History | Sexuality & Culture in Modern Britain
J400 | 10076 | Allen
Above class open to majors only
Above class open to undergraduates only
The famous British sexologist Havelock Ellis (1859-1939) called his
lifetime "the era of sex," referring both to new research knowledge
about sexuality, and increasing contention over sexual norms and
deviance. This senior seminar provides an opportunity for students
to undertake original research on aspects of sexuality and culture
in Britain in the period from the 1860s until the 1960s, according
to their interests. Classes center upon analysis of primary and
secondary sources related to indicative developments in modern
British sexual culture, which may include, for instance: the
Contagious Diseases Acts (1864-86) regulating prostitutes and
venereal diseases within Britain and the British Empire, the
Victorian barmaid and sexualized working class popular culture, the
Jack the Ripper slayings (1888-89)and sequel sex crimes, the
conviction of Oscar Wilde (1895) and urban homosexual subcultures,
heterosexualities and Marie Stopes’s bestselling sex advice manual,
Married Love (1918) and interwar counterparts, the murder trials and
executions of Edith Thompson (1923-1925) and Ruth Ellis (1955), the
abortion prosecution of distinguished surgeon, Dr. Alec Bourne
(1938) and its consequences, the 1930s-1950s "Mass Observation" of
working class sexual behavior and the declining national birthrate,
Lord Wolfenden’s enquiry into homosexual offenses and prostitution
in London (1954-1957), the Profumo Affair (1963-64), "Beatlemania,"
and the late 1960s "Sexual Revolution."
The selection of historical instances examined permit class members
to re-evaluate a number of key characterizations of British culture,
sexuality, and society in the period since the 1860s, especially in
the light of their own original research projects and findings.
The course makes extensive use of primary sources, secondary source
readings, and other available materials, which will be placed on E-
Reserves. Some readings collections may be ordered for purchase.
Depending on research projects chosen, students may wish to purchase
some primary sources where and if available - to be determined once
the course is in progress.
Weekly attendance, preparation, and seminar participation 20%
Review Essay 20%
Annotated Bibliography 20%
Research Essay 40%