Katherine Walker, a MA student in English Literature, completed her first semester as the inaugural recipient of an Arms-ALS scholarship to complete a graduate certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
Katherine is a first-generation college student from Farmington, NM, starting the second year of her MA in American Literary Studies. After her master’s degree, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in ALS, with the hope of one day becoming a professor of American poetry.
“I’ve decided to earn a WGSS certificate, as it provides a unique opportunity to bind my interests of literature, gender, and sexuality in a professional and rigorous manner,” Katherine explains.
In WGSS, she focuses on recovering literary formations of people, especially women, “coming to know” their sexuality and sexual self-consciousness in twentieth-century America. She currently focuses on ideas of post-sexual identity, which call for the depoliticization and decrease of sexuality in the concept of identity to establish sexual pleasure as a human right, not a political or social privilege. Her main goal is to reinstall notions of sexual freedom and expression into groups that have faced gender and sexual oppression.
As a WGGS scholar, she presented “The Beat Starts with Her: Poetic Identity and the Hedonistic Counterculture,” which explores female Beat sexuality, at the 2020 SWPACA conference. In addition to taking courses on Queer Fiction and Marxism, this semester she wrote three essays on sexuality. The first, “In a Sea of Emotions: Moby-Dick, Male Intimacy, and Surviving the Chase,” analyzes the trajectory of male intimacy to love in Melville’s novel. Second, her essay, “A World Within Worlds: City of Night, Constructed Sexualities, and Post-Sexualism,” applies theories of post-sexuality in assessing John Rechy’s City of Night. Last, she further dismantles the capitalistic role of female sexuality in “The Alienation of Female Sexuality: Women’s Labor, Sex Work, and Capitalism,” which ties the current form of internet sex work, “cam-girls,” to the commodification of the domestic space and female pleasure.
The Arms ALS-WGSS scholarship helped fund her attendance to the SWPACA conference as well as helped purchase various contemporary books on sexuality to complete her Spring 2020 research projects.
In the fall, Katherine plans to continue with her master’s degree and draft her Portfolio, which will map the trajectory of female sexual self-consciousness in post-modern American female poetry. She also plans to take graduate courses in the WGSS program to further her research in sexuality theory. She anticipates earning her WGSS certificate in Spring 2021.
“My experiences in WGSS,” Katherine notes, “allows me to accurately apply feminist theory and research methods to my work to support and problematize my understanding of American literature and its ability to bring belongingness to even the most outcasted subjects.”
Funded by the Elizabeth and George Arms Endowment for American Literature, the ALS-Arms WGSS scholarship provides funding to English graduate students who enroll in qualifying coursework in ALS and the WGSS program toward the completion of the WGSS graduate certificate. The scholarship ranges between $1,000-$2,000 and is specifically intended to build a curricular bridge between coursework in ALS and WGSS.
“The combination of both programs provides me with the analytical tools to assess notions of sexuality, pleasure, and their literary and political formations, and to tackle newer manifestations of sexuality in our current historical moment. The certificate program also harnesses a supportive community that has given me the opportunity to collaborate with graduate students and professors across disciplines,” says Katherine.