Gay and Lesbian

Prison Intimacies

August 22, 2008
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Prison Intimacies

The August 21 edition of the Times Higher Education includes a review of Regina Kunzel’s new book, Criminal Intimacy: Prison and the Uneven History of Modern American Sexuality. The THE‘s Lynne Segal writes:

Being a product of “situational” aberrations, same-sex activity in prisons is of little interest to historians of sexuality, the psychiatrist and historian Vernon Rosario believes. He is quite wrong, according to feminist historian Regina Kunzel. In her latest book, Criminal Intimacy, Kunzel argues persuasively that the increasingly open secrets of prison life, although usually officially buried, expose the perennial fault-lines of many of our understandings of modern sexuality. As she illustrates, the hallmark of modern discourses of sexuality is the move from sexual acts, seen as decent or indecent, to sexual identities, seen as normal or perverse, generated from within. Sex behind bars, however, has always provided evidence that fails to mirror this account, leaving its occurrence apparently cut off in some anachronistic space all its own.

Read the review on the THE website.

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Two discourses on modern social identity

May 20, 2008
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Two discourses on modern social identity

The May 8 edition of the Times Higher Education ran several noteworthy reviews of Chicago books including Scott Herring’s Queering the Underworld: Slumming, Literature, and the Undoing of Lesbian and Gay History and Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg’s The Pinocchio Effect: On Making Italians, 1860-1920.

Both books focus on the subject of social identification in the early twentieth century, the former delivering an insightful critique of American “slumming literature” and the gender stereotypes that the author claims the genre simultaneously acknowledged, yet undermined, while the latter gives an equally penetrating analysis of the re-making of Italian cultural identity in the wake of WWI.

Read Denis Flanery’s review of Queering the Underworld: Slumming, Literature and the Undoing of Lesbian and Gay History.

You can find Steven Gundle’s review of The Pinocchio Effect: On Making Italians, 1860-1920 in the same issue.

A book published by Liverpool University Press, one of our distributed clients, was also reviewed in the May 8 THE. Read Martin Conreen’s review of SK-INTERFACES: Exploding Borders in Art, Science and Technology.

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Press Release: Weiss, In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain

April 23, 2008
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Press Release: Weiss, In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain

Germany’s leading literary family during the 20th century was headed by Thomas Mann and composed of six talented children, the most accomplished of which were Erika and Klaus. Long obscured by the fame of their domineering father, Erika and Klaus were prominent writers and artists in their own right who led fascinating, unconventional lives that mirrored the tumult and chaos of their times. In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain is their story. Andrea Weiss’s remarkable biography chronicles Erika and Klaus’s equally remarkable lives. Openly gay during an era of secrecy and repression; defiantly anti-fascist during the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich; intimate friends with such luminaries as W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, André Gide, and Jean Cocteau; performance artists before the phrase had even been coined, In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain is rich in anecdote and eye-opening details, sending the reader spinning and tumbling into the minds of these two extraordinary but neglected literary figures.

Read the press release.

Also read an excerpt from the book.

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Review: Weiss, In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain

March 27, 2008
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Review: Weiss, In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain

German intellectual Thomas Mann left behind not only the legacy of his extraordinary literary career, but six children who—though often overshadowed by their father’s fame—became literary and artistic figures in their own right. In her new book In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story Andrea Weiss delivers a dual biography of Mann’s two eldest, Erika and Clause, whose literary, political, and artistic exploits she recounts in vivid detail. In a review running in the April edition of Harper’s, John Leonard notes that in delivering its candid portrait of the Mann children’s dramatic lives, the book also provides a revealing look inside the elite literary and artistic circles which the Mann children traversed. Leonard writes:

The years of exile, war, and America are an extravagance of highbrow gossip, with such raisins in the cake as André Gide, Bertolt Brecht, Sybille Bedford, Jean Cocteau, Stefan Zweig, Muriel Rukeyser, Christopher Isherwood, Janet Flanner, James Baldwin, and Carson McCullers. Erika wrote magazine articles and children’s books; Klaus wrote novels, plays, and film scripts; and the two of them collaborated on travel books, all while the FBI and the INS were hot on their trail for “premature anti-Fascism.” . . .

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Review: Massad, Desiring Arabs

September 26, 2007
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Review: Massad, Desiring Arabs

Our books are not often reviewed in Jordanian newspapers. In fact, we can’t remember the last time. So it was a treat to see Joseph A. Massad’s new book Desiring Arabs receiving some positive press in Monday’s Jordan Times. Writer Sally Bland praises Massad’s book for its detailed analysis of the influence of Western culture on Middle Eastern sexual mores through a comprehensive survey of Arabic writing from the nineteenth century to the present. Bland writes:

The material reviewed by Massad is amazingly comprehensive, covering a time span of over a century and all major schools of thought from Arab nationalist to Marxist to Islamic. Their writings come in many forms and genres—academic, literary, journalistic and theological—and touch on many subjects related to sexuality, such as heritage, women’s status, health issues and how state policy has dealt with “deviance.”

Like Massad’s two previous books, Desiring Arabs is meticulously researched and documented, using a broad spectrum of Arabic, English and French sources. Touching on so many disciplines as it does, the book inspires—or provokes—a radically new way of looking at human identity, culture and social behaviour, in part based on a more objective assessment of the past.

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Review: Houlbrook, Queer London

September 7, 2006
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Review: Houlbrook, Queer London

With topics like same-sex marriage, adoption rights, and other queer issues taking center stage in much of the current political, religious, and social debate, Matt Houlbrook’s Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis 1918-57 delivers a timely and significant back-story to the role of queer sexualities in modern culture. A recent review in the London Review of Books applauds Houlbrook’s work in its attempt to deconstruct some of the modern preconceptions of the historical role of homosexuality in one of its modern urban meccas:

Matt Houlbrook’s impressive study of queer life in London between 1918 and 1957 does much to revise our understanding of homosexuality in that period. Coverage of recent changes in the law has tended to portray the 20th century as a time of darkness, in which gay men struggled to escape the shadow of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment; Queer London complicates that account. Houlbrook’s story is lucid, subtle and at times very funny.

A history remarkable in its complexity yet intimate in its portraiture, Queer London is a landmark work that redefines queer urban life in England and beyond.

Read an excerpt.

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Press release: Johnson, The Lavender Scare

April 28, 2006
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Press release: Johnson, The Lavender Scare

From 1950 to 1954, Senator Joseph McCarthy and his infamous list of "Reds" were at the center of every major congressional debate. These days, most Americans know that hundreds of government employees faced professional and personal devastation as a result of his rampant accusations. But few of us know of the lavender scare that McCarthy’s charges also engendered—a witch hunt against "sex perverts" who had apparently infiltrated government agencies. The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government traces the origins of contemporary sexual politics to this Cold War hysteria.… Read the press release.

Read an interview with the author.

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Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

March 7, 2006
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Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

History Today‘s March 2006 issue features a review of Matt Houlbrook’s Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957, winner of its Longman-History Today Book of the Year 2006 award. Julian Jackson praised the book: "Superb…. This is scholarly history, but it is also the best kind of engaged history. Houlbrook clearly feels something was lost with the ‘respectable’ homosexuality of the 1950s although he is too good a historian to tell any black-and-white story. He sees the evolution he describes as ‘simultaneously liberating and exclusionary.’ If for some men the emergence of more private spaces after 1945 was ‘unequivocally affirmative, offering them opportunities to socialize in a safe, respectable and semi-private place,’ this process made things harder for those who wished—or were forced—to remain more visible. This is a book, finally, as much about London as about sexuality, demonstrating with empathy and subtlety both how sexuality was played out in the city and how it was shaped by it."

History Today editor Peter Furtado calls the book " example of modern ‘queer history’ is an account of how gay people lived in London, which everyone, gay or straight, can relate to. Not written (as it might have . . .

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Seeing Males Together: Brokeback Mountain and Picturing Men

March 1, 2006
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Seeing Males Together: Brokeback Mountain and Picturing Men

An essay by John Ibson, author of Picturing Men.

History’s fundamental lesson warns those who are comfortable with contemporary social arrangements, as it reassures those who are oppressed by current practices: It hasn’t always been like this, and isn’t likely to stay this way forever. This lesson is certainly true when it comes to the way that American men today are inclined and allowed to express their affection for each other—whether that affection involves romance, sexual longing, or just profound fondness.

Ang Lee’s magnificent film Brokeback Mountain is the sad story of two Wyoming ranch hands whose society severely inhibits their twenty-year-long affectionate and sexual relationship. They express their mutual attraction only when utterly alone in the wilderness, at huge expense to their emotional lives and also their relationships with women. Yet Brokeback Mountain may also be instructively seen as a movie that raises disturbing issues about the ways that all American men feel about the appropriate ways to express their fondness for each other, whether or not that fondness is accompanied by sexual desire. Our culture still so scorns sexual desire between two men that there is a common fear that such desire just might accompany any fondness, as . . .

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Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

February 22, 2006
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Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

Matt Houlbrook’s Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957 has received the Longman-History Today Book of the Year 2006 award. History Today Editor Peter Furtado described it as "not a story of persecution, but a lucid, sane and fascinating account of how gay people negotiated space for themselves within a hostile cultural environment, dealing with policing, housing, geography, identity and politics."

The current edition of the Times Higher Education Supplement features a review of Queer London by Matt Cook: "A ground-breaking work. While middle-class lives and writing have tended to compel the attention of most historians of homosexuality, Matt Houlbrook has looked more widely and found a rich seam of new evidence. It has allowed him to construct a complex, compelling account of interwar sexualities and to map a new, intimate geography of London.… There is a nostalgia here for a world lost. This brings a rare warmth to the book: Houlbrook has a genuine affection for the men and places he describes. Occasionally his spectacles feel just a little too rose (or lilac) tinted. He is right to suggest that some of our understandings of queer life have narrowed since the war, but I find it . . .

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