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Disciplining Sex: Sexuality, Society and Modern Literary Culture


Module description

This module explores the constructions and literary representations of ‘sexuality’ as a socio-political and cultural concern in the nineteenth century. Here a range of new disciplines including anthropology, psychology, and, eventually, sexology sought to categorise the meaning of individual and social behaviours, partly or wholly focusing on issues of sex. At the same time, a new generation of feminists and same-sex activists politicised existing notions of sex and gender. While perhaps the most famous legacy of the period is the coinage of vocabulary describing sexual practices and identities (eg sadism, masochism, fetishism, homosexuality and heterosexuality), the new sexual theories also provided broader critiques of gender, ‘race’, power and society.

The module introduces you to a wide range of nineteenth-century discourses on sex including literary, scientific, critical, journalistic and visual material, which is read alongside recent critical and theoretical work. It is organised thematically into two parts - Discipline and the Mapping of a Sexual Body (weeks 1-5) and Sexual Role/Social Role (weeks 2-11) - and focuses on interlinked questions of the gendered politics of sexuality and its literary and cultural representation.