- Students are introduced to central themes in the modern European history of sexuality
- Students learn to think about contemporary ambivalences around sexuality from a historical perspective
- Students are introduced to the use of primary sources in the historical study of sexuality
At the start of the 21st century sex seems to be everywhere. This omnipresence of sexuality in our lives and societies is often seen as a sign of the liberation of sexuality from all forms of repression to which it was subjected in the past. However, it also produces anxieties, for instance about the commercialization of sex, about where to draw the limits to sexual liberty, and about the dark sides of sexuality such as violence and disease. In this course we try to explain how we ended up in this contradictory situation. We study, first, why sexuality became such a central issue in European societies in the course of the 19th century. We then concentrate on several aspects of the modern history of sexuality (such as birth control, prostitution, homosexuality, sexual revolution) and link these to general themes in European history (the making of modern science, industrialization, nationalism, colonialism and empire, total war, youth culture). Throughout the course we will use historical primary sources (pamphlets, novels, diaries, pictures, movies, scientific studies, archival material) to guide us through the paradoxical modern history of sexuality.
At least a full year of prior study in the social sciences or humanities is recommended.