Instructor: Professor Jennifer Evans

Course Description

Contrary to its typical treatment as a private and hence marginal component of political, economic, and cultural history, sexuality is central to any understanding of human development. Attempts to define, repudiate, and regulate certain forms of sexual comportment have held broad implications for the hows and whys of modernization and good governance. This course will explore the history of sexual expression, desire, and relationships, together with the social and political conditions that facilitated their emergence from the Middle Ages to now. Lectures will provide background information in order to help students evaluate the different ways in which people through time have defined and understood what constituted normative, normal, healthy, aberrant, transgressive, and deviant sexuality. Course readings will focus on specific themes and historical problems and will form the basis of the course’s writing assignments.

This course aims to historicize how ideas about sex and sexuality have changed over time. In other words, it is not a compendium of facts about the history of sexual expression; instead, it emphasizes conceptual trends currently shaping the discipline. Students will be asked to grapple with the varied ways in which historical actors and researchers themselves have made sense of past sexual identities, practices, and relationships over time and in different places and spaces across the globe. Topics will include male and female prostitution, adultery and love, homosexuality/queer/non-binary identities, illegality, eugenics, sexual deviance, self love, pleasure and desire.


I have yet to finalize the readings for the course. I like to use an eclectic mix of primary and secondary source readings, from memoires to government documents. Some of the readings will be available via ARES online. Others will be available for purchase at Octopus Books later in the summer.

Course Requirements

I am still weighing several possibilities for course assignments. In addition to a formal essay, I am considering several creative and analytical assignments including blogging, social media analysis, and mock encyclopedia entries. This course will include a take-home exam.

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