Review published on February 21, 2018.
February is LGBT month and, as the leading writer and Emeritus Professor for many years on gay and lesbian topics asks (as did a young man recently of him), “We don’t need labels anymore do we?”
Woods lays out the concept of Homintern – derived from Comintern, a 1919 name as Communism became both international – and a threat. So did the gay person become more international and of course with hostility – a threat?
Delving into the cultural growth of writers and artists who were gay or lesbian from the late 19th century to the 1940s, Woods may highlight slightly comic/forever flamboyant characters for which he has been criticised – but gives wider discussion to positive stereotypes that allowed younger men and women to feel their sexuality was more acceptable.
It wasn’t until 1869 that the German word homosexual was created – much of course from the classic realms of ‘homo’ and erotic love from the classics in history.
There is a point to history – it doesn’t just decorate shelves says Woods and although the book steers us through many a decorative person in literature or in art the growing acceptance in law becoming more liberal led to wider acceptance and a growth in sexual tourism.
It took Woods 17 years to write this book and a lot of research has gone into its pages. It adds greatly to the debate about the cultural presence of gay and lesbian lives within society and the suppressing factor of society (greatly in Britain and America).
But already Woods accepts the world has moved on. We now see fluid sexuality and transgender ideas coming more to the fore and Woods himself sees his life and perhaps in years to come the ideas of Homintern be a thing of the past too.
An interesting – if sometimes predictable – view on gay and lesbian acceptance. However, the international and political aspect is of note and we, unlike Woods, will not now have to read such books on ‘the dirty books table of the British Library’!
Book clubs may not want to tackle the topic in a more academic read but may find other suggested novels from the book worthy to read.
Philipa Coughlan 3/3
Homintern by Gregory Woods
Yale University Press 9780300218039 hbk Apr 2016
Into the Mountain: A Life of Nan Shepherd by Charlotte Peacock
Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington
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