Sexual Discoveries: Reception of 'Erotica' From 'other' Cultures in 19th and 20th Centuries (HISM477)

30 credits

This module will investigate how interpretations of the sexual practices of other societies have informed various constructed versions of the 'truths' of human sexuality. Beliefs about sexuality in western culture since the mid-eighteenth century have been shaped by 'erotic' material, both visual and textual, from a variety of past or 'non-Western' societies. The simplistic commonplace that the Victorians concealed and repressed evidence of the erotic in other cultures, whereas modern 'liberated' society can and does confront, understand and display it will be challenged. Instead we will focus on the complex ways in which such representations of sexual practices in 'other' contexts have been invoked in debates about the nature of sexuality, religion, civilization or nature and also, in turn, how modern and western beliefs, prejudices, anxieties and fantasies frame the analysis of past/other sexual cultures and societies.