ENG 430/545: Victorian Sexuality


Instructor: D. Bivona

Th 6:05-8:55PM

Spring 2001

Course Syllabus


Although the twentieth century has smugly labeled the Victorian age the age of repression, the Victorians had, if anything, a culture-wide obsession with sex. The marital theme in Victorian fiction, the sensuality of Aestheticist poetry, the invention of the new field of "sexology," debates about gender roles and their relationship to biological "instincts," speculations about sex in the afterlife or whether masturbation caused blindness or insanity, or the preoccupation with the nocturnal adventures of vampires and other unwholesome creatures: all these things indirectly testify to the fact that Victorian Britons found sex to be an endlessly fascinating -- if ofttimes indelicate -- topic. In this course, we will cover this topic as broadly as possible within the constraints of a one-semester course. Our approach will be interdisciplinary. Readings will include brief passages from Freud and other Victorian sexologists as well as novels and poetry of the period. We will be reading novels by Dickens, Bronte, Hardy, Wilde, and Sacher-Masoch (Venus in Furs) as well as poetry by the Aesthetes, Christina Rossetti, and Swinburne. Requirements include 2 critical papers and 1 longer critical research paper. Prerequisite: ENG 222 or instructor approval. General Studies: L2/HU.