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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Richard Block
GERMAN 390
Seattle Campus

Germanic Studies in English

Topics or figures of German literature or language.

Class description

German 390, Section B Autumn 2009:

The Queerness of Love

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' else's. What is dearest and most heartfelt is thus rendered wholly unoriginal and certainly not one's own. The nature of love is thus self-estrangement; the lover, if (s)he truly is in love, can be nothing other than queer. But queer is not an easy term to define. If the term is embedded in the politics of gender, just as certainly does queer describe a relationship in which lover and loved do not relate. They remain inexplicably something "other" to each other and to themselves.

In this course, we will attempt to trace the limits and possibilities of queer love. Is it the absolute form of love Plato describes in the "Symposium"? Or, is it merely mimetic and impossibly narcissistic as Shakespeare suggests in “A Midsummer Night's Dream?” For tentative answers to these questions we will also look at texts by Johann Goethe, Thomas Mann, and Roland Barthes. Toward the end of the quarter we will pursue the significance of Belize's remark in “Angels in America,” "love is never ambiguous." In other words, is love never ambiguous only when it is queer, only when the self has surrendered all claims to selfhood? To explore that possibility we will conclude the course with a discussion of the AIDS quilt. What is the nature of love in the face of inexpressible loss? How do the assembled panels of strangers who died of a "queer's disease overcome the ambiguity of the words, "I love you"?

Possible readings: Plato, The Symposium W. Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream J. Goethe, Werther R. Barthes, A Lover's Discourse W. Cather, "Tommy the Unsentimental." T. Mann, Death in Venice T. Kushner, Angels in America. M. Foucault, History of Sexuality (excerpts). Panels and the accompanying narrative from "The Aids Quilt." E. Sedgewick, "Epistemology of the Closet" (excerpt).

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Requirements: In addition to active participation in class discussion, students will be asked to write three short essays and a final essay, based on the three shorted ones.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Stephanie N. Welch
Date: 04/30/2009