Course Name: WGS408 Practice of Eros: A History of Sexuality in Europe
Description: This course provides an overview of both authorized and “alternative” sexuality in Europe (especially Italy, France and England) between the 15th and the 18th centuries. As such, it touches upon many issues that continue to be relevant. 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 authorized and “deviant” sexual practices in this period, this course examines the social and economic conditions which determined variations in attitudes towards legitimate or illegitimate behaviour. Classes include films, site visits, slide lectures and readings in erotic literary classics. Cross-listed with ANT 408 and HST 408.
Department: Women's & Gender Studies