A new CAS 105 section, Cross Dressing in Western Literature taught by John Sutton, will offer a unique perspective on life and fiction from the medieval period next semester.

“There wasn’t a lot offered in gender studies,” UR graduate student John Sutton said on CAS course choices.

“My course gives a unique perspective on gender studies as well as Western literature,” he said.

The course covers ancient Rome through the Renaissance, in chronological order, ending with a unit on 20th century interpretations of cross dressing. The last item on the syllabus is “Shakespeare in Love,” Sutton said.

“Women in those days dressed as men to lead a fuller life in many cases,” according to Sutton. In Renaissance drama, women were not allowed to act, so men cross-dressed to play female roles.

Also on the syllabus are Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” and “Twelfth Night.”

Joan of Arc is an example of how cross dressing gave women greater advantages in pre-modern times despite that she was burned at the stake for refusing to stop wearing women’s clothes.

“Cross-dressing seems like it was a relatively normal aspect of society back then,” said freshman Vanessa May-Corsini. “Today, cross dressing is viewed very differently. For some people, it is their lifestyle.”

As for her feelings about the course, “I think it is a unique topic — I would definitely take the course,” May-Corsini said.

Sophomore Portia Bridges thinks the course is worth taking. “I think our campus could use that sort of open-minded approach to history,” she said.

Junior Shailey Desai, who took Visualizing Science as her CAS course, is pleased with the program. “I thought my CAS course gave tremendous insight into the topic.”

She speculated that there would be many students interested in the cross-dressing CAS course.

“These CAS courses cover many different topics ranging from comic books to the Internet. It seems to me that there’s a course that’s interesting to everyone,” she added.

This course is Sutton’s own idea, which he formulated in collaboration with his adviser.

Sutton, who attended Colgate University as an undergraduate, is pursuing a doctoral degree from UR specializing in gender studies in medieval literature.

“This course is not just for people interested in gender studies or women’s studies, it is meant for anyone interested in the subject,” Sutton said.

“Visitors are always welcome. Students, grad students, professors, faculty and friends are all invited,” Sutton said.

If anyone interested was unable to register for this course, Sutton will “almost undoubtedly” teach this course again next fall.



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