Wilbur Fisk Osborne Professor of English Henry Abelove retired from Wesleyan in 2011 after thirty-something years, but he’s not done teaching yet. The intensely beloved (err, abeloved) faculty member (whose revered Walden FYI BZOD was lucky enough to take) will instead be making history at Harvard—his alma mater—where he will fill the first endowed faculty position for LGBTQ studies in the United States. A one-semester position, the F.O. Matthiessen Visiting Professor of Gender and Sexuality will be tasked with teaching courses on LGBTQ issues. As the Harvard Crimson reports, it was made possible by a $1.5 million endowment raised by the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus:
Lecturer on History and Literature Timothy P. McCarthy ‘93, who has served on the HGLC board since 2006, coordinated the event that honored Abelove as the first Matthiessen visiting professor.
“Since the HGLC took part in the fundraising for the creation of the Matthiessen Chair, I thought it was really important that we have something to welcome professor Abelove back to Harvard after all these years,” McCarthy said. “It’s a big achievement to have raised $1.5 million to endow a chaired professorship.”
Abelove is especially psyched at the connection with Harvard American studies pioneer F. O. Matthiessen, in whose honor the position is dedicated:
“I was interested in Matthiessen and had written about him, so I was thrilled to be given this position,” said Abelove of the storied Harvard English professor, who was also openly gay. “My goals here are to teach my courses well, to find ways to be intellectually useful on campus.”
As something of a pioneer in the field of queer studies (“one of America’s leading thinkers on the cultural politics of sexuality,” according to Amazon), Abelove seems a pretty fantastic fit for the job. He taught at Wes pretty much forever, and his books include The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (which won the Lambda Prize), The Evangelist of Desire, and Deep Gossip. According to his Harvard faculty page, he’s currently writing two more: “one on colonialist fantasies in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world, another on the intellectual and cultural dimensions of the gay liberation movement in New York City.”
That page also notes that Abelove is teaching two courses at Harvard next semester: Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality 1263. Sexuality and Intimacy in British Literature, 1680-1815 and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality 1459. History of Sexuality: Theory and Practice. I am still kicking myself, frankly, for not taking Walden when I had the chance.
Edit: Tuna, who took Abelove’s FYI freshman year, asked me to append this to the post: “Hats off to a life-changing professor.” That’s it.