Before Homosexuality: Same-Sex Desire from Smollett to Dickens

Module code: EN3140

Module coordinator: TBC

In this module you will examine the many ways in which the love that famously 'dare not speak its name' does receive articulation in a wide range of texts produced in the 18th and 19th centuries. Together we will explore and complicate Foucault's momentous statement that homosexuality, as an identity, came into being in the late 19th century with the sexological coinage of the term. 

Sensitive to competing histories of sexuality and to modern queer and gender theories, we will explore the representation of both male and female same-sex desire in the period 1750-1850. While discussing sexuality in a historical context, we will also address issues that continue to be of urgent importance today: homophobia, bodily practice, the possibility of the queer family, and the significance of class, race and nationality in the experience and representation of sexuality.

In demonstrating the diversity of treatments of same-sex desire in this period, we will discuss material from the canonical to the obscene. You will read novels from such 'respectable' authors as Tobias Smollett (The Adventures of Roderick Random and extracts from The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle) and Charles Dickens (David Copperfield and Little Dorrit) alongside pornographic writing, including John Cleland's erotic classic Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, or Fanny Hill.

We will explore the idea of 'canonicity' and how generic distinctions are drawn and policed. As well as novels such as Maria Edgeworth's Belinda, we will consider novelas and poetry (for example, short works by Daniel Defoe and extracts from Alfred Tennyson's In Memoriam), anonymous tracts, diaries (such as the one kept by Anne Lister), autobiography and recent critical writing.




Essay, 5,000 words (100%)