"History at its best: informative, insightful, at times downright titillating."-Kirkus Reviews
In Love Stories, Jonathan Ned Katz presents stories of men's intimacies with men during the nineteenth century-men like Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman-drawing flesh-and-blood portraits of intimate friendships and the ways in which men struggled to name, define, and defend their sexual feelings for one another. In a world before "gay" and "straight" referred to sexuality, these men created new ways to name and conceive of their relationships, and Katz dives into history to offer us a clearer picture than ever before of how they navigated the uncharted territory of male-male desire.
Forget about the Lincoln Bedroom scandals of the Clinton administration; the real scandal is who was in Lincoln's bed in 1837. This highly provocative, often startling reconsideration of 19th- and early 20th-century male-male sexual relationships begins with a detailed description of what Katz depicts as Abraham Lincoln's romantic, erotic relationship with Joshua Speed, the man with whom he shared a decades-long intimate friendship, as well as a bed for three years. While Speed himself wrote that "no two men were ever more intimate," Katz is not arguing that these two men were homosexual; Katz makes it clear that referring "to early nineteenth-century men's acts or desires as gay or straight, homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual" places "their behaviors and lusts within our sexual system, not theirs." Katz, whose groundbreaking 1976 Gay American History is foundational to contemporary gay and lesbian studies, has researched deeply and widely, uncovering astonishing materials: a relationship between John Stafford Fiske, the U.S. consul to Scotland in 1870, and famous British cross-dresser Ernest Boulton; the existence of the Slide, a male-male pick-up bar in Greenwich Village in the 1890s; romances between older sailors and their "chickens" during the Civil War. Walt Whitman, noted Harvard mathematician James Millis Peirce, writer Charles Warren Stoddard, English philosopher Edward Carpenter Katz finds these men engaged in deeply loving and erotic friendship with no specific labels of sexual orientation attached. All of this is described and shaped with enormous sensitivity and judiciousness. Written clearly, succinctly and free from postmodern jargon, Katz's arguments are strong andvibrant. By contextualizing "sexual, acts, sexual desires, sexual identities" in their historical periods, but never avoiding the specifics of sexual activity or emotional connection, he contributes surprising, even shocking, insights into how sexual and emotional relationships are constructed, as well as demonstrating the enormous diversity and malleability of human eroticism. (Dec. 21) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.