This course provides an overview of authorized and “alternative” sexuality in Europe (especially Italy, France and England) between the 15th and the 18th centuries in order to better understand the roots of normative attitudes and alternative lifestyles today. The main topics to be covered are “licit love” (courtship, marriage and conjugal relations) as opposed to “illicit unions” (adultery, rape, bestiality, homosexuality and lesbianism). Prostitution belongs to a category of its own, as it was alternately promoted as a kind of public health service and condemned as a source of moral and physical contagion. The chronological framework will encompass what some historians have described as a cyclical pattern in sexual practices typical of the Western World. From the end of the (relative) sexual tolerance of the Middle Ages, it moves on to the religious and social repression of the 16th and 17th centuries, culminating with the more liberal (often libertine) mores of the 18th century. Over and above documenting changes in sexual practices in this period, this course examines the social and economic conditions which determined variations in attitudes towards “legitimate” or “illegitimate” behavior. Classes include films, site visits, and slide lectures. Also registered as ANT/HST 408.
Semesters: Fall, Spring