In 2002, Hobart and William Smith Colleges became the first college or university in the United States to offer an undergraduate major in the field of LGBT/Queer Studies. Now in its second decade in existence, the LGBT Studies program at HWS is developing new courses to remain a distinct, cutting edge leader in the field. The department introduced three new, cross-listed courses and will host a film series this semester; they are also already working on new courses for next year.
LGBT 204 “Bodies of Difference,” being taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of LGBT Studies Cael Keegan, is using first-person accounts to look at how disease and disability are interpreted by queer populations; WMST 218 “Queer Representation in Theater and Film” is taught by Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies Michelle Martin-Baron and explores the interplay between representation and identification via the rapidly developing fields of queer performance and media studies;
Martin-Baron says she has wanted to teach a course specifically on queer representation since arriving at the Colleges last fall. “While my other courses have touched on queer issues, I wanted to be able to devote an entire semester to LGBTQ themes. This course looks at theater, film, new media, and performance and asks not only how have LGBTQ artists explored the construction and contestation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer personhoods, but also how has the mainstream media explored and exploited queer identities,” she explains.
Also new this semester is LGBT 301 “Queer Geographies and Migrations,” which traces how modern queer subjectivity has formed and how it has been communicated and inherited by generations of queer individuals. It is also taught by Keegan, whom the program hired as its first full-time faculty member last fall.
Keegan brought expertise in the field of transgender studies to the Colleges. He and members of the program’s steering committee are continuing to develop the program by streamlining the curriculum and adding relevant and challenging courses to serve both majors and minors.
“One thing that we’ve shown in offering these three new classes at HWS is that there is a lot of room for LGBT studies to grow,” says Keegan, noting the department was able to triple its number of electives and still have classes full. “This is evidence that there is a need and growing desire on campus for courses like these. I think we are also beginning to show the true range of LGBT studies as a discourse. The new courses illustrate the breadth and depth of LGBT Studies, offering students multiple opportunities to engage with LGBT identities and cultures as they are interwoven with the histories of literature, film, theater, medicine and the modern nation state.”
He notes the potential for valuable exchange between LGBT Studies and other fields is especially evident in LGBT 204: Bodies of Difference, which is cross-listed with Health Professions and forges important bridges between the humanities, social sciences and STEM programs at HWS.
Keegan and Martin-Brown have also been working closely to offer a Queer Film Series this semester that will feature films they are screening in each of their classes. The series will consist of films from Intro to LGBT Studies as well as the three new electives, and will be open to the entire campus community.