Special Issue "Queer Culture and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Studies"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787). This special issue belongs to the section "Cultural Studies & Critical Theory in the Humanities".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 January 2021) | Viewed by 8963

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Declan Kavanagh
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of English, University of Kent, Kent CT2 7NZ, UK
Interests: queer studies; masculinity; eighteenth-century literature and culture; disability studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

QUEER. adj. [of this word the original is not known: correspondent supposes a queer man to be one has a quære to his name in a list.] Odd; strange; original; particular. He never went to bed until two in the morning, because he would not be a queer fellow; and was every now and then knocked down by a constable, to signalize his vivacity. Spect.

QUEE’rly. Adv. [from queer] Particularly; oddly.

QUEE’RNESS. n.f [from queer] Oddness; particularity.[1]

In his Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Samuel Johnson defines ‘queer’ as ‘Odd; strange; original; particular’. The literary example used to illustrate Johnson’s definition of ‘queerness’ comes from Addison’s and Steele’s The Spectator, and curiously involves the story of ‘a fellow’ who would not go to ‘bed until two in the morning’ so as to avoid being labelled ‘a queer’. This ‘non-queer’ man also encounters the constabulary only to be ‘knocked down’. The de-contextualised narrative components within Johnson’s chosen literary example tantalizingly enfold the potential intimacy or sexuality of the ‘bed’ with the rough enforcement of the ‘constable’ and the gendered performance of ‘vivacity’. Reading, perhaps, anachronistically, there is much in Johnson’s description to tease a resonance with twenty-first century queer experiences of intimacy, sex, criminalisation, and performance.

To a queer-studies reader of the anglophone eighteenth-century, Johnson’s attempt to define ‘queer’ is also, ironically, a very ‘un-queer’ exercise. Of course, the gulf between our own shifting and unstable understanding of queer and Johnson’s entry is deep and intellectually treacherous. And, yet, as scholars have persuasively shown over the past few decades, the long eighteenth century is an incredibly queer period.

This Special Issue invites articles that explore the queer eighteenth century, with a particular emphasis placed on the following areas:

  • Trans and non-binary eighteenth-century lives and cultures.
  • (Dis)ability and eighteenth-century queerness.
  • Queerness and Indigenous lives and cultures in the eighteenth century.
  • Material culture and queerness.
  • Queerness and 21st-century representations of the eighteenth century.
  • Queer historiography and the eighteenth century.
  • Race and queerness in eighteenth-century literature and culture.
  • Queer domesticities, places, and landmarks.
  • Queer communities and networks.

[1] Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language: In Which The Words are deduced from their Originals, And Illustrated in their Different Significations By Examples from the best Writers. To Which Are Prefixed, A History of the Language, And An English Grammar. By Samuel Johnson, A.M. In Two Volumes. Vol. II. (London: W. Strahan, For J. and P. Knapton; T. and T. Longman; C. Hitch and L. Hawes; A. Millar; and R. and J. Dodsley., 1755)  

Dr. Declan Kavanagh
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • queerness
  • trans
  • non-binary
  • Indigenous
  • material culture
  • history
  • race
  • domesticity
  • literary networks

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Article
Queer Feelings: Love and Loss in the Letters of Horace Walpole
Humanities 2021, 10(4), 108; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10040108 - 30 Sep 2021
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Abstract
This essay looks at the letters of Horace Walpole through the lens of the contemporary performance theory of José Muñoz in order to suggest the ways in which Walpole’s feelings in the past reach us with a hope for the future. By looking [...] Read more.
This essay looks at the letters of Horace Walpole through the lens of the contemporary performance theory of José Muñoz in order to suggest the ways in which Walpole’s feelings in the past reach us with a hope for the future. By looking at touchstones in Horace Walpole’s life, I look for a model of queer relationality that is centuries ahead of its time. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Queer Culture and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Studies)
Article
“More and More Fond of Reading”: Everything You Wanted to Know about Transgender Studies but Were Afraid to Ask Clara Reeve
Humanities 2021, 10(3), 98; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10030098 - 26 Aug 2021
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Abstract
Clara Reeve’s (1729–1807) Gothic novel The Old English Baron is a node for contemplating two discursive exclusions. The novel, due to its own ambiguous status as a gendered “body”, has proven a difficult text for discourse on the Female Gothic to recognise. Subjected [...] Read more.
Clara Reeve’s (1729–1807) Gothic novel The Old English Baron is a node for contemplating two discursive exclusions. The novel, due to its own ambiguous status as a gendered “body”, has proven a difficult text for discourse on the Female Gothic to recognise. Subjected to a temperamental dialectic of reclamation and disavowal, The Old English Baron can be made to speak to the (often) subordinate position of Transgender Studies within the field of Queer Studies, another relationship predicated on the partial exclusion of undesirable elements. I treat the unlikely transness of Reeve’s body of text as an invitation to attempt a trans reading of the bodies within the text. Parallel to this, I develop an attachment genealogy of Queer and Transgender Studies that reconsiders essentialism―the kind both practiced by Female Gothic studies and also central to the logic of Reeve’s plot―as a fantasy that helps us distinguish where a trans reading can depart from a queer one, suggesting that the latter is methodologically limited by its own bad feelings towards the former. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Queer Culture and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Studies)
Article
“Ach for It”: Anthony Leigh, Autonomy, and Queer Pleasures in the Restoration Playhouse
Humanities 2021, 10(3), 94; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10030094 - 04 Aug 2021
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Abstract
Anthony Leigh (d. 1692) built his career as a Restoration comedic actor by playing a combination of queer, lascivious, old, and/or disabled men to audiences’ great delight. In this essay, I key in on two plays that frame Leigh’s career: Thomas Durfey’s The [...] Read more.
Anthony Leigh (d. 1692) built his career as a Restoration comedic actor by playing a combination of queer, lascivious, old, and/or disabled men to audiences’ great delight. In this essay, I key in on two plays that frame Leigh’s career: Thomas Durfey’s The Fond Husband (1677) and Thomas Southerne’s Sir Anthony Love (1690). In The Fond Husband, a younger Leigh plays a “superannuated,” almost blind and almost deaf Old Fumble who, in the first act, kisses a man because he cannot navigate the heterosexual erotic economy of the play (as over-determined by able-bodiedness). Over a decade later, in Sir Anthony Love, Leigh plays an aging, queer Abbé who is so earnestly erotically invested in Love’s masculinity (unaware that Love is a woman in drag) that he attempts to seduce Love with dancing. I bring the beginning and end of Leigh’s stage life together to argue that Leigh’s body, performing queerly, asks audiences to confront the limits of pleasure in sustaining fantasies of the abled, autonomous heterosexual self. Using these two Restoration comedies that bookend Leigh’s career, I trace pleasures and queer structures of feeling experienced in the Restoration playhouse. While Durfey and Southerne’s plays-as-texts seek to discipline unruly, disabled queer bodies by making Fumble and the Abbé the punchline, Leigh’s performances open up alternative opportunities for queer pleasure. Pleasure becomes queer in its ability to undo orderings and fantasies based on autonomy (that nasty little myth). In his Apology, Colley Cibber reveals the ways that Leigh’s queerly performing body engages the bodies of audience members. In reflecting on the reading versus spectating experience, Cibber remarks, “The easy Reader might, perhaps, have been pleas’d with the Author without discomposing a Feature; but the Spectator must have heartily held his sides, or the Actor would have heartily made them ache for it” (89). Spectatorship is not a passive role, but rather a carnal interplay with the actor, and this interplay has immediate, bodily implications. Audiences laugh. They ache. They touch. Whereas the reader of a play in private can maintain composure, audiences in the theatre are contrarily discomposed, non-autonomous, and holding onto their sides. Leigh’s ability as a comedian energizes the text and produces pleasure on an immediate, corporeal level for audiences. And that pleasure is generated through stage business built on touching, feeling, and seducing male-presenting characters. Spectatorship may, in fact, be a queer experience as Leigh’s queerly performing body exposes the limits of autonomy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Queer Culture and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Studies)
Article
Recentring Peripheral Queerness and Marginal Art in Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
Humanities 2021, 10(2), 73; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10020073 - 05 May 2021
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Abstract
This essay examines the ways in which Céline Sciamma’s 2019 film Portrait de la Jeune Fille en Feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) looks to centralise onscreen homosexual experience through engagement with, and queering of, eighteenth-century art practices and the [...] Read more.
This essay examines the ways in which Céline Sciamma’s 2019 film Portrait de la Jeune Fille en Feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) looks to centralise onscreen homosexual experience through engagement with, and queering of, eighteenth-century art practices and the discourse surrounding them. From its reception of Ovid’s Metamorphoses to ideas espoused by the eighteenth-century art critic and philosopher Denis Diderot, Portrait looks to traditionally peripheral spaces, or edgelands, and the visual and embodied consequences of transcending them. Engaging closely with eighteenth-century processes of artmaking, the film transforms sketches on paper, paint applied to canvas and wood, miniatures held close to the body and erotica annotated in the margins into queer-coded sites used to reflect and document the developing relationship at its heart. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Queer Culture and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Studies)
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Article
Squaring the Triangle: Queer Futures in Centlivre’s The Wonder
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 53; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010053 - 16 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1056 | Correction
Abstract
Susanna Centlivre’s The Wonder: A Woman Keeps a Secret (1714) presents a model of female relations invested in queer futurity and queer temporality, disrupting the patriarchal geometry of courtship in order to provide the play’s heroines access to an alternate future grounded in [...] Read more.
Susanna Centlivre’s The Wonder: A Woman Keeps a Secret (1714) presents a model of female relations invested in queer futurity and queer temporality, disrupting the patriarchal geometry of courtship in order to provide the play’s heroines access to an alternate future grounded in their relationship with one another. Though the play ends with both women married, their relationship is central and is cemented by Violante’s marriage to Isabella’s brother, which transforms the friends into sisters. Their dedication opens up the possibility that a relationship between women might be more important than the marriages they strive for, illustrating an important intervention into the construction of plot in comedy from the early eighteenth century. The Wonder’s queer potential is developed in the language that both women use to describe their devotion and the actions that embody it. Violante and Isabella are able to expand the triangle of homosocial exchange into a more equitable square that not only allows for happy marriages but visible, loving relationships between the play’s heroines. As such, they manage to create a queer future where their relationship can remain at the forefront of their lives and rewrite the marriage plot as a means to an end. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Queer Culture and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Studies)
Article
Snaking into the Gothic: Serpentine Sensuousness in Lewis and Coleridge
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 52; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010052 - 15 Mar 2021
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Abstract
This essay charts the ways late-eighteenth-century Gothic authors repurpose natural histories of snakes to explore how reptile-human encounters are harbingers of queer formations of gender, sexuality, and empire. By looking to M.G. Lewis’s novel The Monk (1796) and his understudied short story “The [...] Read more.
This essay charts the ways late-eighteenth-century Gothic authors repurpose natural histories of snakes to explore how reptile-human encounters are harbingers of queer formations of gender, sexuality, and empire. By looking to M.G. Lewis’s novel The Monk (1796) and his understudied short story “The Anaconda” (1808), as well as S.T. Coleridge’s Christabel (1797–1800), I centre the last five years of the eighteenth century to apprehend the interwoven nature of Gothic prose, poetry, and popular natural histories as they pertain to reptile knowledge and representations. Whereas Lewis’s short story positions the orientalised anaconda to upheave notions of empire, gender, and romance, his novel invokes the snake to signal the effusion of graphic eroticisms. Coleridge, in turn, invokes the snake-human interspecies connection to imagine female, homoerotic possibilities and foreclosures. Plaiting eighteenth-century animal studies, queer studies, and Gothic studies, this essay offers a queer eco-Gothic reading of the violating, erotic powers of snakes in their placement alongside human interlocutors. I thus recalibrate eighteenth-century animal studies to focus not on warm-blooded mammals, but on cold-blooded reptiles and the erotic effusions they afford within the Gothic imaginary that repeatedly conjures them, as I show, with queer interspecies effects. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Queer Culture and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Studies)
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Correction
Correction: Kocher (2021). Squaring the Triangle: Queer Futures in Centlivre’s The Wonder. Humanities 10: 53
Humanities 2021, 10(3), 87; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10030087 - 08 Jul 2021
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Abstract
The authors wish to make the following correction to the paper published in Humanities (Kocher 2021) [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Queer Culture and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Studies)
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