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Sex and Text

  • Module code: EL7013
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: 7
  • Credits: 30
  • Pre-requisites: None
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

Literature has a long history of representing the erotic, and of exploring, affirming and contesting ideas about the body. This optional module explores how modern writers have, from the late-nineteenth century to the present, engaged with moral, legal and scientific understandings of sexuality, and considers the impact of feminist criticism, queer theory and pornography studies upon how we think about the complex and often difficult relationship between sex and writing. You will critically examine provocative and formally challenging textual material in order to debate a range of contentious issues and themes, such as sexual morality and censorship, literary and journalist accounts of prostitution, the supposed distinctions between literature, erotica and pornography, the effects of new technologies on the representation of sexual desire, and utopian and radical visions of sex and society.

Aims

  • To develop a critical understanding of the diverse ways that literary and cultural material represents embodiment, sex and desire
  • To investigate how writers have engaged with and have challenged prevailing and emergent ideas about sex and sexuality
  • To debate the impact of feminist criticism, queer theory and pornography studies upon the ways in which we think about the relationship between sex, sexuality and writing

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the cultural forces that have contributed to understandings of sex and sexual identity at particular historical moments
  • Offer sophisticated analyses of literary texts within the context of theoretical debates surrounding sex and sexuality.
  • Present their academic work in progress clearly and effectively to both peers and tutors

Curriculum content

  • sexual morality, literariness and censorship
  • literary and journalist accounts of prostitution
  • the poetics and ethics of pornography
  • ‘writing close to the body': sex and the limits of language
  • the influence of telecommunication and other technologies on the representation of sexual desire
  • the politics of sexual fantasy
  • utopian and ‘anti-relational' visions of sex and society.

Teaching and learning strategy

The module will be taught in a series of two-hour seminars. These fortnightly sessions are flexible so as to allow detailed exploration of both literary texts and critical and theoretical material which engages with questions of sex, desire and their representation, and may include presentations by the module leader, short student presentations and peer-led discussions.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive UNISTATS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Seminars 22
Guided independent study 278
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

Assessment for this module comprises two elements.

The first (30%) is a 2,000-word ‘conference paper' which will be delivered in seminar and submitted for assessment. Topics, to be chosen in conjunction with the module leader, allow students to explore the literary representations of and/or theoretical approaches to sex and sexuality. The second (70%) is a 4,000-word critical essay which will focus on one or more key concerns of the module and will allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the diverse, challenging ways writers have represented sex and sexuality, and how theoretical material complicates the ways we think about of the relationship between embodiment, desire and writing. In addition to weekly seminar discussion and formal presentations, drafting and preparation of the critical essay will provide explicit opportunities for formative feedback.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Demonstrate a critical understanding of the cultural forces that have contributed to understandings of sex and sexual identity at particular historical moments Assessed formatively by class discussion and in-class presentation of conference paper. Assessed summatively by a critical essay and shorter conference paper.
Offer sophisticated analyses of literary texts within the context of theoretical debates surrounding sex and sexuality. Assessed formatively by class discussion and in-class presentation of conference paper. Assessed summatively by a critical essay and shorter conference paper.
Present their academic work in progress clearly and effectively to both peers and tutors Assessed formatively by class discussion and in-class presentation of conference paper. Assessed summatively by a critical essay and shorter conference paper.

Elements of Assessment

Description of Assessment Definitive UNISTATS Categories Percentage
Coursework 2000 word conference paper 30
Coursework 4000 word essay 70
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module.

Bibliography core texts

  • Nicholson Baker, Vox (1992)
  • Djuna Barnes, Nightwood (1936)
  • Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse: Fragments (1977)
  • James Baldwin, Another Country (1962)
  • Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman (1978)
  • Dennis Cooper, The Sluts (2005)
  • D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover (privately printed, 1928)
  • Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)
  • Anais Nin, Delta of Venus (1977)

Bibliography recommended reading

Bersani, Leo, Homos (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005)

Boone, J. A., Libidinal Currents: Sexuality and the Shaping of Modernism (Chicago: Chicago University Press)

Bravmann, Scott, Queer Fictions of the Past: History, Culture and Difference (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (London:Routledge, 1999)

Cornier Michael, Magali, Feminism and the Postmodern Impulse: Post-World War II Fiction (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996)

Edelman, Lee, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004)

Foucault, Michel, The History of Sexuality: Vol I An Introduction (London: Allen Lane, 1979)

Hall, Lesley A., The Facts of Life: The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain, 1650-1950 (Oxford: Basil Blackwood, 1991)

Mason, Michael, The Making of Victorian Sexual Attitudes (Oxford: OUP, 1994)

Maes, Hans, Pornographic Art and the Aesthetics of Pornography (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013)

Miller, Andrew H., & James Eli Adams, eds., Sexualities in Victorian Britain (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996)

Munoz, Jose Esteban, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: NYU Press, 2009)

Moreland, Iain and Annabelle Wilcox, eds, Queer Theory (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2005)

Prosser, Jay, Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998)

Saxey, Esther, Homplot: The Coming-Out Story and Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Identity (New York: Peter Lang, 2008)

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985)

--- Epistemology of the Closet (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994)

Showalter, Elaine, The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980 (London: Virago, 1987)

Sinfield, Alan, Cultural Politics – Queer Reading (London: Routledge, 1994)

--- Gay and After (London: Serpent's Tail, 1997)

--- On Sexuality and Power (London: Columbia, 2005)

Seelow, David, Radical Modernism (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2005)

Sigal, Lisa Z. Governing Pleasures: Pornography and Social Change in England, 1815-1914 (Camden, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002)

Stryker, Susan and Stephen Whittle (eds), The Transgender Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 2006)

Weeks, Jeffrey, Coming Out: Homosexual Politics in Britain, from the Nineteenth Century to the Present (London: Quartet Books, 1977)

--- Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality since 1800 (London: Longman, 1981)

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