Reading Sex in Premodern England


One of the most famous personifications of desire is Cupid, a figure who is immortalized on Valentine's Day cards even today. Simultaneously a sweet cherubin baby in a diaper and a creature with wings who shoots arrows at people, Cupid was in the early modern period considered a monster. This course will explore how desire and sexuality was linked with monstrosity in the early modern imagination. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, we will read prose fiction, drama, and poetry alongside contemporaneous medical treatises, philosophical discourses, religious texts, educational works, and news pamphlets in order to see the link between early modern ideas of desire and monstrosity. Focusing on love's capacity to both create and destroy, we will examine all forms of desire from the platonic to the pornographic and consider depictions of both heterosexual and same-sex attractions. We will also look at a range of sexual experiences including courtship, marriage, and even virginity and pay special attention to how desire shaped the development of sexual difference and gender identity. We will probe how monstrous desire functioned as a means of imagining the positive potential that came with new conceptualizations of relationships and gender identity. Finally, we will read contemporary theoretical discourses in order to determine how despite its different vocabulary, the early modern period shaped our own present day attitudes toward love, desire, and sexuality. Fulfills the Early Modern historical requirement.
Course Attributes: EN H; BU Hum; AS HUM; AS SD I; EL EM

Section 01

Reading Sex in Premodern England
View Course Listing - FL2022