This book demonstrates a fruitful cross-fertilisation of ideas between British queer history and art history. It engages with self-identified lesbians and with another highly important source for queer history: oral history. The book highlights the international dimension of what to date has been told as a classic British tale of homosexual law reform and also illuminates the choices made and constraints imposed at the national level. It embarks on a queer critical history, arguing for the centrality, in John Everett Millais's life-writing, of the strange-to-us category of unconventionality. The book aims to expose the queer implications of celebrity gossip writing. It offers a historical analysis of the link between homosexual men and gossip by examining the origins of the gossip column in the British tabloid press in the three decades after 1910. The book provides an overview of the emergence and consolidation of a number of new discourses of homosexuality as a social practice in postwar Britain. It explores a British variant on homophile internationalism before and immediately after the 1967 Sexual Offences Act by mapping Grey's cross-border connections while noting strain against transnational solidarity. The book focuses on evidence collected by the 1977 Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship to illustrate how gay men conceptualised the place of pornography in their lives and its role in the broader struggle for the freedom.
-ageist, antiablist, anti-sizeist, pro-feminist and sex-positive orientation. 7
This collection of essays starts from the premise that, in spite of its problems and limitations, queer is indeed a useful category of analysis for students of modern British history and sexuality, both as a big-tent term and because it builds on a body of recent scholarship that differs in significant ways from the pioneering gay and lesbian history of the 1970s. But, like the 2010 conference on ‘BritishQueerHistory’ at McGill University from which it arises, it avoids prescription, imposes
positioning, I want to explore what the critical history she envisages might look like. Thinking queer represents my attempt to work through the implications of ‘queerness-as-method’ – initially as historiographical critique, and then through a more speculative reading of two life-stories as a way of rethinking interwar British society. 2
My focus is thus twofold. First, thinking queer provides a point of engagement with that burgeoning historiography (including my own work) on male same-sex relations that Chris Waters terms the ‘New BritishQueerHistory’. This
in this volume. The chapter grew out of a symposium I co-organised with Joanne Meyerowitz at Yale University in 2008, ‘Social Science and the Construction of Modern Sexuality’, and I am grateful to Joanne and the other symposium participants for helping me frame these ideas. Earlier versions of this chapter were presented in 2010 at a symposium on homosexuality in postwar Europe at the Center for European Studies, Harvard University; at the Simpson Center, University of Washington; and at the conference ‘BritishQueerHistory’ at McGill University. I would like to
The homophile internationalism of Britain’s Homosexual Law Reform Society
comparative frameworks therefore remain important – not least in attempting to test Grey’s policy claims – but Britishqueerhistory still has much to gain from the transnational turn. In the case of HLRS we could certainly move beyond the social and political pulls of the COC, ONE and Kameny to consider cross-border flows of capital (although Grey apparently met little success tapping US foundations), social contact (with hundreds of ordinary men and women across the world corresponding with Grey, though without being put in touch with each other), information (the
There is something of a paradox in the discussion of sex between men in Britain in the nineteenth century. The John Grossett Muirhead and Richard Archdall prosecutions are the two most prominent trials related to sex between men in the 1820s. The association between Frederick Withers and Archdall had begun in July of that year when Archdall 'had requested a servant fitting Withers's description' from the National Guardian Institution. The Vere Street incident initially led to The Times paying increased attention to a wide range of prosecutions involving sex between men. The denial of homosexual blackmail as the reason for Viscount Castlereagh's suicide has most often been coupled with a dismissal of the idea that Castlereagh had homosexual desires. For radicals, Castlereagh was one of the most hated political figures of the day owing to his longstanding opposition to parliamentary reform.
Henry Scott Tuke's career as an artist was deeply committed to the visual proliferation of youths, clad or unclad. The homoeroticism of Henry Scott Tuke's naturalism can be understood as part of his effort to contemporise what was considered to be a lost Hellenic tradition of 'man-manly love'. Paintings of fishermen and other workers were central to Tuke's efforts to bring Greek homoeroticism to his modern time. Tuke's yearning injects a subtle form of homoerotic fantasy into what is apparently a dramatic narrative of working-class men in a storm. Violating the picture plane, Tuke challenges the boundary of the pictorial illusion separated from the viewer's reality. Tuke's naturalistic portrayal of Cornish working-class lads and their lives, with its 'sexless' 'view of labour', is animated by this complex homoerotic desire.
Unconventionality and queerness in Katherine Everett’s life writing
Katherine Everett's 1949 memoir, Bricks and Flowers, narrates a remarkable life. Born into the Anglo-Irish gentry in the 1870s, Everett escaped an abusive mother by moving to Britain as a teenager. This chapter provides a key to understanding a life like Everett's, which seems simultaneously to invite and to resist a queer reading. It argues that it is possible to arrive at a richer understanding of life outside the conventions of heteronormativity and, perhaps, of homonormativity as well. The chapter describes queer critical history in Everett's life-writing, of the strange-to-us category of unconventionality. Homosexuality, or the possibility of it, appears only in muted and intermittent ways in Bricks and Flowers. For Everett, however, the war put a temporary break in her unconventional career as a builder and pushed her towards more typical means of earning a living for a woman: nursing and working as a personal companion.
This chapter describes the genealogy of the heterosexual in relation to its counterpart by looking closely at two distinctive but interconnected systems: sexology and marital advice literature. As a great classificatory project, sexology turns an undifferentiated sexual nature into multiple essences we now term sexual identities. Practising the scientific method of 'close and careful observation', Stella Browne believes her cases 'are absolutely distinguishable from affectionate friendship' and 'episodical homosexuality'. In the closing months of the First World War, sex reformers and sex educators actively developed and disseminated a scientific knowledge of sex by drawing on the work of Havelock Ellis and others. Using the sexological framework to impose order and substance on the messiness of human sexuality, Browne uses the case study method to produce a knowable sexual subject against its nameable opposite.
Society gossip, homosexuality and the logic of revelation in the interwar popular press
This chapter aims to expose the queer implications of celebrity gossip writing. Celebrity gossip writing began as an Edwardian dandy's occupation. The British popular press gossip was a mass-media version of the arch dandy circulating in aristocratic and bohemian circles, a standard figure in British society since the days of Beau Brummell. Some of the gossip writers who would later look for work on Fleet Street sharpened their teeth writing for the Oxford aesthete journal Isis. Gossip writers, like candid photographers whose skill at capturing embarrassing behaviour on camera was called upon extensively in the early and mid-1930s, provided testimonial evidence of the less than savoury aspects of celebrity life. Godfrey Winn faced the discrimination from some of the more bigoted newspapermen that most homosexual journalists in Britain faced, but that seemed to have no negative effect on his success as a gossip writer.