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How have sexual practices and identities evolved, been represented and expressed from prehistory to the present? Where do our modern ideas about sexual orientation, gender and morality come from? In this subject we look at beliefs and practices around sexuality from prehistoric and ancient Greece, through the middle ages and early modern period, right up to the end of the twentieth century. We study the origins of the three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, to work out why their sacred texts present sex and gender in the way they do. We look at the intersection of race and sexuality in the colonial and postcolonial world, and study the influence of Freud and psychoanalysis on ideas of sexuality. Key moments like the sexual revolution and the AIDS crisis allow us to examine the history of political activism around sexuality. We take categories of classification and identity including transgender, cisgender, heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality, and apply them to historical case studies. By charting a historical genealogy of sexual practices and ideas about sexual practices, the subject will show how the gendered body and sex have been simultaneously linked to social liberation and control. On completion of this subject, you should understand the ways in which sexualities have multiple histories and how they remain highly contested in the majority of cultures. The final assessment allows you to choose your own research question (with help from your teacher) on any topic that you’ve found intriguing on the subject.
Intended learning outcomes
Students who have completed this subject should be able to:
- demonstrate a critical understanding of the ways in which sexual practices and sexual identities are historically constructed;
- demonstrate a critical understanding of how scholars have theorised sexuality, in particular the intersections between sexuality, race, class and gender;
- use bibliographical and research skills to locate and gather primary and secondary sources; and
- reflect critically on the ways in which meanings of sexualities are historically constructed.
Last updated: 17 February 2020