course shell:

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office hours:

603j pray Harrold hall

Tues/Thur 4:10–5:10 PM


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Literature/Women’s and Gender Studies 455/555:

Sexualities in Literature and Culture

Summer 2015

Dr. Abby Coykendall




course #201550 (litr), #201550 (grad), #201550 (wgst)

Tuesday & Thursday 1:00–4:10 pm

Pray-Harrold Hall 301

“[O]f this we may be perfectly sure, [modesty] was originally designed as nothing but a stimulant to lust: the engaging idea was to postpone desire’s fulfillment in order to increase excitement, and fools subsequently took as a virtue what was merely a contrivance of libertinage” —Marquis de Sade, Juliette

 “[T]he deployment of sexuality established the desire for sex, … to discover it, to liberate it, to articulate it in discourse, [a desire which] makes us think that we are affirming the rights of our sex, … when in fact we are fastened to [it as] a sort of mirage in which we think we see ourselves reflected” —Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality

Description: Copy of Sexualities Image.jpg

Course Description: LITR/WGST 455/555 is a half graduate, half undergraduate seminar crosslisted with the Literature and Women's and Gender Studies programs that will run on a compressed schedule for six weeks. The course will investigate the vexed interconnection between sexuality and society, the ways in which culture scripts the erotic imagination and eroticism scripts the cultural imagination in turn, by attending to the myriad discourses of the social body (the ‘body politic’) and the sexual body found in popular and canonical literature extending from the late seventeenth to the twentieth century. Sexuality and culture are often treated as antithetical domains, with sex strictly segregated from the social order, construed as obscene, literally “off stage,” and thus wholly inimical to the aesthetic. However, that distinction often hinges on the tacit valorization of normative, socially sanctioned sexualities over other modes of erotic and/or affective relation. Where, for example, would literary culture be if not inclusive of “great novels” featuring (hetero)sexual romances either culminating in marriage (Pride and Prejudice, Portrait of a Lady) or complicating that institution by way of intrigue (Madame Bovary, Dangerous Liaisons, The English Patient)?

The title of this class is deliberately plural, as plural as sexuality itself can be, since we will be considering an array of erotic, affective, and bodily practices that may or may not be monogamous, missionary, conjugal, heterosexual, or even strictly speaking pleasurable. Our readings will extend from ancient Greece, to the enlightenment-era amorous fiction of Eliza Haywood and Henry Fielding, to late Victorian and postmodern decadent novelists like Oscar Wilde (Picture of Dorian Gray) and Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita), to contemporary feminist and/or queer authors such as Angela Carter, Samuel Delany, and Carol Queen. Along the way, we will see how the very attempt to sever certain sexualities from the cultural imagination leaves a trace of the material production of sociality itself, as successive dominant cultures reconfigure their ideological parameters in relation to changing historical conditions.

Required Textbooks:

Books are available for purchase at the EMU Bookstore in the Student Center, as well as at online merchants (Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble) or other university bookstores in the area. Make sure to get the correct edition pictured below by double-checking the ISBN number (a fingerprint of sorts for the book):

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Aristophanes, Lysistrata (Dover, 1994) ISBN# 0486282252

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (Vintage, 1995), ISBN# 0679723161

Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo (Norton, 1990), ISBN# 0393001431

Oscar Wilde, Picture of Dorian Gray (Oxford, 2008), ISBN# 0199535981

Toni Morrison, Bluest Eye (Plume, 2000), ISBN# 0452282195

The other required readings are available in the online course shell, printable from any campus computer: (see the "Files" link to the left). Bring copies of required readings, whether the books above or materials from the course shell, with you to class. You will need everything on hand for groupwork and class discussions




Participation (Homework, Quizzes, & In-Class Activities)


Examination #1 (in-class self-designed essay synthesizing Section I materials)


Examination #2 (take-home self-designed essay synthesizing Section II materials)


Research Essay (on one of the primary texts of your choice assigned for class)

Nothing is more vital for success in this course than keeping up with, and actively engaging in, the reading assignments and class discussions each day. The more actively you participate, the more the course content can reflect your unique needs and interests. As with any university course, homework will take around two hours to complete for every unit of class or, in other words, twelve hours per week.

Instructor Availability:

I will be delighted to discuss any course-related questions, interests, or concerns during my office hours, as well as at any time through email ( Emails with straightforward questions usually receive a reply within a few hours to a day; those with thornier issues usually receive a reply within a week. Please limit inquiries to those that I alone can answer so I can give the more pressing issues of other students the attention that they deserve. If, for example, you are unsure about a due date, consult the syllabus, the handouts in the course shell, or the peers in your group, and then email only if the confusion persists. The first visit of undergraduate students to my office hours with a course-related inquiry, such as to get guidance on homework, discuss readings lately covered, or brainstorm essay ideas, will be worth extra credit.


Failure to participate regularly in class discussion makes achieving the course objectives difficult and, eventually, impossible. Reserve absences for illnesses, car accidents, or other unforeseen emergencies preventing you from coming to class and make sure not to exhaust your allowable absences too early in the term. Because this course primarily consists of reading and discussion—rather than facts, figures, or memorization—regular attendance is crucial. You never need to explain why you are absent, as I always will assume that you have an excellent reason to miss class. However, any student who misses THREE class periods for any reason—that is, any student who misses over three weeks of a regular term—will have his or her final grade reduced by a full mark (for example, lowered from A to B, B to C, etc.), and any student who misses FOUR or more class periods will become ineligible to pass. When you must be absent, contact the other students in your group to share notes or determine what you missed. All missed homework is due on your return, and any changes to the schedule will be sent to the class as a whole by email.


The most essential information—due dates, assignment instructions, clarification of issues—is given at the beginning of class, so it is essential to come on time. Make sure to leave early just in case you encounter any problems along the way (traffic jams, late busses, no parking). Arriving well into the period or exiting well before its conclusion both count as half an absence. If you are late, it is your responsibility to sign the attendance sheet to avoid being marked absent. Habitual lateness that disrupts the class eventually counts as an absence (or absences) as well.

Classroom Etiquette:

It is important to be mindful of your peers during class time, listening to them with the same respect and attention that you hope to receive yourself. Once class begins, do not distract your peers by walking in or out of the room unless there is a genuine emergency. If you have a medical condition requiring you to leave occasionally, bring a doctor’s note confirming as such; otherwise, conduct all personal business outside of class.

Disruptive exits can be both mental and physical. Students unprepared to discuss the materials for the day, or discovered using laptops or phones for purposes unrelated to the course, will be asked to leave and marked absent. This course has a no-laptop, no-cell-phone policy, so do not bother using these instruments during class time unless specifically asked to do so to look something up.


This class is meant to be a welcoming educational experience for all students, including those who may have challenges or disabilities that impact learning. If you find yourself having difficulty participating or demonstrating knowledge in this course, please feel free to contact me to discuss reasonable accommodations (preferably at least one week prior to the need), even if you currently lack a Disability Resource Center (DRC) accommodation letter. You can also contact the DRC directly to talk about possible accommodations (734-487-2470; 240K Student Center;

Grading Scale:






























Academic Resources & Campus Safety:

The University Writing Center (115 Halle Library) offers one-to-one writing consulting. The Academic Projects Center (116 Halle Library) offers one-to-one, drop-in consulting for students on writing, research, or technology-related issues. Another support center is the International Student Resource Center (200 Alexander, 487-0370) dedicated to second-language students from abroad.

Also consider availing yourself of the campus escort service, Student Eyes and Ears for University Safety, by calling 48-SEEUS (487-3387). If you sign up for the emergency text-messaging system (, DPS can notify us of any calamity afflicting the campus.

Academic Integrity:

Understanding and avoiding academic dishonesty, and doing all coursework on your own, is imperative. Copying the homework of peers, taking credit for essays that you find on the internet, cheating on exams, or recycling your own essays written for other classes for double credit are all forms of academic dishonesty. The worst form of academic dishonesty is plagiarism, which, put simply, is taking either the ideas or the words of another person and reusing them as if they are your own.

You thus must acknowledge when you make use of the concepts and/or expressions of other people without any exception under any circumstance, whether it be by drawing on Wikipedia for mundane (and quite possibly specious) information or channeling the most holy of holy books for heavenly inspiration. When describing the ideas of someone else in your own words, make sure to signal as such (e.g., So and so says X … ”); most importantly, when inserting the words of someone else into your own writing, make sure to credit that person for the passage and place quotation marks on either side (e.g., So and so says “X”). Writing that lacks these acknowledgements will pass as your own by default, and any writing that thus seems to be your own, without actually being your own, will be plagiarizing the original source.

All instances of academic dishonesty will result in an automatic 0% grade for the assignment; second instances will result in outright failure of the course. There is no excuse for academic dishonesty, nor will there be any exceptions to this policy. Make sure that your work is plagiarism-free before turning it in.


Required readings are available in the online course shell, Canvas (, or in books purchased separately for the course. Every other class period, by 10am, you will need to post a 3- to 4-line quotation to the course shell to discuss in class. This will be drawn from either the required or the optional theory, or from outside criticism found on your own, depending on your group number and according to the schedule below. The criticism must relate directly to the primary material and derive from articles found in the following databases: Project Muse, JSTOR, MLA, or Google Scholar. 


May 5

Introduction of Students, Course, & Topic; Watch and Discuss Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

May 7

Primary texts: Eliza Haywood, Fantomina and Henry Fielding, “Female Husband”

Theory: Julia Serano, Whipping Girl

 Optional theory: Judith [Jack] Halberstam, “Transgender Butch”

* Homework: Group 1 (Theory); Group 2 (Optional); Group 3 (Criticism)

May 12

Primary texts: Aristophanes, Lysistrata

Theory: Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality

 Optional theory: Luce Irigaray, “Women on the Market”

* Homework: Group 4 (Theory); Group 5 (Optional); Group 6 (Criticism)

May 14

Primary texts: Charles Perrault, “Little Red Riding Hood”; Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber

Theory: Catherine MacKinnon, “Difference and Dominance”

 Optional theory: Angela Carter, Sadean Woman

* Homework: Group 2 (Theory); Group 3 (Optional); Group 1 (Criticism)

May 19

Primary text: Oscar Wilde, Picture of Dorian Gray

Theory: Michael S. Kimmel, “Masculinity as Homophobia”

 Optional theory: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Terrorism and Homosexual Panic”

* Homework: Group 5 (Theory); Group 6 (Optional); Group 4 (Criticism)

May 21

Primary texts: James Baldwin, “Going to Meet the Man”

Theory: Andrea Smith, Conquest   

 Optional theory: Homi Bhabha, “Are You a Man or a Mouse?”

* Homework: Group 3 (Theory); Group 1 (Optional); Group 2 (Criticism)

May 26

Exam One (self-designed essay tying together Section I materials)

May 28

Primary texts: Samuel Delany, “On the Unspeakable”; Carol Queen, “Leather Daddy and the Femme”

Theory: Judith Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination”

 Optional theory: Biddy Martin, “Sexualities without Genders”

* Homework: Group 6 (Theory); Group 4 (Optional); Group 5 (Criticism)

June 2

Primary texts: Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Theory: Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo

 Optional theory: Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality”

* Homework: Group 1 (Theory); Group 2 (Optional); Group 3 (Criticism)

June 4

Primary texts: Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Theory: Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo

 Optional theory: Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

* Homework: Group 4 (Theory); Group 5 (Optional); Group 6 (Criticism)

June 9

Primary texts: Toni Morrison, Bluest Eye

Theory: bell hooks, “Eating the Other”

 Optional theory: bell hooks, “Oppositional Gaze”

* Homework: Group 2 (Theory); Group 3 (Optional); Group 1 (Criticism)

June 11

Primary texts: Toni Morrison, Bluest Eye

Theory: Kimberle Crenshaw, “Intersectionality and Identity Politics”

 Optional theory: Angela Davis, “Outcast Mothers and Surrogates”

* Homework: Group 5 (Theory); Group 6 (Optional); Group 4 (Criticism)

*** Last day to turn in the research proposal (post to the course shell)

June 23

Take-Home Exam Two (self-designed essay tying together Section II materials)

July 14

Research Paper on Primary Text of Choice


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