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For the month of May I'm going to be covering a number of books that fall in the catalog/encyclopedia genre. Due to their broad coverage, I won't be adding content tags.

I recall encountering this book in the college library when I was an undergraduate in the late ‘70s. That might have been the 1975 second edition or may well have been the original first edition. It was one of a handful of books I encountered then and during the following decade that gave me hope that there were historical treasures to be found if I only looked hard enough.

This book comes out of an era when “claiming historic figures for the team” was a major preoccupation of gay and lesbian historical studies. (And at that time it was very often narrowly “gay and lesbian” without additional letters of the alphabet.)

OK, so I have to confess that the main reason I own a copy of this book was that I went to a book release party for it at a local bookstore and felt  embarrassed not to buy a copy. So my copy is personally inscribed!

Of the four encyclopedia-type texts I’m covering this month, this is the one I consider most useful and most academically sound. “Usefulness” is a matter of  what you’re looking for, of course. Someone who is browsing for random story inspiration will have a broader definition. But given that the core purpose of this project is to identify accurate and analytic information about desire between women in history, I consider it essential to make recommendations on that basis.

I'm always delighted to have evidence that people are using the LHMP blog as a resource as intended. (I had high hopes that it might spark interest in more people writing lesbian historical fiction--perhaps some day it will.) I received a note this past week from a teacher who had bookmarked an item on my now-deleted LiveJournal version that he wanted to assign as class reading. You can't imagine how that warms the heart! I supplied a longer list of blog links relevant to the class topic (but also suggested one or two of my source texts that might be a better assignment for that purpose).

I've had several long-weekend events lately that have interfered with getting blogs up, but in this case it gave me enough slack time to get the rest of Mill's book written up. There are three more chapters in the can after this one, although some of them are rather thin and I may accelerate the posting schedule if I get more material written up to follow.

It's the last Saturday of the month, so it must be Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast time! This month I'm talking about romantic relations between women in poetry and stories of the courtly love era in Europe. I also talk about how female same-sex desire is erased in academic discussion by setting up entirely different goalposts than are placed for heterosexual desire.

There's one part of me that just wants to squee on the theme of the title of this blog. But what I love about Mills' work here is that he puts the brakes on the emotional reaction that's inspired by wanting to "own" this piece of history, and he walks the reader step by step through what these images do and don't mean. The biggest part of that is that they mean a lot more than simply "here is a picture of two women or two men making love." Because sex never exists in a social vacuum.


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