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As I note below, I originally picked this up because I thought it would cover all types of cross-dressing in the context of chivalric romances and tournaments. But even though it's restricted to contexts where men perform femininity in a public context, it's still quite relevant to understanding medieval attitudes toward gender crossing and gender performance. In particular, it's a strong reminder that men and women lived in entirely different universes with regard to how cross-gender performance and gender transgression were received.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 22a - On the Shelf for May 2018 - Transcript

(Originally aired 2018/05/05 - listen here)

Welcome to On the Shelf for May 2018.

So there I was this morning with the brain-weasels running non-stop in my head telling me, "Nobody actually cares about your stupid podcast. Nobody listens to it except by accident because they're subscrbed to the whole Lesbian Talk Show group. That's why nobody's sent you any questions for your silly 'Ask Sappho' segment. Because they Just. Don't. Care. Here, I'll prove it to you." And I ran a google search on the exact phrase "lesbian historic motif podcast" and scrolled through all the entries that are just podcast venues or my own website. And...wait. The Guardian?

While one of the underlying purposes of the LHMP as a resource for authors is to find examples of women in history who engaged in same-sex relationships, when clear examples from women's lives are not available, a second purpose is to identify cultural experiences that women could have recognized as reflecting their same-sex desires. Or, in simpler terms, if a character in a historical fiction didn't have direct experience of same-sex love, what might she encounter that would validate the concept? What was there in her environment that could "give her ideas"?

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 21d - Diana and Callisto: The Sometimes Problematic Search for Representation - transcript

(Originally aired 2018/04/28 - listen here)

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 21c - Book Appreciation with Liz Bourke

(Originally aired 2018/04/21 - listen here)

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

In this episode reviewer Liz Bourke recommends some favorite queer historical novels:

Historical studies of prominent women such as Queen Elizabeth I often focus on the men who filled key positions in their governments or who served as advisors. Such an approach that looks primarily at formal structures can overlook the immense power and influence that women had in a social context where people spent most of their lives in gender-segregated contexts.

The 18th century English performer Charlotte Charke manipulated gender performance both on stage and off. Charke's performances--whether dramatic, economic, or literary--represented a challenge to gender boundaries of the time and have continued to stand as a challenge to historians engaging with Charke's person and performances. Was Charke's off-stage performance as "Mr. Brown" simple economic necessity? Was it a reflection of transgender identity? Was it a strategem to engage in homoerotic encounters with women?

There's a lot of meat to chew on in this article, and I think that Trumbach's exploration of shifts in how same-sex desire was understood and classified during the "long 18th century" is both fascinating and valuable. But at the same time, I see a lot (and I mean, A LOT) of flaws and weaknesses in how he frames and presents the data and his conclusions. Which I have commented on at great length interspersed with my summary of the article.

There are many philosophical pitfalls in the desire to categorize historic individuals or concepts in western culture as "lesbian" as we moderns understand and use the term--I say this despite my own use of the word as a shorthand in this project. (A shorthand I have no intention in abandoning for a variety of reasons.) Many of those pitfalls revolve around historic shifts in the understanding of the nature of physiological sex, the relationship of sex to performative gender, and the relationship of both of those to erotic and romantic desire.


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