McCallum, E.L. & Mikko Tuhkanen. 2014. “Introduction” in The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature ed. E.L. McCallum & Mikko Tuhkanen. Cambridge University Press, New York. ISBN 978-1-107-03521-8
A collection of articles meant as a critical reference work on literature across time and space that might be considered “gay and lesbian literature.” Only articles with lesbian-relevant content will be blogged in detail.
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The introduction discusses the definition of “gay and lesbian literature” and the problem of organizing a volume like this, in the context of a series that primarily focuses on nation, era, or genre. It discusses the focus on expressions of same sex desire, while at the same time problematizing the definition of “same-sex”. There are problems with using terms like homosexuality, much less gay and lesbian, with respect to cultures outside the relatively modern Western context in which those terms developed. As a result, the chapters in the book are sometimes in conversation with existing debates about the nature of gay historiography. The discussions do not focus solely on authors that might today be identified as gay or lesbian, but also on works that suggest same-sex eroticism, regardless of the identity of the author. The discussions recognize the distinctness that may exist between lesbian and gay literary history, and individual chapters may focus on one or the other, or treat them in separate sections of the same article. The authors of the individual chapters take a variety of approaches to terminologies, whether to use “gay” and “lesbian” in an ahistoric overarching sense, or to focus on culturally specific terms, or to avoid labels entirely. The book definitely does not work on the assumption that there is a single tradition of gay and lesbian literature. Although the chapters are grouped in sections identified by various historical eras, this is not meant to suggest a strict chronology regarding the content, but rather may indicate eras in the development of gay and lesbian literature within different cultures. Chapters vary enormously with regard to specificity and focus.