ENGL 597-01: Victorian Sexualities

Section Description:

Recent criticism of the literature and culture of the middle and late nineteenth century has pointed out that the famous Victorian prudery meant not so much that people stopped talking and writing about sex and sexuality but that people talked and wrote about it more—if only to describe precisely what it was that people weren’t supposed to be thinking about. In this course, we will examine the different ways that Victorian fiction and non-fiction prose addressed the many questions of normative and transgressive sexualities that arose in the period, including divorce, adultery, bigamy, homosexuality, and prostitution. It will focus on the Victorian novel, exploring how central sexual and erotic cross-currents are to the development of the canonical novel itself, but alongside the novels we will also be reading from a wide selection of other prose genres, from the short story to the newspaper exposé to the diary to the case study. Throughout the entire course, we will devote particular attention to the ways that the prose of the period relates sexuality to such other questions as gender roles, national identity, the class structure, religion, and literary history. Authors may include Anne Lister, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Oscar Wilde, Walter Pater, Algernon Swinburne, Henry James, Michael Field, Sarah Grand, Havelock Ellis, and Edward Carpenter.