English 25149 | Queer Melancholia

Hunter College | Fall 2019 | Section 01
Tuesdays & Fridays: 12:45 PM to 2:00 PM
Room: W623

INSTRUCTOR: Jacob E. Aplaca | EMAIL: japlaca@gradcenter.cuny.edu
OFFICE: 1238 Hunter West | OFFICE HOUR: T, 11:30 AM-12:30 PM
WEBSITE: queermelancholia.commons.gc.cuny.edu

English 25149 Course Description:

In our contemporary moment, public discourses about queer life and history often demand an unrelenting positivity or optimism (e.g. LGBTQ+ Pride, It Gets Better, etc.). While there are certainly good reasons to advance the project of imagining a brighter, more inclusive future, it seems equally important to resist the impulse to minimize or ignore the traumas of the past, many of which still haunt queer individuals and communities today. This course explores a range of literary works through the lenses of queerness, melancholia, and other negative affects—depression, grief, shame—in order to consider what happens when we refuse to turn away from the darker stories, histories, and emotions of queer life. Broad questions we will consider include: How might the refusal to “get over” personal and/or historical trauma provide avenues for meaningful critical, creative, and political work? How might an embrace of melancholia and other “negative” emotions help to foster a sense of queer belonging? What do we gain by encountering stories in which happiness is ultimately refused or made unavailable?

By the end of the semester, students should be able to:
1) Write analytical essays that together demonstrate close reading skills, the ability to create a clear thesis statement, and the ability to develop a well-organized argument based on that thesis through critical reasoning and evidence from both the literary text(s) and critical sources.
2) Discuss the concepts of queer identity, queer history, melancholia, and more verbally through the use of close reading skills, collaborative discussion, and critical perspectives.
3) Provide constructive critical comments on classmates’ written work through peer review and group discussion.
4) Seek out and analyze cultural artifacts (literature, visual art, songs, etc.) that engage questions of queer life, identity, history, sadness, and more.

Assignments and *Approximate* Grade Distribution

In-Class Participation and Writing (20%)
Out-of-Class Posts, Essay Drafting, and Reading (20%)
Response Paper #1 (15%)
Response Paper #2 (15%)
Final Project (20%)
Final Exam (10%)

Necessary Texts

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (Knopf, 2013)
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin, 2007)
My Brother by Jamaica Kincaid (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1998)
Various PDFs and online materials available on the Commons

Course Policies and Other Important Information:

A General Statement on Class Etiquette: Do not be disrespectful. Disrespectful behavior includes arriving late to class and packing your bags early, choosing to sit in the back row of the classroom when there are seats closer to the front of the room, demeaning another student’s ideas, demeaning the instructor, and anything else that might prove distracting or dangerous in the classroom environment. If any of this behavior continues after I give a warning, your participation grade will suffer and you will be asked to leave. When necessary, you will be referred to administration.

Preparedness/Participation in Class: Since much of what you learn in this course will come as the result of participation in class discussions of reading assignments, group work, and writing activities, regular class preparedness and regular active participation is required.  Do not wait to be called upon to share your viewpoint. Each student must make a consistent attempt to voice his/her opinion throughout the semester. Also note that I will often collect in-class writing assignments or require that these be turned in along with your essays. These will not be graded, but will be checked to ensure you are putting in the appropriate amount of effort. Reading checks in the forms of short writing prompts and quizzes will often take place right at the start of class (12:45 PM) as well.

In English 251, in-class participation includes:
1) contributing to class discussion by responding to instructors’ and classmates’ questions, posing questions, and commenting on relevant aspects of the subject;
2) attentive listening to classmates and instructor;
3) contributing to group activities, presentations, and peer review sessions;
4) bringing to class discussion questions and reading those questions aloud as part of full class and smaller group activities;
5) undertaking in-class writing assignments and quizzes;
6) meeting in conference with the instructor on those occasions when the instructor has set aside class time for individual conferences;
7) bringing to class assigned formal response papers and reading from them when called upon to do so either as part of class discussion or a group activity;
8) posting to class discussion boards and/or blogs when assigned to do so.

A Note about Presence in Class and Participation: Please note that although attendance is not directly graded in this class, you can only receive participation credit if you are actually in class. Or put another way, because participation occurs in real time during class sessions, students may not make up class discussion. Thus your prompt and consistent presence in class is pivotal to your success. When in class, please always assume that we will be meeting for the entire duration of the class time period you registered for. Note: I unfortunately have neither the time nor ability to reteach entire classes via email or in-person.

Reading Checks: Often I will ask right at the start of class for you to either respond to a brief prompt in a couple of paragraphs or to complete a reading quiz. In both cases, I will ask questions that anyone who has completed the reading can reasonably answer. These will be given at random. If we begin class and it seems that not many people have done the reading (due to a lack of participation), you increase the likelihood that a quiz will be given. If you are late to class and miss the writing prompt or quiz, you CANNOT make this assignment up, regardless of reason.

The Commons Website: In addition to checking your email regularly, please check the Commons page for PDFs of the readings, announcements, and discussion post assignments. I try very hard to make as many of our course readings available online as I can, so please make sure that you access the reading and bring them to class for discussion.

Online Discussion Posts: You will be asked to regularly respond to the assigned readings on the Commons website. I will provide you with a specific question. Note that these responses can be informal and conversational. However, I do expect evident effort. If it is clear that you put no effort into your post, you will not receive credit and, thus, your grade will be affected.

If You Are Absent from Class: it is your responsibility to find out what you missed and obtain any necessary information from another student and from our Commons page. Students should not email me first to find out what they miss if they are absent; you may email me only after you have corresponded with a classmate and find that you still need further clarification.

A Note About Personal Emergencies: Please let me know if you are experiencing extraordinary personal circumstances that may pull you out of class for an extended period of time so we can discuss the best course of action for you. In many cases, I should be able to accommodate a temporary absence from class in some way. However, in some cases withdrawing from the class may be in your best interest because catching up with the missed material will simply be unfeasible. We will come to this determination together with your best interest in mind.

Email Policy: Email is the easiest way to reach me with questions, comments, errata, emergencies—but just because email is easy doesn’t mean it is informal. Emails are written documents; they exist in the world as records. Keep in mind that emails sent to instructors are professional correspondence. If you have a problem with the work in the course, are not earning the kind of grades you want, or think you need additional help, it is your responsibility to contact me, either through email or in office hours. Please always give me a full 24 hours to respond to your messages. After that time frame has passed, you may send me a gentle reminder. It will also be your responsibility to check your email regularly to ensure you are receiving all course-related communications from myself and from the college.

A Disclaimer of Content and Guidelines for Academic Discussion: In this class, we will be engaging in thoughtful, academic discussions about literature that deals with controversial or sensitive topics like sexuality, gender identity, depression, trauma, violence, power, language etc. Please be sensitive and respectful to your colleagues and treat the subject matter as mature adults and academics. I ask that you do not talk over one another or make comments under your breath while students are sharing their opinions and ideas. I will not tolerate any derogatory or oppressive language including (but not limited to) racist, homophobic or transphobic, and sexist remarks. Continuing to be neglectful of classroom etiquette policies will result in removal from the classroom for the day.

Grades are earned in this class, not negotiated. If you have questions about a grade or an assignment, make an appointment to see me during office hours. Please bring your specific questions about my assessment. The only circumstances under which a grade will be changed is if I have made a mistake in my calculations—which is unlikely.

Late work: All homework and/or papers should be ready to be handed in the day they are due either in class or through email, depending on my instructions. If extenuating circumstances arise, please contact me as soon as possible – the sooner the better, including any doubts or concerns about future projects. All formal writing assignments must be typed, double-spaced, with standard one-inch margins and in 12 point Times New Roman font.

Food and Drink are acceptable as long as they are not disruptive to you or to others paying attention and working in class. Please avoid bringing entire meals to class.

Electronic Devices: Unless otherwise instructed, cellphones, laptops, tablets, Apple watches, and other electronic devices should be silenced during class to reduce disruptions. Please do not use electronic devices for anything other than our work in class. If you are expecting an important call or text, such as from a family member who needs help or a possible employer, please feel free to quietly exit the classroom and attend to your personal matters.

Restroom: Obviously you do not have to ask me to use the restroom. I simply have one request: please do your best to use the restroom before the start of class to reduce the number of disruptions. Please also avoid leaving the classroom during any writing or group activities—this happens ALL the time, and it is incredibly obvious that the students who leave are attempting to avoid the activity rather actually going to the bathroom.

Writing Center: Free Tutoringis available in the Reading/Writing Center(NOW LOCATED ON THE 7TH FLOOR OF THE LIBRARY IN THE SILVERSTEIN STUDENT SUCCESS CENTER). I encourage you to take advantage of this resource, especially when drafting and building the research paper. The Writing Center exists in large part to help you generate and develop questions and jumping-off points for papers-in-progress. Often it is from these conversations that significant, arguable, and surprising claims may begin emerging.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism and cheating will not be tolerated. Plagiarism is the intentional or unintentional appropriation of another person’s words or ideas without clear acknowledgment of the original author. This applies to even the briefest of phrases if they are truly individual and distinctive. This includes citing the source but using language too close to that of the original in a paraphrase or summary. Any work judged to be plagiarized will receive an F, and will almost certainly result in a failing grade for the course. All cases of plagiarism will be referred to the Academic Integrity Officer in the Vice-President for Student Affairs office for academic and/or disciplinary sanctions. Note the college’s policy on plagiarism:

Hunter College Academic Integrity Statement: Hunter College regards acts of academic dishonesty (e.g., plagiarism, cheating on examinations, obtaining unfair advantage, and falsification of records and official documents) as serious offenses against the values of intellectual honesty. The college is committed to enforcing the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity and will pursue cases of academic dishonesty according to the Hunter College Academic Integrity Procedures.

Hunter College Policy on Sexual Misconduct: In compliance with the CUNY Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Hunter College reaffirms the prohibition of any sexual misconduct, which includes sexual violence, sexual harassment, and gender-based harassment retaliation against students, employees, or visitors, as well as certain intimate relationships. Students who have experienced any form of sexual violence on or off campus (including CUNY-sponsored trips and events) are entitled to the rights outlined in the Bill of Rights for Hunter College.

Sexual Violence: Students are strongly encouraged to immediately report the incident by calling 911, contacting NYPD Special Victims Division Hotline (646-610-7272) or their local police precinct, or contacting the College’s Public Safety Office (212-772-4444).

All Other Forms of Sexual Misconduct: Students are also encouraged to contact the College’s Title IX Campus Coordinator, Dean John Rose (jtrose@hunter.cuny.edu or 212-650-3262) or Colleen Barry (colleen.barry@hunter.cuny.edu or 212-772-4534) and seek complimentary services through the Counseling and Wellness Services Office, Hunter East 1123.

Hunter College Academic Accommodation Statement: In compliance with the American Disability Act of 1990 (ADA) and with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Hunter College is committed to ensuring educational parity and accommodations for all students with documented disabilities and/or medical conditions. It is recommended that all students with documented disabilities (Emotional, Medical, Physical and/or Learning) consult the Office of ACCESSability located in Room 1214B East to secure necessary academic accommodations. For further information and assistance please call (212-772-4857) /TTY (212-650-3230).

A SUMMING UP—How to be successful in this class:
1) Come to class on time and prepared to participate.  Participation includes having assignments completed, bringing needed materials, contributing to discussions in a positive manner, and working on what is assigned during the class period.
2) Keep this syllabus and any changes made to it on hand.  Know when writing assignments are due.  Know when reading should be completed.  Please do not tell me that “you did not know something was due,” “you did not know how to do something,” “you were not in class that day,” etc.—these are the WORST and most aggravating excuses, and I have NO tolerance for them!
3) Ask questions.  It is your responsibility to find out what you need to know in order to be successful in your academic endeavors, as well as in the other areas of your life.
4) Check the class site at least once a week and your email every day.

If any problems should arise, you may contact me to discuss them.  If a problem seems too difficult for us to resolve, mediation is available through the English Department.