History of Women and Gender Seminar Conversation: Sexuality of History, History of Sexuality 23 February 2017.Thursday, 5:30PM - 7:30PM Location: Radcliffe, Fay House, Sheerr Room, 10 Garden St. in Cambridge Sue Lanser, Brandeis University, and Jim Downs, Connecticut College Moderator: Jen Manion, Amherst College

Please join us for a conversation with the authors of two important new books in the history of sexuality.  This wide-ranging discussion will explore the relationship between lesbian and gay male histories, literary and historical methods, representation and political mobilization of people and communities. We will explore the following questions: How do such vastly different works advance the ongoing project of queer historicism and/or LGBTQ history and to what end? What scholarly fields and trends have enabled and inspired this new work? Who is the audience for LGBTQ history and queer scholarship, the LGBTQ community or the academy? How do we make theoretical insights legible and relevant to the community? How do we articulate the urgency to make the history of sexuality and LGBTQ communities central part of curricula, graduate training, and our professional organizations?" - Please note that there are no precirculated essays for this session.

Sue Lanser is author of The Sexuality of History: Modernity and the Sapphic, 1565-1830 (Chicago, 2014) which explores the ways in which a historically specific interest in lesbians intersected with and stimulated systemic concerns that would seem to have little to do with sexuality. Departing from the prevailing trend of queer reading whereby scholars ferret out hidden content in “closeted” texts, Lanser situates overtly erotic representations within wider spheres of interest. In so doing, she demonstrates that just as one can understand sexuality by studying the past, so too can one understand the past by studying sexuality. Jim Downs is author of Stand by Me (Basic, 2016) which rewrites the history of gay life in the 1970s, arguing that the decade was about much more than sex and marching in the streets. Drawing on a vast trove of untapped records at LGBT community centers in Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia, Downs tells moving, revelatory stories of gay people who stood together—as friends, fellow believers, and colleagues—to create a sense of community among people who felt alienated from mainstream American life.

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