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F.O. Matthiessen Visiting Professorship of Gender and Sexuality

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Members and supporters of the Harvard Gender & Sexuality Caucus created the F.O. Matthiessen Visiting Professorship of Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) through a successful $1.5 million funding campaign. The resulting endowment enables Harvard to regularly invite eminent scholars studying issues related to sexual minorities – that is, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people – or to sexuality, to teach in the FAS for one semester every year, or two semesters every other year. Now in its second year, it has allowed our initial Matthiessen Chair recipient, Professor Henry Abelove to spend a semester at Harvard in 2013. Professor Gayle Rubin is now in residence teaching in the spring semester of 2014. Their presence has and will add greatly to both the academic experience of our students, and to the opportunities for scholarship in the area of GLBT studies.

Each year, the Dean of FAS invites faculty members to nominate eminent scholars or practitioners for the Matthiessen Professorship. Matthiessen Professors may be appointed in any department of FAS, but will generally be associated or directly affiliated with the Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality.

The Matthiessen Campaign Committee, co-chaired by Harvard Overseer Mitchell Adams, AB '66, MBA '69, and Harvard Alumni Association Elected Director, Kevin Jennings, AB '85, and comprised of over 20 lead donors and Caucus leaders, announced at Commencement in 2009 that it had reached its goal. Over time, however, the Caucus would like to increase the $1.5 million endowment so that eventually Matthiessen scholars will be able to visit every semester as opposed to the current arrangement. Consequently, the Harvard Development Office will continue to offer Harvard & Radcliffe College alumni/ae class and reunion gift credit for current and future donations to the Matthiessen Professorship.

Matthiessen Chair Recipients

Henry Abelove ’66 was the first Matthiessen Chair. A literary scholar and pioneer in the field of gay and lesbian studies, Professor Abelove is the Willbur Fisk Osborne Professor of English, Emeritus, at Wesleyan University and a visiting faculty member at NYU. One of America’s leading thinkers on the cultural politics of sexuality, Professor Abelove is the author of The Evangelist of Desire: John Wesley and the Methodists and Deep Gossip, and the co-editor of The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader and Visions of History. He is currently working on a book on the cultural expressions of gay liberation in its formative years. Professor Abelove has also published articles in Raritan, the Radical History Review, and the Yale Journal of Criticism. During his semester at Harvard, Professor Abelove will teach two classes: a seminar “History of Sexuality: Theory and Pra tice” and a lecture course “Sexuality and Intimacy in British Literature, 1680–1815.

For the academic year of 2013/2014 we will be welcoming to Harvard Dr. Gayle Rubin. Gayle Rubin is associate professor of Anthropology, Women’s Studies, and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 1994, Rubin completed her PhD in anthropology at the University of Michigan with a dissertation titled The Valley of the Kings: Leathermen in San Francisco, 1960–1990. From a review in Lambda Literary by Chase Dimock: Gayle S. Rubin has had an incalculable impact on the study of gender and sexuality over the past 35 years. Rubin’s work changed the very language and vocabulary with which we discuss sexuality and gender. She coined the terms “sex/gender system” to describe “the set of arrangements by which a society transforms biological sexuality into products of human activity” and the “Charmed Circle,” which describes the normative sexual behaviors our society privileges over the marginalized practices of the queer minority. Rubin’s pioneering research on gay leather communities legitimized the anthropological study of sexual subcultures and her participation in the first known lesbian S/M group, Samois, and pro-sex activism helped to de-stigmatize pornogaphy and S/M practices in the 80s when the anti- pornography movement was at its height.

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Credit card gifts by phone can be made by calling 1-800-VERITAS. Be sure to tell the operator that your gift should be directed to the F.O. Matthiessen Visiting Professorship of Gender and Sexuality.

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To make a credit card donation online, click on the link below, then enter the following under "Gift Details":

  • Select a School: Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Select a Fund: Harvard College Fund: Unrestricted
  • Additional Information: For Matthiessen Visiting Professorship

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For more information on the Matthiessen campaign, contact Tom Parry at .

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