English R1B

Reading and Composition: Staging Desire: Sex and Sexuality in Renaissance Drama

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Fall 2022 Scott, Mark JR
MWF 12-1 EVAN41


Book List:

Ford, John: ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore; Marlowe, Christopher: Edward II; Shakespeare, William: As You Like It.

Other Readings and Media:

Edward II (film), dir. Derek Jarman (1991)

Paris is Burning (film), dir. Jennie Livingston (1990).

Additional primary and secondary texts will be provided electronically, including works from Renaissance antitheatricalists like Philip Stubbes and Stephen Gosson, as well as modern theorists of gender and sexuality such as Michel Foucault and Judith Butler.


The drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries offers a fascinating site for the analysis of gender and sexuality as historical and theoretical constructs, rather than as the timeless and universal ‘facts’ of human experience which they are often assumed to be. In a ‘transvestite theatre’ in which all roles, male and female, are played by boys and men, assumptions regarding the absolute and fixed nature of gender difference are called into question, while the fact that scenes of heterosexual desire are played out between men creates a space for the expression of homosexual and other transgressive desires. At the level of both form and content, the early modern theatre above all underlines the status of gender as performance. We will read a set of plays produced between the 1580s and 1630s which pose gender and sexuality as central problems, studying these in conjunction with a variety of both Renaissance and modern-day texts confronting these debates. We will seek to reflect upon the immense shaping power of the societal norms which govern sex and gender, and to locate those instances where non-normative identities and sexualities assert themselves.

The broader academic purpose of this course is to develop your critical reading and writing skills, whatever your major might be. You will write and revise three papers of increasing length over the semester, and work with peers to improve your writing and critical thinking

Back to Semester List