Love Stories: Sex between Men before Homosexuality / Edition 1

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In Love Stories, Jonathan Ned Katz presents stories of men's intimacies with men during the nineteenth century—including those of Abraham Lincoln—drawing flesh-and-blood portraits of intimate friendships and the ways in which men struggled to name, define, and defend their sexual feelings for one another. In a world before "gay" and "straight" referred to sexuality, men like Walt Whitman and John Addington Symonds created new ways to name and conceive of their erotic relationships with other men. Katz, diving into history through diaries, letters, newspapers, and poems, offers us a clearer picture than ever before of how men navigated the uncharted territory of male-male desire.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Forget about the Lincoln Bedroom scandals of the Clinton administration; the real scandal is who was in Lincoln's bed in 1837. This highly provocative, often startling reconsideration of 19th- and early 20th-century male-male sexual relationships begins with a detailed description of what Katz depicts as Abraham Lincoln's romantic, erotic relationship with Joshua Speed, the man with whom he shared a decades-long intimate friendship, as well as a bed for three years. While Speed himself wrote that "no two men were ever more intimate," Katz is not arguing that these two men were homosexual; Katz makes it clear that referring "to early nineteenth-century men's acts or desires as gay or straight, homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual" places "their behaviors and lusts within our sexual system, not theirs." Katz, whose groundbreaking 1976 Gay American History is foundational to contemporary gay and lesbian studies, has researched deeply and widely, uncovering astonishing materials: a relationship between John Stafford Fiske, the U.S. consul to Scotland in 1870, and famous British cross-dresser Ernest Boulton; the existence of the Slide, a male-male pick-up bar in Greenwich Village in the 1890s; romances between older sailors and their "chickens" during the Civil War. Walt Whitman, noted Harvard mathematician James Millis Peirce, writer Charles Warren Stoddard, English philosopher Edward Carpenter Katz finds these men engaged in deeply loving and erotic friendship with no specific labels of sexual orientation attached. All of this is described and shaped with enormous sensitivity and judiciousness. Written clearly, succinctly and free from postmodern jargon, Katz's arguments are strong andvibrant. By contextualizing "sexual, acts, sexual desires, sexual identities" in their historical periods, but never avoiding the specifics of sexual activity or emotional connection, he contributes surprising, even shocking, insights into how sexual and emotional relationships are constructed, as well as demonstrating the enormous diversity and malleability of human eroticism. (Dec. 21) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sure, Walt Whitman was a big queen, but Abraham Lincoln? Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. Drawing on contemporary accounts of love, affection, and sex between men in 19th-century America, Katz (The Invention of Heterosexuality, 1995, etc.) teases out a history of sexuality in an era determined to veil it. He begins with a portrait of the intense friendship between Lincoln and Joshua Fry Speed, who avowed that "no two men were ever more intimate." Katz is careful to place such comments precisely within their sociocultural context; along with many other sexual historians, he believes that the words "heterosexuality" and "homosexuality" represent recent attempts to construct human sexuality into polarized and opposite extremes. By denaturalizing such a construct and pointing out its problems, Katz elucidates the shifting dynamics of bedroom behavior. The stories here, culled from diaries, journals, newspaper articles, court cases, and other documents, create a living tableau of 19th-century male sex in America. Whitman looms large, taking several lovers and thus several chapters. History's unknowns, however, provide some of the most illuminating material; the stories of men such as Albert Dodd, William Davis, John Stafford Fiske, and Peter Sevanley must be told if we are to understand the shifting realities of sexuality from generation to generation. The photographs and illustrations- female impersonators, men wrestling, a bathhouse brochure-allow readers to witness the complex but often blatant coding of non-normative sexuality. Although most of Katz's material concerns personal relationships between men, we do get glimpses into a communal queer culture as well through stories of suchinstitutions as Frank Stevenson's bar, the Slide, lasciviously dubbed by the New York Press as the "The Wickedest Place in New York." History at its best: informative, insightful, at times downright titillating.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226426167
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2003
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 440
  • Sales rank: 808,839
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Ned Katz has been writing about sexuality in society and history for over twenty-five years. Beginning with the groundbreaking Gay American History, he also published the Gay/Lesbian Almanac and The Invention of Heterosexuality, among other books and articles.
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Table of Contents

Love Stories in Brief
Part I: Searching for Words
1. No Two Men Were Ever More Intimate
2. Dear Beloved Trio
3. A Gentle Angel Entered
Part II: Making Monsters
4. Already Do the Beastly Sodomites of Gotham Quake
5. Abominable and Detestable Crimes
6. The Man Monster
Part III: Coming Together, Coming to Terms
7. Voices of Sexes and Lusts
8. Sincere Friends
9. A Major Fell in Love with a Boy
10. I Got the Boys
11. Yes, I Will Talk of Walt
12. In the Name of CALAMUS Listen to Me!
13. A Heart Full of Love and Longing
14. Empty Chair, Empty Bed, Empty House
15. I Wish You Would Put the Ring on My Finger Again
Part IV: Going Public
16. He Cannot Be Oblivious of Its Plainer Meanings
17. Wild with Passion
18. I Cannot Get Quite to the Bottom of Calamus
19. Ardent and Physical Intimacies
20. Men Given to Unnatural Practices
21. To Unite for Defense
22. A Natural, Pure, and Sound Passion
23. Abnormal Passion
24. A Much More Intimate Communion
Sex and Affection between Men—Then and Now
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2004

    not a bad read

    Don't ask me why I thought a history book would be more interesting than this one was. It was still fun to read, humours, and almost a bit sad at times. The one disapointing thing with this book, is that it borders on being more of a biography on Walt Whitman than a history of man-man love in the 19th century. Still I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in gay mens history.

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