25 May 2023 - 25 May 2023
1:00PM - 3:00PM
Online via Zoom.
A staff and postgraduate research seminar.
Queer histories tend to centre on people. But many of the now iconic figures in modern queer and trans history shared their lives with non-human companions. This paper gives centre stage to the cats and dogs that populate the queer past. It focuses on the early twentieth century, a time of growth in modern pet ownership. This is also an often returned to moment in queer history when many modern ideas about gender and sexuality gained traction and recognisable queer subcultures and cultural networks formed across Europe and North America. The paper takes as its starting point visual sources such as photographs of Wotan and Thorgils, the dachshunds of Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge, and Lotte Laserstein’s ‘Self-Portrait with Cat’ (1928). It considers how attention to specific pets expands understanding of the early twentieth-century literary and artistic subcultures that have shaped our image of queer modernity. In so doing, it will also reflect on broader questions about the limits and possibilities of cross-species companionship now and in the past and the possibilities of LGBTQ+ history beyond the human.
Professor of Modern Literature and Cultural History
Heike Bauer is Professor of Modern Literature and Cultural History at Birkbeck, University of London. She has published widely on topics relating to the modern history of sexuality including The Hirschfeld Archives: Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture (2017) and ‘Visual Archives of Sex’ (2022), a special issue of Radical History Review co-edited with Melina Pappademos, Katie Sutton and Jennifer Tucker.