Queer Beyond London is delighted to highlight exciting research and projects exploring queer local histories that will be featured in our upcoming Queer Localities international conference from 30 November – 1 December 2017. 


Dominic Janes

The novelist E. F. Benson presented life in the Sussex town of Tilling in his series of camply humorous novels featuring the social rivalry between Miss Mapp and Lucia. These books included male characters such as the effete Georgie and the butch woman Irene and therefore presented readers with a quaint English town that featured displays not only of camp but also of gender transgression. Tilling was based on the town of Rye where Benson lived for a considerable part of his life in a house that had previously been occupied by Henry James. These two writers were not the only notable homosexuals to live in or near Rye during the early twentieth century. Others included the lesbian writer Radcylffe Hall and the painter Edward Burra. In this paper I will be exploring how Rye developed as a focus for queer lives and culture in the interwar period. On one level such an inquiry involves an exploration of the personal connections between a range of more of less famous writers and artists. But at another level this also requires consideration of the role of the English country town as a setting for queer life. Is this an example of the appropriation and queering of a heteronormative environment or should be thinking in terms of abjection and closeted attempts to achieve the appearance of normality?

Banner Image: Edward Frederic Benson by Howard Coster, 1934. (c) CC National Portrait Gallery.

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Dominic Janes is Professor of Modern History at Keele University. He is a cultural historian specialising in studies of sexuality and visual culture in Britain since the eighteenth century. His most recent book is Oscar Wilde Prefigured: Queer Fashioning and British Caricature, 1750-1900 (University of Chicago Press, 2016).


Queer Localities: a two-day international conference
Birkbeck, University of London
30 November – 1 December 2017

Free and open to all, but please REGISTER your place here

Click here to view the Conference Programme.

‘Even in Arcadia, there am I’: The town of Rye in Sussex and the queering of the English idyll
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