queer subculture

The History of Homosexuality: Camp

John Inman in Are You Being Served?. Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia describes camp as “a social, cultural, and aesthetic style and sensibility based on deliberate and self-acknowledged theatricality.” It is all those things, and more besides, but it’s difficult to pin down. Nonetheless, we all know camp when we see it.

Camp is effete, it’s garish, it’s hyperbole and exaggeration, it’s shameless, crude, funny, and sexless. Camp appeals to the masses, yet is intrinsically associated with queer men.

Camp derives from the French se camper (“to pose in an exaggerated fashion”), and was first defined in 1909 in the Oxford English Dictionary as: “ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical; effeminate or homosexual; pertaining to, characteristic of, homosexuals. So as a noun, ‘camp’ behaviour, mannerisms, et cetera.” Continue reading →

Posted by Kate Aaron in History, Queer Blogging

The History of Homosexuality: Class

Wikimedia Commons

Class is a peculiarly English phenomenon. Which isn’t to say other countries don’t have class systems, because of course they do, but whenever one thinks of “class” one can’t help conjuring up images of English lords and ladies juxtaposed against ruddy-faced farmers, sooty coal miners, and Dickensian street urchins.

Class plays an important part in the queer narrative. Many of the men we’ve looked at over this blog series have been upper class, or at least upper middle class: titled or white-collar men with Oxbridge backgrounds and a fair degree of social influence. They’ve moulded the popular image of queer masculinity both through their lives and, often, through their writing, because a significant proportion of them were literary or academic figures — the Renaissance gave us Shakespeare and Marlowe; the Romantics, Byron and Shelley; Oscar Wilde and Bosie during the Victorian era; the WWI poets; and the Edwardian set of Forster and Carpenter. Continue reading →

Posted by Kate Aaron in History, Queer Blogging