BA English Literature and American Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Gender, Sexuality and the Body: Theories and Histories

Unit code ENGL20482
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course explores two analytical concepts central to our understanding of what makes us 'modern': gender and sexuality. We begin by looking at some of the key theorists of sexuality, including Freud and Foucault, and then we move on to analyse specific examples of 20th century fiction, film, and popular culture in order to consider topics such as: desire, identity, sexual classification, repression and liberation, racialised bodies, transgression, and normality and deviance. Throughout the course key feminist and queer theorists are introduced in relation to debates about changing understandings of the three categories in the course title. 


  • To introduce students to a range of theoretical work on gender and sexuality informed by, or critical of, sexology and psychoanalysis;

  • To encourage students to assess such material critically;

  • To introduce students to a number of 20th century cultural texts which - self-consciously or otherwise - foreground issues of sexuality and gender;

  • To encourage students to develop strategies of reading cultural texts informed by theories of sexuality and gender.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, the successful student will have demonstrated:

  • An understanding of some of the main issues raised by theoretical accounts of sexuality and gender;

  • A grasp of the distinctions between different schools of thought in this area;

  • An ability to analyse cultural texts in ways informed by theoretical work on sexuality and gender;

  • An appreciation of the implications for cultural criticism of the distinctions between the different schools of thought in this area.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students taking this unit will be able to analyse and evaluate arguments and texts. Above all, committed students will emerge from this course unit with an advanced capacity to think critically, i.e. knowledgeably, rigorously, confidently and independently.
Group/team working
Students taking this unit will be able to work courteously and constructively as part of a larger group.
On this unit students are encouraged to respond imaginatively and independently to the questions and ideas raised by texts and other media.
Students on this unit must take responsibility for their learning and are encouraged not only to participate in group discussions but to do so actively and even to lead those discussions.
Project management
Students taking this unit will be able to work towards deadlines and to manage their time effectively.
Oral communication
Students taking this unit will be able to show fluency, clarity and persuasiveness in spoken communication.
Students on this unit will be required to digest, summarise and present large amounts of information. They are encouraged to enrich their responses and arguments with a wide range of further reading.
Written communication
Students on this unit will develop their ability to write in a way that is lucid, precise and compelling.

Assessment methods

Essay 40%
seen coursework task (over 7 days) 60%


Feedback methods

Written and face-to-face (upon arrangement)

Recommended reading


Michel Foucault History of Sexuality, vol. 1.  London: Penguin, 1998

Michel Foucault, Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite.  New York: Vintage Books, 2010

Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents.  Trans. by David McLintock.  London: Penguin, 2002


Alan Hollinghurst, Swimming Pool Library.  London: Vintage, 2015

Audre Lorde Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. London: Penguin Modern Classics, 2018.


Orlando  (1993, dir. Sally Potter)

Looking for Langston (1989, dir. Isaac Julien)

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 165

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jacqueline Stacey Unit coordinator

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