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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Emily L. Thuma
BISAMS 368
Bothell Campus

Sex, Love, Romance

Examines how ideologies and practices of sex, love, and romance have structured American political relations and everyday life. Focuses on the relationship between public and private life, social and gender roles, race and reproduction, among other topics. Stresses diverse interpretive approaches and methodologies within American Studies.

Class description

This core course in American Studies explores the complex history and contemporary contexts of sex, love, and romance in the United States since the nineteenth century. If sexuality and romantic love are often considered outside of or beyond history, economics, and politics, this class asks us to think otherwise: How and why have sexual practices, identities, and meanings changed over time and across place? How have ideologies and practices of sex, love, and romance structured U.S. American culture and politics over the last century or more? How have immigration law, consumer culture, public health, and criminal justice, among other spheres of public life, shaped and been shaped by sex, sexuality, and romantic life? In sum, we will treat sex, love, and romance as categories of social and cultural analysis. Through a series of case studies, we will explore the new sexual identities, communities and consumer cultures that took shape in the cities of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; critically unpack the suburban romance of the 1950s; examine the sexual upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, the HIV/AIDS crisis that began in the 1980s, and the contemporary politics of same-sex marriage; and conclude by analyzing two recent mass-market romances: The Twilight Saga and Brokeback Mountain.

Because this class is a core course in the American Studies major, it provides an introduction to some of the basic methodological approaches that American Studies scholars engage: archival research; historically informed textual analysis; contextualization within contemporary culture and politics; and ethnography. In addition to exploring how various scholars put these tools to work, this class also asks you to engage several of them directly by researching and analyzing a variety of primary sources, from legal documents to news media to photographs, music, and ephemera.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Emily L. Thuma
Date: 10/28/2013