Over at Notches, they’ve got yet another excellent description of a panel last month at the 2015 meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City, this time reporting on “Teaching Queer History.” John D’Emillio described his brilliant periodization for students of queer history: “Pre-Ellen” and “Post-Ellen.” Or, to put it in terms of the Classics, we might call them the Ellenic versus the Ellenistic generations. To wit:
Familiar with the oppression LGBT people faced in the past, the undergraduate students of the “pre-Ellen” generation (before 2001 or so) were thrilled by the stories of resistance to that oppression. By contrast, D’Emilio found the “Post-Ellen” generation (undergraduates coming of age after 2001) more normalized to the idea of LGBT people and less comfortable with the narratives of oppression and resistance. Because of ongoing cultural normalization, LGBT oppression and the resistance movements they spawned seem distant and foreign to these recent students. This shift, D’Emilio noted, is reflected in the students’ own involvement with and awareness of LGBT politics today: while many students know of or attend pride parades, few of them have heard of Stonewall or know its significance.
D’Emilio ended hopefully, adding that while these somewhat more disengaged Post-Ellen-ites were unaware of much of LGBT history, they were nonetheless keen to learn. The clear solution was greater exposure to LGBT history earlier in their education.
I find that most of my students are still drawn to the “stories of resistance,” perhaps because the queer students at Baa Ram U. probably still feel like a very small presence at a big state university whose student culture appears to be organized around the culture and rituals of youthful heteronormativity. (That is, I wonder if many U.S. American college students are more of the Ellenic than the Ellenistic generation, depending on their backgrounds and exposure to urban culture and/or people with college educations.)
How about you? (By the way, those of you who have known me for a long time may remember that my hairstyles have changed along with Ellen Degeneres’s, almost exactly, although I never had the bangs as in the Ellenic era photo above.)