EH 440/540: Studies in Drama, Gender and Sexuality

Spring 2014    EH 440.02/540.02:

Studies in Drama, Gender, and Sexuality

 “Degenerates, Deviants, Dissidents: Queer 20th Century Plays”


Instructor: Dr. Chad Thomas                                                Office 206E Morton Hall

E-mail:                                             Phone: 256/824-2383            

Office Hours: T/W/R 9-11am—extra hours available as needed.  Please make an appointment

Class location & time:  316 Morton Hall, Tues/Thurs 2:20-3:40pm


Catalogue descriptions:

EH 440: Topics announced in advance. This course is ordinarily cross-listed with EH 540, a graduate-level course, and will be most appropriate for advanced undergraduates.

**Please note: This section of EH 440 is a Core Course in Women’s Studies and counts as a Part B Elective in Theatre.

EH 540: Topics announced in advance. All 500-level courses are cross-listed with 400-level courses. Any student who has taken a 400-level course as an undergraduate must receive permission from the instructor before enrolling in the same course at the 500-level.


Required Textbooks: Available in the campus bookstore, at local textbook sellers, or via an online vender.

The Laramie Project, by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes by Tony Kushner

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams

Forbidden Acts: Pioneering Gay & Lesbian Plays of the 20th Century edited by Ben Hodges

NOTE: Secondary readings, when necessary, will be on Angel, under the Lessons tab, in the Secondary Readings folder.


Caveat: In this class, we will discuss issues relating to gender and sexual identities. This course will explore dramatic representations and situations that may challenge your personal values, morals, or world view.  In electing to take this class, you are agreeing to consider cultural, religious, political, moral, or ethical perspectives that differ from your own in a mature and constructive manner.


Course description: In this class, students will become acquainted with the history of the lesbian, gay, and queer characters as presented in 20th century plays. Students will better understand the manner in which the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered experience has been portrayed to audiences and how the development of that portrayal has reflected and affected changes in cultural, historical, political, religious, sexual, and social discourse.  Students should come away with an understanding of what it means to read, to perform, to present, and/or to embody a queer character and how to analyze the multi-layered social implications of that presentation/representation. In addition, students will tune their artistic and aesthetic sense while becoming familiar with canonical lesbian, gay, and “queer” plays.


Questions to be considered include: What is queer drama? What are the distinctions between “queer” and identities based on sexual preference, such as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.? What does it mean to queer dramatic literature? What are the conventions of drama that make it conducive to being queered, and to what end? What is queer performance and how does it differ from queer drama? What are the relationships between politics, sexual identity, and performance in the context of queer theory, queer studies, queer drama, and queer theatre? Who are the readers for queer drama and the audience for queer performances (both imagined and realized)?


Assignment                                        440                              540                              % of Grade

Paper #1: Reading response                            1-2 pages                                                         10%

Paper #2: Close-reading                                  3-4 pages                                                         20%

Paper #3: Term Paper                          8-10 pages                   12-15 pages                             30%

Annotated Bibliography                     5-6 sources                  8-10 sources                            10%

Class Presentation                                           See Below                                                       10%

Participation                                                    See Below                                                       10%

Reading Quizzes                                             See Below                                                       10%


Papers and Annotated Bibliography: The three papers and annotated bibliography will comprise a semester project focusing on a single text of your choosing.


Class Presentation: Alone or with a classmate, you will initiate discussion for a day’s reading. You will be responsible for offering a brief introduction of your goals, presenting necessary background information, posing questions for consideration, moderating discussion, and/or planning pedagogically productive activities. 10 minutes if solo, 15-20 if paired.


Participation: Participation comes in various forms, and below I have listed two ways that I evaluate it. Take note that your final grade may be swayed by the quality of your participation. 

  • In Class Discussion: This class is a collaborative endeavor and depends on your steady, active, and informed participation in class discussions.  Simply put, you must speak in class if you hope to be successful.  I can scarcely conceive of a situation in which one reads and writes about literature without commenting on the texts in class. 
  • Message Board: You are required to post a post an idea, thought, question, or answer to a colleague’s question on Angel by noon every day that class meets. This helps me evaluate class interests and measure the participation of less vocal students, online participation isn’t a substitute for speaking in class.


Reading Quizzes: To ensure your readiness for discussion, you will take reading quizzes, which will typically focus on narrative elements such as plot and characterization. Quizzes will be multiple choice and/or short answers and should not take more than five minutes to complete.  I give quizzes at the start of class, you may not take quizzes early, and missed quizzes cannot be made up; however, only your top ten quiz scores will count towards your final grade.


Grading system: “The University of Alabama in Huntsville’s grading system includes grades of A, B, C, D, F, I, X, W, S, U, P, AU, N, and NC. Instructors have the option of augmenting the course grades of A, B, C, and D with symbols “+” and “-” signifying, respectively, high and low achievement within the assigned grade. These augmented letter grades become part of the student’s permanent record and appear on transcripts, but augmentation of a letter grade does not affect its value for the purposes of the GPA computation.”


Attendance policy: Failure to attend class regularly will result in a lower grade. My policy for attendance follows English Department guidelines in regards to the importance of missing no more than 20% of the class in order to receive a passing grade. Accordingly, absence from more than 6 class sessions constitutes a failure for the course. As well, please be on time.  Arriving late (or leaving early) twice may be counted as an absence. Arriving over 20 minutes late (or leaving more than 20 minutes early) may also count as an absence. If you have a schedule conflict that impedes your regular, timely attendance, you should consider withdrawing from this class. If crises or illness requires you to miss multiple class sessions, it is customary to contact the instructor prior to or during the absence.


Religious/Athletic/Academic absences:  Keeping in mind what I have noted above, if a class meeting conflicts with your religious holidays, athletic events, or other University-sanctioned activities, please notify me by the third day of class so we can make alternative arrangements. In most cases, I will ask you to turn in your assignment ahead of your scheduled absence, but your absence will not affect your grade on the assignment.


Academic honesty: Your written assignments and examinations must be your own work. Academic misconduct will not be tolerated. To ensure that you are aware of what is considered academic misconduct, you should review carefully the definition and examples provided in Article III, Code of Student Conduct, Student Handbook, p. 93. If you have any questions in this regard, please contact me right away.


Communication: Class announcements will be sent regularly by email and posted to Angel. It is your responsibility to check your UAH account regularly.


Use of prior work: You may not submit in fulfillment of requirements in this course any work submitted, presented, or used by you in any other course.


The “24-Hour Rule” suggests that at least 24 hours must pass before you can discuss a graded assignment with me. If you would like to discuss a grade, please schedule an appointment and be prepared with specific questions.


Student Success Center, located in 123 Madison Hall, offers students a number of services from writing tutors to time-management counseling to career advising. Get to know it. Use it. It is free to you and an excellent resource for your academic endeavors. Visit the Center’s website and learn about the specific programs and assistance the Center offers.


Note:  Students must provide the instructor with a Letter of Accommodation (LOA) from the Office of Disability Support Services before the instructor can provide students with any special considerations, e.g., extra time to complete exams, taking exams at other than regular class times, etc.)—more info at


Proposed Reading & Assignment Schedule

(volatile and subject to change)

*Note: you must bring the day’s reading for class discussion*


Thurs 1/9         Introduction to Course, Syllabus, a (brief) queer history of the 20th century


Tues 1/14         The Laramie Project (2000)

Thurs 1/16       Laramie cont.

                        Presentation 1


Tues 1/21         Love! Valour! Compassion! (1994)

Thurs 1/23       L!V!C! cont.

                        Presentation 2


Tues 1/28         Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes

Part I: Millennium Approaches (1991)

Thurs 1/30       Angels I cont.

                        Presentation 3

Tues 2/4           Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes

Part II: Perestroika (1992)

Thurs 2/6         Angels II cont.

                        Presentation 4


Tues 2/11         As Is (1985)

Thurs 2/13       As Is cont.

                        Presentation 5

 Sat 2/15          Reading Response due in Angel DropBox by 11:55pm


Tues 2/18         Bent (1978)

Thurs 2/20       Bent cont.

                        Presentation 6


Tues 2/25         The Boys in the Band (1968)

Thurs 2/27       Boys cont.

                        Presentation 7


Tues 3/4           The Killing of Sister George (1967)

Thurs 3/6         Killing cont.

                        Presentation 8

 Sat 3/8            Close-reading due in Angel DropBox by 11:55pm


Tues 3/11         Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

Thurs 3/13       Cat cont.

                        Presentation 9


Tues 3/18         The Immoralist (1954)

Thurs 3/20       TI cont.

                        Presentation 10


Tues 3/25         Spring Break—no class

Thurs 3/27       Spring Break—no class


Tues 4/1           Honors Day—no class

Thurs 4/3         TBA

Sat 4/5             Annotated bibliography due in Angel DropBox by 11:55pm


Tues 4/8           Oscar Wilde (1938)

Thurs 4/10       Oscar cont.

                        Presentation 11


Tues 4/15         The Children’s Hour (1933)

Thurs 4/17       TCH cont.

                        Presentation 12


Tues 4/22         The Captive (1926)

                        Presentation 13

Thurs 4/24       The God of Vengeance (1918)

                        Presentation 14


Thurs 5/01      Term paper due in Angel Drop Box by 5:30pm

Chad Thomas,
Jun 19, 2012, 9:58 AM