Literature of the AIDS Pandemic (LIT2513.01)

Michael Dumanis

In the 1980s and early 1990s, the AIDS epidemic was regarded as a global catastrophe with no hope of remedy. For many, the disease was an uncomfortable subject, one that some at first refused to address by name and others chose to ignore entirely, an illness intertwined in the collective imagination with mainstream culture’s perceptions of, and fears of, gay culture. In this course, we will read closely some of the writing produced in response to the AIDS pandemic, with a focus on poetry and dramatic literature, over the past four decades as we familiarize ourselves with the pandemic’s early history and its depictions in 1980’s mainstream media culture. We will consider the work of such authors as Brian Blanchfield, Tory Dent, Melvin Dixon, Tim Dlugos, Mark Doty, Thom Gunn, Essex Hemphill, Larry Kramer, Tony Kushner, D.A. Powell, Reginald Shepherd, Susan Sontag, and John Weir, and the filmmaker Marlon Riggs. Students will be responsible for a midterm literary essay and a final research paper. Please note that some of the literature we will read contains graphic descriptions, and that this course will actively and frequently address sensitive, potentially upsetting subjects.


Learning Outcomes:
1) Become profoundly familiar with the history and representations of the AIDS pandemic in the United States, with a focus on response and representations from the media, government, and activists; and on works of dramatic literature, poetry, and prose that addressed the unfolding pandemic.
2) Develop and draft a literary essay, where we will perform a close reading of one of the texts
3) Conduct our own research, write a research paper on an approved topic, and share our findings in a presentation
4) Carefully consider the various artistic and rhetorical techniques utilized in the plays, poetry, prose, and film that we examine


Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 2
Th 3:40PM - 5:30PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: All courses , Literature , Fully In-Person
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