Professors at HWS are sharing their knowledge across the country and throughout the world. Associate Professor of English Eric Patterson, who also teaches in the American Studies, and Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Studies programs, spoke at Oklahoma State University at Stillwater and also at the Oklahomans’ for Equality Center in Tulsa last month.
Patterson, the author of a new book, “On Brokeback Mountain: Meditations About Masculinity, Fear, and Love In The Story and Film,” was asked to visit the University by colleague and Oklahoma professor Carol Mason. His book, which was published in December, has already made an impact in both the academic and the gay and lesbian communities.
Director of American Studies at Oklahoma State University at Stillwater, Laura Belmonte, arranged the event. After the group of about 80 students and faculty screened the film, Patterson led a discussion and answered questions. Patterson states, “They were very bright, nice, motivated students.” “It was appropriate to be talking about masculinity and homosexuality and the American ideal of the cowboy in a place like Oklahoma,” he explains.
Belmonte is also one of the directors of Oklahomans’ for Equality, a progressive organization in Tulsa that fights homophobia. The center, which is housed in an old converted factory, is “one of the largest centers in the Midwest for the gay and lesbian community.” The Center is made up of “several floors filled with a movie theater, library, medical clinic, and even computers for people to use who don’t have computers at home.”
After screening the film again, Patterson held an intimate discussion with a small group of individuals. Patterson explains, “Their comments and questions were really powerful, because they spoke directly about parallel cases. Cases that are similar to Brokeback Mountain.” Patterson found the trip extremely rewarding.
He explains, “It was very good for me, I felt like they were teaching me about the reality of what I was trying to write about. It was very moving.”
Patterson’s book is not only being discussed in the classroom and at events, but also online. “Brokeback Mountain” was so popular that there are a lot of fan websites on the Internet. One, titled The Ultimate Brokeback Forum, has amassed about 6,000 members on the topic. “They did a very nice positive book review of my book, and for the last month they’ve been having an ongoing discussion on it and I’ve been answering questions and posting comments.”
Patterson has found a new forum to educate others, reaching out to people from the U.S. and across the world. In fact, “someone in Thailand is reading it and commenting on it.” These opportunities for discussion have, as Patterson explains, “Reminded me about why I wrote my book. I tried to use academic ideas, but to write it in a way that is easily understood.” Patterson has received very positive feedback, as many people have commented, “thank you for writing a book that we could read.”
Patterson reflects on the many students, here at HWS, he has had the opportunity to teach. He attributes, “Their interest and their motivation have made my work possible. If it wasn’t for our students here, I wouldn’t be doing this.”