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Cross-dressing is a common theme in f/f historical fiction, but the fictional genre has tended to develop its own tropes and assumptions about the relationship between cross-dressing and sexuality that don't always match the historical reality. Furthermore, cross-dressing had different motivations, contexts, and meanings in different eras and cultures. If you're planning to write a story with a cross-dressing heroine, it can be a good idea to dig deeply into the specific context she would be operating in. Lois Schwich provides an example of one such model.

This article is getting a bit “meta” for the blog, since it’s an analysis of themes in modern lesbian historical fiction. But I thought it might be fun to summarize. And besides which, hey, evidence that lesbian historical fiction is considered a topic of serious study! I've run across a couple other articles studying queer historical fiction (and even sent a query email to one of the authors about potentially appearing on the podcast -- alas, unanswered). There are a lot of topics I'd love to see studied around this subject, if only there were interest enough (or time to do it myself).

The last three chapters of Female Masculinity are all of limited interest to the Project, so I've combined them with chapter 4 into a single entry. Now I have three weeks to do the reading an annotating for the 6 entries after that, which are all full books, and two of which I don't currently own. (I'd been assuming I could get library copies.) Past!Me what were you thinking? Most likely I'll rearrange things a little and substitute in some shorter articles.

One of the most annoying "historical firewalls" in researching queer history is getting past the notion that the rise of the sexologists in the late 19th century was the most defining event in queer history. If you start by looking backward from the present day, it's all too easy to run into Ellis and Kraft-Ebbing and swallow the idea that they invented homosexuality and that everything before that is a "dark age".

Sometimes the volume of my interspersed commentary in an LHMP entry is an index to how much I disagree with it. But sometimes--as in the present case--it's because I find the content so challenging and engaging that I was to become part of the conversation. I want to discuss the subject, to dig deeper, to bring in additional angles, to talk my way through the process of integrating the ideas into my own global understanding. I'm not in the position of having those conversations with the authors.

Lots of thinky thoughts on this book, but they're all in the commentary below. Due to length, I've split this entry up into several parts, though my coverage of the chapters is uneven so I've clustered the shorter ones together.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 46c - History and Historic Fiction with Janet Todd - transcript pending

(Originally aired 2020/05/16 - listen here)

 

Show Notes

A chat with historian and historical novelist Janet Todd.

In this episode we talk about:

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 46b - Interview with Janet Todd - transcript pending

(Originally aired 2020/05/09 - listen here)

A transcript for this show is pending.

Show Notes

In this episode we talk about:

While this book does provide some useful analysis of pre-20th century practices and attitudes around cross-dressing, it is even more enlightening on how much has changed around the topic in the last two decades. Readers today may find some of Garber's discussions as alien as a 100-year-old book would be.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast: Episode 46d - Aphra Behn (reprise) - transcript

(Originally aired 2020/05/22 - listen here)

(This is a reprise of episode 7, aired 2017/02/25)

This is a reprise of an earlier episode from the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast. I hope you enjoy revisiting the topic, or perhaps this is your first chance to listen to it.

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