Welcome to 19th Century Gender and Sexuality (ENG451), a senior seminar in the English Department at SUNY New Paltz!

Course Description:

We tend to think of our own time as being uniquely enlightened in our discussions of women’s rights, gender identity and sexual orientation. However, these discussions also obsessed many in the nineteenth century: women were openly campaigning against marriage and other repressive legal institutions, and sexologists were trying to classify sexual attraction. This course will cover a mixture of poetry, novels, short stories, and essays that address issues such as marriage, prostitution, women’s right to work, queering the gender binary, and same-sex desire, from coded implications to explicit praise. We will discuss such writers as Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Oscar Wilde, and Amy Levy.

Student Learning Outcomes:

In this course, students will

  • Explain and compare the diverse theories of gender and sexuality in 19th century British culture and apply that information to the literature
  • Prepare close, critical analyses and interpretations of the texts on the syllabus, paying attention to formal features and thematic content
  • Organize and execute a research plan about a topic related to 19th century British literature and gender and/or sexuality
  • Apply their analytical, research, and communication skills by writing correctly and coherently in a variety of genres, including a research proposal, annotated bibliography, and literary-critical research essay
  • Identify the relevance of 19th Century British literature and theories of gender and sexuality to present-day discourses on women and LGBT issues.

Course Materials:

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Broadview Edition (At the bookstore and https://www.broadviewpress.com/product.php?productid=515&cat=0&page=1)

Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Broadview Edition (At the bookstore and https://www.broadviewpress.com/product.php?productid=86&cat=0&page=1)

NOTE: You must use the Broadview edition as it includes historical essays as appendices that are also assigned reading.

All other readings are online or will be emailed or given as handouts. Make sure to bring the reading to class.

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