Shepard discusses his experiences as a gay son of a Midwestern farmer studying and teaching Renaissance literature. He focuses on the class aspects of the literature, often choosing cultural artifacts over “art,” a distinction he admits is artificial (217). He discusses at length teaching Robinson Crusoe, and his students’ love of the book for it’s adventure, but resistance to discussing class or homosocial desire in the book. He conveys a similar story about teaching Edward II.
Some important passages:
“[W]hile are students are more or less eager to talk about matters of race or nation or gender or religion, or at least resigned to do so, they are baffled by, or resistant to, talking about class” (211-212).
“I would wager that it [a teacher’s sexual orientation] has everything to do with how one teachers: In the classroom, one chooses to pass or not; to name or not name homosexuality when it is in a text or a biography; to ignore or affirm those students who in any way fall outside the narrow definitions of what is ‘normal’ in American culture; to challenge or accept students’ assumptions about ubiquitous and compulsory heterosexuality; to push or not push students to ‘see the familiar in new ways'” (221, quoting BÃ©rubÃ©).
“Undergraduates’s [sic] empathy develops most readily, in my experience, when a text makes visible differences, such as race or nationality, invisible” (222, emphasis Shepard’s).
Shepard, Alan. “Teaching ‘The Renaissance’: Queer Consciousness and Class Dysphoria.” Coming to Class: Pedagogy and the Social Class of Teachers. Ed. Alan Shepard, John McMillan, and Gary Tate. Potsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998. 209-230.