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

StaffProfessor Kate Fisher - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

  • Explore the range of Western interpretations of the sexual practices of other societies to make sense of experiences, to justify ideologies, to develop personal identities, to demonstrate civility, to challenge contemporary assumptions or to bolster calls for social, political or economic reform.
  • Explore the political purposes behind the representations of the history of sex or the different customs of foreign lands.
  • Reveal the politics at stake in writings about sex, sex customs, sexuality and sex reform, in popular culture as well as scholarly writing.
  • Use various writings about sex in histoirical or foreign context to shed new light on our understanding of Western approaches to sex, gender, morality, and identity.
  • Explore emerging methodological and theoretical debates in the fields associated with uses of the past and the purpose of history.
  • Look closely at the approaches and methodologies of Reception Studies the uses of the past memory studies, orientalism and the politics of history writing.
  • Employ these methodologies and theoretical insights in the analysis of a very broad range of types of source material.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Students should come to understand the connection between the interpretation of the past and the political and social environment in which it is produced, and appreciate how various commentators analysis of past/other cultures reveal the mentality and concerns of their present
  • 2. Students will be required to do considerable amounts of independent research on a new and emerging area of history about which little has so far been written.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Students should demonstrate the ability to analyse and synthesise widely different types of historical material and evidence
  • 4. They should be able to identify and understand the nature of original sources
  • 5. They should have a critical understanding of key historical concepts and debates
  • 6. Students should be able to research for themselves and present independent accounts and interpretations of different historical issues

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Capacity for independent critical study and thought
  • 8. The ability to apply key bibliographical skills (including the use of on-line finding aids).
  • 9. The ability to construct and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally, using primary and secondary materials. Students should have the capacity to work as an individual and to work with a tutor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive way (e.g. lead a group discussion or task).

Syllabus plan

The module will be taught through a weekly focus on specific case studies. Students, in consultation with the tutor, will pick suitable case studies at the beginning of the module. Possible topics are included in the suggested timetable below. It is hoped that case studies can be found which are pertinent to the particular research interests of those taking the module.

  1. Introduction: Sexual Discoveries and the Invention of Pornography
  2. Collecting and exhibiting past cultures: Pompeii and the secret museum.
  3. Collecting and exhibiting past cultures: individual Student research
  4. Historiographical and Theorectical background: The History of Sexuality
  5. Historiographical and Theorectical background: Reception Studies
  6. JA Symonds, ancient Greece and late nineteenth century discourses around ‘homosexuality’.   
  7. Homosexuality and Hellenism: individual student research
  8. Malinoswki, sexology and the primitive
  9. Primitive Sexuality and Anthropology: individual student research
  10. Richard Burton and Oriental Sexuality
  11. Oriental visions, race and sexuality: individual student research

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22seminars
Guided independent study278independent study

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay625000 words 1-9written and oral
Essay 383000 words 1-9written and oral

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Andrew P. Lyons and Harriet D. Lyons, Irregular Connections: A History of Anthropology and Sexuality (U of Nebraska Press, 2004).

Yopie Prins, Victorian Sappho (Princeton UP, 1999). Walter Kendrick The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture, (U of California Press, 1987).

Robert Aldrich, The Seduction of the Mediterranean: Writing, art, and homosexual fantasy, (Routledge, 1993).

Linda Dowling, Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford, (Cornell UP, 1994).

Robert Aldrich, Homosexuality and Colonialism (Routledge, 2003).

Jyoti Puri, Concerning Kama Sutras: Challenging Narratives of History and Sexuality, Signs, 27 (2002), 60-639.

Leslie Grinsell, The Cerne Abbas Giant 1764-1980 Antiquity, 54 (1980), 29-33.

Bill Stanford Pinchen, An Ethnography of Silences: Race, (Homo)Sexualities and a Discourse of Africa, African Studies, 43 (2000), 39-58.

David Gaimster, Sex and sexuality at the British Museum, History Today, vol. 50, September 2000, p 10-15.

Collette Colligan, A Race of Born Pederasts: Sir Richard Burton, Homosexuality, and the Arabs, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, 2003 Vol. 25 (1), pp. 120.

Malek Alloula: The Colonial Harem: Images of a Suberoticism in Drucilla Cornell, ed, Feminism and Pornography (Oxford UP, 2000).

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Available as distance learning?