Accessibility statement

Gendering the Exotic - Exoticising Gender, c.1700-1900 - HIS00007M

« Back to module search

  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Joanna De Groot
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

This module will allow students with interests in the political analysis of culture and the cultural analysis of politics to test out those approaches through work on histories of empire and colonialism. Using sources ranging from political commentary, life writing and painting to travel texts, photography and fiction as well as a rich secondary literature, we will explore gendered and raced readings of those histories. We will work with the notion of the “exotic” with which Europeans have signalled their simultaneous attraction to and distance and difference from non-European societies and people. 

Following a session which will introduce students to the field, we will focus on two important areas of scholarship and debate relevant to these concerns. Firstly, we will look at the development and legacies of modern forms of enslavement, and the use of enslaved labour, as key constituent elements in European colonial expansion and in the modernisation of British and French societies and politics. We will consider these topics, including the agency of enslaved people, using the categories of race and gender to think about the histories, practices, and critiques of empire and racial thinking. 

Secondly, we will study the uses of, and debates over, the notion of “orientalism” as a tool for analysing European involvement in the Middle East and India during this period. This will allow us to consider the intersections of politics, cultural production, and social experience. Using concepts of gender and race we will examine both the controversies over the usefulness of that notion, and some of the scholarship on eighteenth and nineteenth century European views of the “exotic east”.

In our final session students will be able to consolidate their work by presenting brief case studies on chosen pieces of primary material which illustrate the themes considered during the module.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation

  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and

  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

After completing this module students should have:

  •  Gained understanding of the central roles of gender and race in modern history

  • Acquired skill in the critical use of concepts of ‘gender’ and ‘race’ as categories of historical analysis

  • Gained insight into the mutually constitutive roles of empire and metropole in French and UK history

  • Grasped key debates and issues in the historiographies of empire, gender, and race

  • Developed skills in reading and analysing a varied range of sources

  • Developed skills in independent study, in seminar discussion and presentation, and in essay writing

Module content

Students will attend eight weekly two-hour seminars in weeks 2-9.

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

seminar 1  - introductory : texts, contexts, concepts

TOPIC A (seminars 2-4):  gender, enslavement, and empire

seminar 2  - gendering enslavement and colonialism

seminar 3  - antislavery, gender, and race

seminar 4  - gendered empires ‘at home’ and ‘away’


TOPIC B (seminars 5-7):  the question of orientalism

seminar 5  - debates about ‘orientalism’

seminar 6  - writing and visualising ‘the east’

seminar 7  - orientalist expertise and imagination

seminar 8  - results and prospects : presenting case studies 


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will complete a 2,000-word procedural essay for formative assessment, due in week 6 of the spring term, for which they will receive an individual tutorial. They will then submit a 4,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 1 of the summer term.

For further details about assessed work, students should refer to the Taught Masters Degrees Statement of Assessment


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Module feedback:
Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback consisting of comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment


Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading: 

Hall, Catherine  White, male and middle class: explorations in feminism and history. John Wiley & Sons, 2013

Said, Edward    Orientalism: western conceptions of the Orient. 1978 and many editions since

Draper N Legacies of British slave-ownership: colonial slavery & the formation of Victorian Britain. CUP, 2014

Dobie, Madeleine. Foreign bodies: gender, language, and culture in French orientalism. Stanford UP 2004

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.