Spring 2022 - HIST 454 D100

Problems in the History of Sexuality (4)

Queering Marriage

Class Number: 4643

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 10 – Apr 11, 2022: Mon, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including 9 units of lower-division HIST or 9 units of GSWS. Recommended: HIST 115.



Explores how ideas, practices and identities have changed over time in response to social, political and economic pressures. Emphasis on postmodern approaches to understanding sexuality, and the international historical scholarship it has generated. Chronological and geographical focus of this course may vary. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 454 may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught.


Queering Marriage from an Intersectional Lens

The late 20th and early 21st century struggle for same-sex marriage rights divided the queer community in Canada and the US. Many lesbians and gays regarded marriage as an oppressive institution. Critics argued that same-sex marriage encouraged “homo-normativity,” which undermined the radical potential of the feminist, gay liberation, and queer movements. This debate reinvigorated historical interest in the history of marriage. Beginning with a close examination of feminist and gay liberationist critiques of marriage, we examine the history of same-sex marriage practices and the historical problems they pose. We further deepen our understanding of the topic by considering marriage as a tool of colonization in Canada, and the diverse ways African Americans have engaged with and related to the institution during and after enslavement.

Students will attain a deep, discerning appreciation of the complexities of human experience, engage with and critique complex historical evidence as well as diverse theoretical and ideological perspectives, and acquire disciplined reading, writing, research, and oral communication skills essential to the independent and collaborative tasks required in varied professional settings.


  • Seminar Participation (includes several short writing assignments and discussion prompts) 25%
  • Seminar Presentation [with a partner] 20%
  • Book Review (due midterm) 20%
  • Research Paper 35%



Required books are available for purchase in the bookstore and as an ebook in the library.


Cleves, Rachel. Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America. Oxford UP, 2016. 
Hunter, Tera. Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century. Harvard UP, 2017.
Carter, Sarah. The Importance of Being Monogamous: Marriage and Nation Building in Western Canada to 1915. Athabaska University Press, 2008

Registrar Notes:


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Teaching at SFU in spring 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the spring 2022 term.