The Fall 2022 semester will bring Meredith College’s first Queer Literature course, taught by Dr. Jayme Ringleb, Assistant Professor of English. According to the course catalog, this course will serve as an “introduction to queer theory, history, fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, drama and more” and will “examine how the history of literature is a queer history.” Students will also vote on the class’s major texts.
Dr. Ringleb explained that most of the authors the class will read are contemporary, and that “most of them have publicly identified along the spectrum of LGBTQIA+ identities.” They added that the class will also talk about texts “whose authors could not have identified according to these relatively new terms” because of the time period in which they lived, and that the course will examine the history of queer literature.
Students in the Queer Literature course will develop a skill called “queer reading,” also known as “queer analysis” or “queering.” According to Dr. Ringleb, “Queer reading involves interpreting a text by asking how it disrupts normativity—how it disrupts repressive ideologies, systems, and values.”
“In this course, the typical norm at issue will be heteronormativity,” he said, “and we will use our readings to examine how gender is performative, how identities are not fixed, how all forms of queer attractions and sexualities are possible, and how binary assumptions about sexuality and gender are easily and observably troubled.”
Dr. Laura Fine, Department Head of English, initially began work on this course prior to Dr. Ringleb’s involvement.
“I have been working on developing this course not only because I am queer and interested and invested in queer literature myself but because it’s important for our queer students to have literary representation,” Dr. Fine said. “It’s also important to provide tools for students who do not identify as queer to develop more of an understanding of queer people and queer literature.”
Dr. Fine said the English Department has been trying to diversify their curriculum, and said she believes this course is “a step in the right direction.” She also said that because of Dr. Ringleb’s “in-depth knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject,” she thought he would be a good choice for the first offering of the course.
Dr. Ringleb said that they understand students at Meredith have wanted a course like this for “a very long time.”
“There is and has been an immense queer community on this campus, and the issues that community faces deserve recognition and responsible discussion within classroom environments,” they said. “This course is particularly important because queer communities are so often denied in educational spaces, where queer texts, queer issues, queer histories and queer identities are consistently silenced and deemed profane.”
Dr. Fine said that this class is being offered through the English Department’s special topics course, English 300, and following that the class can go through the full course proposal and approval process.
“The next step is to do an official course proposal, which goes through a faculty body called Academic Council for approval,” she explained. “Once that body approves the course, it goes to the full faculty for approval. I anticipate that this course will have no trouble at all getting approval.”
Dr. Ringleb added that it is “anticipated that a course in queer literature will become a permanent part of the English curriculum, especially if student enrollment in the course this fall is high.”
Finally, Dr. Ringleb shared that he is excited for this class in part because they were part of the first queer literature course at the University of South Carolina when they were an undergraduate student.
“That classroom environment was different from any other that I’d experienced, in part because the historic nature of the course seemed to solidify the members of that classroom into an undeniable community,” they said. “I’ve hoped to pay that forward for a long time, and I look forward to developing that kind of community here at Meredith.”
By Olivia Slack, Co-Editor in Chief