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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Catching up on journal literature III

Martha Vicinus, 'The Gift of Love. Nineteenth-Century Religion and Lesbian Passion', Nineteenth-Century Contexts 23 (2001), p. 241-265: wonderful article about Mary ('Minnie') Benson, wife of Edward White Benson, eventually Archbishop of Canterbury, who picked her out to be his future wife when she was 11 and married her once she was 18. This did not work out well, although they did have six children. Her affections for other women were well beyond the conventions of Victorian romantic friendship. This article shows how remarkably flexible Victorian marital and domestic arrangements could be, and is another important contribution to the recent research on the intersections between religion and sexuality in the C19th and C20th.
Philip Howell, 'A Private Contagious Diseases Act. Prostitution and Public Space in Victorian Cambridge' Journal of Historical Geography 26 (2000), p. 376-402. Useful article on the policing of prostitution in Cambridge according to long-standing traditional University systems of regulation, and for, in fact, similar reasons to the actual CD Acts - the bringing together of a significant number of unattached young men in one place. The University officers tended to believe that prostitution was an unfortunate necessity, but they did not want it flaunting in the public streets and offering open temptation and tried to confine it to the working-class suburb of Barnwell. The University was indeed operating something very like the CD Acts - with medical inspections and incarceration in the 'Spinning House', but Howell points out that far from being a modernising regime this was based on practices that had been in place for a very long time. The records do mean that one can get some sense of women's trajectories in the profession - many seem to have been arrested and incarcerated only once, others had lengthy careers, most were young but not all. One thing I didn't really see addressed in this article was the way that this problem was positioned as being about the undergraduates: at a period when college dons were still required to be unmarried, or had only just been permitted to wed, were they not a significant element in the potential clientele? (and might that not have led to embarrassing encounters?)
David Trotter, 'Some Brothels. Nineteenth-Century Philanthropy and the Poetics of Space' Critical Quarterly 44 (2002), p. 25-35, a rather short article looking at prostitute rescue philanthropy and the belief that the rescue worker had to go into the brothels, and the way they describe them. How this relates to urban spaces and public/private space confusions. Idea of the descent into places represented as filthy and abject as an intiation. (More to be done here?)
Richard Hornsey, 'The Sexual Geographies of Reading in Post-War London', Gender, Place and Culture 9 (2002),  p. 371-38. Libraries and what they should be providing to readers; rise of the paperback; the distinction between the austere and tasteful Penguins and  books with 'alluring and tawdry jackets' - 'railway bookstalls' and the move of sex-novelettes out of the backstreet 'magazine shop' into this liminal space. The tension between the reputation and perception of Penguins and the perceptions of Lady Chatterley's Lover leading to the trial. Where and how to read. Segues to discussion of books about homosexuality. Little difference in representation as 'tortured misfits' in medical and sociological works, and 'crude generic fiction'. Libraries were fairly okay with the 'serious' texts but the others were perceived as degraded bookstall fodder (often making quite misleading come-ons with the covers!). Orton and Halliwell's defacement of library books as a kind of queering performance art - presenting the unsuspecting reader who picks up one of them from the shelves with some new set of reading practices. (?'Matter out of place?)

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