History recruits gay studies prof

University of Chicago professor George Chauncey ’77 GRD ’83, a specialist in the history of sexuality and American social history, has accepted an offer to join the Yale History Department next year, administrators announced yesterday.

Chauncey and his partner, Ron Gregg, who will teach in the Film Studies Department, will arrive at Yale in time for the fall semester. Professors said Chauncey’s arrival will cement Yale’s position as one of the top schools for the study of gay and lesbian history. The hire comes five years after the inception of a lesbian and gay studies program at Yale and in the midst of an ongoing debate over the proper curriculum for the program to emphasize

“It not only puts us on the map, but arguably makes us the leading or a leading center for the history of sexuality,” History Department chair Paul Freedman said.

In 2003, Yale hired Joanne Meyerowitz, a historian who specializes in women’s and gender history and the history of sexuality. Next semester, she and Chauncey will co-teach a graduate-level course on human sexuality.

Chauncey said he is excited to join Yale’s faculty because he thinks the History Department has unique breadth and depth in U.S. history and American studies. Next year, Chauncey will teach a lecture in U.S. lesbian and gay history, he said, and he hopes to offer courses in post-World War II American culture and social history in future semesters.

“I’m really enthusiastic about the colleagues that I’ll gain in [history and American studies], and film studies, gender and lesbian and gay studies, and around the University,” Chauncey said. “And then, of course, there are amazing students at Yale, and I look forward to working with them.”

Gregg, who is currently the programming director of the Committee on Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, will likely teach courses on classic Hollywood, among other subjects, in the Film Studies Department, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said.

“[Gregg] has a broad area of expertise in film studies,” Associate Provost Emily Bakemeier said. “We were initially recruiting George, and in this day and age there are often academic career couples. It’s a win-win situation.”

Chauncey’s addition to Yale’s history department follows concerns raised in spring 2005 by Larry Kramer ’57 about the absence of a focus on gay history at Yale.

The Larry Kramer Initiative, a five-year program whose funding will run out this year, was established with a donation from Arthur Kramer ’49 to fund lesbian and gay studies at Yale, but Larry Kramer has said frequently that he believed the program overemphasized gender studies to the detriment of gay history. Last year, he asked that LKI be moved to the History Department from the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, but the administration did not agree to do so.

After hearing that Chauncey will come to Yale, Kramer said he was pleased the University is devoting resources to the study of gay history.

“I fought very hard for this … and I’m thrilled that Yale has had the good sense to hire him,” Kramer said. “I find myself in a very strange position of feeling rather unsettled myself because LKI is in such a mess.”

Kramer said he is still deciding whether or not to give a contribution to Yale either for LKI or a new program.

Bakemeier said Kramer expressed his enthusiasm for the possibility that Chauncey would come to Yale in the fall, when hiring Chauncey first seemed like a possibility, but that Kramer was not directly involved in recruiting him.

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