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  • Paul Grosskopf

5 Questions with Lauren Franken

“5 questions with…” is an occasional feature where we highlight a current graduate student’s research, offering a glimpse into their work and interests. Lauren Franken is an MA student in Literary and Cultural Studies.

1. What's the six-word-story version of your writing focus (think written by Hemingway on a napkin at a bar)?

Queer people in American culture/literature

2. What's a question that's preoccupying you in your writing or thinking right now?

I’m just starting my graduate courses, so I feel like I’m juggling a lot of different ideas and questions right now. One thing I’m particularly interested in is the history of Lincoln’s queer community. I’m doing a lot of research on Louis Crompton right now, more specifically on his 1970 course “Proseminar in Homophile Studies,” which was one of the first queer studies courses in the nation. I’m new to Lincoln so right now a lot of my questions are exploratory but I’m really looking forward to seeing where some of this initial research leads me.

3. Who is a writer that's been challenging or inspiring your thinking? Can you recommend a book or article?

Emily Nagoski’s book Come as You Are isn’t particularly scholarly but when I read it, I found myself reflecting a lot on the shortcomings of sex education and how women are taught to understand their sexuality. Then a couple weeks ago I read a chapter from Michael Warner’s The Trouble with Normal that discussed the politics of queer shame. I think those two ideas — learned shame and a lack of education — are deeply intertwined. Warner writes: “So the difficult question is not: how do we get rid of sexual shame? The answer to that one will inevitably be get rid of sex. The question, rather, is this: what will we do with our shame?” (3) Nagoski asks these same questions then attempts to give readers a path forward. I think that these two texts, when read concurrently, complement each other really well. At the end of the day, I’ll never stop recommending Come as You Are for anyone looking to expand their knowledge about bodies and human sexuality/desire.

4. What's a writing habit or research strategy that's been working for you lately?

I’ve been self-imposing a limit on the amount of time I’ll spend on a certain reading or assignment before I take a break and that’s been immensely helpful in keeping my sanity intact. I’ve also found that my brain is much more productive in the morning than it is in the evening, so I’ve been attempting to give myself ample time in the mornings to do that work and tap into that productivity instead of forcing myself to do it at night.

5. If you had to choose a watershed moment in the development of your writing and research, an important turning point, what would it be?

I’m actually going to jump back in time to the spring of my freshman year for perhaps what was my very first watershed moment. When I started my undergraduate, I initially enrolled as a psychology major — not because I liked psychology but because it seemed like the most versatile option, and I liked knowing I could always change my mind. Around March of 2017 I was three months into a course that outlined the various avenues of study we could pursue within the psychology major. My professor asked the Writing Center coordinator to come speak to our class about our final paper and navigating between MLA style, which we were all used to, and APA style. That was the first time all semester that I wasn’t bored out of my mind during class. That evening, I changed my major to English and ended up working at the Writing Center a couple years later.

photo courtesy of Lauren Franken

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