Historical Perspectives on Sexuality: Same-Sex Sexuality in the Western World

Historical Perspectives on Sexuality:
Same-Sex Sexuality in the Western World

Leila J. Rupp

History 620
Autumn 1997
TR 1:30-3:18, MQ 159

This course will explore the history of same-sex love and sexuality in the western world (with a few excursions into Asia, Africa, and Latin America for comparative purposes) from ancient times to the twentieth century. We will consider the changing nature of same-sex desires, sexual acts, and relationships; societal definitions of and responses to same-sex love and sexuality; the societal conditions that facilitated the emergence of subcultures, identities, and movements based on same-sex sexuality; and gender differences in the history of same-sex love and sexuality. Class time will be heavily devoted to discussion of the assigned readings, so careful and complete preparation and lively and informed participation are essential to the success of the class (to say nothing of your success in the class!)


Martin Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey, Jr., Hidden From History: Reclaiming the Gay Past [HFH] (New York: New American Library, 1989): available for purchase at SBX and also on closed reserve in the Main Library.

Lillian Faderman, Scotch Verdict, rev. edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993): available for purchase at SBX and on closed reserve in the Main Library.

For graduate students only: John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980): available for purchase at SBX and on closed reserve in the Main Library.

For graduate students only: George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 (New York: Basic Books, 1994): available for purchase at SBX and on closed reserve in the Main Library.

All other assigned readings: available for purchase at COP-EZ (in the basement of Bricker Hall) and on closed reserve in the Main Library. There are three separate packets. Everyone should buy the main one (warning: this is a large packet!); undergraduates should buy supplement A; and graduate students should buy supplement B.


Sept. 25: Introduction and Introductions

Sept. 30: Defining the Issues:
Perspectives on the History of Sexuality

John Boswell, “Revolutions, Universals, and Sexual Categories,” HFH, pp. 17-36.

Robert Padgug, “Sexual Matters: Rethinking Sexuality in History,” HFH, pp. 54-64.

Carole S. Vance, “Social Construction Theory: Problems in the History of Sexuality,” in Dennis Altman et al, Homosexuality, Which Homosexuality? (Amsterdam: Dekker/Schorer, 1989), pp. 13-34.

Excerpt from J.D. Weinrich, “Reality or Social Construction?” in Weinrich, Sexual Landscapes (N.Y.: Charles Scribners’ Sons, 1987), pp. 82-87.

For graduate students: Jennifer Terry, “Theorizing Deviant Historiography,” differences 3 (Summer 1991), 55-74.

For graduate students: Donna Penn, “Queer: Theorizing Politics and History,” Radical History Review 62 (Spring 1995), 24-42.

Oct. 2: Mythical Prehistory and Patterns of Behavior in Kinship-Structured Societies

Susan Cavin, Lesbian Origins (San Francisco: ism press, 1985), ch. 2.


Oct. 7: Sappho and Ganymede: The Ancient World

David M. Halperin, “Sex Before Sexuality: Pederasty, Politics, and Power in Classical Athens,” HFH, pp. 37-53.

Eva C. Keuls, The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens (N.Y.: Harper & Row, 1985), ch. 11.

Paul Gordon Schalow, “Male Love in Early Modern Japan: A Literary Depiction of the `Youth,'” HFH, pp. 118-128.

Jane McIntosh Snyder, Sappho (N.Y.: Chelsea House, 1995), ch. 2 & 5.

Oct. 9: Christianity, Medieval and Renaissance “Gay Culture,”
and the Rise of Intolerance

Boswell, chs. 4 & 9 (undergraduates), entire (graduate students)

Judith Brown, “Lesbian Sexuality in Medieval and Early Modern Europe,” HFH, pp. 67-75.

James M. Saslow, “Homosexuality in the Renaissance: Behavior, Identity, and Artistic Expression,” HFH, 90-105.

Vivien W. Ng, “Homosexuality and the State in Late Imperial China,” HFH, pp. 76-89.

Oct. 14: Film (Very much out of chronological order, a preview of what is to come):

“Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and
Lesbian Community”

Oct. 16: Sexuality in Sex-Segregated Subcultures: Sailors and Nuns

Arthur N. Gilbert, “Buggery and the British Navy, 1700-1861,” Journal of Social History 10 (1976), 72-98.

T. Dunbar Moodie (with Vivienne Ndatshe and British Sibuyi), “Migrancy and Male Sexuality on the South African Gold Mines,” HFH, 411-425.

Judith C. Brown, “Lesbian Sexuality in Renaissance Italy: The Case of Sister Benedetta Carlini,” Signs 9 (1984), 751-758.


Oct. 21: The Berdache

Harriet Whitehead, “The Bow and the Burden Strap: A New Look at Institutionalized Homosexuality in Native North America,” in Henry Abelove et al., The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 1993), pp. 498-527.

Evelyn Blackwood, “Sexuality and Gender in Certain Native American Tribes: The Case of Cross-Gender Females,” Signs 10 (1984), 27-42.

Paula Gunn Allen, “Lesbians in American Indian Cultures,” HFH, pp. 106-117.

Oct. 23: Eighteenth-Century Sodomite Cultures and Crossing Women

Randolph Trumbach, “The Birth of the Queen: Sodomy and the Emergence of Gender Equality in Modern Culture, 1660-1750,” HFH, pp. 129-140.

Arend H. Huussen, Jr., “Sodomy in the Dutch Republic During the Eighteenth Century,” HFH, pp. 141-149.

Michael Rey, “Parisian Homosexuals Create a Lifestyle, 1700-1750: The Police Archives,” Eighteenth-Century Life 9, n.s. 3 (1985), 179-191.

Lillian Faderman, Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love between Women from the Renaissance to the Present (N.Y.: William Morrow, 1981), Part IA, chapter 4 (“Transvestism: Persecution and Impunity”).

The San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project, “`She Even Chewed Tobacco:’ A Pictorial Narrative of Passing Women in America,” HFH, pp. 183-194.

Oct. 28: Romantic Friendship

Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, “The Female World of Love and Ritual: Relations between Women in Nineteenth-Century America,” Signs 1 (1975), 1-29.

No Priest But Love: Excerpts from the Diaries of Anne Lister, 1824-1826, ed. Helena Whitbread (N.Y.: New York University Press, 1002), pp. 1-8, 46-56

Karen V. Hansen, “`No Kisses Like Youres:’ An Erotic Friendship between Two African American Women during the Mid-Nineteenth Century,” Gender & History 7 (August 1995), 153-82.

E. Anthony Rotundo, “Romantic Friendship: Male Intimacy and Middle-Class Youth in the Northern United States, 1800-1900,” Journal of Social History 23 (Fall 1989), 1-25.

Martin Bauml Duberman, “`Writhing Bedfellows’ in Antebellum South Carolina: Historical Interpretation and the Politics of Evidence,” HFH, pp. 153-168.

For graduate students: Lisa Moore, “`Something More Tender Still than Friendship:’ Romantic Friendship in Early-Nineteenth-Century England,” Feminist Studies 18 (1992), 499-520.

For graduate students: Martha Vicinus, “`They Wonder to Which Sex I Belong:’ The Historical Roots of the Modern Lesbian Identity,” Feminist Studies 18 (Fall 1992), 467-97.

Oct. 30: The Sexual Revolution: Definitions and Identities

Jeffrey Weeks, “Inverts, Perverts, and Mary-Annes: Male Prostitution and the Regulation of Homosexuality in England in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries,” HFH, pp. 195-211.

James D. Steakley, “Iconography of a Scandal: Political Cartoons and the Eulenburg Affair in Wilhelmine Germany,” HFH, pp. 233-263.

Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, “Discourses of Sexuality and Subjectivity: The New Woman, 1870-1936,” HFH, pp. 264-280
Esther Newton, “The Mythic Mannish Lesbian: Radclyffe Hall and the New Woman,” HFH, pp. 281-293.

Lisa Duggan, “The Trials of Alice Mitchel: Sensationalism, Sexology, and the Lesbian Subject in Turn-of-the-Century America,” Signs 18 (Summer 1993), 791-814.

For graduate students: Martha Vicinus, “Distance and Desire: English Boarding School Friendships, 1870-1920,” HFH, pp. 212-229.

Nov. 4: MIDTERM EXAMINATION (undergraduates)
FIRST PAPERS DUE (graduate students)

Nov. 6: no class: recovery and time to read Scotch Verdict

Nov. 13: The Sexuality Debate: The Case of Pirie and Woods
In-class debate: Did they or didn’t they?

Faderman, entire.


Nov. 18: Lesbian and Gay Communities: Newport, New York, Chicago, Paris, and Berlin

George Chauncey, Jr., “Christian Brotherhood or Sexual Perversion? Homosexual Identities and the Construction of Sexual Boundaries in the World War One Era,” HFH, pp. 294-317.

Eric Garber, “A Spectacle in Color: The Lesbian and Gay Subculture of Jazz Age Harlem,” HFH, pp. 318-331.

David K. Johnson, “The Kids of Fairytown: Gay Male Culture on Chicago’s Near North Side in the 1930s,” in Creating a Place for Ourselves: Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community Histories, ed. Brett Beemyn (New York: Routledge, 1997), pp. 97-118.

For graduate students: Chauncey, entire.

Nov. 20: Revolution, War, and Holocaust
Film: “Pink Triangles”

Simon Karlinsky, “Russia’s Gay Literature and Culture: The Impact of the October Revolution,” HFH, pp. 347-364.

Erwin J. Haeberle, “Swastika, Pink Triangle and Yellow Star–The Destruction of Sexology and the Persecution of Homosexuals in Nazi Germany,” HFH, pp. 365-379.
Allan Bérubé, “Marching to a Different Drummer: Lesbian and Gay GIs in World War II,” HFH, pp. 383-394.

Nov. 25: Oppression and Resistance in the 1950s

Leila J. Rupp, “`Imagine My Surprise:’ Women’s Relationships in Mid-Twentieth Century America,” HFH, pp. 395-410.

Joan Nestle, “Butch-Fem Relationships: Sexual Courage in the 1950’s,” Heresies 3, no. 12 (1981), 21-24.

Madeline Davis and Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, “Oral History and the Study of Sexuality in the Lesbian Community: Buffalo, New York, 1940-1960,” HFH, pp. 426-440.

John D’Emilio, “The Homosexual Menace: The Politics of Sexuality in Cold War America,” in Passion and Power: Sexuality in History, ed. Kathy Peiss and Christina Simmons (Phila.: Temple University Press, 1989), 226-240.

For graduate students: Lourdes Arguelles and B. Ruby Rich, “Homosexuality, Homophobia, and Revolution: Notes toward an Understanding of the Cuban Lesbian and Gay Male Experience,” HFH, pp. 441-455.

Dec. 2: The Emergence of a Gay Movement

“Early Movements and Aspirations,” ch. 2 of Barry Adam, The Rise of a Gay and Lesbian Movement (Boston: Twayne, 1987), pp. 17-44.

John D’Emilio, “Gay Politics and Community in San Francisco Since World War II,” HFH, pp. 456-473.

Dec. 4: Contemporary Lesbian and Gay Communities (and discussion of interviews)

Makeda Silvera, “Man Royals and Sodomites: Some Thoughts on the Invisibility of Afro-Caribbean Lesbians,” Feminist Studies 18 (Fall 1992):521-532.

Tomás Almaguer, “Chicano Men: A Cartography of Homosexual Identity and Behavior,” differences 3 (Summer 1991), 75-100.

Eric C. Wat, “Preserving the Paradox: Stories from a Gay-Loh,” in Asian American Sexualities: Dimensions of the Gay & Lesbian Experience, ed. Russell Leong (New York: Routledge, 1996), pp. 71-80.

Trisha Franzen. “Differences and Identities: Feminism and the Albuquerque Lesbian Community.” Signs 18(4) (Summer 1993):891-906.



1) Midterm examination: November 4. This will be an open-book essay examination; I will hand out questions in advance. (20%)

2) Comprehensive final examination: December 9, 1:30-3:18 PM. Same format as above. (30%)

3) Class participation: Lively and informed participation in class, not just class attendance. (20%)

4) Short reaction papers: Three typed two- to three-page short papers due on the following schedule:

October 2: evaluate and respond to the readings and discussions on theoretical perspectives on sexuality. Explain the different perspectives, raise questions about them, and say what you think. (5%)

October 16: evaluate and respond to any other issues we have covered to date. (5%)

November 13: evaluate and respond to your reading of and the discussion of Scotch Verdict. Did they or didn’t they? Did they or didn’t they what? Does it matter? (5%)

5) Interview analysis: November 25. In five to seven typed pages, analyze an interview you have conducted with a gay, lesbian, or bisexual individual. You should locate your subject early in the quarter, construct a list of questions focusing on the historical questions we are studying (the construction of identity, the coming-out process, involvement in communities, activism), conduct a tape-recorded interview, and use your interview as an historical source to enhance our understanding of the history of same-sex sexuality. Be sure to keep in mind the historical context (which will depend on your subject’s age, geographical location, gender, race, ethnicity, class, etc.). If both you and your interviewee are willing, I hope you will contribute the tape (it can be without the name of the interviewee, although you should provide enough demographic information on the tape to make it useful to future researchers) and/or a copy of your interview to the class’s collection, housed in the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Student Services Office. (15%)

Graduate students:

1) Two review essays of fifteen to twenty pages on the assigned readings. Think of these essays as surveys of the field written for a journal such as The Journal of the History of Sexuality. These should include all of the readings and should be organized around some theme; they should evaluate individual works and also draw some general conclusions about the state of the field of the history of same-sex sexuality. The first, covering the material through October 30, is due on November 4. The second, covering the remainder of the material, is due on June 9. (40% each)

2) Class participation: Lively and informed participation in class, not just class attendance. (20%)

If you have appropriate syllabi, please contact CLGH chair Karen Krahulik at Karen_Krahulik@brown.edu.