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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Introduction to The Modern History of Sexuality (HIST10492)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryToday, sex is at the tip of society's tongue. What really is this thing called 'sexuality' and how did it become such a ubiquitous social and political issue? This course offers a first introduction to the sexual past that seeks to answer this question with a focus on the modern West. It may be less suitable for students who already have a background in sexuality and gender studies.
Course description Human sexuality is commonly understood in biological terms, explained as driven by natural instincts and as part of a slow evolutionary process. Sexuality, in this view, is a timeless constant and hardly has a history. This course will serve to demonstrate that much of what is taken for granted when it comes to sex shrouds an often-counterintuitive complexity of historical developments.

The first half of the course focuses on the main ways in which sexuality has been (re)conceptualised in the West. These will include the Christian tradition, Freudian psychoanalysis, revolutionary Freudo-Marxism and social constructivism. In the second half of the course, we will examine the main themes around which sexuality became a primary issue of social, cultural political concern since the late 18th century. At the end of the course, students will understand the shifting historical meanings of the term 'sexuality'. They will also have a good sense of the various roles that sex plays in regulating societies, in shaping identities and in informing politics.

Content note: The study of History inevitably involves the study of difficult topics that we encourage students to approach in a respectful, scholarly, and sensitive manner. Nevertheless, we remain conscious that some students may wish to prepare themselves for the discussion of difficult topics. In particular, the course organiser has outlined that the following topics may be discussed in this course, whether in class or through required or recommended primary and secondary sources: sexualities (straight and queer), non-binary and trans genders, feminisms, nudity, pornography, past and present views of sexuality and gender that do not align with current sensitivities, sexism, misogyny, racism, islamophobia, child sexual abuse. While this list indicates sensitive topics students are likely to encounter, it is not exhaustive because course organisers cannot entirely predict the directions discussions may take in tutorials or seminars, or through the wider reading that students may conduct for the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
3,000 word mid-term essay (50%)

Written Exam:
Two hour final exam (50%)
Feedback Students will receive feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser during their published office hours for this course or by appointment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand sexuality as a historical and highly elastic construct.
  2. Detail the emergence of sexuality as a subject of historical inquiry over the twentieth century.
  3. Connect sexuality to other markers of difference (like race and gender) as one of the key axes of how social power relations are organised.
  4. Identify and explain key moments in the modern history of sexuality and how they have (re)shaped Western societies
  5. Apply the insights from both parts of the course in an analytical piece of writing that demonstrates their understanding of historical constructivism.
Reading List
DAVIDSON Arnold I., "Closing up the Corpses. Diseases of Sexuality and the Emergence of the Psychiatric Style of Reasoning", in: George BOOLOS (ed.), Meaning and Method: Essays in Honor of Hilary Putnam, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, 295-325.

FAUSTO-STERLING Anne, "Gender, Race, and Nation. The Comparative Anatomy of 'Hottentot' Women in Europe, 1815-1817", in: Jennifer TERRY and Jennifer URLA (eds.), Deviant Bodies. Critical Perspectives on Difference in Science and Popular Culture, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995, 19-48.

FOUCAULT Michel, The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction, translated by Robert HURLEY, New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.

FREUD Sigmund, "'Civilized' Sexual Morality and Modern Nervousness", in: Sigmund FREUD and Joan RIVIERE (eds.), Collected Papers, 5 vols., vol. 2, London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1953 [1908], 82-99.

HERZOG Dagmar, Sexuality in Europe. A Twentieth-Century History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

MARCUSE Herbert, Eros and Civilization, Routledge: London, 1998 [1955].

RUBIN Gayle, "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality", in: Carole S. VANCE (ed.), Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984, 267-319.

SHEPPARD Todd, Sex, France and Arab Men, 1962-1979, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2017.

STOLER Ann Laura, "Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power. Gender, Race, and Morality in Colonial Asia", in: Roger N. LANCASTER and Micaela DI LEONARDO (eds.), The Gender/Sexuality Reader. Culture, History, Political Autonomy, New York and London: Routledge, 1997, 13-36.

SUTTON Katie, "'We Too Deserve a Place in the Sun'. The Politics of Transvestite Identity in Weimar Germany", German Studies Review, 35/2, 2012, 335-354.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Students will have obtained an understanding of sex and sexuality as highly elastic historical constructs.

- They will be familiarised with a number of key texts by founding authors of the field.

- They will have explored a variety of important themes in the historiography of modern European sexualities, on which they will have analysed historiographical texts both in terms of the arguments made and the methodologies used.

- Students will be able to think critically and reflectively about sexuality in intersectional terms.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Wannes Dupont
Tel: (01316) 503838
Course secretaryMiss Katherine Perry
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