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Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century

Strangers Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century The nineteenth century was a golden age for those people known variously as sodomites Uranians monosexuals and homosexuals Long before Stonewall and Gay Pride there was such a thing as gay culture

  • Title: Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century
  • Author: Graham Robb
  • ISBN: 9780393326499
  • Page: 361
  • Format: Paperback
  • The nineteenth century was a golden age for those people known variously as sodomites, Uranians, monosexuals, and homosexuals Long before Stonewall and Gay Pride, there was such a thing as gay culture, and it was recognized throughout Europe and America Graham Robb, brilliant biographer of Balzac, Hugo, and Rimbaud, examines how homosexuals were treated by society and fiThe nineteenth century was a golden age for those people known variously as sodomites, Uranians, monosexuals, and homosexuals Long before Stonewall and Gay Pride, there was such a thing as gay culture, and it was recognized throughout Europe and America Graham Robb, brilliant biographer of Balzac, Hugo, and Rimbaud, examines how homosexuals were treated by society and finds a tale of surprising tolerance He describes the lives of gay men and women how they discovered their sexuality and accepted or disguised it how they came out how they made contact with like minded people He also includes a fascinating investigation of the encrypted homosexuality of such famous nineteenth century sleuths as Edgar Allan Poe s Auguste Dupin and Sherlock Holmes himself with glances forward in time to Batman and J Edgar Hoover Finally, Strangers addresses crucial questions of gay culture, including the riddle of its relationship to religion Why were homosexuals created with feelings that the Creator supposedly condemns This is a landmark work, full of tolerant wisdom, fresh research, and surprises.

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    1 thought on “Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century

    1. I teach middle school English, and often I'll work with the social studies teacher to tie together strands of history, literature and myth. To get the kids into a new historical text I tell stories. It's short, sweet, and dramatic. I'm guilty of telling history as a series of discreet events that crash into each other with a kind of inevitability. I recap history with broad brushes and stereotyped characters. In my defense, I think we all need a basic historical skeleton to hang our experiences [...]

    2. I've had three of Graham Robb's books on my shelves for a while – Balzac, The Discovery of France and Strangers, which I suspect I originally bought for the jacket painting of Caillebotte's Paris Street: Rainy Day (a grand impressionist work I used to lose myself in whenever I visited the Art Institute of Chicago). Finally I pulled Strangers off the shelf and read it. It's a sensational book disguised as a dull history.In marked contrast to most writers on this topic (Foucault, Halperin, and a [...]

    3. October 2009A fascinating study of gay life before the twentieth century, using what literature is available from the times: which, aside from subtle (and, at times, not-so-subtle) references in actual literature, usually meant trials and police reports, other legal notes, and journals from the medical community--usually psychologists. Not to say that gay people of previous centuries were criminals or insane; but in cases where homosexuality is considered a crime and a disease, then obviously ho [...]

    4. Extraordinarily good read. Very balanced, intelligent and incisive history of an otherwise overlooked aspect of modern culture.

    5. This is a really, really excellent book about the history of queer sexuality. What I loved most about it was how thoroughly it debunks the myth that no one identified as queer before the medicalisation of homosexuality. They may not have used the same words we use today, but there were people who knew they were different, men who preferred men and women who preferred women. It wasn't solely about physical acts.[return][return]I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in queer history. Or [...]

    6. I finished this about a year ago. Really fascinating stuff, but whatever Robb's argument was, it didn't make enough of an impact because I don't remember it. Robb offers a dizzying array of interesting details about the culture of those involved in same-sex relations (as Robb points out, "homosexuality" is not coined until about the middle of his narrative, and none of the people he wrote about would have described themselves with that word.) I think he would have done better focusing on one pla [...]

    7. This book was full of interesting information and observations, but I found it a challenging read in that I appeared to repeatedly lose the thread of Robb’s arguments. On reflection and some rereading, I think that this is an artifact of a stylistic choice: the book is organized well, but - in this book at least - Robb doesn’t transition out of deeper discussion to his next point - he finishes what he wants to say, and then moves on to the next section of chapter, which branches off the main [...]

    8. Strangers by Graham Robb is a wildly ambitious, thoroughly researched social history of the life of gay men and women in the Nineteenth Century. Written, in part, as a response to the Foucauldian assertion that there because "homosexuality" was not named prior to 1880 that it can not be said to have existed until that point, Robb digs in both wide and deep to cut through the theoretical cant to examine how lives were actually lived. Robb presents plenty of evidence that while the Nineteenth Cent [...]

    9. I learned so much from this book about American & European LGBT life in the 19th Century. The content touches on LGBT life in the spheres of medicine, criminal justice, literature, family, culture, and romance. I enjoy primary sources and the book contains numerous fascinating stories drawn from personal letters, doctors notes, court proceedings, etc. You get to hear people speak for themselves, as well as get a feel for the culture. As you learn more about how society treated LGBT folks, yo [...]

    10. This book is quite a terrific undertaking, synthesizing many anecdotes of homosexual life and love to form a picture that is more representative of day-to-day living for the 19th century man (again, studying primarily male homosexuality) than the more typically tragic and melodramatic conclusions generally made about homosexuality in the past. Although I was reading it for my studies I found myself entertained by it and would have enjoyed it outside of its immediate academic relevance. Robb isn' [...]

    11. Richly detailed and thought provoking. In fact, I started to read parts again as soon as I finished reading through it all once. We tend to think that we live in the best times ever, but this is not always the case with everyone. At least if you had money, in the 19th century you could hide in plain sight and most people would not see a thing -- and those who did would never dream of mentioning or naming.Did you know Sherlock Holmes was gay? Apparently everyone knows this. Why am I always the ve [...]

    12. How you approach this book is going to depend on why you read it: If it's for an academic reason, proceed with caution, but if it's just general interest, go full steam ahead. Graham Robb's Strangers is an interesting pop history book that explores homosexuality in Europe in the nineteenth century and contrasts it to the twentieth century, exposing the flaws in some of our most closely held beliefs about the suffocating puritanism of Victorian England. Overall, Strangers is an interesting read a [...]

    13. The best book I've read so far this year, the depth of research in Strangers was astounding. Busting many of the myths propagated in the twentieth century (and on into the twenty-first), Robb approaches the subject of same sex relations with empathy and insight.As other reviewers have noted, there is far less detail about lesbian life in the nineteenth century but as Robb points out at the beginning, this is primarily due to a lack of primary sources in the patriarchal system as well as a more g [...]

    14. STRANGERS by Graham Robb is a wonderful, scholarly exploration of 'Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century' by an acclaimed author of biographies of Hugo, Balzac, Rimbaud, and other works. The author deserves immense praise for bringing to light so much that has been hidden. The need for this book is quite apparent because of the nature of the subject itself -- so much of homosexual life and love was kept deliberately hidden by the men and women themselves, out of fear of persecution and misun [...]

    15. This starts a bit slow, but it has lots of interesting bits strewn through it. It’s a history of 19th century gay life in Europe and the US. It begins with a lot of rather uninspiring statistics about the criminal persecution of gay people. It details the legal tar-pits that people had to avoid, and the later misguided medical efforts to categorize them. There was a tendency to think of gay people as deformed in some way. The book does a certain amount of myth-busting, mostly letting us know t [...]

    16. There were a few reasons I originally picked up this book; my interest in the 19th century, my interest in gay history as someone who is queer, and my interest in Sherlock Holmes.On all of these counts, my interest was quite satiated. Robb paints a meticulous picture of homosexuality in the 19th century, piecing together bits and pieces from medical studies, private journals/autobiographies, and news stories. Rather than condemning the entire era as a time of fear and anxiety, he instead pulls t [...]

    17. For my purposes (novel research), this didn't go back far enough in time. But of course that's not the book's fault.It's broken down into several sections. Legal, medical, and social life, basically, with some touch on religion. It's easy to focus on the legal aspect of gay history, or the medical aspect, because those are so well-documented. But Robb notes that that's not a whole picture by any means.It's told in a sort of wry tone, with the humor making it more readable than it might otherwise [...]

    18. Biographer Graham Robb researches the archives, diaries and letters of gay men, lesbians, and those who knew them to give modern readers a vivid picture of the lives and culture of homosexuals living during the nineteenth century. The author helps us decode much of hidden meaning built into the pop culture, art, and literature of the era -- everything from The Ugly Duckling to the works of Arthur Conan Doyle. He uncovers a world of allusions, meanings and language that permeated society and cult [...]

    19. This excellent, thoroughly researched account of gay sexuality in the nineteenth century occasionally veers into dour eggheadedness, but mostly it's like Graham Robb's other books: entertaining, surprising and filled with telling anecdotes that illustrate research with sly wit. Provides a useful lens through which to view the crypto-homosexuality of nineteenth century American and English literature and social customs. While being homosexual was stigmatized and demonized in mainstream nineteenth [...]

    20. The fascinating revelation that the homosexual person did not exist until the late 19th century and that same-sex relations before then could be intimate without being socially anathema. To quote from the book: "A dramatic suggestion made by Michel Foucault in 1976, based on a 19th century idea, is now widely accepted as the historical truth. The idea is that, before 1870, the exclusively homosexual person did not exist. ‘The homosexual’ supposedly was a creature invented by Victorian doctor [...]

    21. Another in my growing list of "I would really give this 3.5 stars" list. This book was a bit less cheeky and flamboyant than I had expected, and that turns out to be a good thing. Instead, I found a rather thoroughly and thoughtfully researched work, covering the history of a topic which is inherently difficult to define and research. I think individuals with a reasonable grasp on 19th Century literature and Victorian culture and personages will get more out of this than I did. But Mr. Robb make [...]

    22. Dull. The topic itself is fascinating (esp. now, esp. here… I had a weird and uncomfortable feeling reading a book with “homosexual” on the cover while in subway), but the book rather assumes that you know who, why, when, with whom and in what position, so it doesn’t dwell on any of it. It doesn’t sell you bits and pieces of scandals and gossip. It is targeted to a society where you can discuss queer topics with everyone from your Mother to elderly professor to pastor.In a word, I want [...]

    23. Interesting information but incredibly dense which would not typically be a problem but it was awkwardly written. Need to reread paragraphs and whole chapters just to de-gunk it and finally understand what the author was meaning. Still, the chapter on detectives (Sherlock Holmes! Dupin!) and how they can be read as queer was very very interesting and worth reading. I can't decide if I think that chapter is the best one because it directly uh, pertains to my interests or because it was so much mo [...]

    24. This book brings together material, from letters and from books, and tries to piece together what life was like being gay in the 19th century. After all the word was not invented until 1870 and Victorians tend to be flowery about their emotions and as time goes by we forget the symbology of the period so the book becomes an exercise in cryptology. The book feels unfinished. I believe this is because the writer was stealing thoughts from ghosts and ghosts in writing become only a fragment of how [...]

    25. i had no idea how homophobia truly waxed and waned throughout the centuries. this book gives fascinating insight to how gays communicated with one another through literature and social venues in the 19th century. normally, i find period pieces completely obnoxious. however, i learned a bit from the text. it was an easy read and kept my interest for the most part. it is definitely a better version of gay history than "gay power," the book i felt obliged to read several months ago.

    26. Really it's more like 3,5 stars, but the last chapter gave me so much joy, though, that I'm happy to bump it up to four. I was reading this off and on for about six years (I know) and so a comprehensive review is kind of out the window. It's a thorough book and I enjoyed it, although it didn't always only focus on the 19th century. Of course I know there needs to be historical context, though, so it's really fine. An interesting read, even though it did take me forever.

    27. What a fascinating look at the lives of gay and lesbians in the 19th century and beyond! There were a lot of things in this book that took me by surprise, particularly the attitudes that really existed toward gays and lesbians prior to the 20th century. I don't think it could be called acceptance, but there was a lot more complexity in the way society integrated these men and women and vice versa. Very cool stuff!

    28. An interesting insight into the social context of the 19th century from a perspective that's not a part of general knowledge. What struck me most is the fact that in many ways was the 19th century more tolerant to homosexuality that the 20th, especially considering the notion rooted in the Enlightenment that we as a society are on a gradual continous journey from darkness to light (a point directly made in the book). Nope, we're not; there ARE spikes.

    29. I bought this book when it came out; I believe I was 17 at the time. Fun and easy to read, but superficial. I enjoyed it much more at 17 than I do at 22, but I've still never managed to make it more than halfway through before getting bored & moving on to something with more substance & less camp.

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