Monday, February 11, 2008

Course-design bleg

Next semester I'm teaching a new course on sex and gender in the Renaissance. It's a 300-level class, and one that will be cross-listed with Gender Studies. I've already submitted all the paperwork suggesting that I know what I'm doing--giving a rough course outline and bibliography and all that--but of course, I don't actually know what I'm doing.

That's where you come in. If you work on the Renaissance (or more generally on issues of sex and gender), what would you teach? I intend to structure the course topically, and I have a good sense of the primary texts I'll assign. . . but since it may be obvious even to those who don't know my secret identity that I don't work on anything remotely related to sex, sexuality, or gender (or indeed anything remotely sexy), there are probably plenty of works I'm not thinking of.

More important than primary texts, though, I'm looking for what y'all would consider essential works of scholarship (theory, literary criticism, historiography) that are either a) accessible to undergraduates in a non-capstone-level class, or b) totally, totally necessary for me to read over the summer so's I'm competent to teach this thing.

Assume I know nothing. Now help me fill that void!


Unknown said...

Hi Flavia
This doesn't qualify as academic literature, in fact the prose is at many points awful, and the book could be better edited, however gender issues in the West can be well illuminated by Leonard Shlain's The Alphabet Versus the Goddess. This book may serve as inspiration to bring in some of the iconography of the Renaissance as well as the literature, for a healthy yin/yang balance. There's a more academic book that covers some of the same territory Shlain does, but unfortunately the name escapes me at the moment. Despite its limitations, Shlain's book was a worthy read.

negativecapability said...

I really like Michael Schoenfeldt's _Bodies and Selves in Early Modern England_. It focuses on Galenic theory and self-regulation. It might be a good way to talk about gender and sexuality from a physiological perspective, and to introduce what that physiological perspective might have looked like in the time period.

I also believe there is at least one chapter that deals with gender and sexuality...if I remember in the context of the Faerie Queen.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Rackin's Shakespeare and Women is pretty undergraduate-friendly, I think, and it provides a cogently argued critique of the "OMG, women in the bad old days were so oppressed!" assumptions with which a lot of students tend to approach older texts. (Of course, I don't know whether you're reading much or any Shakespeare, so it may not be relevant.)

Anonymous said...

I second the Rackin if you're doing any Shakespeare. And Stephen Orgel's _Impersonations_ if you're doing any of the cross-dressing comedies.

Anonymous said...

i like Will Fisher's Materializing Gender in Early Modern England, G.K. Paster's Body Embarrassed, Valerie Traub's Ren. of Lesbianism, and Joan Kelly's classic "Did Women Have a Renaissance?" Paster, Fisher, and Traub are more summer prep reading; Kelly's text is dated but very fun to teach to UGs.

I've also had success assigning bits of Mendelson's and Crawford's Women in Early Modern England, Margaret Ezell's article “The Myth of Judith Shakespeare: Creating the Canon of Women’s Literature,” and Jennifer Summit's introduction in Lost Property: The Early Women Writer and the Uses of Loss (the first is great on context and the second two are great if you're focusing on women writers).

p.s. there are some great sample syllabi posted on the Brown's Women Writer's Project...they're really v. helpful.

Anonymous said...

Karen Newman's _Fashioning Femininity_ is a feminist rejoinder to Stephen Greenblatt.

Anonymous said...

off the top of my head might want to go over david cressy's controversial article in ren. quarterly about bridling /'s controversial b/c cressy suggests that these were common practices while historians generally think that they occurred v. infrequently, if at all (in the case of bridling)...not a piece to give to the undergrads, but you could refresh your memory of the argument and bring in the cool / ghastly pix to show the undergrads...could be used in conjunction with taming of the shrew or something.

also, while i'm thinking of it, you could read twelfth night with castiglione's the courtier, esp. the bit about self-fashioning, re: gender identity (h. berger has a nice bit about this, appended to the norton crit. ed. of the courtier)...could bring in j. butler with this as well.

Terminal Degree said...

Over here in music, I'd focus on the Concerto delle Donna (the "singing ladies" ensembles of Italy). There's a good chapter in _Women Making Music_ Bowers and Tick called "Courtesans, Muses, or Musicians? Professional Women Musicians in 16th Century Italy" by Newcomb.

I found Joan Kelly-Gadol's "Did Women Have a Renaissance?" to be interesting reading. I'd be curious to find out what contemporary gender studies people think of this.

I recently had my students read an excerpt on the role of women (in court in general, and more specifically as musical performers) from Castiglione's _The Book of the Courtier_. They seemed to enjoy it.

Brian W. Ogilvie said...

If your Renaissance includes Italy (not sure of your disciplinary location), Christiane Klapisch-Zuber's collection Women, Family, and Ritual in Renaissance Italy is worth a look. I've gotten students thinking with many of the essays; the one on the notion of the "good mother" in the Italian Renaissance is especially stimulating. Alessandra Macinghi negli Strozzi's letters, available in a (partial) bilingual translation, also work well.

Sisyphus said...

Hey, I took this "sexuality of everywhere" course (I can list all the ways it was problematic, if you want) and we read Randolph Trumbach's _Sex and the Gender Revolution: Heterosexuality and the Third Gender in Enlightenment London._

It is soooo long. (and not renaissance, yeah, I know. But it does have lots of legal data on prostitutes.) It is not for undergrads, and I'm not sure I'd even read the whole thing myself, but the intro ... and I think first chapter ... make an argument about male sexuality being quite different than our contemporary notions of heterosexuality and "straightness" in terms of desired object choice. I can't explain it very well at the moment.

Of course, he's going off of Foucault's arguments about heterosexuality being invented _after_ the concept of homosexuality, in the 19th c (I'm sure historians of the earlier time periods can point you to all the scholars who have shown how he is wrong) in his History of Sexuality Vol. 1. And he translated and introduced that book on Herculine, who was intersex, as we'd say now, but who really confused and freaked out people then.

I can also get you a bunch of names for some basic "this is sex; this is gender" type articles that undergrads might not find too hard, if you'd like. I have a bunch of history articles about the difficulties of studying sexuality so long ago (imposing contemporary terms etc) from that seminar, but I don't think they'd work well in this context.

Unfortunately I don't know any articles on lesbianism/female desire from that time period. Maybe I could ask my friend who studies cross-dressing for some titles if you want.

(stopping taking over comments now.)

Renaissance Girl said...

_Renaissance Woman: A Sourcebook_, ed. Kate Aughterson, was a REALLY helpful text the last time I taught Ren Women--and I know that it's not a work of criticism, but it may be useful esp in your topical approach. If you do Lanyer, Michael Schoenfeldt has a great essay (which you no doubt know already) on her and Donne--can't remember what it's called right now. And I second everything HD's first paragraph says. Also a bit dated but providing a broad and deep contextual scope: Ian Maclean's _Renaissance Notion of Woman_.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like theory time!

Laqueur, Making Sex, and Foucault's History of Sexuality vol. 1, and yes, your students can handle them. Excerpt them and no one will get hurt. And chuck the Traub at your students if you get angry with them. Love that book, but man is it (occasionally) dense. Dollimore and Sinfield (everything) are also clear and relatively easy to read, but require something else to balance the intensity of the cultural materialism.

Oh! Ian Moulton's porn book. Yes yes.

Are you doing anatomical texts as well as litrachure? That worked well in the undie seminar I took on this. It was a marvelous course, though designed for probably a different audience than yours - if I can dredge up the syllabus, I'll send it on (with permission of the person who designed it, naturally).

Jealous of you, Flavia. What a fun time that'll be.

Susan said...

No one has yet mentioned Fran Dolan's _Dangerous Familiars_; also, her edition of Taming of the Shrew for Bedford includes other contemporary works related to shrews, wife beating, etc.

From the historical end of things, for England you want to look at Susan Amussen's An Ordered Society (dated now, but a good starting point) and more recently Sara Mendelson and Trish Crawford's book. David Underdown has an essay on "The Taming of the Scold". Both his Revel Riot and Rebellion and Freeborn people connect gender and politics in interesting ways. Laura Gowing's work is terrific. And for your own reference, look through the various "Attending to Early Modern Women" volumes (ed. by Adele Seeff and various other people): in addition to the papers, there are materials from workshops that provide great sources, and sections on pedagogy that will be helpful too.

I've focused just on English stuff, but if you're working on Europe more generally, look at Merry Weisner's text, and Allyson Poska as starting points.

Oh, and can you tell I'm a historian?

Flavia said...

Just a quick note before I run off to class to say that you guys are the BEST! What great recommendations, all. To clarify: I'm in an English department, and this course will focus primarily if not exclusively on English literature of the 16th-17th Cs.

Sisyphus: would love some of those article references.

Neo: I'd enjoy seeing that syllabus if your old instructor wouldn't mind, though I'm sure we'll be doing rather different things.

And along those lines: HD, thanks especially for directing me to the syllabi on the Brown Women Writers site.

Keep the suggestions coming!

Oso Raro said...

Just a shot in the dark here, but have you looked at the work of Carla Freccero? You can look her up on Amazon or MLA Silver Tennis Bracelet (or whatever they're calling it nowadays). Might be a little too theoretical for your needs, but could be a good lead for something hot and sexy!

By the way, just as an aside, working on sexy is way, but way overrated!

nnyhav said...

Summer reads primary texts: Reading Early Modern Women.

Horace said...

Does Marjorie Garber have any chapters specifically on the Ren in *Vested Interests*? Could be useful...

Erasmus said...

Old (and perhaps too obvious), but presents many scholars' later projects in germinal form: Queering the Renaissance. For basic b/g on the continent, I'd grab a copy of A Companion to the Worlds of the Renaissance, ed. Guido Ruggiero, and reading the relevant essays. (He's got more on Italy, especially Venice, in his monographs, if you're interested.) And I'd second Oso Raro's Carla Freccero suggestion. Also, in a similar course (though focused on the Continent more than England) I had them read one of the Castlehaven trial transcripts along with Comus. (I assume you're familiar with the work on Comus/Castelhaven, and also Leah Marcus' work on that masque and the rape of . . . Margery Evans?)

Folks doing continental stuff usually focus on witchcraft. Witch hunts weren't as prominent in England, but did occur. You might look at some of the work on Macbeth and witches (can't remember names off top of head and not in office.) But some interesting primaries include James' Daemonology, Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft, and, for sheer horror and early modern weirdness (though continental), Kramer & Sprenger's Malleus Malificarum.

Finally, I think Platonic eroticism migth be useful to cover in a course like this. I'd recommend going right to Ficino's De Amore [Commentary on the Symposium]. Chapter 2/Second Speech is quick, covers much of the essential ground, and is undergraduate friendly.

Sisyphus said...

but require something else to balance the intensity of the cultural materialism.

Hey, some of us like our materialism straight up rather than on the rocks!

PS I had an undergrad anthology called Kissing the Rod which had lots of women writers from that time ... the problem being that they were all interested in creating arcadian allegories and not writing the sexxxy stuff. Sigh.

PPS Don't forget Herrick, my buddy --- I loved Herrick so much I copied out "The Vine" and taped it up on my dorm door.

My roommate got me written up with the floor RA for posting porn and making her uncomfortable.


Flavia said...

Sis, I knew there was a reason I liked you! (Although I once had an undergraduate--not at my current institution--write an entire paper on "The Vine" without getting it. That was totally depressing.)

And Erasmus, thanks especially for the Comus/Castlehaven suggestion: I've read some of the scholarship, yes, but it hadn't even occurred to me for this class.

Man. This could be a full-year class, the way you guys are going. Thanks again!

St. Eph said...

I am so totally cribbing this entire comment thread as I revamp my own sex & culture in Early Modern drama class.

I'm just echoing here, but undergrads seem to really like Paster's writing style, and the Lacquer and Foucault are indeed totally accessible if given the right explication in lectures.

I'll send you an e-mail with some more stuff, but for primary texts, Edward II and The Roaring Girl are both huge crowd-pleasers in this kind of class.