LGBTQ+ History Month 2024 in the EFL

Three logos (LGBT+ History Month 2024, LGBTQ+ Oxford SU, and the Bodleian Libraries) on a pink background

This display was produced in collaboration between the Oxford SU LGBTQ+ Campaign and the English Faculty Library of the Bodleian Libraries

For LGBT+ History Month 2024, the English Faculty Library has collaborated with the Oxford SU LGBTQ+ Campaign to put together a book display! This display was created from suggestions made by Oxford’s very own LGBTQ+ community, and features descriptions written in their own words. You can come into the library to see the whole display laid out for February, or peruse the titles here are your leisure.

After Sappho – Schwartz, S. W. (2022)

Nominee: Mia Clement

“In wider society, lesbians or sapphists were labelled deviant figures: corrupt, depraved and doomed to a bad end; unless, of course, men of science could somehow save them from themselves – although they could also be sources of unusually stimulating, voyeuristic pleasures. Whilst the book acknowledges its euro-centrism and does not go beyond typical 2000s gender academia, the book engages well with sexuality and disrupting norms. Schwartz is openly drawing on the work of novelists like Bernadine Evaristo and, significantly, historian Saidiya Hartman, who’ve experimented with ways of documenting the hidden histories of marginalised, Black women. Hartman’s imagined Black lives were playing out in America at a similar point in history. Yet unlike Hartman’s dispossessed; her obscure, queer girls and women (whose existence could only be glimpsed in court records and official documents), Schwartz’s overwhelmingly-white subjects were predominantly privileged. Most of them were already exhaustively documented by biographers and writers, like Diana Souhami, who focus on lesbian histories. So for the most part, Schwartz’s is well-trodden ground, tied to an established lesbian canon that’s easy to track because of the sheer volume and array of source material available, much of it still widely accessible: from artwork to diaries to fiction and memoir.”

 

Rebecca – Du Maurier, D. & Beauman, Sally. (2003)

Nominee: Bella Done

“This book isn’t explicitly queer, in the sense that it was written before it was acceptable to talk about. However, I think the themes are clear to anyone who’s looking. You can never go wrong with a gothic novel, and this one focuses on romance, obsession and grief.”

 

 

Gender Trouble : Feminism and the Subversion of Identity – Butler, J. (1990)

Nominee: Anonymous

“Gender Trouble was my first step into queer theory and criticism. As a new first-year reading Butler for our Literature Theory Paper, I was struck by their boldness and brilliance of gender performativity. It was like my eyes were opened onto a whole world of gender fluidity, and I’m never going back.”

 

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Wilde, O. & Bristow, Joseph. (2006)

Nominee: Isaac

“A classic tale of secrecy, shame & aestheticism – the text explores the gay author’s opinions on male beauty and a kind of disregard for women through the narrative of a (supposedly) straight man. It was presented to me in school without any queer context given but, with the lens afforded to a modern queer man, the homosexual repression jumps off the page.”

 

Carmilla – Le Fanu, J. S. & Costello-Sullivan, K. (2013)

Nominee: Anonymous

“Published in 1872, and famously inspiring Stoker’s Dracula, Carmilla is the novel that first started the ‘lesbian vampire’ trope. This novel is dark, filled with sexual longing, and has inspired a whole subgenre of queer art and literature that has quite an impact on my own life. The darker past to this pathologized depiction of lesbian desire has been reclaimed in wider popular culture and helped form a path towards wider lesbian representation.”

 

Hauntings and Other Fantastic Tales – Lee, V. (2006)

Nominee: Evie

“Hauntings is a collection of short stories that chill, challenge and question. Each story is as strange as it is astounding. Lee’s stories contain disembodied voices, ghostly melodies, and thrilling reveals. Published in 1890, this collection begins to challenge Victorian moral, ‘properness’ in a period where our modern understanding of queer identities was just starting to emerge. Known for her masculine dress and appearance, and her well documented relationships with women, Lee’s life and work is queer in the way that they cannot be pinned down and clearly defined. Some of the stories in the collection are even dedicated to her love interests. They tear down boundaries, question binaries, and ask whose history we are really telling. Vernon Lee’s work depicts the beautiful, at times dark, complexity of queerness. In a period where male same-sex relationships have historically dominated the narrative, I think it is so important that this often-forgotten author is included in LGBTQ+ history.”

 

Gallathea, 1592 – Lyly, J. (1998)

Nominee: Evie

“The play that inspired Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Gallathea, offers an answer to the search for early modern queer representation. Hiding from the terrifying prospect of being sacrificed, two young women dressed as men, Gallathea and Phillida, escape into the woods and promptly fall in love. As the question of their queer love arises at the end of the play, the Goddess Venus looks on the pair to say, ‘I like it well and allow it’. She even offers the chance for one of the women to transition and be made a man. Leaving the question of their relationship and respective genders lingering as the play ends, queer desire takes centre stage. Queer love and genderqueer identities are not new, and Gallathea shows it.”

 

Tales of the City ; More Tales of the City ; Further Tales of the City : an Omnibus – Maupin, A. (1989)

Nominee: Robin-James Zenker

“The Tales of the City took me on a wild adventure through the queer streets of San Francisco in the late 70s and 80s. Through the eyes and stories of its many queer characters and their tales, this book revels in the beauty and chaos of daily life and finding joy and meaning in a particularly special chosen family living in 28 Barbary Lane. Queer literature often importantly reflects the hardships faced by LGBTQIA+ communities and their struggles for self-liberation, but if you’re in the mood for something more light-hearted, the Tales of the City is a wonderful, adventurous queer escape that holds a very special place in my heart. Enjoy!”

 

Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall. – Bartlett, N. (2017)

Nominee: Jasper Hopkins

““it’s 3AM in the City and in a dark corner of The Bar, two lovers collide in the beginnings of a passionate and violent affair”
This novel captures the horror and grief of the 80s AIDS crisis and the homophobic violence of the time while also being one of the most beautiful and striking illustrations of gay love and culture. Set in the queer haven of The Bar, this incredibly evocative romance explores undeniably queer dynamics and people, not shying away for a moment from the raw truth of the 80s gay scene. Complex, beautiful, unashamed.”

 

Loveless – Oseman, A. (2021)

Nominee: Anonymous

“Loveless is a young-adult novel about Georgia and her friends as they start university. It then tells the story of how they discover more about why Georgia hasn’t ever had any crushes on anyone and why that doesn’t change in a new environment. I love how it showed to all of Georgia’s friends the multitude of ways that love can be defined.”

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