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'A new city of friends': London and homosexuality in the 1890s

Cook, Matt (2003) 'A new city of friends': London and homosexuality in the 1890s. History Workshop Journal 56 (1), pp. 33-58. ISSN 1363-3554.

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Homosexuality was repeatedly aligned during the later nineteenth century with a series of urban ‘types’ and spaces, and also with a range of anxieties about the modern metropolis - about degeneration, decadence, excessive consumption and sexual excess, for example. Those attempting to legitimize homosexuality could not wholly sidestep this rhetoric and the insistent urban connection. There was a need to imagine ways of being in the city which allowed affirmative conceptualizations of homosexual subjectivity, community and politics. This paper explores the alternative ways in which Oscar Wilde, romantic socialist Edward Carpenter, classicist John Addington Symonds, and the early campaigner for homosexual law reform George Ives negotiated London in their work. It observes that although there are significant overlaps between the testimonies of these writers, their complex and intersecting ideas about identity, desire and the city ultimately prevent us from discerning either a unitary urban type or a coherent culture of homosexuality in London. In living and describing a homosexual life in the city, the paper concludes, it was as important to chart an independent and personalized mapping as it was to share in a subcultural network of places and experiences.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > History, Classics and Archaeology
Depositing User: Sandra Plummer
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2007 15:01
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:16

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