In 1928, a journalist wrote about Radclyffe Hall’s lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness: "I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel." The book was subsequently banned as obscene in England, and all copies were ordered to be destroyed. On this course, we will examine the rich history of literature and censorship across different countries from the nineteenth century to the present day. We will explore various kinds of censorship, ranging from self-censorship to government-imposed bans. Who gets to decide whether a text is ‘dangerous’ or ‘obscene’? What are the different reasons for censorship? What effect does it have? What arguments have people made for and against censorship? Do we need censorship today?

The development of literary modernism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century coincides with the emergence of sexual science. In this historical moment, literary authors and scientists shared an interest in creating new forms of expression to understand sexuality and articulate sexual possibilities. You will examine how a range of canonical and lesser-known authors negotiated scientific ideas about diverse sexualities in novels, short stories and autobiographical works. You will also investigate how literature shaped scientific understandings of sexuality. The course explores tensions as well as moments of exchange and collaboration between literary and scientific writers. We will cover literary and scientific writings about diverse sexualities and consider the intersections of sexuality and gender, class, race, age, nationality, citizenship and religion.