ENGL 343 B1: Topics in Eighteenth Century Literature

K. Binhammer

Gender and Sexuality in 18th-C British Lit
This course explores the historical representation of gender and sexuality in Britain through a range of
literary genres from Restoration drama to domestic fiction. We will pay particular attention to the
intersection between the emerging essentialist definitions of bourgeois white femininity and the rise of
heteronormativity. The course will ask questions such as: How do literary texts re-imagine the
difference between male and female in the period? How does the representation of sexuality shift from
libertine poetry to the gothic novel? In what ways does the rise of capitalism and imperialism shape
representations of gender and sexuality? Does the rise of the professional woman writer change the
discourse of gender? We will be interested in de-naturalizing our contemporary assumptions about
femininity and masculinity, and hetero- and homo-sexuality, by confronting the historical otherness of
early LGBTQ2+ and feminist writers. Writers to be studied include Aphra Behn, Lord Rochester, Eliza
Haywood, Horace Walpole, and Mary Wollstonecraft. Topics include pornography, cross-dressing,
effeminancy, social class, domesticity, marriage, same-sex desire, and sentimentalism.

Please note: course readings will include explicit depictions of sex and scenes of sexual violence that
some students may find offensive and/or traumatizing. The class aims to provide an open space for the
critical exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of mutual respect and sensitivity.