Find Queer / LGBTQ+ Literature, Then and Now: Pre-Stonewall Ages 15-18 on Outschool.

Have you ever wondered if queer literature in the USA has an actual history? Sure, you can find books now with all sorts of queer protagonists, but what was queer literature like a hundred years ago? In this class series learners will study pre-Stonewall literature, loosely defined here as post-1900, and pre-1969, and discuss social opinions and beliefs that shaped queer authors’ lives and writing, along with censorship and social perceptions that framed their lives. We will also learn about queer authors who broke those frames, and the way that queer people began to stand up for themselves – a movement that was reflected in the writing.

Before the Stonewall Riots in 1969, queer literature followed a fairly common theme in that queer protagonists were not supposed to be happy. While this is saddening, there is a lot to take away from these authors. Although their writing was shaped by society, queer authors were writing about themselves and people they knew. Their writing began to push against the biases against them, and helped pave the way for the queer authors we know today.

The first week of this class will be devoted to the movements that shaped queer literature as it headed into the 1900s. This includes the authors, poets, and dramatists who wrote about queer love and experiences, often in code. We will also talk about queer literature in the first few decades of the century, including one of the most famous queer novels of the time, Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall.

The second week will be devoted to queer literature through WWII and into the 50s, where we will deal with censorship, the communist Red Scare (or McCarthyism), as well as the burgeoning influence of “pulp” novels.

Finally, for the last two classes, we will be discussing the growing queer moment of the 50s and 60s, as queer authors began to stand up in numbers, both socially and with their writing, as the social climate led up to one of the most well-known events in queer protest history – the Stonewall Riots.

NOTE: While queer literature has existed for centuries in one form or another, this class sequence will focus on literature from 1900 to 2020. In addition, as we will be focusing primarily on the social movement in the United States as shaped by the Stonewall Riots era, a good deal of the books are set in the USA. While the class focus has to be narrow in order to be manageable for a class series, every country has their own queer movement which is just as valid and just as important to learn about.