Many years ago, when I first started collecting historic research on lesbians and lesbian-like motifs for my own writing projects, I had in mind to put the results together as a sourcebook for other people to use. Like many projects I've started, the idea of a hard-copy, fixed-format product long since became obsolete. The survey essays I've done in the past on cross-dressing/passing women and on sex between women were outgrowths of the original project. But my original idea was more in the way of an open-ended annotated bibliography with extensive keyword indexing. Blogging brief summaries of individual articles (or book chapters) makes the project more manageable than organizing it around thematic survey essays, although there will be a lot of redundancy with those essays to begin with.
My goal here -- beyond the selfish utilitarian aspect of organizing my research -- is much in parallel with that of sites like the Medieval People of Color blog, or Kameron Hurley's award-winning essay "We Have Always Fought". I want to help change the unexamined assumptions about the place and nature of lesbian-like characters in historic fact, literature, art, and imagination. I want to do it to help other authors find inspiration and support for the stories they want to tell. And I want to do it to affect the reception of my own writing.
My project will be flawed in that it will privilege topics and interpretations of personal interest to me. (A geographic focus on Europe and it's neighbors. A temporal focus that ends at the 20th century and focuses strongly on the pre-modern. An examination of the data through a lesbian lens even when other lenses, such as transgender ones, are equally valid.) This is a caveat but not an apology. If I weren't doing it for selfish reasons, I wouldn't be doing it at all.
My selection process for the data I include is relatively simple: is this something that would be useful in grounding a fictional lesbian character in the context of historic human experience? Probably a minority of it will be items that could reasonably be connected with the label "lesbian" directly. I'm broadly interested in material that creates spaces in which lesbian characters (and especially ones that resonate strongly with modern readers and authors) could have existed. Topics will include behavior, appearance, emotional and affectional lives, economic issues and personal agency, social and legal structures, and anything else that takes my fancy. A pantry full of ingredients from which an infinite variety of dishes could be cooked.
Here's a more long-winded discussion of what I am - and am not - trying to do with this project.
You can browse the bibliography of covered publications or browse the tags for time, place, topic, or subject (see the drop-down menu under "LHMP" for starting points). Or if you're really ambitious, you can read all the entries in posting order, by starting with #1 and using the "next" button.
I am open to guest posts about relevant publications. See the guidelines and contact me if you're interested.
Contact me if you have questions, comments, or suggestions about the Lesbian Historic Motif Project.