SP.406 / WMN.406 Sexual and Gender Identities, Fall 2005
Challenging traditional assumptions about relationships between sex, gender, and sexuality. (Image by MIT OCW.)
Highlights of this Course
This course introduces scholarly debates about sexual identities, gender identities and expressions, and sexual orientation and its representation in various media. We begin with an investigation of the theoretical underpinnings of the emerging field of queer studies, from the nineteenth century to the present day. Tracing theories of and about gender, sexuality and sexual identity over time, we will examine the genealogy of "queer" as a term that has emerged to trouble and challenge static and essentialized notions of identity. The social, cultural, and political effect of "queer" has been to pose critical challenges to gay/lesbian/straight identities predicated on a sexual binary. Queer studies shifts the focus of inquiry from sexual identities to sexual practices, many of which contradict traditional assumptions about the relationships between sex, gender, and sexuality. The course moves from a philosophical consideration of key theoretical texts (Foucault, Freud, Sedgwick, Rubin, Butler, etc.) to an exploration of the impact of those theories on historical and contemporary sexual and gender identities and communities.