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LHMP entry

When one of my summaries is basically a list of contents, either it means that the publication is really thin on relevant content, or it means that it’s so rich that you simply need to buy the book and put it in a cherished place on your shelf. This one is the latter. At least half the contents apply to women’s experiences (although it’s still true that the male-authored female-relevant content far outnumbers the female-authored male-relevant content) and the collection includes many of the oft-cited texts from the covered period. Far from all, but an excellent place to start.

This article examines the history of inclusion--or more to the point, deliberate exclusion--of vocabulary relating to lesbians and lesbianism in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the “reference of record” for the history of word usage in English. When publication after publication repeats the false statement that vocabulary for lesbians didn’t exist before the late 19th century, one of the reasons is that people are using the OED as if it were simply factual, and not part of the long tradition of erasing women’s same-sex sexuality.

Preface

Early Modern England (16-17th century) was developing a vocabulary and symbology to describe and express intimacy between women and female non-normative sexuality. This was taking place in various genres, including travel narratives, medical texts, and works of marital advice. At the same time, women were developing an evasive coded language to express such desires in their own lives. In this context, Sappho was invoked not only as a symbol of female lyricism, but also to represent and make reference to erotic bonds between women.

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historical