ENGLISH 407 - Topics in English Language and Literature
Fall 2022, Section 003 - Renaissance Sex
Instruction Mode: Section 003 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May be elected twice for credit. May be elected more than once in the same term.
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Poems in praise of women’s nipples, satires about London whorehouses, pornography featuring lesbian sex and dildos:  forget what you thought you knew, this is how English Renaissance writers wrote about sex! Their attitudes toward sex were complex; their use of genre and literary form to express these attitudes were innovative and often brilliant. Many things that 21st century readers take for granted—that people tend to be straight or gay and that romance makes sex most fulfilling—did not concern them. Many of the things that might trouble us about their sexual relations—such as the subordination of women’s desire to that of men and the prerogative of male sexual violence—they took for granted. 

This course aims to give students a sense of the range of writing about sex in English poetry, drama, and prose from 1580 to 1680. Placing these texts within the context of sixteenth and seventeenth-century understandings of erotic love, marriage, sodomy, tribadism, illicit sex, sex work, and libertinage, we will ask:  How did men tend to write about women? How did women tend to write about men?  How did both groups erotically address members of their own sex? What did love have to do with it? How did writers intervene in prior literary conventions and classical plots? How was racial difference implicated in their writings? How did they approach “obscenity” and what was their investment in erotic pedagogy? How did the literature of sex change over the course of a century? In short, how and in what ways was the English Renaissance sexy?

Major Requirement: Pre-1642 & Identity/Difference


ENGLISH 407 - Topics in English Language and Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
002 (SEM)
 In Person
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
003 (SEM)
 In Person
W 1:00PM - 4:00PM
004 (SEM)
 In Person
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM

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