THE PRICE OF SEX: POSTMODERN VIEWS OF SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASE
AUTUMN TERM 2002
PROFESSOR GEOFF SMITH
Calendar Description:An assessment of ways in which sexually transmitted (and related) diseases and images and metaphors of disease have influenced attitudes and policies toward minorities, race, and gender and issues of foreign policy and national security. The course will embrace both institutional and cultural studies approaches in analyzing socio/cultural constructions of STDs.
Further Course Description: Health 433 is a seminar course which seeks to deconstruct STDs in order to (1) place them in their developing historical context; (2) understand their etiology as diseases and institutional responses; (3) assess the connotations they have generated over time, within the way cultures define "health" and "disease" within sexual contexts (4) confront the difficulty Western societies, particularly the United States and Canada, have had in confronting them without trivializing or moralizing them; and (5) evaluate the ways in which elites have utilized STDs as levers in marginalizing less powerful groups. Here is where one encounters the "postmodern" project. Postmodernism and its major analytical strategy, the deconstruction of evidence, grew out of a European (mainly French) literary movement which questioned whether "objectivity" was possible or even desirable in intellectual work. Usually, as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jacques Lacan, among others, suggested, claims to objectivity masked multifold misuses and abuses of power. My own work assesses power relationships by dissecting such categories as politics, economics/class, race/ethnicity, and sexuality/gender. These groupings not only provide new clarity in comprehending power relationships embedded or coded within given contexts (called "texts"), but the critical reading of evidence ("discourse") affords scholars a better sense of their own relationship to their realm of inquiry, show how the notions of historical and scientific "objectivity" inevitably conveys values and requirements of dominant cultures, and furnishes the opportunity to make connections within, and between, governing and contending, often complicit, cultural paradigms.
So Health 433 is a history course, but it is more. The course is freely interdisciplinary, seeking to arm students with intellectual weapons to help them cut through political sophistry masquerading as moral imperative. Since the onset of the AIDS pandemic in the early 1980s, STDs have taken on huge meaning for all manner of groups. We shall look backward from the problematic present, to earlier times, which reveal the past as prologue to our own predicaments. My hope is that this course will help you develop further your critical intellectual skills--reading for content and argument, rehypothesizing arguments, making important connections across time and space (what I call "vertical" and "horizontal" integration, respectively), and synthesis. Of all skills, writing cogent sinewy prose will provide you an invaluable resource for the future. No less important, the instructor seeks to instill and nurture a habit of skeptical curiosity about course subject matter that will stay with students throughout their lives.
Course Mechanics and Marks: Each week will feature a different general subject, and students will choose specific topics, within the general rubric of the week they choose. The first three weeks will feature introductory material, with the professor playing the major role in focusing class discussion and questions. Thereafter, the seminar will emphasize student involvement, with each student presenting one seminar and one commentary on a colleague's work during the term. Beginning with the fourth week of class, selected members of the seminar will prepare reports which shall serve as the basis for their major paper for the term. These term essays, due at the end of the term in December, should be typed, double-spaced, no more than 2500 words (roughly ten pages), with bibliography, and offer concise examples of good prose style. The paper will be derived from the assignments listed below, which provide core readings for the course. The books are available on reserve at Stauffer Library, and titles with an asterisk * are available at the Campus Bookstore. Paper subjects are negotiable within the context of the weekly topic assigned (again, see below) and the core reading(s) involved. Outside readings, either to supplant or to supplement assigned readings, will be encouraged -- the instructor will add articles and Internet items to the list during the year. I will be delighted to hear of new sources--at Stauffer, Bracken, wherever--as we proceed. The webpage for Health 433 will benefit, and we shall too.
Choices for seminar/term essays during the term will be assigned during the first two weeks of class. Weekly reading resources appear on a separate sheet. Concurrent with a student's preparation of a paper, that student (or those students) will have the responsibility of leading the seminar, by presenting an oral report (twenty-to-thirty minutes) on her work for the week. Other designated students will follow these "keynoters" in the capacity of "commentators". The latter will briefly (five-to-ten minutes) reflect upon their understanding of, and conclusions drawn from the readings used by the keynoter and (of course!) the keynoter's presentation. Keynoters and commentators should confer about topic and sources. The central role of the commentator is to make suggestions and observations that will strengthen the presenter's final paper. Commentators will also write papers, two copies, no more than four pages, double-spaced, critiquing in positive and constructive ways respective keynote presentations. These papers will fall due the week following the presentation involved. Rebuttals and general discussion will follow. We want these sessions to be lively, insightful, and constructive. Most of all, we seek to build an argument, or series of arguments, that is continuous and flowing, conducted by interested and informed people, about significant problems and issues.
A final word about argument: Unfortunately, there is widespread bias against it. Too often, argument seems to mean conflict, which many people consider undesirable or evil. We must get over this feeling. Argument is, in fact, the basic intellectual tool. One problem, especially for the shy person, is personal, ego identification with an argument s/he presents. We must get over this feeling. I emphasize the point that an argument is not possessed; it is public (seminar) property. And an attack upon an argument is not an attack upon the person who presents or defends it.
Marks: Marks (Karl, Groucho, and yours) will be compiled on the basis of:
Office Hours: I shall hold office hours on Friday afternoons in PEC 215 from 1:30-3. I am also available by appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org. My home number is 544-5550. The webpage/site for my courses, and other information may be found @ http://post.queensu.ca/~smithgs and (under construction) http://www.geoffsmith.org/. I welcome suggestions for both.Seminar Assignments:
Course Resources: The most helpful reference for H433 is Allan M. Brandt, No Magic Bullet (RC201.47 B73 1985 2nd ed. 1988). Other books, also available on three-hour reserve at Stauffer, Bracken, et al., (and * for purchase at bookstore), include:
Peter Lewis Allen, The Wages of Sin (RA 644 V4A45 2000)
Dennis Altman, AIDS and the New Puritanism (RC 607 A26 A37 1986b)
------------------, Global Sex (HQ 16 A38 2000)
John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman, Intimate Matters (HQ 18 U5 D45 1988, 2nd ed 1997)
Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (HM 206 D48 1997)
Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger (GN 494 D6 1966a)
*Elizabeth Fee and Daniel M. Fox, AIDS: The Burdens of History (RA 644 A25 A3768 1988)
Sander Gilman, Disease and Representation (WM 49 G487d 1988) Bracken
Suellen Hoy, Chasing Dirt (RA 780 H69 1995)
*Allan M. Kraut, Silent Travelers (RA 448.5 144 K73 1994)
*James Jones, Bad Blood, (WC 160 J776 1981 2nd ed 1993) Bracken
Gary Kinsman, et al., eds, Whose National Security? (JL 86 158W 46)
Thomas Laquer, Making Sex (HQ 1075L37 1990a)
Rachel P. Maines, The Technology of Orgasm (HQ 29M 225t 1999) Bracken
William H. McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (RA 649 M3 1976)
Cindy Patton, Sex and Germs (RA 644 A25 P38 1986) Education
Charles E. Rosenberg and Janet Golden, Framing Disease: Studies in Cultural History (QZ11.1 F813 1992) Bracken
*Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On (RA 644 A 25 S48 1987)
Geoffrey S. Smith, "Historical Perspectives on AIDS: Society, Culture and STDs," Queen's Quarterly (1989)
----------------------, "National Security and Personal Isolation: Sex, Gender, and Disease in the Cold War United States," International History Review (1992)
-----------------------, "Contagious Subversion," Queen's Quarterly (1996)
----------------------, "Containments, 'Disease,' and Cold War Popular Culture," in War and Culture in the Twentieth Century, eds. BJC McKercher and Michael Hennessy [forthcoming] Click HERE to download the essay in MSWord format (146k, 43 pages).
Susan Sontag, AIDS and its Metaphors (RA 644 A25S66 1989t)
----------------, Illness as Metaphor (PN 56 T8256 1978)
Nancy Tomes, The Gospel of Germs (QT 11 AA1 T656g 1998) Bracken
The instructor will place more articles on reserve during the course. Students should not purchase all the books, but should recognize, again, that choice of topic(s) may define purchases. What is important to you? This list of books should be considered a springboard, the beginning not the end of the search. Students are urged to check the course webpage and consult with professor on helpful sources. Be attuned to book and article footnotes and endnotes, book bibliographies, Internet sources, and--perhaps most important--the serendipitous experience of discovery--in libraries, bookstores, everywhere! Please become conversant with pertinent journals, websites, source collections, and share your expertise. I will consult with each of you on your papers and commentaries. I also call to your attention university rules on plagiarism and other academic regulations, located in the Calendar (2002/3) @ pp. 445-49.