10 Lesbian Historical Books and Movies I Loved in 2018

On this episode of The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast with Heather Rose Jones – 10 Lesbian Historical Books and Movies I Loved in 2018

Episode 31b

A brief tour through some of my favorite media consumed in 2018.

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Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Heather-Rose-Jones-490950014312292/

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Transcript

please note this transcript has not been edited and is automatically generated meaning certain words will be incorrect

This is Heather Rose Jones with The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast. This weekly podcast looks at lesbian themes in history and literature and historic research into gender and sexuality we talk about current historical fiction with queer female characters including fantastic versions of the past and have interviews with authors who write those stories and in months when we have a fifth show we’re proud to present new original lesbian historical fiction for your enjoyment maybe I’m a bit late to the gate for a favorite things of 2018 list but it can take me a while to ponder my choices this is a list of books both fiction and nonfiction and movies relating to lesbian history that I enjoyed in 2018 I’m not claiming that this is any sort of best of list how could it be I can only talk about the things that I had the time and opportunity to enjoy and it’s very specifically chosen from things that I read or saw in 2018 not things that came out in 2018 I always feel sorry for authors whose books come out in December when people draw up lists based on year of release some of these works came out decades ago when I only picked them up to read in the last year and I confess that for the non-fiction I focused on whole books rather than individual journal articles I thought it made it back how to organize this list and finally decided that chronology of topic would be the most arbitrary and therefore the most fair number one roman homosexuality by craig a Williams from Oxford University Press I read this for the blog when I was doing a series of posts on publications covering sexuality and classical Rome for quite some time I’ve been trying to get my head around scholarly explanations of how ancient Romans thought about gender and sexuality and why the modern categories of heterosexual and homosexual don’t really make sense in that context too often these explanations end up feeling like an erasure of non normative sexuality Williams was the first author who presented the material in a way that finally made sense to me I still think he has some blind spots in terms of women’s sexuality like many male academics he doesn’t try very hard to work past the male-dominated documentary sources to consider that women in the society he’s studying just might have understood their lives differently from what men said about them but for the most part he not only does a good job but he presents the material in an even-handed and non-judgmental way my next favorite thing covers a broad swath of time so I’m arbitrarily placing it second the collection of articles the lesbian pre-modern edited by Noreen giffany Michelle M Sauer and Diane watt includes articles covering specific topics from the medieval and early modern period but also a number of theoretical articles about the study of lesbian history what it means and how it can be done I really enjoyed reading about scholars who are thinking and talking about many of the same issues that inspired the lesbian historic motif project even though they’re looking at them from an entirely different angle what does it mean to look for lesbians in the past how does the search for identity both inspire and interfere with academic goals how do philosophical conflicts among scholars affect what types of history gets studied and how I found a lot of parallels in this collection between approaches to the study of lesbian history in considerations in writing of lesbian historical fiction and it gave me a lot of food for thought number three my next favorite item in chronology is the favorite the recent movie about England’s Queen Anne and the rivalry between two of her courtiers for her affection and influence in the early 18th century I took full advantage of this topic to do a show about Queen Anne within the historic context a review of the movie with two reviewers and then another show about the satirical writings of one of her contemporaries who envisioned a secret lesbian society in a satirical fantasy the reign of Queen Anne isn’t a particularly popular time for setting historical fiction it’s not the wild and lascivious restoration or that novelists favorite the Regency or Georgian era but maybe people will be inspired by this movie to take a closer look number four in my chronology is the first of several fictional works I enjoyed in 2018 with a late 18th century setting Alyssa Cole’s novella that could be enough set a high benchmark for lesbian historical fiction her characters not only reflect a possible early American understanding of women who love women but very specifically the experiences of women of color in post-revolutionary America the fictional works of this list all fall in a fairly tight time period with number five being Emma Donahue’s life mask about the aristocratic sculptor and de Mer during an extended period around 1800 this can’t really be classified as a lesbian historical romance much more like a historical novel in which the main character has a lesbian romance haven’t written my full review of this book yet but it falls in that genre of novels where the historical details are the focus and the personal stories are the medium through which we experience them the sapphic happy ending is a long time coming in the book and the reader will learn a vast amount about the details of English politics in the meantime probably much more than the average reader is interested in but I have a great fondness for novels that help ground me in the details of history through the lives of the people participating in them I learned most of my English chronology from authors like Jean Palladian Nora Loft Emma Donoghue writes in that same vein but focusing on women who loved women the lesbian talk show relies on support the support of you our listeners the support of those who like and review our show on their favorite podcast app the support of our patrons on patreon and the support of our sponsors we hope you’ll continue to enjoy and support the lesbian talk show in sixth place comes an entry into one of my favorite genres the Regency romance the covert captain by Janelle M Ferrera has gender disguised desperate pining veterans of Waterloo with post-traumatic stress and lots of historically supported love between women one of my aspirations is to write a lesbian Regency in the tradition of georgette Heyer but until I write my own I’m happy to feast on contributions such as the covert captain number seven real-life Regency era women didn’t fall far behind fiction in terms of whacked-out adventure and romance the book marry Diana Dodds a gentleman and a scholar by betty t bennett reads almost like an academic mystery novel tracing the research that led bennett from trying to pin down a couple of minor footnotes in her book about mary shelley – discovering a story of mystery gender disguised literary pseudonyms and marriage between two women that has the added excitement of intersecting the life of writer mary shelley if anyone ever tells you that the plot of your lesbian historical romance is implausible you can probably rest assured that it’s far more believable than the real-life story of mary diana Dodds number 8 some people will try to tell you that the 19th century was full of passionate but sexless romantic friendships women who wrote sappy letters to each other full of L an overblown endearments but who were far too much of proper ladies to engage in anything so vulgar is sex but when you read candid biographies of women like actors Charlotte Cushman such as the book when Romeo was a woman Charlotte Cushman and her circle of female spectators by Lisa Merrill it takes a lot of willful denial to conclude that these were not romantic relationships in every sense of the word Cushman not only enjoyed a series of romantic relationships with women drawn from feminist and artistic circles but she was a wildly successful actress especially in breeches parts such as Romeo who attracted adoring female fans and was the center of a community of artistic women in London Boston and Rome whose careers she promoted through her network of social and political connections Cushman had her faults it’s hard not to be a little squick d’etat she arranged for one of her girlfriends to marry her nephew so they could have an excuse to be close to each other without making her long-term female partner jealous but just as with Dodds she led a life that you’d have to tone down a little to write plausible fiction number 9 returning to actual fiction the late 19th century era of decadent artists and self-consciously transgressive sexuality as the setting for male dancers historic fantasy creatures of will and temper inspired by a reimagining of Oscar Wilde’s the Picture of Dorian Gray I loved how this tale wove together demonology the aesthetic movement and the maddening and loving relationship between two sisters and it has a very delicious lesbian romance threaded through that feels very true to the setting while never taking over the plot number 10 the question of where history ends and the current era begins is always tricky I remember the events that inspired the movie battle of the sexes based on the publicity spectacle tennis match between champion Billie Jean King and has been performative sexist Bobby Riggs but the movie clearly treats the event as a period piece so we’ll consider it a historical movie one focus of the film that was less well known at the time of the massively publicized match was King’s ongoing affair with Marilyn Barnet depicted in the film as the team hairdresser while the movie does the usual Hollywood sation and rearrangement of the historic facts for dramatic effect and in my opinion is far too kind too professional asshole bobby riggs it does a good job of presenting the conflicts and joys of being a high profile woman in the 1970s who is coming to grips with being in love with a woman no list of 10 favorite things would be complete without cheating and adding in an extra there are novels about the future that have all the feel of history though sometimes the history we hope never happens Claire Adele’s a study in honor is that sort of book depicting a near future America that feels entirely too plausible in his dystopic vision through the eyes of a black lesbian army surgeon trying to come back from a disabling injury and her unexpected and eccentric housemate who has clearly engaged in dangerous espionage activities inspired as a reimagining of Sherlock Holmes this thriller is the first in a series that thrusts two very different women into an uneasy partnership so that’s my year in lesbian history I’m looking forward to what 2019 brings follow the blog and podcast and try to guess what will make my favorites list next year I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the lesbian historic motif podcast if you want to follow up on anything we’ve covered see the show notes for links and to contact me with questions book announcements or topic suggestions if you enjoyed this podcast please rate it and subscribe on iTunes 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