History | American Sexual Histories
A393 | 28584 | Allen
Above class open to undergraduates only
Above class meets with GNDR-G302
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, Pocahontas stories, the
Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings debates; 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, the 1924 Leopold and Loeb [“thrill kill”] murder case;
1930s conflicts over rape, lynching, and miscegenation, the 1948
&1953 Kinsey Reports, Christine Jorgenson and transsexualism, the
1960s “Sexual Revolution, the Pill, and censorship challenges; the
rise of Gay Liberation, the 1973 Roe versus Wade abortion decision,
and the introduction of Viagra in 1999.
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 writing, speaking, debating, and evaluating conflicting
All primary and secondary sources used in the course, as well as
film clips and other materials will be on Oncourse for downloading.
No textbook purchases are necessary.
Weekly attendance, preparation, and notes (20%); class paper (20%);
office hour consultation with essay plan and bibliography (10%);
research essay (30%); & take-home examination (20%).