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Sexuality and Gender in the Ancient World (CLA3020)

30 credits

Are sexuality and gender a matter of nature or of culture? Are our ideas about what it means to be “masculine” or “feminine” different from those of the ancient Greeks and Romans? How do our notions of romantic love compare?¬†Were there ‘gays’ in the ancient world? What difference might the answers to these questions make to our understanding of our own cultures and experiences? This module is theoretically challenging, tackling modern debates about human sex and sexuality from a historical perspective, and examining in detail a wide range of different texts and images which provide us with evidence about sexual practices, beliefs and ideologies in the ancient world – from erotica on pots to legal texts, from religious rituals to sex manuals. We will also explore the way that interpretation of this ancient “evidence” has continued to change over the past two hundred years, as it is shaped by the evolving beliefs, prejudices, anxieties and fantasies of the modern world. We will use the ancient material as a starting point for discussion of important and engaging themes such as prostitution, pornography, the ideal marriage, sexual fidelity, pederasty and paedophilia, rape, virginity and sexual pleasure and desire.¬†