Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Theories of Sexuality

ENGL 260.301
MW 3-4:30

What is sexuality? Does it exist in the body or the mind? Is it a collection of actions, desires, and fantasies, or is it rather a disposition, a way of seeing oneself, an identity? Does what we want depend on who we are? Does what we do define who we are? This course will attempt to address such questions by introducing students to several of the classic texts in the history and theory of sexuality. We will consider the politics and meaning of non-normative sexualities across time and in different cultural locations. After working through several key texts in the field, we will turn to contemporary debates about the limits of transgender identity, gay pride and gay shame, the meaning of 'queer,' and responses to HIV/AIDS. Readings by Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Judith Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Gayle Rubin, D. A. Miller, and others. We will also look at a few films and at some examples of queer popular culture. Requirements for the course include two short papers, one long final paper, a class presentation, and a "definition" of a theoretical term for a class dictionary. (No final exam.)