Teaching Literature Essay

2154 words - 9 pages

Teaching Literature

My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we *can* suppose.

- J.B.S. Haldane, "On Being the Right Size" in the book _Possible Worlds_ (courtesy of The Quotations Page)

The inclusion of gay and lesbian authors in high school and college curricula can only help to expose students to things which they will more than likely face in their adult lives. The traditional readings should be read in conjunction with gay and lesbian authors in many schools’ English curricula, simply because most modern students cannot relate to the speech or themes of the traditionally taught works by usually straight British and American writers or by authors who were gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT), but their sexual orientation was never mentioned. These students come from varied backgrounds, and thusly should be exposed to works to which they can more appropriately relate.

Exploration into the GLBT literature canon brings us to the argument that many GLBT theorists are bringing to that table: “Should writing be marketed as gay because the author is, or does it have to deal with gay-related themes?” as presented in the article “Of Genders and Genres.” by Avril McDonald. She poses a good question, one that many high school and college administrators should ask instead of simply ignoring the entire genre of literature. Some authors, such as Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson, are usually taught without any mention of their sexual orientation, while others, such as Audre Lorde and Alice Walker, who were openly lesbian, have been wholly excluded from the high school curricula and are barely read in many college settings either.

Before one can suggest an alternative curriculum which includes gay and lesbian authors and themes, one must first look at the status of the GLBT community within our public education today. In her article “Coming-Out Pedagogy: Risking Identity in Language and Literature Classrooms,” Brenda Jo Brueggemann points out that “although risks and possibilities are present in all our classrooms, they are enhanced in courses focused on sexuality.” She argues that gay (and sometimes bisexual) students often perceive a class in gay and lesbian studies as a place where they can ‘be themselves,’ read about others like them, and acquire increased self-worth.”

Many critics of bringing GLBT authors and literature into high schools seem to assume that many students are not mature enough to handle the themes presented in such literature, but as evidenced by many studies on the subject of today’s teens maturity level, many more students in high schools today are able to comprehend and interpret ideas presented in all kinds of literature. Critics seem to be swayed by the popular opinion that being GLBT is all about sex, when in fact most of what is written by GLBT authors doesn’t focus on sex at all; most of these works deal with themes and issues that are dealt with...

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