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The Sexual Drives of Colonialism and Fascism

ENGL 200.307
instructor(s):
MW 2-3:30
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

This course will explore the place of sexuality in the intertwined histories of colonialism and fascism. Moving from the late nineteenth century to the present, we will juxtapose the often analytically separated domains of European colonialism and fascism in order to foreground the surprising (or unsurprising) features that link them. We will ask what drove colonial administrators, fascist social theorists, psychoanalysts, anthropologists, and writers of fiction to represent political domination and insurrection in sexual terms. Which kinds of sexual and familial relations in Europe and abroad were understood as necessary to empire-building or authoritarian state-building, and which kinds "deviant" and "subversive"? How did soldiers, explorers, and voyagers between imperial metropoles and colonial hinterlands manage such threats, while being lured by fantasies of “ethno-pornography” abroad? Where do idealized representations of colonial military brotherhood shade off into fascist fantasies of torture, sexualized violence, and terror? Reading critical thinkers who interrogated the relationship between power and sexuality, we will ask how the study of intimacies between colonizers and the colonized, contributes to our understanding of race, community, and nationhood. Thereby, we will pose the question that many radical anti-colonial thinkers asked: did fascism represent Europe’s colonial chickens coming home to roost in the form of genocidal World Wars?

We will cover an array of postcolonial and gender/sexuality theory, while paying close attention to the modern literary forms through which colonial and fascist racial and sexual fantasies were represented. Readings may include Freud’s Totem and Taboo, Richard Burton’s translation of the Kamasutra, E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, Wilhelm Reich’s The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories, and Jean Genet’s The Funeral Rites. We may also watch films like Salo or 120 Days of Sodom, Lawrence of Arabia, The Battle for Algiers, Chocolat, and Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. As this course is a Junior Research Seminar, students will learn literary and cultural studies research methods, complete creative/critical writing assignments based on archival investigation, and undertake a 10-15 page final research project.