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Representations of Love, Desire and Sexuality


Module description

This module aims to explore various ways in which love, desire and sexuality have been represented and performed at different times, in different cultural contexts and within different cultural media.

Taking this module will help you understand the reasons for these differences in cultural production. The module will provide you with information about the socio-historical contexts in which the texts were produced, and the social and cultural norms to which they were responding and reacting.

You will be enabled to understand some of the key concepts from psychoanalytic, gender, post-colonial and political theory which relate to these issues and will be encouraged to make these critical perspectives productive for your own interpretive practice.

Indicative module content

  • Love, desire and sexuality in fin-de-siècle Vienna
  • Fire and Incest in Racine's Phèdre (1677)
  • Temptations of Adultery in Madame de Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves (1678)
  • Interpolated Tales as Vicarious Experience in La Princesse de Clèves
  • Subverting colonial discourse: a black femme fatale
  • Sites of desire: tourism and eroticism in Bahia
  • Sites of 'excessive femininity': Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
  • Love and Desire in Realism and Poetic Realism
  • Desire and Transgression in nineteeth century France
  • Cross-Cultural Desire or Adolescent Sexuality?
  • Exploring masculinity and male sexuality in the 1950s


  • Charles Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil
  • Antônio Márcio da Silva, ‘The Black Femme Fatale' in Xica da Silva
  • Madame de Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves
  • Carlos Diegues, Xica da Silva (1976)
  • Marguerite Duras, The Lover (L’amant)
  • George Eliot, 'Janet’s Repentance' in Scenes from Clerical Life
  • Sigmund Freud Das Unbehagen in der Kultur [Civilization and its Discontents]
  • Max Frisch, Homo Faber
  • Clare Lewis, ‘Woman, Body, Space: Rio Carnival and the Politics of Performance’
  • Thomas Mann, Tonio Kröger
  • Racine, Phèdre
  • Arthur Schnitzler, Fräulein Else
  • Erica Lorraine Williams, ‘Geographies of Blackness: Tourism and the Erotics of Black Culture in Salvador’