Out and out from the family to the community: the Housmans and the politics­­ of queer sibling devotion

Arts Building Room 119
Friday 12 May 2017 (16:00)

Speaker: Dr Kristin Mahoney, Associate Professor of English, Western Washington University

In The Unexpected Years (1937), Laurence Housman recalls his brother Alfred asking, “Was there ever such an interesting family as we were?” While Alfred, author of the tremendously popular A Shropshire Lad (1896), was perhaps the most well-known of the Housman siblings, his brother Laurence and his sister Clemence made names for themselves as artists and activists at the fin de siècle and into the twentieth century. Alfred’s poetry obliquely expresses same-sex desire, but Laurence and Clemence were much more outspoken in their advocacy of sexually dissident and feminist causes. Laurence’s illustrations, which appeared in the Decadent periodical the Yellow Book, revel in androgyny, and his fairy tales frequently celebrate queer forms of desire and articulate a queer politics. Clemence’s well-received story The Were-Wolf (1890) focuses on a dangerous and seductive woman werewolf, and she collaborated with Laurence in the production of banners for the suffrage movement. In this talk, Kristin Mahoney will discuss the manner in which Laurence Housman’s collaborative relationship with his sister, with whom he lived for his entire life, became the foundation for broader forms of feminist and anticolonial political thinking. For the Housman family, queer kinship practices engendered political activism, and political activism fostered queer kinship practices.

Sponsored by the 19C Seminar and the Centre for Modernist Cultures.

Please contact Rebecca Mitchell (r.n.mitchell@bham.ac.uk) with any queries.

Venue: Arts Building, Room 119

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