Faculty Discuss Queer Studies

Fourteen students and two Faculty members met yesterday to discuss the drafting of a proposal for a Faculty committee on queer studies.

The meeting, part of a wider discussion of the need for “curricular space” at Harvard for gay, lesbian, and queer issues, was called by Professor of Romance Languages and Literature Bradley S. Epps and Lecturer Heather Love ’91.

“We are trying to foster a dialogue about how one would go about pursuing an academic interest in Queer Studies—which is a viable intellectual field,” Love said.

The University provides many support services for gay and lesbian issues, Love said, but when it comes to academics Harvard lags in gay and lesbian studies, a field that examines homosexual lifestyles, and in queer studies, a discipline that looks at issues of sexuality and identity.

To address this problem Epps and Love proposed that a list of courses offered each semester dealing with Queer issue be made available to students.

Currently, courses such as Love’s Literature 105, “Introduction to the Theory of Sexuality” and Epps’ Romance Studies 196, “Other Romances: Literature, Cinema, and Queerness” are housed in various departments and advertised only by word of mouth and e-mail.

“We are trying to allow for curricular development for a lot of work that is already going on at Harvard, but no one knows about,” Love said.

While Epps said administrators has not been actively supporting his efforts, Dean of Undergraduate Education Susan G. Pedersen ’81-’82 said that queer studies “is a significant new area of scholarly interest, so it seems appropriate that Faculty are talking about it.”

Both Love and Epps have been working on gathering support from the Faculty. So far, eighteen Faculty members have said they would support such a committee.

Epps previously approached administrators about publishing a brochure to advertise such courses. But administrators rejected his proposal, saying the Committee on Women’s Studies already serves as an umbrella department for issues of sexuality.

But Epps disagrees, claiming queer studies is at most an “uneasy fit” with existing programs.

“While women’s studies is supportive of our efforts, it is a separate department seeking to develop its own resources,” he said.

Students at the meeting felt that in addition to a list of courses, a list of professors with interests in the field who could serve as potential thesis advisors would also be helpful. Such lists could be easily made available over the Internet by the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters’ Alliance and other students groups on campus.

But those at yesterday’s meeting agreed student efforts towards organization are not enough.

“These measures are good ways of circumventing the fact that there is nothing in place for proper academic study here,” said Marcel A.Q. Laflamme ’04.

Epps and Love plan to discuss the drafting of an official proposal with Faculty colleagues and to report back later in the semester to the students he met with yesterday.

In selling his proposal to administrators, Epps said he will point to the success of similar programs at other universities and to increasing student demand for guidance on queer studies.

“We are attempting to proceed in a responsible manner that emphasizes circular and scholarly development,” he said.

—Staff writer Jessica E. Vascellaro can be reached at vascell@fas.harvard.edu.