The History Problem in Lesbian and Gay Studies

Professor David Robinson

Office: Modern Languages 492
English 596G Phone: 520-621-7395
Tue. 5:30-8:00 email:
Modern Languages Rm. 312 Office hours: W 3-4; Th 11-12

Required Texts:

Bernadette Brooten, Love Between Women
James Creech, Closet Writing/Gay Reading
Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1
David Halperin, One Hundred Years of Homosexuality
Rictor Norton, The Myth of the Modern Homosexual
Edward Stein, ed., Forms of Desire
Thomas Laquer, Making Sex

Course Description:

In this course, we will investigate what is, arguably, the most serious, indeed fundamental divide in the field(s) of Lesbian & Gay Studies/Sexuality Studies/Queer Theory: the question of whether the object of study within these fields is a recent “invention,” or whether it (whether homosexuality, male homosexuality, lesbianism, and/or sexuality) can legitimately be considered transhistorically. Many graduate students will be familiar, at least to some degree, with Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality, Volume 1, as well as, perhaps, David Halperin’s One Hundred Years of Homosexuality, both of which espouse what might be called a hard-line social constructionist approach to this issue, contending that the concepts “homosexuality” and “sexuality” are modern inventions. Students might also be somewhat familiar with the work of John Boswell, widely considered an essentialist, and the most prominent critic (and target) of social constructionists. We will read all three of these historians/critics, as well as many others, in an attempt to understand the nuances of this often bitter, and even more often misunderstood, debate. Readings will include theoretical essays on the essentialist-constructionist debate, and on the practice of lesbian/gay/queer history more generally; essays examining issues and texts within particular historical periods, including Classical Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Eighteenth Century, and the Nineteenth Century; as well as two primary texts from the Eighteenth Century.

One paper (approx. 15 pages) will be required. Your grade for the course will be based on your grade on the paper, adjusted either up or down depending on your level of participation in the class throughout the semester.


Week 1

Tu 22 Course Introduction
Week 2

Tu 29 Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1

Week 3

Tu 5 Michel Foucault, Introduction to The Uses of Pleasure
Eve Sedgwick, “Paranoid Reading, Reparative Reading” (from
Novel Gazing)
John Boswell, “Revolutions, Universals, and Sexual Categories”
Ed Stein, Forms of Desire:
McIntosh, “The Homosexual Role”
Boswell, “Concepts, Experience, and Sexuality”
Weinrich, “Reality or Soxial Construction?”
Dynes, “Wrestling with the Social Boa Constructor”
Stein, “Conclusion”
Week 4

Tu 12 David Halperin, “One Hundred Years of Homosexuality”
Halperin, “Historicizing the Sexual Body” (CR)
Halperin, “Two Views of Greek Love”
Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”
Week 5

Tu 19 Abdul JanMohamed, “Sexuality on/of the Racial Border”
Catherine MacKinnon, “Does Sexuality Have a History?”
Amy Richlin, “Not Before Homosexuality”
Craig Williams, “Greek Love at Rome”
Jonathan Walters, “Invading the Roman Body”
Week 6

Tu 26 Bernadette Brooten, Love Between Women
“Lesbian Historiography Before the Name?” (GLQ dossier on
Brooten’s Love Between Women)

Week 7

Tu 3 Carolyn Dinshaw, “Good Vibrations: John/Eleanor, Dame Alys, the
Pardoner, and Foucault” (from Getting Medieval)
Karras and Boyd, “ ‘Ut cum muliere’: A Male Transvestite Prostitute
in Fourteenth-Century London”
Karma Lochrie, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Murderous Plots and Medieval
Thomas Stehling, “To Love a Medieval Boy”
Simon Gaunt, “Straight Minds/“Queer” Wishes in Old
French Hagiography”
Kathy Lavezzo, “Sobs and Sighs Between Women”
Week 8

Tu 10 Thomas Laquer, Making Sex
Patricia Parker, “Gender Ideology, Gender Change: The Case of Marie
Week 9

Tu 17 James Saslow, “Homosexuality in the Renaissance”
Giovanni Dall’Orto, “Socratic Love”
Guy Poirier, “Masculinities and Homosexualities…”
Joseph Cady, “ ‘Masculine Love,’ Renaissance Writing, and the ‘New
Invention’ of Homosexuality”
Cady, “Renaissance Awareness and Language for Heterosexuality: ‘Love’
and ‘Feminine Love’”
Luis Mott, “Portuguese Pleasures”

Week 10

Tu 24 Randolph Trumbach, “The Birth of the Queen”
Trumbach, “Sex, Gender, and Sexual Identity in Modern Culture”
Roy Porter, “Is Foucault Useful for Understanding Eighteenth and
Nineteenth Century Sexuality?”
Michel Rey, “Parisian Homosexuals Create a Lifestyle”
Alan Bray, “Homosexuality and the Signs of Male Friendship”
Rousseau, “The Pursuit of Homosexuality in the Eighteenth Century”
Week 11

Tu 31 Trumbach, “London’s Sapphists”
Valerie Traub, “The (In)Significance of ‘Lesbian’ Desire”
Traub, “The Perversion of ‘Lesbian’ Desire”
Lisa Moore, “ ‘Something More Tender Still Than Friendship’ ”
Liz Stanley, “Epistemological Issues in Researching Lesbian History”
Terry Castle, “A Polemical Introduction”
Judith Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination”

Week 12

Tu 7 Giovannia Bianchi, The True History and Adventures of Catherine Vizzani
Anonymous, Love Letters Between a Certain Late Nobleman and the
Famous Mr. Wilson
Michael Kimmel, “ ‘Greedy Kisses’ and ‘Melting Extasy’ ”
David Greenberg, “The Socio-Sexual Milieu of the Love-Letters”
Trumbach, “Sodomy Transformed”
Week 13

Tu 14 James Creech, Closet Writing/Gay Reading
Drafts of papers due (for those handing in drafts)
Week 14

Tu 21 Workshop on class papers
Week 15

Tu 28 Harry Oosterhuis, “Medical Science and the Modernization of Sexuality”
Frederik Silverstolpe, “Benkert Was Not a Doctor”
Jeffery Weekes, article still to be determined
Hubert Kennedy, Ulrichs

Week 16

Tu 5 Rictor Norton, The Myth of the Modern Homosexual
Carolyn Dinshaw, “Touching on the Past”
Lisa Duggan, “The Discipline Problem”
Sedgwick, “Introduction: Axiomatic”
Halperin, “How do the History of Male Homosexuality”
Richlin, “The Ethnographer’s Dilemma”

If you have appropriate syllabi, please contact CLGH chair Karen Krahulik at