The Toe-Trick: Using Queer Theory in Literature Education

Submitted by: Louise Almqvist
Abstract: Keywords: Queer, Reading, Discourse, Literature, Education
Researcher: Louise Almqvist, PhD Student, Umeå University

In this presentation I will give a brief summary of my ongoing studies, and an example of my preliminary results. The aim of my study is to explore how queer theory could be used in literature education, specifically within the subject of Swedish at upper secondary level. The purpose of this two-fold. First of all, both PISA-results and previous research would suggest that swedes are quite poor readers of fiction, and there are ongoing calls in media to ban or censor “difficult” or “problematic” texts. Second, we have a growing right-wing movement and school steering documents that urges teachers to embody a democratic value-system in all subjects. My hypothesis is that teaching literature from a queer analytical perspective can make literature more useful, by helping teachers fulfill their steering-needs and by letting students explore relevant issues, thus allowing more reading in school, but also creating better readers, prepared to meet different kinds of texts, and to reflect and discuss upon them.
An important part of my project will be combining discourse- and queer theory, like Foucault and Butler, with affective reception-theory like Felski, and literature pedagogy along the line of Rosenblatt. This will form the theoretical groundwork for a queer didactic literature education. I will then apply this by making queer/didactic readings of thematic groups of texts, consisting of a mix of books for children, teenagers and adults, popular as well as high literature, old and new. I will also look at the reception of the works, as a reference-point for making alternative readings. I will hereby provide teachers with multiple readings, perspectives and angles on the texts – not as a correct reading, but rather to help counter students reactions and arguments when discussing the texts, to make them think further/differently. I will end by giving a small example.

Michel Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité I-III (1976–1984)
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble (1990)
Rita Felski, Uses of Literature (2008)
Louise Rosenblatt, Literature as Exploration (1938