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Marilyn Schuster

Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and the Study of Women and Gender Emerita

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From July 2009 to June 2014, Marilyn Schuster served as provost and dean of the faculty.

Schuster earned her B.A. in French from Mills College and her M. Phil. and Ph.D. in French language and literature from Yale University.

In the Program for the Study of Women and Gender, my primary teaching interests were in 20th- and 21st-century women's literature, feminist theory, lesbian/gay/bisexual/ transgender studies and queer theory. When I came to Smith in 1971 I was working on my doctoral dissertation on Arthur Rimbaud. By the time I completed it, I had shifted my research to women's fiction of the last one hundred years. At the urging of students, I started to develop courses in women's literature and eventually in gender studies and queer studies.

My research has focused on contemporary writers such as Jane Rule, Marguerite Duras and Monique Wittig. My books include Passionate Communities: Reading Lesbian Resistance in Jane Rule's Fiction (1999) and Marguerite Duras Revisited (1993). I have also worked in collaboration with Susan Van Dyne on curriculum transformation, the theory and practice of bringing scholarship from women's studies and ethnic studies into the liberal arts curriculum and creating a more productive learning climate for women students and all students of color in the classroom. We co-edited and contributed to Women's Place in the Academy: Transforming the Liberal Arts Curriculum, published in 1985. Articles have appeared in the Harvard Educational Review, the French Review, Nineteenth-Century French Studies, Feminist Studies and the Journal of Homosexuality.

I am currently editing fifteen years (1981–95) of the correspondence between Jane Rule and Rick Bébout. Rule (1931–2007), a lesbian writer who lived in Galiano, British Columbia, and Bébout, a gay activist, writer and journalist born in 1950 who lived in Toronto, became acquainted when Rule started to contribute to The Body Politic, a Toronto gay liberationist newspaper published between 1971 and 1987 where Bébout was an editor. They exchanged letters regularly at least once a month from 1981 until Rule's death in 2007. Both Rule and Bébout left the United States and took Canadian citizenship for personal and political reasons: she because of the constraints of the McCarthy era, he because of the Vietnam War. In their letters, Rule and Bébout engage many of the major issues that have defined gay, lesbian and feminist politics in the last two decades. The letters tell a moving story of friendship, politics and work.

In June 2009 I helped organize a conference at the University of British Columbia called Queerly Canadian: Changing Narratives.