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Literature and Gender

Lesbian Literature, 1922-2022

persons hands with rainbow colours

“Lesbian Literature, 1922-2022” is a survey of lesbian literature from the last century, beginning in the 1920s with the fiction of Gertrude Stein and the revolutionary lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall. We will read lesbian literature through various literary periods and genres, including modernism and postmodernism, lesbian pulp, lesbian historical fiction, the lesbian Gothic, lesbian memoir, and more. 

The lesbian’s routine absence from literature clarifies that she is a subcultural figure. Therefore, when she is centralized in writing, her representation can take a radical oppositional stance in response to the silencing and oppressive codes of heteropatriarchy. In this course, we will investigate literature that places the lesbian at the center of narrative and the way her presence subverts heterosexual plots. In addition to analyzing lesbian literature through various literary periods, we will also focus on this literature in the context of varying and overlapping identity categories, especially class and race. We will work to place this literature in sociohistorical contexts as we engage with digital queer archives from the last century. In this course we will primarily read short fiction, excerpted material, and a few short novels. Assignments will include a final essay and a short comparative paper that uses digital archive material.


  • The Well of Loneliness (1928) by Radclyffe Hall (excerpted)
  • Loving Her (1974) by Ann Allen Shockley 
  • In the Dream House (2019) by Carmen Maria Machado 
  • Our Wives Under the Sea (2022) by Julia Armfield 
  • Fiction by Emma Donoghue, Malinda Lo, Alison Bechdel, and more. 


  • Attendance: (10%)
  • Short Paper (750 words): (25%)
  • Essay Proposal (250 words): (10%)
  • Reading Comprehension Test: (10%) 
  • Final Paper (1500 Words): (45%)

**Assessments subject to change**   


Level 2 or above or 6.0 units of ENGL

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153



Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.