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Histories of Sexualities

Your first assignment in brief: 

- Choose and read a primary source with a theme related to sexuality in the medieval or late modern period (try to find a complete version of the source)

- Find and read two scholarly secondary sources that will help you understand the primary source

Here is Willliam and Mary University's excellent advice on how to analyze a primary source.

Finding a Primary Source

The sources linked below will provide a good starting point for your search. Try also reading your course outline or skimming your textbooks for topics of interest, and possible primary source authors, to look for online or via the Library search tools.

Primary Sources - 
Medieval Period

Primary Sources: Late Modern Europe 

More Primary Source Resources and Search Tips

Reading to Understand a Primary Source

1) Quickly read the following primary source: The Questioning of John Rykener A Male Cross-Dressing Prostitute, 1395.

2) With a neighbour or two, discuss what you learned. What is the reading about, in general terms? What type of document is it? Make a note of key themes, keywords, dates/historical time period or other information that would help you find relevant secondary sources to support analysis of the text. 

3) Next, based on what you learned from the reading, consider what information you might want to find to help you understand the text you read.

Record what you and your partner(s) come up with.

Background Information on Your Sources

Background sources such as encyclopedias and historical dictionaries are a good first stop when trying to understand a primary source. They will provide useful overviews of topics and events, and supplly biographical details for many source authors.

Some scholarly encyclopedias of interest to this course:

Secondary Sources: Books & Articles

The next step in a your analysis is to find more detailed scholarly information that will help you better understand the context of your document, e.g., a book or article about the era/event/author or, if you are lucky, the primary text itself.

Use the LibrarySearch discovery tool on the library homepage to find scholarly books and articles on your author/era/issue/region 

  • Scholarly books will give you the big picture on your topic; look for relevant chapter headings.
    • For primary document analysis, books can be more helpful than articles, at least in the beginning, because they usually provide more context. They are also excellent sources of biographical information.
  • Scholarly articles will explore narrower aspects of your era/issue/region/author's life.
    • Use journal articles to fill in the blanks for your analysis or presentation, after you have explored encyclopedias and scholarly books.

Start with simple searches:

  • author's name (be on the lookout for alternate names/titles/spellings for your author)
  • title of primary document
  • event, organization or location associated with document or author
  • historical era (Middle Ages, Medieval, 19th century) + contextual term (sex, gender, women, homosexuality etc.)

Still looking for information? Use one of the journal article databases on the ARTICLES tab of this guide. Best bests for this course are:

  • Historical Abstracts
  • Project Muse
  • Academic Search Complete
Alice Swabey's picture
Alice Swabey
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