Posts Tagged With: history of sexuality

It’s Showtime!


The time that I’ve been dreading is upon me: I started my PhD qualifying exams this week.  I took my written exam for Modern European History on Tuesday, and I’ll write my exam for the History of Sexuality on Monday.  A week later, I’ll do my last written exam, in Modern German History.  And then I’ll have two days to recoup and take my oral exams in front of all three professors at once.

In order to prepare for these exams, I read 137 books and articles in the past 9 months and wrote a two-page summary of each one (that’s a picture of most of the books up there!).  I’ve had a couple of professors tell me that you’ll know the most stuff that you’ll ever know during your reading/exam year.  You’ll never read as broadly after that because you’ll just start specializing and defining your expertise in a random niche somewhere.  After this reading year, I’m not even sure if I’m all that much smarter; I think my brain is just a little more fried is all.

Below is my book list.  Some of them are hyperlinks to the book summary that I’ve posted in the past.  If you want my opinion (or want to share yours!) on any of the books, let me know:

Modern European History

Session I: Contextualizing Europe

Session II:  Nationalism & Nation Building

Session III: Science & Society in the 19th Century

Session IV:  the “Fin-de-Siécle:” Culture & Society around 1900 

Session V:  European Mass Culture in the Context of Global War

Session VI: Life Under Totalitarian Regimes

Session VII:  Writing Modern European History


Modern German History

I: Surveys & the Sonderweg 

II: The German Question 

III:  The Nature of the Kaiserreich 

IV: World War One 

V: Weimar 

VI: Nazi Germany

  • Robert Gellately, Backing Hitler:  Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany
  • Ian Kershaw, Hitler (both volumes)
  • Detlev Peukert, Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition, and Racism in Everyday Life
  • Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland:  Women, the Family and Nazi Politics
  • Karl Bracher, The German Dictatorship:  The Origins, Structure, and Effects of National Socialism
  • Martin Broszat, The Hitler State:  The Foundation and Development of the Internal Structure of the Third Reich

VII: After 1945

  • Herman Weber, Geschichte der DDR
  • Eckart Conze, Die Suche nach Sicherheit
  • Uta Poigert, Jazz, Rock, and Rebels:  Cold War Politics and American Culture in Divided Germany
  • Konrad Jarausch & Michael Geyer, Shattered Past:  Reconstructing German Histories
  • Jeffrey Herf, Divided Memory: the Nazi Past in the Two Germanys
  • Richard Evans, “The New Nationalism and the Old History: Perspectives on the West German Historikerstreit” in The Journal of Modern History.  Vol. 59, No. 4 (Dec. 1987): 761-797

VIII: History of Jews in Germany

  • Jacob Katz, Out of the Ghetto:  the Social Background of Jewish Emancipation, 1770-1870
  • Marion Kaplan, the Making of the Jewish Middle Class:  Women, Family, and Identity in Imperial Germany
  • Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men:  Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland
  • Raul Hilberg, the Destruction of the European Jews (3 Volumes)   
  • Henry Friedlander, the Origins of Nazi Genocide:  From Euthanasia to the Final Solution

The History of Sexuality

I: Theory

II: General Overviews

III: European Sexuality

IV: German Sexuality

  • Fenemore,  Mark.  “The Recent Historiography of Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Germany” in The Historical Journal, Vol. 52, Issue 03, (Sept. 2009):  763-779.
  • Spector, Scott, Helmut Puff, and Dagmar Herzog, eds. After the History of Sexuality (2012)
  • Jensen, Erik.  Body by Weimar:  Athletes, Gender, and German Modernity (2010)
  • Crouthamel, Jason. “Male Sexuality and Psychological Trauma: Soldiers and Sexual Disorder in World War I and Weimar Germany.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 17, no. 1 (January 2008): 60-84.
  • Fout, John C. “Sexual Politics in Wilhelmine Germany: The Male Gender Crisis, Moral Purity and Homophobia.” In Forbidden History: The State, Society, and the Regulation of Sexuality in Modern Europe, edited by John C. Fout, 259-92, (1992)
  • Giles, Geoffrey J. “The Institution of Homosexual Panic in the Third Reich.” In Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany, edited by Robert Gellately & Nathan Stoltzfus (2001)
  • Heineman, Elizabeth D. What Difference Does a Husband Make: Women and Marital Status in Nazi and Postwar Germany (1999).
  • Koonz, Claudia. Mothers in the Fatherland. Women, the Family, and Nazi Politics (1986)
  • Herzog, Dagmar. Sex after Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany (2007).
  • Whisnant, Clayton J.  Male Homosexuality in West Germany:  Between Persecution and Freedom, 1945-69 (Palgrave MacMillan, 2012).

V: US American Sexuality

  • D’Emilio, John & Estelle Freedman, Intimate Matters:  A History of Sexuality in America. Third Edition (University of Chicago:  2012)
  • Berube, Allan. Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two (2000)
  • Duggan, Lisa. “The Trials of Alice Mitchell: Sensationalism, Sexology, and the Lesbian Subject in Turn-of-the-Century America,” Signs 18 (Summer 1993).
  • Faderman, Lillian. Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-century America, (1991)
  • Johnson, David K. The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (2006)
  • Meyerowitz, Joanne. How Sex Changed:  A History of Transsexuality in the United States (2004)
  • Rupp, Leila.  A Desired Past: A Short History of Same Sex Love in America, (2001)
  • Somerville, Siobhan B.  “Scientific Racism & the Emergence of the Homosexual Body” in the Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 5, No. 2. (Oct., 1994): 243-266
  • Stryker, Susan. Queer Pulp: Perverted Passions from the Golden Age of the Paperback, (2001)
  • Amrstrong, E., Forging Gay Identities:  Organizing Sexuality in San Francisco, 1950-1994, (University of Chicago: 2002).
  • Kevin Mumford, Interzones:  Black/White Sex Districts in Chicago and New York in the Early Twentieth Century (1997)
  • Chad Heap, Slumming:  Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940 (2010)
  • Chauncey, George. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 (1995)
  • Kennedy, Elizabeth and Madeline Davis. Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community, (1993)
  • Johnson, Patrick.  Sweet Tea:  Black Gay Men of the South, (2008)

VI: Gay Rights Movements in the US

  • Stein, Marc.  Rethinking the Gay & Lesbian Movement, (Routledge, 2012).
  • Canaday, Margot.  The Straight State:  Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America, (Princeton Press, 2009)
  • D’Emilio, John. Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970, (1983)
  • Meeker, Martin.  “Behind the Mask of Respectability:  Reconsidering the Mattachine Society and the Male Homophile Practice, 1950s and 1960s.”  Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Jan. 2001):  78-116.
  • Brandt, Eric.  Dangerous Liaisons: Blacks & Gays and the Struggle for Equality, (New Press: 1999).
  • Armstrong, Elizabeth & S.M. Crage.  “Movements and Memory:  The Making of the Stonewall Myth,” in American Sociological Review Vol. 71, No. 5 (2006):  724-751.
  • Avila-Saavedra, G.  The Construction of Queer Memory:  Media Coverage of Stonewall 25.  Paper delivered at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, San Francisco.  Accessed at
  • Chasin, Alexandra.  Selling Out:  The Gay and Lesbian Movement Goes to Market (Palgrave, 2000).
  • Gallo, Marcia,  Different Daughters:  A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement, (Carroll & Graf: 2006).
  • White, Todd.  Pre-Gay L.A.:  A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights (University of Illinois, 2009).

Just for Fun

I did get a chance – usually on the bus and train on the way to work and back home – to read some novels just for fun:

  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  • Habibi by Craig Thompson (the first graphic novel I’ve read – it was fantastic)
  • The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (one of the most depressing and upsetting things I’ve ever read)
  • Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley
  • 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (I started this one and trudged on until I was about halfway through, but then I did something that I’ve never done before: stopped reading it half-way through. Just that bad.)
  • Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (this was his debut novel, and I really enjoyed it)
  • Eden at the Edge of Midnight by John Kerry
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (I’m in the middle of this one now and am loving it!)
Categories: Book Review, History, Nerdgasm | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Forgetting Foucault”

I’m in the middle of reading for my PhD qualifying exams, and I’ve been writing short summaries of each book or article that I read.  Instead of hoarding them all to myself, I thought I’d share them on here in case there are any other curious wanderers who can benefit from them!


Gender-_A_Useful_Category_of_Historical_AnalysisHalperin, David M.  “Forgetting Foucault:  Identities, and the History of Sexuality,” Representations, No. 63 (Summer 1998):  93-120.



Halperin explores a passage in Michele Foucault’s History of Sexuality that is often cited as claiming that before the 19th century, sexual acts did not constitute a sexual identity.

Author’s Main Arguments:

While the title of the article may be misleading, Halperin is not arguing that we should forget Foucault, but is instead implying that by always paying lip service to Foucault and granting the “almost ritualistic invocation of his name,” we are actually devalue Foucault’s contribution (by not analyzing it fully), and thus we are ‘forgetting’ his work.

One passage in particular is misunderstood the most often, Halperin argues, and this is the quote from the History of Sexuality which Foucault makes a distinction between sodomite and homosexual.  The commonly misunderstood argument (or, misreading of Foucault’s argument, rather) holds that before sexual identities were created in the 19th century (all embodying “homosexuality” or “heterosexuality”), particular sexual acts did not define someone’s identity.  In other words, sexual acts and sexual identities were separate so that a man who had sex with another man would not be considered a distinct classification of humanity (“homosexual”) with an inborn difference.   In this view, sodomy was simply a sinful (or at least abnormal) act that anyone of “sufficient depravity” might commit.

While Halperin does not want to reverse this idea, but he feels that it needs to be revised because it’s too simple (indeed, he believes that it’s not exactly what Foucault meant either).  And he is careful to say that he does not wish to return to an “essentialist” belief that there is a universal validity and applicability of modern sexual concepts to the past.  He is arguing that past societies did in fact have concepts of identities and morphologies that were tied to sexual activity.  What is different is that past identities were something larger that included sexual acts – and even inclinations towards particular kinds of sexual acts.  But what did not exist was a sexuality – something deep and inborn, tied to “instinct” that then emanated outwards and engulfed a person’s entire identity, thus creating “a heterosexual” or “a homosexual.”

For example – in ancient Greece, the kinaidos was a man who liked to be penetrated by other men.  Halperin shows that while a kinaidos was not the same as our understanding of a homosexual, he was not simply a man who had sex with other men on occasion (or there would be no need for a specific word to describe men like that).  So, a kinaidos was a man who was socially deviant, and it acted as a category of person; it was an identity.  But the difference between a kinaidos and homosexual is that at kinaidos wasn’t seen as separate and being produced by something inborn and unalterable.  In other words, it wasn’t tied to some thing called a sexuality.  Instead, what made the man a deviant was his inversion of his masculinity (keeping the dominant position).  In this sense, the kinaidos was a gender inversion, not an inversion of “normal” sexuality.  It is also important to recognize that in this view, all men were potentially in danger of becoming a kinaidos if they did not protect and foster their masculinity enough.   This is different from the understanding of homosexuality, which is that it is inborn, therefore only affects certain people who are born with it; no one else should worry about it affecting them.

A final example comes from a 14th century Italian sodomite who has different sexual tastes than normal men, but this was compartmentalized.  It was something to hide, for sure, but it was not defining of that person’s character or identity.  He did not become gay or homosexual upon someone learning this about him.


My comments:

Halperin does an important job here by reminding us to actually grapple with Foucault and to not simply pay homage to him in our studies of sexuality.  Moreover, he shows that this idea that identities (even those based on sexual acts) have existed (at least in the West) since antiquity, though they are not the same identities, or even the same type of identities that we have today.

Categories: Sexuality & Gender | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at