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This post brings to a close my doubled schedule of posts covering The Lesbian Premodern. Next week we go back to one post per week and publications that address people and events more directly, rather than examining the theoretical work of "doing history". I hope that this digression into theoretical concerns has added to my readers' understanding of the complex dynamics that lie behind "just the facts, ma'am." I've certainly enjoyed this tour through the landscape of historiography.

The cyclicity of both history and theories of history has been one of the themes in this collection. Vicinus looks at examples of those cycles through the lens of a Victorian writer she's been studying.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 18c - Book Appreciation with Kathleen Knowles


(Originally aired 2018/01/20 - listen here)

This month's author guest, Kathleen Knowles, talks about some historic novels that she particularly enjoys, including works by Mary Renault, Rebeccah S. Buck, and Justine Saracen.

(No transcript is available for this podcast.)

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 18d - (Un)Conventional Women - transcript

(Originally aired 2018/01/27 - listen here)

Another summing-up article that looks at the contents of the volume from a number of different angles. Although there is a great deal of repetition in this section of the collection, I like the focus on a deep understanding of the progression of theoretical frameworks that affected both what was studied and how it was interpreted.

In my focus on the "facts and documents" end of historic research, I tend to have little patience for discussions of "theories about theories" far removed from a consideration of the lives and experiences of actual people in history. That doesn't mean that I don't value them. The study of history is far from an objective, value-neutral practice, and if we don't examine and address the subjective, value-infused context in which history is done, we end up accepting those contexts as "fact" when they are far from any such thing.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 18b - Interview with Kathleen Knowles

(Originally aired 2018/01/13 - listen here)

A series of interviews with authors of historically-based fiction featuring queer women.

In this episode we talk about

One of the themes that I find really valuable in this collection of essays is poking at the question of whether and why it is important to find connections between historic modes of sexuality and the modes familiar to modern producers and consumers of historic research and theory. Given how prominent and foundational Lillian Faderman has been in the field of lesbian history, I always feel a bit guilty when I describe my winces at certain of her approaches, though in this essay I think she addresses the underlying premises of those winces fairly directly.

One of the more biting criticisms in this collection of the popularity of a "queer history" approach of a "lesbian history" approach is that the study of the history of male homosexuality has often rested on inherently misogynistic bodies of work--not merely the historic misogyny that skewed the historic record toward the experiences and opinions of men, but just as often the modern misogyny of historians whose desire to validate and elevate male homoerotic relationships in history relies on a denigration of the presence and valuing of women in society.

Research into an awareness of same-sex desire in history often fixes on the use of specific vocabulary or the clear understanding of certain definable categories of behavior. But in this article, Puff looks more deeply at oblique ways in which social knowedge of same-sex desire is made evident. The case of Greta von Möskirch demonstrates that her contemporaries were clearly aware of the possibility that female-presenting individuals might desire other female-presenting individuals, but also that they had a variety of frameworks for "explaining" that phenomenon.


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