90031 - History of Genres and Sexualities in Early Modern Age (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in History and Oriental Studies (cod. 8845)

    Also valid for Second cycle degree programme (LM) in History and Oriental Studies (cod. 8845)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the module the student is aware that gender identity, for men and women, is in part a historical and social construction that has its roots in the Christian tradition and in the evolution of the control apparatus of the early modern age (systems of repressive justice, medical knowledge, legal culture and theological classifications). The student knows how to contextualize the history of expressions of sexuality, knows how to compare the different social realities, knows how to reconstruct the history of personal relationships and the conditioning they have undergone throughout history. The student can critically evaluate historiography on women, homosexuals and gender and can master the language of the discipline by identifying the most appropriate sources for undertaking research.

Course contents

For centuries, the first division of social roles was organised at the birth of each individual. Depending on ascription to the male or female sex, rights, duties, access to education and resources, as well as expectations concerning behaviour whose transgression was sanctioned in more or less explicitly violent ways, were declined. The use of the sexual body, the expression of desire, has also been attributed a strong identifying power. But can we talk about heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality, asexuality, queer - some of the categories that are used today to define possible identities linked to the sexual sphere - with reference to the late Middle Ages and the modern age? What traces of the experience of desire are left to us from the centuries before modernity? What knowledge and what institutions dealt with a sphere that contemporary sensibilities consider to be pertinent to the private sphere and personal choice?
The course will explore the organisation of European societies between the 15th and 18th centuries, with an opening to the globalisation of the early modern age, addressing the following core themes:

- Women's history, gender history, history of masculinity: introduction to historiographies and methodological issues
- Gender and religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam
- Science and society: knowledge, classifications and governance of bodies
- Rights, duties, possibilities: the legal status of men and women, access to education and knowledge, resources and work
- Criminalisation, decriminalisation of non-conforming behaviour and gender-based violence


In addition to lecture notes, attending students will add the study of:

M. Foucault, La volontà di sapere, Storia della sessualità 1, Feltrinelli, Milano (all editions are allowed)

M. E. Wiesner-Hanks, Le donne nell'Europa moderna, new edition, Einaudi, Torino, 2017

Plus a text of your choice from:

F. Alfieri, Veronica e il diavolo. Storia di un esorcismo a Roma, Einaudi, Torino, 2021

M. Barbagli, Comprare piacere. Sessualità e amore venale dal medioevo a oggi, il Mulino, Bologna, 2020

Anna Bellavitis, Il lavoro delle donne nelle città dell'Europa moderna, Viella, Roma, 2016

F. Benigno, V. Lavenia, Peccato o crimine. La Chiesa di fronte alla pedofilia, Laterza, Roma-Bari, 2021

N.M. Filippini, Generare, partorire, nascere. Una storia dall'antichità alla provetta, Viella, Roma, 2017

U. Grassi, Sodoma. Persecuzioni, affetti, pratiche sociali (secoli V-XVIII), Carocci, Roma, 2019

Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, Matrimoni rinascimentali: donne e vita famigliare a Firenze (secc. XIV-XV), Viella, Roma, 2022

La fama delle donne. Pratiche femminili e società tra Medioevo ed età moderna, a cura di Vincenzo Lagioia, Maria Pia Paoli e Rossella Rinaldi, Roma, Viella, 2020

Valerio Marchetti, L'invenzione della bisessualità. Discussioni fra teologi, medici e giuristi del XVII secolo sull'ambiguità dei corpi e delle anime, Milano, B. Mondadori, 2001 (oppure 2008)

Gabriella Zarri, Recinti. Donne, clausura e matrimonio nella prima età moderna, il Mulino, Bologna, 2000

Natalie Zemon Davis, Donne ai margini. Tre vite del XVII secolo, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 1996 (oppure 2001)


Students not attending will add:

N. Zemon Davis, "Women's History" in Transition: The European Case, in Feminist Studies, Vol. 3, No. 3/4 (Spring - Summer, 1976), pp. 83-103 (traduzione italiana in "Nuova DWF. Donna Woman Femme. Quaderni di studi internazionali sulla donna", Roma, Donna e ricerca storica, 1977, n. 3 and in Altre storie. La critica femminista alla storia, a cura di P. Di Cori, Clueb, Bologna, 1996)

Gianna Pomata, Storia particolare e storia universale. In margine ad alcuni manuali di storia delle donne, in «Quaderni storici», 74 (1990), pp. 341-385

Teaching methods

The course will be held through lectures, during which sources and images will be shared and foundational texts of the discipline will be discussed.

Assessment methods

Students who attend at least 75% of the lessons are considered to be attending.

The exam will take place in oral form. Students' familiarization with the concepts, issues and methodologies addressed during the course will be assessed.

The evaluation will take into account the ability of the student to orient herself within the sources and the bibliographic material, to illustrate themes and problems and to establish connections.

Attention will be given to:

- The ability to master the subject

- The ability to synthesize and analyze themes and concepts

- The ability to express oneself adequately and with language appropriate to the subject matter

The achievement by the student of an organic vision of the topics addressed in class together with their critical use, a good command of expression and specific language will be evaluated with marks of excellence.

A mnemonic knowledge of the subject, together with synthesis and analysis skills articulated in a correct but not always appropriate language, will lead to discrete evaluations.

Training gaps and / or inappropriate language - albeit in a context of minimal knowledge of the exam material - will lead to grades that will not exceed sufficiency.

This course (6CFU) is part of the Integrated Course "History of Genders C.I. LM". If the student has chosen the integrated course (12CFU) in the study plan, the final mark will be the arithmetic mean of the marks obtained in the two component courses ("History of genders and sexualities in the modern age" and "History of women and gender identity").


Teaching tools

Presentations in power point format, sources, essays, online repertoires can be provided by the teacher. The materials will be made available in the specific section of the University website.

Office hours

See the website of Fernanda Alfieri