Last semester was my first in my Ph.D. in English program. I was very excited about the reading list – and I wasn’t disappointed (just overwhelmed!). For my two classes last Fall, I had to read a total of 24 required texts (and dozens of supplementary essays, texts, etc.)
This semester holds a much more manageable (I hope) 11 texts. I’m stoked about the two classes I’m signed-up for in Spring – they’re both relevant to my degree but also to my pursuit of a graduate certificate in LGBT Studies.
The first class is History of Gender & Sexuality. The second is Gender & Sexuality in Film and Literature. Here’s what’s on the docket for both:
History of Gender & Sexuality
1. Colonialism and Homosexuality by Robert Aldrich
“Colonialism and Homosexuality is a thorough investigation of the connections of homosexuality and imperialism from the late 1800s – the era of ‘new imperialism’ – until the era of decolonization. Robert Aldrich reconstructs the context of a number of liaisons, including those of famous men such as Cecil Rhodes, E.M. Forster or André Gide, and the historical situations which produced both the Europeans and their non-Western lovers.
Colonial lands, which in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century included most of Africa, South and Southeast Asia and the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Caribbean, provided a haven for many Europeans whose sexual inclinations did not fit neatly into the constraints of European society.
Each of the case-studies is a micro-history of a particular colonial situation, a sexual encounter, and its wider implications for cultural and political life. Students both of colonial history, and of gender and queer studies, will find this an informative read.”
2. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States by Joanne Meyerowitz
“How Sex Changed is a fascinating social, cultural, and medical history of transsexuality in the United States. Joanne Meyerowitz tells a powerful human story about people who had a deep and unshakable desire to transform their bodily sex. In the last century when many challenged the social categories and hierarchies of race, class, and gender, transsexuals questioned biological sex itself, the category that seemed most fundamental and fixed of all.
From early twentieth-century sex experiments in Europe, to the saga of Christine Jorgensen, whose sex-change surgery made headlines in 1952, to today’s growing transgender movement, Meyerowitz gives us the first serious history of transsexuality. She focuses on the stories of transsexual men and women themselves, as well as a large supporting cast of doctors, scientists, journalists, lawyers, judges, feminists, and gay liberationists, as they debated the big questions of medical ethics, nature versus nurture, self and society, and the scope of human rights.
In this story of transsexuality, Meyerowitz shows how new definitions of sex circulated in popular culture, science, medicine, and the law, and she elucidates the tidal shifts in our social, moral, and medical beliefs over the twentieth century, away from sex as an evident biological certainty and toward an understanding of sex as something malleable and complex. How Sex Changed is an intimate history that illuminates the very changes that shape our understanding of sex, gender, and sexuality today.”
3. Sex for Sale: Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry by Ronald Weitzer
“This groundbreaking collection of essays on the sex industry contains original studies on sex work, its risks and benefits, and its political implications. Sex for Sale covers areas not commonly researched, including gay and lesbian pornography, telephone sex workers, customers of prostitutes, male and female escorts who work independently, street prostitution, sex tourism, legal prostitution, and strip clubs that cater to women.
Sex for Sale also tracks various trends during the past decade, including the mainstreaming and growing acceptance of some types of sexual commerce and the growing criminalization of other types, such as sex trafficking. Sex for Sale offers a window into the lived experiences of sex workers as well as an analysis of the larger gender arrangements and political structures that shape the experiences of workers and their clients.
This book contributes greatly to a growing research literature that documents the rich variation, nuances, and complexities in the exchange of sexual services, performances, and products. This book will change the way we understand sex work.”
4. Sexuality in Europe: A 20th Century History by Dagmar Herzog
“This original book brings a fascinating and accessible new account of the tumultuous history of sexuality in Europe from the waning of Victorianism to the collapse of Communism and the rise of European Islam. Although the twentieth century is often called “the century of sex” and seen as an era of increasing liberalization, Dagmar Herzog instead emphasizes the complexities and contradictions in sexual desires and behaviours, the ambivalences surrounding sexual freedom, and the difficulties encountered in securing sexual rights. Incorporating the most recent scholarship on a broad range of conceptual problems and national contexts, the book investigates the shifting fortunes of marriage and prostitution, contraception and abortion, queer and straight existence. It analyzes sexual violence in war and peace, the promotion of sexual satisfaction in fascist and democratic societies, the role of eugenics and disability, the politicization and commercialization of sex, and processes of secularization and religious renewal.”
5. Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, and Scandal in Wilde Times by Morris B. Kaplan
“Sodom on the Thames looks closely at three episodes involving sex between men in late-nineteenth-century England. Morris Kaplan draws on extensive research into court records, contemporary newspaper accounts, personal correspondence and diaries, even a pornographic novel. He focuses on two notorious scandals and one quieter incident.
In 1871, transvestites “Stella” (Ernest Boulton) and “Fanny” (Frederick Park), who had paraded around London’s West End followed by enthusiastic admirers, were tried for conspiracy to commit sodomy. In 1889-1890, the “Cleveland Street affair” revealed that telegraph delivery boys had been moonlighting as prostitutes for prominent gentlemen, one of whom fled abroad. In 1871, Eton schoolmaster William Johnson resigned in disgrace, generating shockwaves among the young men in his circle whose romantic attachments lasted throughout their lives. Kaplan shows how profoundly these scandals influenced the trials of Oscar Wilde in 1895 and contributed to growing anxiety about male friendships.
Sodom on the Thames reconstructs these incidents in rich detail and gives a voice to the diverse people involved. It deepens our understanding of late Victorian attitudes toward urban culture, masculinity, and male homoeroticism. Kaplan also explores the implications of such historical narratives for the contemporary politics of sexuality.”
Gender and Sexuality in Film & Literature
1. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
“This is a record of hate far more than of love,” writes Maurice Bendrix in the opening passages of The End of the Affair, and it is a strange hate indeed that compels him to set down the retrospective account of his adulterous affair with Sarah Miles—a hate bred of a passion that ultimately lost out to God.
Now, a year after Sarah’s death, Bendrix seeks to exorcise the persistence of passion by retracing its course from obsessive love to love-hate. At the start he believes he hates Sarah and her husband, Henry. By the end of the book, Bendrix’s hatred has shifted to the God he feels has broken his life but whose existence he has at last come to recognize.
Originally published in 1951, The End of the Affair was acclaimed by William Faulkner as “for me one of the best, most true and moving novels of my time, in anybody’s language.”
2. Feminist Film Studies: Writing the Woman into Cinema by Janet McCabe
“An introduction to feminist film theory as a discourse from the early seventies to the present. McCabe traces the broad ranging theories produced by feminist film scholarship, from formalist readings and psychoanalytical approaches to debates initiated by cultural studies, race and queer theory.”
3. Frankenstein, Original 1818 Text by Mary Shelley
“Mary Shelley’s deceptively simple story of Victor Frankenstein and the creature he brings to life, first published in 1818, is now more widely read and more widely discussed by scholars than any other work of the Romantic period. From the creature’s creation to his wild lament over the dead body of his creator in the Arctic wastes, the story retains its narrative hold on the reader even as it spins off ideas in rich profusion. Macdonald and Scherf’s edition of Frankenstein has been widely acclaimed as an outstanding edition of the novel for the general reader and the student as much as for the scholar. The editors use as their copy-text the original 1818 version, and detail in an appendix all of Shelley’s later revisions. They also include a range of contemporary documents that shed light on the historical context from which this unique masterpiece emerged. Macdonald and Scherf have now revised and updated their introduction, notes and bibliography, and have added new documents (including a review of Frankenstein by Percy Shelley).”
4. Gods and Monsters (Father of Frankenstein) by Christopher Bram
“Previously titled Father of Frankenstein, this acclaimed novel was the basis for the 1998 film starring Sir Ian McKellen, Lynn Redgrave, and Brendan Fraser. It journeys back to 1957 Los Angeles, where James Whale, the once-famous director of such classics as Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, is living in retirement, haunted by his past. Rescuing him from his too-vivid imagination is his gardener, a handsome ex-marine. The friendship between these two very different men is sometimes tentative, sometimes touching, often dangerous—and always captivating.”
5. Issues in Feminist Film Criticism by Patricia Erens
“”This anthology makes it abundantly clear that feminist film criticism is flourishing and has developed dramatically since its inception in the early 1970s.” —Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism
Erens brings together a wide variety of writings and methodologies by U.S. and British feminist film scholars. The twenty-seven essays represent some of the most influential work on Hollywood film, women’s cinema, and documentary filmmaking to appear during the past decade and beyond.
Contributors include Lucie Arbuthnot, Linda Artel, Pam Cook, Teresa de Lauretis, Mary Ann Doane, Elizabeth Ellsworth, Lucy Fischer, Jane Gaines, Mary C. Gentile, Bette Gordon, Florence Jacobowitz, Claire Johnston, E. Ann Kaplan, Annette Kuhn, Julia Lesage, Judith Mayne, Sonya Michel, Tania Modleski, Laura Mulvey, B. Ruby Rich, Gail Seneca, Kaja Silverman, Lori Spring, Jackie Stacey, Maureen Turim, Diane Waldman, Susan Wengraf, Linda Williams, and Robin Wood.”
6. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
“It is a very short list of 20th-century American plays that continue to have the same power and impact as when they first appeared—57 years after its Broadway premiere, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire is one of those plays. The story famously recounts how the faded and promiscuous Blanche DuBois is pushed over the edge by her sexy and brutal brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. Streetcar launched the careers of Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden, and solidified the position of Tennessee Williams as one of the most important young playwrights of his generation, as well as that of Elia Kazan as the greatest American stage director of the ’40s and ’50s.
Who better than America’s elder statesman of the theater, Williams’ contemporary Arthur Miller, to write as a witness to the lightning that struck American culture in the form of A Streetcar Named Desire? Miller’s rich perspective on Williams’ singular style of poetic dialogue, sensitive characters, and dramatic violence makes this a unique and valuable new edition of A Streetcar Named Desire. This definitive new edition will also include Williams’ essay “The World I Live In,” and a brief chronology of the author’s life.”
7. The Woman at the Keyhole: Feminism and Women’s Cinema by Judith Mayne
“[The Woman at the Keyhole is one] of the most significant contributions to feminist film theory sin ce the 1970s.” —SubStance
“… this intelligent, eminently readable volume puts women’s filmmaking on the main stage…. serves at once as introduction and original contribution to the debates structuring the field. Erudite but never obscure, effectively argued but not polemical, The Woman at the Keyhole should prove to be a valuable text for courses on women and cinema.” —The Independent
When we imagine a “woman” and a “keyhole,” it is usually a woman on the other side of the keyhole, as the proverbial object of the look, that comes to mind. In this work the author is not necessarily reversing the conventional image, but rather asking what happens when women are situated on both sides of the keyhole. In all of the films discussed, the threshold between subject and object, between inside and outside, between virtually all opposing pairs, is a central figure for the reinvention of cinematic narrative.”
So, those are the texts I’ll be working with this Spring. Suffice it to say, I am incredibly excited about these two classes and the reading lists for each! I’m also thrilled that some of these books have been on my “To read” pile/list for a while, so I am able to count them towards my 2013 TBR Pile Challenge, too!
If anyone sees something interesting here and wants to read along, let me know! When I have my syllabi, I can let people know when I’ll be reading which texts (I also post my reading updates on Goodreads, so feel free to follow along there).
I’ll try to post thoughts and reviews on these as I go along – since it will help me gather thoughts for essays and research papers. Aside from Frankenstein, which I have read before, all of these will be new reads for me.