Spring 2016

The Century of Sex: Gender and Sexual Politics in Modern Europe

Listed in: European Studies, as EUST-224  |  History, as HIST-224  |  Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, as SWAG-224


April D. Trask (Section 01)


(Offered as EUST 224, HIST 224 [E], and SWAG 224)  In the 1920s and 30s, authoritarian and fascist states across Europe declared that sexuality was not private. Sexual choices in the bedroom, they claimed, shaped national identities and the direction of social and cultural development. Through a variety of programs, propaganda and legal codes, states such as Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy sought to regulate sexual behavior and promote specific gender roles and identities. The intervention of the state in the intimate lives of citizens in the twentieth century, however, was rooted in the transformations of state, culture and economy that took place long before the speeches of great dictators. This course explores the cultural debates surrounding sexual practices, medical theories of gender and sexuality, and the relationship between sexuality and state that shaped European societies in the twentieth century. In case studies from across the continent, the course explores a range of topics, including but not limited to the history of sex reform, prostitution, homosexuality, venereal disease, contraception, abortion, the “New Woman” and sexual emancipation movements, sexual revolutions and reactionary movements and reproductive politics, among others. Students will explore how seemingly self-evident and unchanging categories--feminine and masculine, straight and gay, “normal” and “deviant”--have taken shape and changed over time, and how historical processes (modernization, imperialism, urbanization) and actors (social movements, sex reformers, nationalist groups and states) sought to define and regulate these boundaries in the so-called “century of sex.”  Two class meetings per week. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Trask.

If Overenrolled: Priority will be given to Amherst College pre-registered students, pre-registered 5-college students, History majors, and then AC first-year students with an interest in majoring in History. Students who do not attend the first class will be dropped.

HIST 224 - L/D

Section 01
Tu 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM MERR 403
Th 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM MERR 403

This is preliminary information about books for this course. Please contact your instructor or the Academic Coordinator for the department, before attempting to purchase these books.

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
Sexuality in Europe: A Twentieth-Century History New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011 Herzog, Dagmar Amherst Books TBD
A Novel about the Balkans New York: Penguin Books, 2000 Drakulic, Slavenka Amherst Books TBD
A Woman in Berlin London: Virago Press, 2011 Anonymous Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2024