Country (1960), Book Three: Toward Bethlehem (381–436).


INTRODUCE Now Queer This: The Outlaw Assignment


Thursday 2/7


 In Class:

  • Baldwin video clips.

  • Baldwin, Interview with Richard Goldstein (1984).


ASSIGNMENT Introduced: Barbaric Yawp/ Rebel Yell/ Queer Howl


Unit 2: “The Agony of the Mask”: The Homophile Movement and the Lavender Scare

“Homosexuality [...] is spreading like a murky smog over the American scene.”

- Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique

Week Five:

Tuesday 2/12

Class Texts:

  • Victory, Chapter 2, “Red in Bed: It Takes a Communist to Recognize Gay Oppression” (37–76).

  • Victory, Chapter 3, “It Was the Sixties that Did It: Gays Get Radical, Radicals Get Gay” (77–118).

  • Eminent Outlaws, Chapter 9, “The Whole World is Watching” (117– 133) and Chapter 10, “Riots” (134–147).


Book Report Option 1 Due.


Thursday 2/14

Cultural Artifacts:

  • Poetry:

    • Frank O’Hara, “Homosexuality” (1954) (PDF online).

    • John Wieners, “A Poem for Cocksuckers” (1958) and “The Gay World Has Changed” (PDFs online).

    • James Schuyler, “Poem” (PDF online)

    • Frank Bidart, “Queer” (2012)

    • John Ashbery, “They Dream Only of America” (1957) and “Forgotten Sex” (PDF online).

    • Frank O’Hara, “Poem” (PDF online).

    • Audre Lorde, “Love Poem” (PDF online).

    • Gertrude Stein, From “Lifting Belly (II)” (PDF online).

  • Fiction:

    • John Rechy, excerpt from City of Night (1963) (CAGL, 715–721) (PDF online).

    • Truman Capote, “Diamond Guitar” (1950) (PDF online).


“Footsteps” Project Due: Now Queer This: The Outlaw Assignment

Week Six:

Tuesday 2/19


Historic Documents:

  • Franklin Kameny, “Gay is Good” (1969) (WAE 366–376).

  • “The Agony of the Mask,” from The Homosexual Citizen (April 1966)(PDF online).

  • Donald Webster Cory, “The Society We Envisage,” Chapter 21 of The Homosexual in America (1954) (WAE 275–281).

  • Daughters of Bilitis, “Statement of Purpose” (1955)(PDF online).

  • The Rejected (1961) and The Homosexuals (1967) (TV documentaries)

  • “Now listen you Queer,” Gore Vidal vs. William F. Buckley Debate (1968 DNC, Chicago)


Introduce “OUT Takes: Then, Now” Film Review Assignment.

Unit 3: “Gay is Good”: Stonewall, Pride, and Sex in the Seventies

“I don’t want to be involved in some kind of scandal, but I’ve covered the waterfront.”

 - Tennessee Williams


Thursday 2/21

Class Texts:

  • Victory, Chapter 4, “Stonewall Uprising: Gays Finally Get Some Respect” (119–162).

  • Eminent Outlaws, Chapter 11, “Old and Young” (151–164) and from Chapter 12, “Annus Mirabilis” (182–194).

  • SKIM: Victory, Chapter 5, “The Good Gays Fight the Four Horseman: Crazy, Sinful, Criminal, and Subversive” (163–213).


Week Seven:

Tuesday 2/26

Cultural Artifacts:

  • Andrew Holleran, excerpt from Dancer from the Dance (1978) (CAGL, 750–773) (PDF online).

  • John Rechy, from The Sexual Outlaw (1977) (pp. 28–32) (PDF online); Gay Sunshine Interview with Winston Leyland (1974) (251–258) (PDF online).

  • In Class: Gay Sex in the 70s (Documentary); Cruising; Tom Bianchi Fire Island Photographs.


Thursday 2/28

Historic Documents:

  • Carl Wittman, “A Gay Manifesto” (1969–1970) (WAE 380–390).

  • Martha Shelley, “Gay is Good” (1970) (WAE 391–393).

  • Harvey Milk, “The Hope Speech” (1978) (WAE 450–453).

  • Edmund White, “The Political Vocabulary of Homosexuality” (1980) (CAGL, 777–785); States of Desire, “Epilogue: Self Criticism” (334–336) (PDF online)

  • Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” (1980)

  • Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” (1984) and “I am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities” (1980) (WAE, 472–475)

Week Eight:

Tuesday 3/5

  • Tennessee Williams Midterm Assignment Introduced.

Something Cloudy, Something Clear (1981) (You are not responsible for reading this before class time).

SCSC Workshop and Group Formation.


In Class: “But I’ve Covered the Waterfront” (

Gore Vidal, “Preface,” Sexually Speaking (1999) (PDF online).


Thursday 3/7


Professor Traveling: NO CLASS.

Work on Tennessee Williams Assignment introduced in-class 3/5. You must be prepared to present your findings to the class following Spring Break.


INDIVIDUAL Project Proposal Due (Canvas): Now Queer This: The Outlaw Assignment


Week Nine (3/11–3/15)


Unit 4: “Under Pressure”: HIV/AIDS and ACTing UP

“... all I can feel is the pressure all I can feel is the pressure and the need for release.”

-David Wojnarowicz

Week Ten:


Tuesday 3/19

Class Texts:

  • Victory, Chapter 6, “Dying for the Movement: The Terrible Political Payoff of AIDS” (215–237).

  • Victory, Chapter 7, “ACT UP: Five Years that Shook the World” (239–274).


Tennessee Williams Class Presentations and Discussion.


Thursday 3/21

Class Texts:

  • Eminent Outlaws, Chapter 15,  “Illness and Metaphor” (213–225),

  • Eminent Outlaws, Chapter 16, “Dead Poets Society” (226–236). From Chapter 17, “Baldwin,” pp. 247–249.

  • Eminent Outlaws, Chapter 19, “Angels” (261–276).


In Class Viewing/ Listening:

  • David Wojnarowicz, History Keeps Me Awake at Night.

  • Douglas Crimp, AIDS Demographics.

  • NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

  • Billy Howard Photographs.

  • Selections from RENT.


Week Eleven:


Tuesday 3/26

Historic Documents:

  • Larry Kramer, “1,112 and Counting” (WAE, 577­–586); “The Beginning of ACTing UP” (609–615) (PDFs online).

  • Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen, from “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic” (WAE, 571–574).

  • Deborah Gould, excerpt from “Introduction” to Moving Politics: Emotion and ACTS Up Fight Against AIDS (2009) (DOC online).

  • Anonymous, “Queers Read This”; “I Hate Straights” (1990) (PDF online).


Thursday 3/28

Cultural Artifacts:

  • Tony Kushner, Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches (1–126)

Week Twelve:


Tuesday 4/2

  • Tony Kushner, Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika (127–290)


Thursday 4/4


  • Mark Doty, “The Embrace,” “Tiara,” and “Homo Will Not Inherit

  • Michael Klein, “Naming the Elements” (PDF online).

  • Melvin Dixon, “Heartbeats” (PDF online).

  • Timothy Liu, “SFO/HIV/JFK” (PDF online).

  • Joy Harjo, “Songs from the House of Death or How to Make it Through to the End of a Relationship” (PDF online). 


Book Report Option 2 Due.


Introduce Assignments:

1) Stages of AIDS: Angels at 25: A Benefit Reading Performance

2) “CT-CA”: Group Readings and Discussion Leading

Unit 5: The Trouble with the Normalcy Wars
(DADT, DOMA, Same-Sex Marriage, and Beyond)


“If there is a word in the lexicon of love / it will not declare itself.”

- Randall Mann, “Pantoum”


“Do you know what it’s like to walk through the world with everybody thinking they know everything about you?”

- Silas House, Southernmost


Week Thirteen:

Tuesday 4/9

Group Readings and Discussion Leading: The Class Text and the Cultural Artifact


Group 1: Victory, Chapter 8, “Failed Marriages and Losing Battles: The Premature Campaign for Marriage and Military Service” (275–306); Edward Field, “Gay in the Army” (2007) (187–199)(PDF online) and “Street Instructions at the Crotch” (PDF online).


Group 2: Victory, Chapter 9, “Founding Fathers: Winning Modern Rights Before Fighting Ancient Battles” (305–355); from The Laramie Project

  • “Moment: The Fence”

  • “Moment: Finding Matt Shepard”

  • “Moment: Dennis Shepard’s Statement”


Group 3: Victory, 10, “Massing the Troops for the Last Battle: The New-Media Gay Revolution” (357–378); James Baldwin, “Guilt, Desire, Love (1983?)” (CAGL, 793–794); Randall Mann, “Pantoum” (2004); Richard Siken, “Saying Your Names” (2005) (PDF online).


Thursday 4/11

Historic Documents:

  • Keywords, “Normal”

  • Andrew Sullivan, Virtually Normal, “Preface” and “Prologue: What is a Homosexual?” (1995) (PDF online).

  • Michael Warner, The Trouble with Normal, “Preface” (1999) (PDF online).

  • Jonathan Rauch, “Marrying Somebody” (1997); Andrew Sullivan, “The M-Word” (2004); Nancy F. Cott, “The Evolution of Marriage” (2000)(PDF online).

  • Anthony Kennedy, Opinion, Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)


Film Review Due.

Week Fourteen: Southernmost


Tuesday 4/16

  • Silas House, Southernmost (2018), Part One: This is to Mother You (1–111).


PEER PROCESS WORKSHOP Now Queer This: The Outlaw Assignment


Thursday 4/18

  • Southernmost (2018), Part Two: The Open Road (115–156).


Week Fifteen:


Monday 4/22: Stages of AIDS: Angels at 25: A Benefit Reading Performance


Tuesday 4/23

  • Southernmost (2018), Part Three: Little Fire (159–318); Part Four: The Last Days and Epilogue (321–336).



Mini-Unit 6: “The Everything”: Newer Frontiers, Further Outlaws

Thursday 4/25

Class Text:

  • SKIM Victory, Chapters 11 and 12; READ, “Epilogue.”

  • Eminent Outlaws, “Epilogue: Rewriting America” (301–307).


  • Kate Bornstein, “The Hard Part” (7–14) and “Which Outlaws? or, Who Was That Masked Man?” (55–69), Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us (1994) (PDF online).

  • Leslie Feinberg, “Afterword,” Stone Butch Blues (2003) (PDF online).

  • Mimi Marinucci, “Gender Defined and Undefined” (67–82) (PDF online).

  • Gloria Anzaldúa, “Preface to the First Edition,” Borderlands/ La Frontera (PDF online); “Bridge, Drawbridge, Sandbar, or Island” (PDF online).



Book Report Option 3 Due.

Last day of class.

DUE 4/28 by 5pm: Now Queer This: The Outlaw Assignment

Exam Period: 5/1–3 and 5/6–8.

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