Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 3, Issue 1
fall 2012
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Craig Canfield
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

PhotoLGBT Studies Chair’s Letter

I am pleased to return as chair of LGBT Studies for 2012-13, and to thank old friends and new partners of this program.  This is the third time that I have headed this committee under one or another of its previous names.  So much has changed since the last time! When I first joined this group in the 1990s, we focused on support for research projects in lesbian and gay studies among faculty and graduate students, principally because we had received a generous gift from alumni for these important initiatives.  But it was also true that we were then without an institutional structure for establishing and maintaining a curriculum in LGBT studies.   Relying heavily on visiting scholars teaching at Yale for only one or two years, even the best undergraduate courses in this field were mostly “one-offs” offered without coordination with one another and providing only limited coverage of the range of subjects in which LBGT scholarship was developing.

Thanks to the generosity of alumni and other donors, the backing of successive deans and provosts, and—crucially—the leadership of Yale faculty colleagues in many different academic departments and programs, we now have a great mix of ladder and nonladder faculty teaching LGBT studies throughout the university.   

Indeed the diversity of LGBT course offerings has proved crucial to our success and we have found a comfortable home as a track in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, a base from which we also roam out to explore the further reaches of the curriculum.  We are especially pleased to welcome new Assistant Professor Joseph Fischel, the first full-time ladder faculty member appointed exclusively in WGSS.  He comes to us following graduate work at University of Chicago and a post-doc at Brown.  An expert on the legal theory and politics of sexual consent, he is teaching the “Introduction to LGBT Studies” course this term.  There is a profile of him elsewhere in this issue.
This rich and diverse curriculum has been bolstered by significant new collections of original materials in our libraries and the Film Study Center, an array of opportunities for undergraduates to pursue their interests in LGBT studies through research and travel grants, and funds to support conferences and special events.   As a result, LGBT Studies has become an active and respected intellectual force on this campus and well-known throughout the world as a center for research and pedagogy.

With Joe Fischel’s arrival and with the impending search for a new Sarah Petit fellow in lesbian studies for next year, this year promises to propel us still further forward.

We were fortunate to have Professor Samuel Delany accept the James R. Brudner ’83 Memorial Prize in October.  Chip Delany is not only one of the most-respected contemporary authors in science fiction (much of it queer-inflected), but also a commanding figure in African American studies and queer theory.  Outspoken and uncompromising, he was an inspirational speaker whose presence here will be long remembered.

Indeed, with the cooperation of several other departments, this year we had something of a weeklong Brudner celebration.  We started with the showing of a documentary film about Delany, which was coordinated by Assistant Professor Jafari Allen of Anthropology. The screening also included an open conversation with the filmmaker. In the next few days, Mr. Delany led a lunchtime conversation with graduate students, gave public talks in New Haven and in Manhattan (both introduced by Assistant Professor GerShun Avilez of African American Studies and English), and graced various receptions at which students, alumni, and other members of our community could engage this extraordinary writer and human rights champion.  

Other LGBT events abound.  Through the efforts of Ron Gregg, and the co-sponsorship of Film Studies and the Whitney Humanities Center, we have been supporting the screening of classic and new films from the US and abroad that are of special interest to LGBT folks.  A number of the residential colleges cosponsor readings and master’s teas with us:  one coming up in December features Yale alum Richard Kramer, playwright and novelist, best-known for being the creator and lead writer on the TV series Thirtysomething, My So-Called Life, and Once And Again.

We are deeply grateful to all our alumni and other allies across the globe and across the generations for their energy and support.  We hope to see you at events on campus and to hear from you if you have any suggestions.  Keep up to date with us at http://lgbts.yale.edu.
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