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I'm starting a series of four articles from a collection entitled Body Guards: The Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity. After this first article, the others group nicely to cover shifts in cultural understandings of gender and sexuality categories in western Europe in the 16th through 18th centuries. If it weren't for the blog's structure of covering the contents of a collection in series, I'd pair this current article with another one I have coming up on the sexual context of cross-dressing in the medieval Middle East.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 20c - Book Appreciation with Elizabeth Bear

(Originally aired 2018/03/17 - listen here)

In the Book Appreciation segments, our featured authors (or other guests) will talk about one or more favorite books with queer female characters in a historic setting.

In this episode Elizabeth Bear recommends a favorite queer historical novels:

Any time I'm obsessed with a particular text, I'm likely to spend a fair amount of effort to hunt down as much of the scholarly literature on it as I can. (I don't think I can ever exhaust my interest in commentary on Yde and Olive!) For one thing, lesbian historical studies have something of a history of jumping to lesbian-friendly interpretations of texts or persons, and it can be essential to examine contrary opinions. Clearly I need to track down Susan Lamb's analysis to see what I think of her arguments on Mademoiselle de Richelieu.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 20a - On the Shelf for March 2018 - Transcript

(Originally aired 2018/03/03 - listen here)

Welcome to On the Shelf for March 2018.

It’s been a busy month here at the Lesbian Historic Motif Project and I’m really excited about the things we have coming up to share with you, not just this month but in the year to come.

The Fiction Project

When I decided to blog a few books on Charlotte Cushman in support of doing a podcast on her, my online searches suggested two titles that fell in the “definitive” category: Merrill’s 2000 book that I blogged last week, and Leach’s 1970 one that I’m blogging today. I hadn’t quite realized that they’d be such an object lesson in ways to approach the sexuality of 19th century queer women.

I’ve chosen two biographies of Charlotte Cushman to synchronize with the podcast about her. The one in this entry directly engages with Cushman’s same-sex desires and relationships and examines how she curated her own reputation with regard to her personal life, as well as examining how changing attitudes toward same-sex relations after Cushman’s death may have contributed to a deliberate erasure of her legacy.

This biography falls outside the Project’s pre-20th century scope, but I already owned the book and since I featured an interview about a show based on Carstairs’ life on the podcast, it felt like a good excuse to cover it in the blog. The shifting experiences and receptions of Carstairs’s same-sex relationships over her lifetime provide something of a tour through 20th century lesbian history, though of course Carstairs herself was insulated to an astounding degree by her wealth and connections.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 19d - Charlotte Cushman

(Originally aired 2018/02/24 - listen here)

The submissions have all been read and sifted through, the contracts have been sent out and signed, and now it's time to announce the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast's 2018 original fiction line-up! When I finished the first read-though of submissions, I knew immediately that I had a problem: there were just too many good stories that I wanted to buy. Fortunately, I could solve this with an executive decision. Rather than buying two stories for a half-year trial run of the fiction project, I'd just go ahead and buy four to cover all the "fifth Saturday" episodes for the entire year.

Sexual activity has a long and creative history of being described and referred to by slang and euphemism. But when the source domain of the euphemism--the "literal" meaning--is an equally ordinary everyday action, the ambiguity creates problems of interpretation. And in a field like the study of historic same-sex relations, where there is a long tradition of going to some contortions to deny even the scraps of available evidence, euphemism has long been interpreted selectively depending on the genders of the participants.


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