Cover image for Toward Stonewall : homosexuality and society in the modern western world
Toward Stonewall : homosexuality and society in the modern western world
Edsall, Nicholas C.
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Publication Information:
Charlottesville : University of Virginia Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiii, 377 pages ; 24 cm
Part 1: Making a subculture: Origins; Patterns of repression; Sodomy and the Enlightenment; Europe divided; Conclusion to Part 1 -- Part 2: Defining a subculture: Pioneers: The United States -- Pioneers: Germany; Pioneers: England; Wilde; Degeneracy and atavism; Purity and impurity; The cult of youth; Forster and Gide; Conclusion to Part 2 -- Part 3: Organizing a subculture; Between the wars; The making of a lesbian subculture; Homosexuality and psychiatry; False starts and new beginnings; Reaction; Outsiders abroad and at home; From Wolfenden to Stonewall -- Conclusion to Part 3.
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HQ76.3 .E37 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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As recently as the 1970s, gay and lesbian history was a relatively unexplored field for serious scholars. The past quarter century, however, has seen enormous growth in gay and lesbian studies. The literature is now voluminous; it is also widely scattered and not always easily accessible. In Toward Stonewall, Nicholas Edsall provides a much-needed synthesis, drawing upon both scholarly and popular writings to chart the development of homosexual subcultures in the modern era and the uneasy place they have occupied in Western society.

Edsall's survey begins three hundred years ago in northwestern Europe, when homosexual subcultures recognizably similar to those of our own era began to emerge, and it follows their surprisingly diverse paths through the Enlightenment to the early nineteenth century. The book then turns to the Victorian era, tracing the development of articulate and self-aware homosexual subcultures. With a greater sense of identity and organization came new forms of resistance: this was the age that saw the persecution of Oscar Wilde, among others, as well as the medical establishment's labeling of homosexuality as a sign of degeneracy.

The book's final section locates the foundations of present-day gay sub-cultures in a succession of twentieth-century scenes and events--in pre-Nazi Germany, in the lesbian world of interwar Paris, in the law reforms of 1960s England--culminating in the emergence of popular movements in the postwar United States.

Rather than examining these groups in isolation, the book considers them in their social contexts and as comparable to other subordinate groups and minority movements. In the process, Toward Stonewall illuminates not only the subcultures that are its primary subject but the larger societies from which they emerged.

Author Notes

Nicholas C. Edsall is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Virginia.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In this comprehensive chronicle, Edsall (history, emeritus, Univ. of Virginia; Richard Cobden: Independent Radical) charts the historical, social, literary, and scientific implications of homosexual subcultures in western Europe and America during the last three centuries. Despite the severe punishments meted out for "buggery" in 18th-century Europe, a "sodomitical subculture" emerged, which transmuted into the passionate, if sexually ambiguous, friendships of the 19th century and, later, into the latent homoeroticism lurking in such "pure" institutions as the YMCA, English public schools, and the early Boy Scouts. He traces this subculture up through the two events that helped define the gay liberation movement in the English-speaking world: the passage of the Sexual Offenses Act in 1967, which decriminalized sodomy in the United Kingdom, and the Stonewall uprising in New York City in 1969. Although much of the material is familiar, it is presented with freshness and authority; and while lesbian history is given only cursory examination, this is overall a well-wrought and richly detailed work that dovetails nicely with Louis Crompton's recent and fine Homosexuality and Civilization, which covers similar ground from ancient civilizations through the 18th century with little overlap. Recommended for all gay and lesbian studies and history collections.-Richard J. Violette, Special Libs. Cataloguing, Victoria, B.C. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Edsall (emer., history, Univ. of Virginia) starts with a new phenomenon in history, "sodomitical subcultures," which appeared in northwestern European cities in the late 17th century. Members were not mere doers of deeds as old as humanity itself, but "a distinct and identifiable category of persons." With his deep understanding of modern Europe, Edsall lucidly synthesizes scholarship on the subcultures and their contexts. Approaching the 19th century, Edsall's Whiggish synthesis shifts to splendid epitomes of pioneers and icons (e.g., Bentham and Ulrichs, Hirschfeld, Whitman and Symonds) who advanced the homosexuality discourse. The author lingers over the cynosural subculture that met its horrific fate in Nazi Germany. A chapter treats "the making of a lesbian subculture." Exceptionally perspicacious are glosses on persons whose trail of words is readily followed. Scarcer here is evidence of workaday homosexuals, but such information is available. Edsall concludes with the British Sexual Offences Act of 1967 (partial and narrow decriminalization) and the Stonewall Riots of 1969, both of which seem ages ago. The field now needs a synthesis of the recent past to make sense of an accelerating onrush of events in today's news. Excellent bibliography. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels and libraries. P. K. Cline Earlham College

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Part 1 Making a Subculture
1 Originsp. 3
2 Patterns of Repressionp. 17
3 Sodomy and the Enlightenmentp. 33
4 Europe Dividedp. 47
5 Conclusion to Part 1p. 61
Part 2 Defining a Subculture
6 Pioneers: The United Statesp. 69
7 Pioneers: Germanyp. 85
8 Pioneers: Englandp. 100
9 Wildep. 110
10 Degeneracy and Atavismp. 127
11 Purity and Impurityp. 137
12 The Cult of Youthp. 153
13 Forster and Gidep. 167
14 Conclusion to Part 2p. 183
Part 3 Organizing a Subculture
15 Between the Warsp. 195
16 The Making of a Lesbian Subculturep. 220
17 Homosexuality and Psychiatryp. 241
18 False Starts and New Beginningsp. 249
19 Reactionp. 276
20 Outsiders Abroad and at Homep. 300
21 From Wolfenden to Stonewallp. 314
22 Conclusion to Part 3p. 334
Notesp. 337
Selected Bibliographyp. 353
Indexp. 365