History | American Sexual Histories
A300 | 27496 | Allen
Above class open to undergraduates and Education MA’s only
Above class meets with GNDR-G 302
What can controversies over sexuality reveal about the history of
American culture? How did those contesting sexual behavior,
desires, and/or their consequences, narrate their own or others’
sexual histories? This course surveys historical changes in American
cultural conflicts about sexuality, especially as shaped by gender,
race, ethnic, class, religious, and regional dynamics, through
examining some well known historical examples – their genealogies
and legacies – providing an introduction to the history of gender
and sexuality in the United States.
Many historical instances of sexuality-related conflicts emerged
across the past three centuries. The course may draw some instances
from amongst: the 1692 Salem witch panic, eighteenth and nineteenth
century “seduction,” illegitimacy, and infanticide, the 1874-75
prosecution of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher for adultery, “spinster”
Lizzie Borden’s 1893 trial for the axe-murder of her father and step-
mother; Progressive era regulation of prostitution and venereal
diseases, birth control advocate Margaret Sanger’s 1915 indictment
for obscenity, 1920s and 1930s disputes over rape, lynching, and
miscegenation, the 1948 &1953 Kinsey Reports, Christine Jorgenson
and transsexualism, the Boston Strangler and other serial killers,
the 1960s “Sexual Revolution, the Pill, and censorship challenges
the rise of Gay Liberation, the 1973 Roe versus Wade abortion
decision, and other 1990s struggles.
Learning and skills:
Students develop reading and research skills through use of an array
of primary sources (which may include criminal and civil court
cases, government documents, public enquiries, newspapers,
photographs, film, television, memoirs, novels, and plays) related
to the course’s themes. As well, the course enhances student skills
with speaking, debating, and evaluating conflicting interpretations.
A selection of textbooks will be set, supplemented by selected
readings placed on E-Reserve.
Weekly attendance, preparation, and notes (10%); class paper (25%);
office hour consultation with essay plan and bibliography (10%);
research essay (35%); & take-home examination (20%).