Welcome to the course website for GNSE 22704 / HIST 27205 (Fall 2013), Sex and Sexualities in Modern U.S. History.

Over ten weeks, we will explore the complex (and often hidden) history of American sexualities, from the late nineteenth-century to the present day. We will look at a wide range of primary sources—including published and unpublished documents, photographs, films, oral histories, and the University’s own archives at Special Collections Research Center—and become familiar with the scholarship on sex and sexual subcultures in 20th-century America. In doing so, we’ll consider the following questions:

  • What were some of the official or governing discourses of sexuality—in the law, government, religion, and medicine?
  • What were popular beliefs and cultural practices toward sexuality? How did they change over time? How can historians understand the response of ‘ordinary’ people to discourses around sexuality?
  • What causes dramatic transformations in sexual attitudes and behavior? What are the causes and consequences of sexual “revolutions” and political action?
  • What are the relationships between sexuality and other forms of social difference?

Topics to be examined include: the relatively recent emergence of hetero- and homosexuality as predominant categories of sexual experience and identity; the contested boundaries drawn between same-sex sociability, friendship, and eroticism; dating and courtship; the politics of marriage; representations of sex and sexualities in popular culture; the development of women’s liberation and lesbian, gay, queer and transgender politics; and the significance of gender, class, racial/ethnic, and generational differences. Students will complete a number of writing assignments leading up to a final research paper, analyzing a significant primary source of their choosing.

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