Traditionally, academic English programs have focused their studies on literature that is a part of the Western canon, a body of books, music, and art that scholars generally accept as the most important and influential in shaping Western culture. Although the Western canon is comprised of works commendable of major artistic merit and that continue to boast their influence today, it has often excluded diverse voices and experiences that can limit one’s literary understanding. Daniel Wright, an assistant professor in the Department of English and Drama at UTM, is introducing the traditions of the LGBTQ+ literary community into his curriculum to explore their rich and extensive history while also analyzing and appreciating their modern works.
Recently, as Wright explains, the English department revamped their course offerings to modernize curriculum. Queer Writing is a new course, which as Wright says, ecstatically teaches: “Interesting things are happening with the English curriculum. We’re modernizing the curriculum in order to re-conceptualize and keep up with the current moment.” Wright was “enthusiastic” to teach such a course as he said it was a “long awaited course by students.” Queer Writing introduces a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer tradition in literature and theory, and explores texts from a variety of historical periods from classical to contemporary. Literature studied in the Queer Writing course include: Dionne Brand’s In Another Place, Not Here, Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet and Alexander Chee’s Edinburgh.
The Victorian Novel is another English course that Wright teaches, which focuses on realism, the marriage plot, and sexuality. “There is a real connection between Queer Writing and The Victorian Novel,” the professor says. “Queer history is privileged at the end of the Victorian era and allows us to think about queer identity.” Both Queer Writing and The Victorian Novel provide an interesting insight into where we are now in regards to gender, sexuality, and identity. Literature studied in The Victorian Novel include: Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, and George Eliot’s Middlemarch.
Although Wright’s current research focuses on gender and sexuality, and the relationship between literature and philosophy, especially ethics and the philosophy of language, he says he was a “late convert to the Victorian Novel” and became interested in Victorian literature in graduate school. He has a keen interest in 20th century Victorian novels and incorporates them into both his teaching and research. Wright also has an interest in exploring the history and theory of psychoanalysis.
The English professor’s first book, Bad Logic: Reasoning about Desire in the Victorian Novel is being released March 2018. It focuses on both historical and theoretical frameworks of analyzing Victorian Literature. Wright is also currently working on two new projects: Being and non-being in the Victorian novel and exploring the theorization and practice of creativity in Victorian literature, along with understanding and contemporary literary theory.