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What are Little Boys Made Of, Made Of? Victorian Art and the Formation of Gender

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Given that educators increasingly have to integrate social and moral education within the general curriculum, this article considers ways in which the visual arts may or may not be a useful resource for challenging the stereotypical preconceptions about gender and sexual identity held by many people in a post-industrial, intercultural society. Focusing on 'Exposed: the Victorian nude', Tate Britain's inaugural exhibition for the opening of its new London galleries, the article examines a selection of artefacts that are assumed to represent the sexual mores of Britain at a pivotal time in the construction of its national identity. With reference to the social history of art and feminist theoretical 'interventions', the exhibits are analysed as possible evidence of the Victorians' beliefs and values about sex and sexuality. Subsequently, two questions are posed: firstly, what does the exhibition's selection and hang say about contemporary beliefs? Secondly, can historical artworks be constructively used with young people (post-16) as a catalyst for discussion of sex, gender and sexuality?
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2002

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