Western Washington University Associate Professor of English Kristin Mahoney will present “Out and Out from the Family to the Community: the Housmans and the Politics of Queer Sibling Devotion” at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 9 in Special Collections, Wilson Library 6th floor, on the WWU campus.
The event is free and open to the public.
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 sister Clemence also made names for themselves by being 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 female werewolf, and she collaborated with Laurence in the production of banners for the suffrage movement.
In this talk, Mahoney will explore the manner in which Laurence and Clemence’s collaborative relationship became the foundation for broader forms of feminist and anticolonial political thinking. She will also address the ways in which Laurence’s advocacy for sex reform informed his posthumous framing of his brother’s sexuality. For the Housman family, queer kinship practices engendered political activism, and political activism fostered queer kinship practices.
Kristin Mahoney is an associate professor of English at Western Washington University, where her research and teaching interests include aestheticism, Decadence, and queer studies. She has published articles in Victorian Studies, Criticism, Victorian Review, Victorian Periodicals Review, English Literature in Transition, Nineteenth-Century Prose, and Literature Compass. Her book “Literature and the Politics of Post-Victorian Decadence” was published by Cambridge University Press in 2015.
She is currently working on a project entitled “Queer Kinship after Wilde: Transnational Aestheticism and the Family.”
This talk is offered as part of the Heritage Resources Distinguished Speakers program. For more information about the event, please contact Paul Piper, Special Collections Librarian, at (360) 650-3097 or Paul.Piper@wwu.edu.