Gender/Sex, Restoration Drama
Instructor: Jason Farr

In this class, we will explore English drama written and performed between the years 1660-1740, and we will pay close attention to how these plays depict—and simultaneously shape—social codes of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality. We will read (and in some cases, watch filmed footage of) some of the era’s best-known plays such as “The Country Wife,” “The Man of Mode,” and “The Rover.” We will also read the poetry of the sexually-explicit libertine John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, as well as the poetry and drama of an often-overlooked, innovative woman writer, Margaret Cavendish. Class discussion and research papers will be grounded in questions such as, how does the Restoration English stage negotiate gender norms and sexual relations through its stock characterization of aristocratic men and women, and how do these representations shift in the early 18th century? How do normative and non-normative genders play out on stage, and how can these performances enhance our understanding of contemporary English politics and class dynamics? In what ways do our present conceptualizations of sex and gender, including labels such as “homosexual,” “bisexual,” and “transgender,” differ from those of the Restoration and early 18th century? What kind of impact does the poetry of the era have on theatrical production, and vice-versa? How and why does the novel come to supplant the theatre as the most popular 18th-century cultural form? We may also discuss our readings’ portrayals of colonialism, empire, race, and disability inasmuch as they intersect with the course’s primary themes of gender and sexuality.