How delightful to wake up this morning to find the release announcement for "Hyddwen" in my Twitter mentions! This is the second story in a series inspired by my love for medieval Welsh literature (and the gnawing feeling that what medieval Welsh literature needed was more lesbians). I love love love what Pip Hoskins, the narrator, has done with this one! If you enjoy "Hyddwen", you might want to go back and listen to "Hoywverch", the first story in the series, though you get the essential recap within the story itself.
If you enjoy fantasy fiction and listening to audiobooks, I strongly encourage you to subscribe to the Podcastle podcast. You may have read my occasional short reviews of some of their output. In addition to doing audio reprints of stories published elsewhere, they publish a lot of great original work and recently won the Best Fictional Podcast at the Academy of Podcasters Awards. All their podcasts are free to download, but if you like what you hear, you can support them through venues like Patreon.
I'm not going to lie: I'm feeling a bit anxious about the reception of this week's podcast. The topic of how erotic desire has been handled with respect to the history of lesbians has the potential for hurtful erasure on every side. Some scholars have approached the history of sexuality from a position that erotic desire and erotic activity are how you define the presence of lesbianism. Even aside from the way in which an eagerness to "claim women for the L team" tends to erase bisexual identity, using sexual activity and sexual desire between women as the sine qua non of lesbian identity erases those for whom romantic attachment, rather than sex, is the key factor. (Although it does encompass aromantic women who enjoy erotic attraction to women.)
In this episode, I look at the patterns of history, not through the question of "how did specific women experience homoerotic and homoromantic attraction?" but through the lens of cultural archetypes. What were some of the prominent cultural archetypes that combined romantic bonds between women with an absence of the expectation of sexual activity? I'll be very curious to hear what people think.
Here's the current episode link.
And here's a page with links to all the past shows, so you can catch up.
I don't do the podcast for fame and fortune--I do it for love. It would be cool to get some love back. Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast feed (such as iTunes, Podbean, or Stitcher) and it would be fabulous if you left a rating and review specifically mentioning how much you enjoy the history podcast.
There's a special Halloween episode of the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast live at the Lesbian Talk Show: a discussion of Christina Rossetti's poem "The Goblin Market" in the context of 19th century literature with themes of lesbian-tinged decadent sensuality and predatory supernatural creatures. The podcast concludes with a reading of the entire poem. I think I'm finally starting to feel ok about listening to the sound of my own recorded voice! One of the things I'd like to do with the podcast is include more readings from some of the texts discussed in the LHMP. So let me know if this is a sort of thing you'd like more of.
The Lesbian Talk Show, which hosts my Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast episodes, is doing a holiday special series currently, with special episodes of regular shows and additional episodes that mix and match the regular contributors. I was matched up with Suzie Carr who does a regular postive-thinking series called "Curves Welcome" and we brainstormed the intersection of our two topics and came up with "The Masks We Wear", discussing both phyiscal and psychological masks and costumes and how we use them to interact with others and negotiate our identities in the contemporary world and in history.
You can listen to the show directly online, or even better, you can subscribe to The Lesbian Talk Show through iTunes, Podbean, or Stitcher. (And if you like the show, we'd love it if you give it a rating to help others find it.)
* * *
I apologize for not posting my wrap-up of A Little Princess yesterday. It's being a demanding week--I have an intense investigation at work that is eating up my lunch hours, and the final proofs of Mother of Souls came in for review and took priority over other things in my non-work hours. You'll have to wait until next Wednesday to find out how the story ends!
When I first started working seriously on the Lesbian Historic Motif Project, I was delighted at how the number of relevant publications and the scope of the material kept expanding with every book or article I read. But lately I've been noticing how often I'm covering publications that largely cover themes and motifs that I've already dealt with. Sometimes they have an interesting new take on the material, but sometimes it's simply repackaged from a slightly different angle. This isn't a problem, as such. But it means that I'm sometimes tempted to summarize the work simply with a list of the topics. And in a case like the present book, the scope is so broad and the coverage so glancing that I've foregone providing a complete topical index. That doesn't mean it isn't a valuable book--far from it--especially as an entry point to the topic. But broad general works of this type can miss some of the nuances that the more in-depth articles explore.
On another topic, this seems a good time to repeat that the first monthly episode of the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast has gone live. The series is going to give me a chance to talk about some of my favorite historic people and stories in a more informal context, and the include greater amounts of some of the historic texts. The episodes are scheduled to post on the last Saturday of each month.
* * *
Jennings, Rebecca. 2007. A Lesbian History of Britain: Love and Sex Between Women Since 1500. Greenwood World Publishing, Oxford. ISBN 978-1-84645-007-5
This may be the first time I find myself at a loss for summarizing a book because it’s too jam-packed with relevant information. Jennings has set out to discuss pretty much every scrap of historic data addressing lesbians and lesbian-like relationships in Great Britain during the defined time period of 1500 to the present. Reading through it, I haven’t spotted any material that hasn’t been mentioned in other publications already covered by the project. But conversely, the concentration of this material in a single volume (complete with footnotes and extensive bibliography) makes the book an incredibly useful one-stop-shop of information.
The book does have the flaw of focusing solely on Great Britain and rarely touching on how the situation there differed from elsewhere in Europe. And I’ve spotted a few typical errors in sweeping statements, such as the claim that the word “lesbian” was not used in the sense of “a woman who desires women sexually” until the mid 20th century. But these are the sorts of flaws that are to be expected in a work with such scope.
The book is organized thematically in a manner that also reflects trends over time. Chapter 1 covers evidence for sexual desire between women in the 16 -18th centuries. Chapter 2 looks at the phenomenon of cross-dressing, “passing women”, and “female husbands”--topics that were most characteristic of the 17-18th centuries. Chapter 3 covers the theme of romantic friendship as understood in the 18-19th centuries. Chapter 4 looks at the rise of the “new woman” in the later 19th century, and the ways in which women’s demands for independence and equality conflicted with feminine archetypes of the Victorian era. Chapter 5 examines the emergence of “sexology” as a psychological study, and its effects on the understanding of same-sex desire. And chapters 6-10 cover 20th century topics outside the scope of the current Project.
I can strongly recommend this volume for anyone interested specifically of the history of lesbianism in Great Britain.
Due to the nature of the contents, I won’t be providing keyword links, as the lists would be unmanageably long.
It's the very first Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast episode! "Ordinary Women" kicks off this monthly audio series as part of The Lesbian Talkshow podcast, a magazine style podcast of book reviews, readings, news, and entertainment. Subscribe to The Lesbian Talkshow at Podbean, Stitcher, or iTunes and don't miss an episode of the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast!