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Gender and Sexuality in Literature (10 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

This course examines the centrality of gender and sexuality in the discussion of literature and culture. Focusing on the construction of gender identity, sexuality, and gender norms in literary texts from Shakespeare to Angela Carter, with a focus on LGBTQ+ narratives, the course maps major developments in gender, sexuality and queer studies.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment


Content of Course

Students on the course will read a selection of literary texts exploring gender and sexuality. Early modern notions of gender and desire will be explored through Shakespearean drama, while modern notions of gender and sexuality will be studied through Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Gender fluidity, transgender and non-binary identities will be explored though reading Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues, while the construction and challenging of gender and sexual norms will be examined through Angela Carter’s fairy tales. Utopian notions of gender, gender identity, and sexuality will be presented in Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer, while feminist theories on the healing power of love and community, and resistance to oppression, will be studied through texts by Audre Lorde, Tony Kushner, and Chinelo Okparanta.

Alongside discussion of specific literary texts, through mini-lectures students will be introduced to key concept within the field of gender and sexuality studies, and to the relation between feminist theory and gender and sexuality studies. Literary texts will be placed within their social and historical contexts, and the mini-lectures will serve to introduce historical and contemporary theories of gender and sexuality through which to approach the texts. Students will thus be asked to consider the role of literature in formulating experiences of gender and sexuality, and to consider the relationship between history and the development of theories of gender and sexuality.

Teaching method(s)

Through mini-lectures and supportive seminars, this course will give students the opportunity to read and discuss a range of fiction and non-fiction texts, as well as introducing literary theory based on feminist theory and gender and sexuality studies. Attention will be given to political, historical, social and cultural contexts. Students will be given introductory lectures on each text/author and will be asked to participate in group discussion, and be given the opportunity to deliver a short presentation. With guidance, students will identify literary devices through the close reading of excerpts and be encouraged to use recognised literary critical methodologies in their analysis of texts.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of key topics in gender and sexuality studies and the central role of gender and sexuality in literary works;

  • Identify past and current attitudes toward particular aspects of gender and sexuality through literary representations, identifying ways in which debates regarding gender roles and sexual norms have been constructed;

  • Apply concepts of gender and sexuality in analysing literary texts, and communicate and express ideas referring to these terms;

  • Construct, present and evaluate arguments coherently; including by locating, evaluating and referring to scholarly sources;

  • Evaluate texts through close reading, identifying literary techniques and devices using recognized terminology.


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.