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Alternative Queer Histories - ENG00135I

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Ezra Horbury
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

Who defines the queer canon? Beginning with familiar canonical roots in Sappho and Catullus, this module then branches out to investigate more uncommon texts. It seeks a more nationally and racially diverse queer literary canon through texts in translation from Ancient Greek, Latin, French, Chinese, German, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Spanish. This module deliberately sidesteps more familiar canonical works in favour of marginal, obscure, or ‘strange’ texts in order to challenge concepts of canonicity and homonormativity. The module is also interested in confession and desire, age and identity, nationality and nationalism, embodiment and bodily change, and throughout asks how queerness is inflected by other identities.

The module takes a broad definition of ‘queer’, encompassing works with homosexual/bisexual/queer and transgender themes and embracing ‘alternative’ queernesses, ranging through poetry, novels, and theory. It includes works from Ancient Greece, Qing Dynasty China, Showa Japan, and 1990s Taiwan, among other contexts. Most texts are over a century old and we encounter a thrilling range of voices: an experimental body essay, an ethically conflicted student, a fetishistic nationalist, medieval transvestism, lyric poetry, alongside obsession, violence, and love.

We will read these texts alongside important theoretical works from theorists such as Sigmund Freud, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, and Jack Halberstam. These texts are variably celebratory and conflicted, joyful and tragic, but always individual and deeply expressive of queer narratives and identities across Europe and Asia.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23 to Summer Term 2022-23

Module aims

This module aims to introduce you to alternative queer histories in translation across Europe and Asia, and to develop a practical knowledge of queer and transgender theory.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with queer and transgender works in translation.

  2. Demonstrate an informed understanding of and engagement with a range of historical and national contexts, as well as queer theoretical approaches.

  3. Examine key debates and critical approaches, including the representation of queer identity, homonormativity, and the canon.

  4. Develop arguments and ideas which demonstrate a proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.

  5. Demonstrate an understanding of some of the key issues at stake in the act of translation and in the study of literature in translation.


Task Length % of module mark
2500-word essay
N/A 70
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Alternative Queer Histories Exam
4 hours 30

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

  • You will be given the opportunity to submit a 1000 word formative essay for the module, which can feed into the 2500 word summative essay submitted at the end of the module.

  • You will submit your formative essay in week 1 of the summer term. It will be annotated and returned to you by your tutor within two weeks. Feedback on the essay will be uploaded to eVision.


Task Length % of module mark
2500-word essay
N/A 70
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Alternative Queer Histories Exam
4 hours 30

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours

  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Sappho and Catullus, selected poetry
Heldris de Cornuälle, Le Roman de Silence
Richard Barnfield, The Affectionate Shepherd
Wu Zao, selected poetry
Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless
Yukio Mishima, Confessions of a Mask
Qiu Miaojin, Notes of a Crocodile
Paul Preciado, Testo Junkie

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.