Presenting our Yale University Press Pride Month reading list—because celebrating #Pride2017, learning from the history of the movement, championing stories and contributions of LGBTQIA+ individuals, and working each day to insist on equal and fair treatment of queer communities should extend far beyond June.
A landmark account of gay and lesbian creative networks and the seismic changes they brought to twentieth-century culture
In a hugely ambitious study which crosses continents, languages, and almost a century, Gregory Woods identifies the ways in which homosexuality has helped shape Western culture. Extending from the trials of Oscar Wilde to the gay liberation era, this book examines a period in which increased visibility made acceptance of homosexuality one of the measures of modernity.
Woods shines a revealing light on the diverse, informal networks of gay people in the arts and other creative fields. Uneasily called “the Homintern” (an echo of Lenin’s “Comintern”) by those suspicious of an international homosexual conspiracy, such networks connected gay writers, actors, artists, musicians, dancers, filmmakers, politicians, and spies. While providing some defense against dominant heterosexual exclusion, the grouping brought solidarity, celebrated talent, and, in doing so, invigorated the majority culture.
Woods introduces an enormous cast of gifted and extraordinary characters, most of them operating with surprising openness; but also explores such issues as artistic influence, the coping strategies of minorities, the hypocrisies of conservatism, and the effects of positive and negative discrimination. Traveling from Harlem in the 1910s to 1920s Paris, 1930s Berlin, 1950s New York and beyond, this sharply observed, warm-spirited book presents a surpassing portrait of twentieth-century gay culture and the men and women who both redefined themselves and changed history.
Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay by Julian Cox; with a contribution by Nayland Blake and poetry by Eileen Myles
An unprecedented look at a moving photographic series that chronicles the gay communities of Los Angeles and San Francisco from 1969 to 1972
For more than forty years, American photographer Anthony Friedkin (b. 1949), creating full-frame black-and-white images, has documented people, cities, and landscapes primarily in his home state of California. During the culturally tumultuous years of 1969 and 1970, Friedkin made a series of photographs that together offer an eloquent and expressive visual chronicle of the gay communities of Los Angeles and San Francisco at the time. This is the first book to explore the series, titled The Gay Essay, in depth, within the broader historical context that gave rise to it.
1969 witnessed the Stonewall riots in New York City and was a turning point in the history of community building and organized political activism among homosexuals in the United States. The Gay Essay provides a singular, intimate record of this crucial moment. Friedkin’s portraits, taken in streets, hotels, bars, and dancehalls, demonstrate a sensitivity and an understanding that has imbued the photographs with an enduring resonance. This handsome book features seventy-five full-page plates and is accompanied by engaging essays and a poem by Eileen Myles.
Julian Cox is the founding curator of photography and chief administrative curator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Nayland Blake is an artist, writer, and educator, and is chair of the ICP-Bard Program in Advanced Photographic Studies at the International Center of Photography, New York. Eileen Myles is a New York-based poet, whose recent books include Snowflake/different streets and Inferno.
A Queer History of Fashion From the Closet to the Catwalk edited by Valerie Steele
From Christian Dior to Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, many of the greatest fashion designers of the past century have been gay. Fashion and style have played an important role within the LGBTQ community, as well, even as early as the 18th century. This provocative book looks at the history of fashion through a queer lens, examining high fashion as a site of gay cultural production and exploring the aesthetic sensibilities and unconventional dress of LGBTQ people, especially since the 1950s, to demonstrate the centrality of gay culture to the creation of modern fashion.
Contributions by some of the world’s most acclaimed scholars of gay history and fashion – including Christopher Breward, Shaun Cole, Vicki Karaminas, Jonathan D. Katz, Peter McNeil, and Elizabeth Wilson – investigate topics such as the context in which key designers’ lives and works form part of a broader “gay” history; the “archeology” of queer attire back to the homosexual underworld of 18th-century Europe; and the influence of LGBTQ subcultural styles from the trouser suits worn by Marlene Dietrich (which inspired Yves Saint Laurent’s “Le Smoking”) to the iconography of leather. Sumptuous illustrations include both fashion photography and archival imagery.
“How had the pair of elderly Jewish lesbians survived the Nazis?” Janet Malcolm asks at the beginning of this extraordinary work of literary biography and investigative journalism. The pair, of course, is Gertrude Stein, the modernist master “whose charm was as conspicuous as her fatness” and “thin, plain, tense, sour” Alice B. Toklas, the “worker bee” who ministered to Stein’s needs throughout their forty-year expatriate “marriage.” As Malcolm pursues the truth of the couple’s charmed life in a village in Vichy France, her subject becomes the larger question of biographical truth. “The instability of human knowledge is one of our few certainties,” she writes.
The portrait of the legendary couple that emerges from this work is unexpectedly charged. The two world wars Stein and Toklas lived through together are paralleled by the private war that went on between them. This war, as Malcolm learned, sometimes flared into bitter combat.
Two Lives is also a work of literary criticism. “Even the most hermetic of [Stein’s] writings are works of submerged autobiography,” Malcolm writes. “The key of ‘I’ will not unlock the door to their meaning—you need a crowbar for that—but will sometimes admit you to a kind of anteroom of suggestion.” Whether unpacking the accessible Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, in which Stein “solves the koan of autobiography,” or wrestling with The Making of Americans, a masterwork of “magisterial disorder,” Malcolm is stunningly perceptive.
Janet Malcolm is the author of The Journalist and the Murderer, The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, and Reading Chekhov, among other books. She writes for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books and lives in New York City.
Gender Nonconformity and the Law by Kimberly A. Yuracko
When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, its primary target was the outright exclusion of women from particular jobs. Over time, the Act’s scope of protection has expanded to prevent not only discrimination based on sex but also discrimination based on expression of gender identity. Kimberly Yuracko uses specific court decisions to identify the varied principles that underlie this expansion. Filling a significant gap in law literature, this timely book clarifies an issue of increasing concern to scholars interested in gender issues and the law.
Notebooks: Tennessee Williams edited by Margaret Bradham Thornton
Meticulously edited and annotated by Margaret Thornton, the notebooks follow Williams’ growth as a writer from his undergraduate days to the publication and production of his most famous plays, from his drug addiction and drunkenness to the heights of his literary accomplishments. At one point, Williams writes, “I feel dull and disinterested in the literary line. Dr. Heller bores me with all his erudite discussion of literature. Writing is just writing! Why all the fuss about it?” This remarkable record of the life of Tennessee Williams is about writing—how his writing came up like a pure, underground stream through the often unhappy chaos of his life to become a memorable and permanent contribution to world literature.
Dada’s Boys: Masculinity after Duchamp by David Hopkins
In this provocative and stimulating book, David Hopkins addresses the homosocial structures in Dada and Surrealist art with an eye to their relevance to current artistic and theoretical debate. Bestriding the book is the pivotal figure of the artist Marcel Duchamp, who was at the center of various groups of artistic and literary figures—predominantly male—in Europe and America. And at the heart of the investigation are Duchamp’s relationships with these men, the various interactions of those within the groups, and the impact of this type of male camaraderie on the artworks they produced.
Hopkins looks at specific moments in the careers of Duchamp and some of his associates—Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Max Ernst and André Breton—and discusses in detail the reception of Duchamp’s ideas in the post-war period. He goes on to trace the influence of the homosocial nature of Surrealism and Dada on the art world from the 1950s to the work of contemporary male and female artists.
David Hopkins is Professor of Art History at the University of Glasgow.
The Trials of Oscar Wilde: Deviance, Morality, and Late-Victorian Society by Michael S. Foldy
Following Oscar Wilde’s 1895 trials for committing “acts of gross indecency with men,” he lost his freedom, his family, his reputation, his will to create, and even his will to live. This book sets out to examine what it was about late-Victorian society that allowed this to happen, indeed needed it to happen, and what the trials tell us about the taste and morals of late-Victorian England.
Foldy shows how the public construction of Wilde’s identity as “deviant” was both informed and limited by existing heterosexist structures of repression and mechanisms of restraint and by the emergence of a new variant of homophobia. He suggests that Lord Rosebery, the prime minister of the time, may himself have been a homosexual, and that the successful prosecution of Wilde was necessary to prevent a larger and infinitely more damaging revelation. Ultimately, Foldy locates the meaning of the trials within the rhetorical context of the contemporary public debate over the “health” of England—a debate whose terms had been defined largely by moral conservatives—and demonstrates that in a nation that had many reasons to be concerned about its future, Wilde was perceived to represent a constellation of potent threats to the health of British society.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture by Mark Oppenheimer
Introducing us to America’s first gay ministers and first female priests, to hippie Jews and folk-singing Catholics, Oppenheimer demonstrates that this was an era of extraordinary religious vitality. Drawing on a rich range of archival material as well as interviews with many of the protagonists, Knocking on Heaven’s Door offers a wry and iconoclastic reappraisal of the ways in which the upheavals of the sixties changed America’s relationship with God.
Mark Oppenheimer teaches at Yale University and is a contributing writer for the Los Angeles Times Opinion column. He is the host of the Tablet Magazine‘s Unorthodox podcast, where he is editor-at-large.
Crush by Richard Siken; foreword by Louise Glück
Richard Siken’s Crush, selected as the winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize, is a powerful collection of poems driven by obsession and love. Siken writes with ferocity, and his reader hurtles unstoppably with him. His poetry is confessional, gay, savage, and charged with violent eroticism. In the world of American poetry, Siken’s voice is striking.
Zarathustra’s Secret: The Interior Life of Friedrich Nietzsche by Joachim Köhler; translated by Ronald Taylor
More than a century after his death in 1900, Nietzsche remains a seminal figure in the history of European intellectual life. Celebrated as a liberator by some, maligned as a pernicious influence by others, he was the subject of controversy during his lifetime, pursuing a hedonistic individualism and espousing concepts such as the Superman and the Will to Power until he died after a decade of institutionalized insanity.
In this groundbreaking biography, Joachim Köhler seeks for the first time to understand Nietzsche’s philosophy through a reconstruction of his inner life. In a revealing reinterpretation of his letters, diaries, and writings, Köhler shows that Nietzsche’s suppressed homosexuality, generating a hatred of Christianity and conventional morality, was a central influence on his work. Further, Köhler argues, his philosophical position was fundamentally compromised by the concealment of his forbidden sexual desire. Throughout his life, the unhappy genius was also plagued by horrible nightmares, stemming from his much-loved father’s death, which led to a profoundly disturbed conscience and an intense loathing of metaphysics.
Seeking to disguise the truth of his innermost torments, Nietzsche contrived the persona of Zarathustra. The story of the great Persian philosopher, contends Köhler, reveals Nietzsche’s own suppression and dionysiac liberation, and presents the culmination of his secret yearnings in the new myth of the Superman who, in his naked beauty, resembled the gods of classical Greece.
American Sympathy: Men, Friendship, and Literature in the New Nation by Caleb Crain
“A friend in history,” Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “looks like some premature soul.” And in the history of friendship in early America, Caleb Crain sees the soul of the nation’s literature.
In a sensitive analysis that weaves together literary criticism and historical narrative, Crain describes the strong friendships between men that supported and inspired some of America’s greatest writing–the Gothic novels of Charles Brockden Brown, the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the novels of Herman Melville. He traces the genealogy of these friendships through a series of stories. A dapper English spy inspires a Quaker boy to run away from home. Three Philadelphia gentlemen conduct a romance through diaries and letters in the 1780s. Flighty teenager Charles Brockden Brown metamorphoses into a horror novelist by treating his friends as his literary guinea pigs. Emerson exchanges glances with a Harvard classmate but sacrifices his crush on the altar of literature–a decision Margaret Fuller invites him to reconsider two decades later. Throughout this engaging book, Crain demonstrates the many ways in which the struggle to commit feelings to paper informed the shape and texture of American literature.
Uncloseting Drama: American Modernism and Queer Performance by Nick Salvato
In this elegant book, modernism is illuminated through little-known but striking works by Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and others who revived the “closet drama”—plays written largely for private reading—as a means of exploring forbidden sexualities.
Bisexuality in the Ancient World (Second Edition) by Eva Cantarella; translated by Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin
Featured Image: “Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas with WACS, 1945” Courtesy Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library via The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.