Sex and Gender in Antiquity

CLST 266

The time has come to think about sex—and its history.  Sexuality as a topic might seem unimportant next to, say, poverty, war, disease, racism, famine, or nuclear annihilation. But precisely at times like these—when people feel under threat—they can become dangerously crazy about sexuality.  Displaced social anxieties turn into arguing over sexual behavior—what it is, what it’s becoming, what it ought to be. 

This course proceeds from the conviction that debate about the future of sex, sexuality and gender needs to be based on an understanding of its past.  The ancient Greeks and Romans have played a big role in shaping the very categories through which we “think” sex and gender. Yet like a fun-house mirror in which we see ourselves distorted, both familiar and strange, the sexuality of Graeco-Roman antiquity allows us to scrutinize what we take for granted here and now.

In this course, we shall read the reflections of Sappho, Plato, Xenophon, Catullus, Juvenal and others on seduction, rape, pederasty, marriage, the body and related topics.  We shall analyze these texts carefully to see how “the ancients” speak to contemporary debates about the sexual.

Explore the culture and customs of these countries: 
Greece, Italy
Explore these religions: 
Paganism
Relevance to other majors: 
Sexual codes often determine social belonging and hierarchy—who’s in, who's out, and who's on top. As such, this course is relevant to any other major concerned with the way human beings organize themselves into communities and award status within those communities—for example, Cultural Anthropology, History, and Women's Studies. In addition, we shall be studying many classics of Western literature, which makes the course pertinent to English and Literature majors
Faculty: 

Micaela Janan, micaela.janan@duke.edu

Crosslisting Numbers: 
GSF 266
Areas of Knowledge: 
ALP, CCI, CZ
Modes of Inquiry: 
CCI
Film, Visual & Performing Arts?
No
Literature in Translation?
Yes