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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


ID Marginalities: Marginalities in Nineteenth-Century European Culture

ID Marginailities:  Marginalities in Nineteenth-Century European Culture

Course Convenors: Until 31 Dec 2020 Prof Nick White ( (preparation) / from 1 Jan 2021 Dr Claire White (, Section of French

This module is the Faculty’s main route for route for students interested in any aspect of the long nineteenth century (1789-1914). Beyond its remit as a Lent Term module, it also helps students shape 19th century plans for Easter Term dissertations and for subsequent PhD projects. The seminars will concentrate on writing at and about the margins of society and culture, margins that are particularly significant in the 19th century because of the degree to which they highlight the relationships between transgression and law, eccentricity and the desire for control, exoticism and the attempts to impose normality, variegation and the desire for purity. The question of why deviance and marginality are such crucial topics in the 19th century, of why bourgeois readers were both obsessively interested in and ambivalent about transgression, of the seemingly insatiable demand for fiction and journalism on crime and other extreme areas of society will be central to discussions, and the texts to be studied will be a mixture of the literary and the non-literary.  Individual sessions will be introduced by members of different departments, but will be organized thematically, with a view to opening up the opportunity for comparison with corresponding material in other areas. English translations of foreign-language material will be used, but students will be encouraged to use original material in those languages they know. There is a rich research base in Cambridge on 19th century European culture, and we would normally expect to offer seminars based on material from France, Germany, Italy, Russia & Spain; and a variety of theoretical approaches will be set out, often working at the intersection of literary studies and cultural history. Students wishing to work on other areas should contact the convenor at an early stage to explore how their interests can be catered for in the module.

Preliminary reading:

Althusser, Louis, 'Ideology and ideological state apparatuses : notes towards an investigation', from Lenin and philosophy, and other essays (1971)

Bernheimer, Charles. Figures of Ill Repute: Representing Prostitution in Nineteenth Century France (1989)

Davis, J. A, 'Italy's sad primacy': crime and the social question', in ID. Conflict and Control. Law and Order in Nineteenth-Century Italy (Macmillan, 1988), pp. 314-342

Foucault, Michel. Les Anormaux. Paris: Seuil, 1999. [pending translation]

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Trans. Alan Sheridan (1995)

Gallagher, C., and Thomas Laqueur, Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century (1987)

Gibbs, Jack P. Norms, Deviance, and Social Control: Conceptual Matters. New York: Elsevier, 1981.

Goffman, Erving. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity [1963]. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990.

Matlock, Jann. Scenes of Seduction: Prostitution, Hysteria, and Reading Difference in Nineteenth Century France (1994)

Merrick, Jeffrey and Bryant T. Ragan. Homosexuality in Modern France. Oxford: OUP, 1996.

Noël Valis (2004). The Culture of Cursilería: Bad Taste, Kitsch, and Class in Modern Spain. Duke University Press

Nordau, Max. Degeneration, Introduction George L. Mosse, Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 1993

Nye, Robert A. Crime, Madness and Politics in Modern France: The Medical Concept of National Decline. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Perrot, Philippe. Fashioning the Bourgeoisie : a history of clothing in the nineteenth century, translated by Richard Bienvenu. Princeton, N.J. :Princeton University Press, c1994

Pick, Daniel. Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder, c.1848-c.1918, Cambridge: CUP, 1989

Thomson, Rosemary Garland (ed). Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. New York: New York University Press, 1996.

Weininger,Otto. Sex and Character, 1903


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