30.348 Joy of Text
This course explores the role of sexuality in literature. The course begins with the scientific study of sexuality, or sexology, that appears at the close of the nineteenth century, and then the rise of psychoanalysis in the twentieth century. Authors to be studied will likely include: Havelock Ellis, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Kinsey, Masters and Johnson, Henry James, D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Vladimir Nabokov, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Charles Webb, and Gore Vidal, to name but a few.
This course will attend to the anxieties of the age, especially with the rise of sexology, the classification of sexualities (i.e. the “invention” of heterosexuality). Each of the texts that we read in this course speaks to various anxieties, trepidations, fears, or timidities around sexuality. Perhaps nowhere are these fears more clearly defined than the Obscenity Trials that banned various books for being too salacious, too immoral.
The first third of this course will focus on theories of sexuality, notably the work of Havelock Ellis, Sigmund Freud, and Alfred Kinsey. From this vantage, we will turn to literary texts which explore aspects of human sexuality, or which challenge us to think about human sexuality. Instead of turning to recent work in feminist or queer theory, we return to psychoanalysis and sexology, which, in many ways, are the voices to which feminist and queer theories respond.