Brenden O'Donnell

I was fortunate enough to teach two literature classes in the Brandeis English department: “Literature Between Habit and Addiction” and “Rethinking the Gay Bar: Queer Utopias from Stonewall to Pulse.” Brenden O'DonnellEach class provided me with a different angle on my dissertation topic, which is addiction in LGBT literature. The first class I taught, “Literature Between Habit and Addiction,” gave me space to think about my dissertation’s broader disciplinary and methodological implications. We explored how theories of addiction and recovery intersect with literary studies. Some of my students were Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP) majors, which provided an interesting angle on my usual literary approaches. They pushed the conversation beyond analyzing how literature depicts addiction—they wanted to also ask how and why addiction recovery so often utilizes narrative. 


“Rethinking the Gay Bar: Queer Utopias from Stonewall to Pulse” was even closer to my dissertation topic, since it focused on LGBTQIA topics yet was also centered on the bar setting, which made discussions of substance use and addiction unavoidable. One of the most useful experiences in teaching this course was that I was able to cover most of the texts I studied in my dissertation and I often used my research and arguments to build lectures. This made a little easier the challenging double task of researching and teaching that graduate students are so familiar with. My students were able to provide constructive feedback and counterpoints, and I feel that my dissertation will be stronger now that I’ve had an opportunity to share some of it with my students.