A History of Heterosexuality
Since the end of the 19th century, heterosexuality has presented itself in Western culture as “natural,” as a given — this is the phenomenon that scholars have called heteronormativity. And yet historians of sexuality have in recent years become increasingly interested in the ways in which heterosexuality, like homosexuality, has a history. What happens when we see heterosexuality not as a natural given but try to become attentive to the ways in which it is socially constructed? How has heterosexuality changed throughout the twentieth century? And how might the experience of heterosexuality be different according to one’s gender? What kind of archive is required to do “the history of heterosexuality”? This class seeks to explore this history in a concrete way, to introduce students to some of the key concepts of queer theory and the history of sexuality, and to give students the tools to analyze a wide variety of media.
We will analyze novels, philosophical texts, and films, all authored by women, that explore how heterosexuality and heterosexual marriage is experienced differently by women (Colette’s Wheat in Bloom, Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, de Beauvoir’s Second Sex, and Duras’s Hiroshima mon amour). We will seek to understand how heterosexuality is constructed through the masculine lens of some of the key films of the French New Wave (Contempt, Masculin Féminin, Jules et Jim, and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg). And we will look at how heterosexuality is constructed in a wide variety of cultural objects and media, including visual art, propagandistic posters, erotic photographs and magazines, advice columns, popular film, reality television, and social media.
French R1B satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition Requirement. Classes are conducted in ENGLISH