GERMAN 285 A: Representation and Diversity

Autumn 2024
MWF 12:30pm - 1:20pm / LOW 201
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
CHID 270 A , GLITS 253 A , ENGL 242 B
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):



The Queerness of Love

GERM 285; CHID 270A; GLITS 253A; ENGL 242B.

Meets in LOW 201,

MWF 12:30-1:20

Richard Block

Credit Hours: 5

Office:  Denny Hall 345

Email: blockr@u.washington



The words "I love you" may come from the heart, but they are nonetheless a citation, even a cliché.  What the heart would speak is no more than a commonplace.  Utterances of love, it might be said, are always already somebody's else's.  What is dearest and most heartfelt is thus rendered wholly unoriginal and certainly not one's own.  Does that mean that  love is self-estrangement, that the lover, if they are truly  in love, can be nothing other than queer? 

“Queer,” however.  is not an easy term to define.  While the term is embedded in the politics of gender and sexuality, it also describes a relationship in which lover and loved do not relate.  They remain inexplicably "other" to each other and to themselves. Yet paradoxically, without such “otherness” love might be impossible.  Is queerness then love’s most significant prerequisite?

In this course, we will attempt to answer that question by tracing the limits and possibilities of queer love.  Is it platonic as Socrates describes it The Symposium?  Or, is it merely mimetic and impossibly narcissistic as ? 


After Plato, we will move to read three texts that mark themselves as queer, “Death in Venice” (Thomas Mann), Passing (Nella Larsen), Giovanni's Room (James Baldwin), to explore early 20th century imaginings of same sex love.  The second half of the course is dedicated to cinema and examines how contemporary cinema imagines queerness. Films include Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee), Moonlight (Barry Jenkins), Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye),  Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingstone). We will conclude the course with a discussion of the AIDS quilt?  How do the panels commemorating the dead evince promise of a coming community, open to and embracing diversity?

Students can expect to learn the following from the course:

an understanding of the historical contingencies that shape any expression of love;   

an understanding of the relationship between “queer” and love;

skills for close, analytical reading of a text or film.

Requirements:  Active class participation (25 percent); bi-weekly quizzes (best four of five): 40 percent; final video project: 35 percent. 




Catalog Description:
Studies of culture and ethics with aesthetic, literary, and philosophical tools of analysis, with special attention to issues of identity, diversity, civil rights, environmental justice, and multiculturalism. Readings and discussions in English.
GE Requirements Met:
Diversity (DIV)
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
May 23, 2024 - 3:13 pm