LGBTQ+ History Month Reading Club: The Nineteenth Century

Professor Matthew McCormack recommends:

H. G. Cocks, Nameless Offences: Homosexual Desire in the 19th Century (I. B. Tauris, 2003).

This is a fascinating study of homosexuality in late Georgian and Victorian Britain. We usually assume that the modern understanding of the homosexual man was invented at the end of the nineteenth century, with the rise of sexology and the publicity around the Oscar Wilde trial.

But this book demonstrates that, in the decades before that, there was already a language to talk about homosexuality. It many respects it was “nameless”, but gay men themselves had a rich vocabulary to talk about their feelings, their identities and their relationships. 

Nameless Offences is very sensitive to the use of historically appropriate language when talking about sexuality – something that has been highlighted recently with the controversy over inaccuracies in Naomi Wolf’s Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love (2019).

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