Larry Kramer Questions Gay Studies, Prefers History

Historians in the News

Larry Kramer returned to Yale University -- the alma mater with which the gay activist and author has had a stormy relationship -- and offered a harsh critique of the university's commitment to gay studies and of the idea that the discipline should be linked to gender and sexuality studies. Because ties of the sort that exist at Yale between gay studies and gender studies are in fact common in academe, the speech -- posted online by The Daily Beast -- is attracting discussion.

Kramer spoke at a reunion of gay alumni who were honoring him with a lifetime achievement award. He accused Yale of misusing a $1 million gift it received in his honor by relegating gay studies to the area of gender studies, instead of within history, where Kramer says the field belongs. And he attacked the literary and gender theorists who have played a key role in gay studies, saying that they were focused on the wrong issues.

Study of history -- of people who were gay and how society treated them -- would do more to advance the rights of gay people than any theory. His speech mixed discussion of prominent people he argues were gay (including one of Yale's greatest donors of past generations, and several U.S. presidents), provocative language (some of which will follow) that isn't standard for alumni dinners, and a critique of literary criticism that might warm the hearts of neoconservatives....

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