Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Sheila Benson


English literature--Study and teaching; American literature--Study and teaching; Sex in literature; Heterosexism;


English Language Arts has typically been characterized by the texts taught in the classroom. The traditional English classroom is filled with a combination of texts from the British canon and classic American works. I recognize that English teachers now are striving to include current texts, but the traditional curriculum still thrives today. Students still read Shakespeare and To Kill a Mockingbird and Frankenstein. Given that fact, we should also teach students how to find themselves within those texts.

Within English education, we tend to interpret literature in a very “standard” way. We stick with what we know and what we have been taught. Typically, this means that literature is interpreted with only “majority” groups in mind. Characters, their actions, themes, and many other aspects of literature are analyzed and interpreted with the white, heteronormative, cisgender, male-created power structure in mind, even if we do not realize it. This type of interpretation means that many students have trouble recognizing themselves in classical texts. Students who identify as LGBTQ+, specifically, struggle with finding characters like them in those texts. Heteronormative interpretation assumes that all characters are heterosexual and, in some cases, assumes that characters cannot be anything but heterosexual. However, it is integral that we, as teachers, open up our minds using various lenses of interpretation to include possibilities of other sexualities within literature so that we can help our students do the same.

Year of Submission



Department of Languages and Literatures

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

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