As the excitement of planning for a new semester begins to unfold, there are many considerations to be made. So many of the courses offered at Fairfield cover an extensive amount of important information on various topics in our world. One of the newest courses to Fairfield’s list, offered for the first time during the Spring 2022 semester, is ENGL 3310: Queer Rhetorics and Theories.
Though there has not been much promotion for this course, it is an incredibly important one, as it breaks queer history into three simplified units: queer history before the Stonewall Riots (early 20th century-1964), Stonewall and its role in gay liberation and lesbian feminism. The course, designed to shed light upon the struggles that the gay community has endured for decades, utilizes texts written by queer authors, documentaries, podcasts and other such forms of media that are then discussed in length during class time.
Although the course may seem overwhelming for those with little to no prior knowledge on this topic, it provides insight to an important timeline in human history, one that is rarely covered in college curriculums.
To be entirely honest, I know very little about gay liberation myself or any of the history that has led up to this civil movement. I have learned some preliminary information from various history courses that I have taken in conjunction with discussions of other important protests, but I was not very aware of the entire timeline of events. One of the main pieces of history concerning gay liberation that I know of is the Stonewall Riot, which acted as a kickstart for the movement in the 1960’s.
As stated by Alexa Romboli ‘24, current ENGL 3310 student, when providing a summary of the event, “for the first time ever, the gay patrons [within the Stonewall Inn] fought back…they yelled, threw bottles, swarmed cop cars, and even backed the cops into the bar. This riot is what many consider to be the beginning of gay liberation.” Prior to this event, the gay community was forced to fit societal norms and prevented from expressing themselves in any capacity in public.
Gay bars were one of the only forms of relief offered to the queer community where they could freely express themselves. However, these bars were subject to routine police raids where queer patrons were often arrested for expression of their sexuality. Stonewall was one of the Gay Liberation Movement’s first steps toward “overthrow[ing] social institutions that marginalized homosexuality,” in the hopes that these newfound freedoms could be applied to liberating “sexuality for all”, in the words of current student Alexa Romboli. This is an intrinsic piece of history to analyze when learning about queer rhetorics, making it one of the focal points of the course. However, as previously stated, there is much more to learn, making ENGL 3310 the perfect course to further your knowledge on this impactful timeline of events.
Despite my limited knowledge on this topic, I think that it is very important to learn about in our ever-changing world, especially considering the general lack of information available on these topics in an academic setting. I have never taken a course that has explicitly discussed gay history, much to my chagrin. This part of history is widely ignored, something that must be changed within our curriculums.
When discussing the positive implications of the course on her own life, Romboli states, “I want it to be known that there is nothing intimidating about this class. I am one of multiple straight students in my class section and I have felt welcomed since day one.”
She goes on to explain that not only is the coursework manageable and taught by the wonderful Kim Gunter, Ph.D., but the content is incredibly engaging and helps to fulfill a multitude of course attributes (WAC, WID, and SJ2). Beyond all the areas that this course can satisfy academically, the content covered in this class also has the ability to close a gap in education that few other colleges and universities can.
As there are currently no plans for offering this course in the Fall 2022 semester, I think it is important for Fairfield students to consider other ways in which they can educate themselves on this important subject. This course deserves to be more widely recognized and offered during future semesters, as it does a fantastic job of addressing a topic that does not receive enough attention in an academic setting. Beyond having the ability to educate, this course can create a more accepting and welcoming campus environment for all, a task that is difficult, but essential nonetheless. While it is fantastic that efforts are now being made to address gay liberation, this is something that should be expected from higher education institutions, as it is important that more people are educated on these topics. The future of our world depends on the acceptance and consideration of all perspectives and lifestyles, which ENGL 3310 is taking strides to solidify in the mindsets of Fairfield University students.