The University of Missouri is offering a class on sibling incest for the spring 2013 semester.
Taught by Stefani Engelstein, "Sibling Incest in Theory and Literature" will reportedly explore the historical perspectives on sibling relations and the "deployment of erotic desire, love, and sympathy ... and analyze the gender dynamics involved in such deployment."
According to a course description online:
This course will explore a number of theoretical and critical perspectives on incest, and sibling incest in particular, alongside readings of literature of the late eighteenth through early twentieth century. We will consider the way incest functions to establish or to upset identity in the context of national, religious, racial, and familial structures. We will also examine the deployment of erotic desire, love, and sympathy as political, economic, and textual strategies, and analyze the gender dynamics involved in such deployment. Finally, we will investigate the positioning of the incest taboo at the border of nature and culture, or science and the humanities, in the context of the founding of disciplines and the policing of their boundaries.
Engelstein's faculty bio says she is writing a book called "Sibling Logic: Incest, Collective Identity and the Subject."
The conservative blog Campus Reform reports the class is taught in hour-long sessions twice each week. The College Fix, another conservative blog, called the class "a ridiculous compilation of academic gobbledygook that ultimately seeks to defend and normalize incest as commonplace and acceptable."
TotalFratMove.com also expressed confusion about what academic value the sibling incest course will hold.
UPDATE, 5:40 p.m.: Engelstein issued the following comment to The Huffington Post explaining more about the logic behind teaching such a class:
My class, “Sibling Incest in Theory and Literature” is a humanities course. In the humanities, we investigate the relationships between ideas that arise in the history of human thought in order to better understand complex issues, past and present. There are many different disciplines that have asked where incest taboos come from and how they function. Some examples are anthropology, psychoanalysis, and evolutionary psychology, and we will look at how each approaches the question. Erotically charged sibling relationships also appear in many narratives, including myths and legends, but also European literature particularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The course asks why there was an increase in incest narratives in this period. Literature provides a way for people to pose questions about how society evaluates different kinds of relationships and identities, so our readings focus on discovering what social, political, and scientific issues are connected to this topic and why.