By: Taylor Pierola
As a second year Cal student, I have only just begun to find some direction to my academic life here; what I will major in, what literature and topics I’m interested in. I’m an English major. I read a myriad of texts from different time periods and authors. I find the classic patterns in the writing like everyone else. But now that I have started poking around and playing with what I have learned so far from my education here, I find disappointment.
Last year, I enrolled in an LGBT class that gave me my first taste of queer studies and non-normative perspectives. It was eye opening and exciting to see what new perspective I could apply to everyday life that many people don’t already see on their own. Since then, when reading traditional texts in my English classes, I have begun to scrape at the surface of patterns of queerness in my readings. I have begun to apply this perspective to the traditional, foundational education that I’m getting here at Cal but I know not how to pull out or expand on them further– to really illuminate the queer possibilities at work there.
Naturally, I took my fresh ideas to my professor’s office hours. Me, feeling bright and excited; with an aura of hope feeding off the promise of a reward from what I saw in the text. The reward of something new; something more that was buried deeper into what I scraped off the surface already–that my professor would help me understand. I was disappointed. I was rerouted to the traditional interpretation of the book. Little expansion of what I already saw on my own. It was out of my professor’s area. I knew they couldn’t help me.
My high came down, and my pride from the queer elements I saw diminished. I still don’t know how to expand on them. I’ll have to take more LGBT classes for that. I met with a Chernin Mentor that understood what I was going through. Although they said that this foundational education- seeing it through the practical, traditional lens was extremely important, the patterns I see will often not be addressed by English professors to the extent or depth that would interest me. They said that I should continue to pursue both. Learn from what my professors say in class, but also tease out what I see on my own, and seek out faculty that could help me take that plunge into this new world that I’ve found.
That being said, I wonder why there aren’t more classes offered that delve into traditional curriculum texts with a queer or a more modern perspective. It would be so interesting to learn about how gay Shakespeare really is than about iambic pentameter, or about the queer undertones of Moby Dick like one of my mentors was telling me about. How about more English classes that took the same readings but emphasized this new branch of queer perspective? I guess it just shows how new queer studies still is to the world, and how little it has been integrated into modern curriculum. After all, this is UC Berkeley. We’re one of the most liberal universities out there, yet our English department is still so limited in its traditional, conservative literary perspectives. The study of English and these texts that have been studied for decades actually have the potential to teach us something new that most people don’t think to look for. I think it’s time for a re-vamp. English, get it together!
For more posts on queer studies, click here.