Seminars in the City: Queer Bloomsbury/Buggersbury

Presented by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies
Facilitated by Dr. Andrea Freud Loewenstein

Seminars will run Thursday Evenings on the following dates:

October 20th and 27th and November 3rd and 10th
7 to 9 pm

CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue

“How queer,” Virginia Woolf wrote, “to have so many selves.” If you would like to read Woolf’s work but don’t know which self to start with, if you have found the writing of Woolf’s friend Lytton Strachey obscure and that of her lover, Vita Sackville West unreadable, or if you wonder what relevance those upper class, entitled Brits in the Bloomsbury group have to us as GLBT people in this day and age, this seminar is for you. In fact, most of the members of Bloomsbury would have felt more at home with today’s queer identity than with the more binary choices of the gay liberation generation. For them, the personal was truly political. The choices they made and the lives they lived were courageous and way ahead of their time, and the close friendship and mutual support that held them together as a group and fostered their creative work provide a model for us today.

Although it is open to all, this seminar is primarily aimed not towards Bloomsbury scholars but instead towards those who may have found the work of Woolf and her upper class British friends a little intimidating and who would like an entrée into their world. As the title of the seminar implies, we will concentrate primarily on their sexuality, something earlier critics left out and later ones used to gay bash and dismiss the group. In fact, few of the blooms/buggers would have called themselves gay or, in the case of Virginia Woolf or her lover Vita Sackville West, lesbian. They would have been far more at home with the label queer, with its insistence on openness, on fluid definitions of both sexual preference and gender rules. For them, their sexual preference was part of the group’s defiance of prim Victorian morality and its institutions of war, colonialism and royalty.

Please register in advance by emailing CLAGSEVENTS(AT)GC.CUNY.EDU so that we can get the readings to you before the first meeting.