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Mapping Sexuality in 19th Century Paris

This class explores the dynamic relationship between urban spaces and sexual practices/identities. based on readings in feminist and queer theory, urban geography, sociology, art history, literature, and social history, we will analyze a number of modern cities in Europe and the United States before turning to our main laboratory: 19th century Paris. Beginning at mid-century, massive engineering projects under Baron Haussmann demolished the twisted winding streets of old Paris to create the modern city of wide boulevards, commerce, and leisure. A new daily life built around department stores, apartment buildings, the café-concerts, open-air promenades, and parks emerged from these new footprints. Using three of Emile Zola’s novels based on Haussmann’s Paris as our common source-base, we will examine how changes in the physical structure altered the old connections between illicit sexualities and nonconforming gender practices and the reproduction of bourgeois gender norms and sexual identities. In turn, we will ask how the changing economy, with its new opportunities, encouraged new subjectivities that ultimately reshaped both public and intimate spaces as well as notions of pleasure and criminality. With the guidance of the instructor and using Zola’s novels, students will design and write a research paper (12 to 15 pages) reflecting on these themes.