The contents of this site were produced by Grinnell College students enrolled in a course on Sex in American History, taught by Professor Carolyn Herbst Lewis. Professor Lewis teaches this course differently than she does other courses. For one, it moves thematically rather than chronologically through the past, jumping around temporally and spatially in order to avoid any semblance of a progressive narrative. The assigned readings also highlight the ways that the study of sex and sexuality necessarily differs from studying other fields of history. Because most people do not leave careful archives of their sexual desires, identities, and behaviors, historians have to get creative and turn to sources that might not otherwise be standard forms of documentation. Historians of sex and sexuality also borrow methods and theoretical frameworks from other disciplines in order to read these sources in innovative ways that expand the possibilities of what we can know about the past. Producing podcasts rather than formal research papers helped underscore the similarities and differences in this field’s methods, sources,  and approach. As you listen, you might consider how reading a formal paper on the same topic might have been a much different experience for you as a scholar or otherwise interested person.

There are two forms of podcasts available here.

First, students were asked to work on a short podcast of approximately 5 minutes. This assignment was intended to give them an opportunity to work with their group on a lower-stakes project before delving into the larger research project. Perhaps most importantly, it gave them a chance to practice using the recording and editing equipment early in the semester. The task in this short podcast was to choose an article from the course readings and present it to their listeners. A stellar podcast would be one that someone who had not done the reading could listen to, understand the article author’s main points and the article’s significance, and get a sense of what the students thought about it.

The second podcast form presented is longer and more detailed.  Here, students were asked to design and complete a group research project on any topic related to the history of sex and sexuality in American history, and to present this research in the form of  a podcast. The stakes were higher here, and students were asked to think about style as well as content. We worked on storyboarding, signposting, and other elements of a successful and engaging digital story. The results varied, but all offer intriguing research and analysis.

Most students had never before produced a podcast, so they had to learn the technology in addition to mastering the methods and theories useful in studying the history of sex and sexuality. Some things we had to learn the hard way — like that it’s best to check the sound quality before you continue with the full recording. This means that there are variations in technical quality. You might want to be careful with how you adjust your volume.

A huge thank you goes to Gina Donovan, Instructional Technologist at the Digital Liberal Arts Collaborative at Grinnell College, for all of her help and patience!

As they produced their podcasts, students did their best to comply with copyright law and Fair Use guidelines. If you feel that your own work has not been properly attributed or that your copyright has been violated, please contact Professor Lewis at lewiscar@grinnell.edu. She will be happy to take down the student podcast and/or remove the questionable content.

Student work represents the ideas and views of the students and is not representative of Grinnell College or Professor Lewis.

Header image used courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

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