Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Homosexuality bibliographies

Achieving bibliographical control of the vast body of writings on homosexuality is a challenging, sometimes vexatious task. However, it is not beyond reach.

While the middle and later years of the nineteenth century saw a number of important bibliographies of erotica they were not specifically geared to the study of same-sex love. For that one one is again indebted to the first homosexual emancipation movement appearing in Berlin in 1897. This movement firmly held that progress toward homosexual rights must go hand in hand with intellectual enlightenment. Accordingly, each year's production was noted in the annual volumes of the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen (1899-1923); by the end of the first decade of monitoring, over 1000 new titles had been recorded. Although surveys were made of earlier literature, up to the time of the extinction of the movement by National Socialism in 1933, no attempt had been made to organize this material into a single comprehensive bibliography of homosexual studies.

It is still worthwhile to comb the classic German works of the pre-Nazi period for bibliographical nuggets that have escaped attention. Still, it is regrettable that this foundational era in homosexual scholarship produced no single comprehensive bibliography of the subject.

For that one must await the participation of the United State, whose gay-rights movement only emerged with the Mattachine Society in 1950-51. In the context of the Cold War and the McCarthyite frenzy, the efforts at organizing and diffusing better knowledge were at first very difficult and unpromising--but some dedicated individuals kept going all the same. An early document of the period was the little “Gay Girl’s Guide” (New York,1949 with two subsequent editions; despite the title, this mimeographed item was intended for gay men). Somewhat bizarrely, the principal author was identified as one Swarsarnt Nerf (probably a pseudonym of Edgar Leoni). At the end this booklet offers ten pages of book listings, fiction and nonfiction.

As a rule, respectable publishers avoided the topic of homosexuality, except for judgmental works by psychiatrists and other medical writers. A partial exception was Donald Webster Cory's The Homosexual in America (New York, 1951), well-written and edited, though issued by Greenberg, a somewhat marginal publisher. In addition to a lucid, though now dated text, this volumed offered appendices with lists of both non-fiction and fiction on the subject.

After the Stonewall Rebellion in June of 1969, things began to improve. In 1971 or ’72 Jack Stafford, a librarian based in Queens, NY, began an effort, supported by a committee of the American Library Association (ALA), towards a comprehensive bibliography of homosexuality, which would emphasize the positive aspects. When Jack died unexpectedly in 1973, Barbara Gittings took charge of the manuscript on behalf of the ALA. With their approval, she utilized the material to create a 16-page leaflet of highlights, called “A Gay Bibliography.” Distributed pretty much for free to libraries and other interested parties, this selection greatly enhanced readership, and eventually publishing prospects as well.

By contrast, the compilation of Martin S. Weinberg and Alan P. Bell, Homosexuality: An Annotated Bibliography (New York: 1972) represents a step backwards. This large work, compiled under the auspices of the Kinsey Institute of Indiana University, provides detailed but uncritical abstracts for 1,263 books, pamphlets, and articles published in the English language from 1940 to 1968. The book stresses psychiatric, medical, and social-science contributions, many harshly negative, It is now mainly of interest to those seeking to reconstruct the repressive atmosphere of the middle years of the twentieth century.

In this context, it was clear that a real effort must be made by the nascent gay organizations themselves. To ONE, Inc. of Los Angeles belongs the honor of addressing this task on an appropriate scale. After many delays, the ONE efforts yielded the most ambitious project attempted up to that point: Vern Bullough et al., Annotated Bibliography of Homosexuality (New York, 1976), which was prepared in the Los Angeles offices of ONE, Inc. This work provides about 13,000 entries arranged in twenty broad subject categories. Some notion of the enormousness of the whole subject is conveyed by the fact that, even at that date, the number of entries could probably have been doubled. Unlike most of the other American bibliographies, this work is international and multilingual in scope; unfortunately the two-volume set is marred by thousands of small errors and lacunae, especially in foreign-language items. The title notwithstanding, annotations are very sparse, and uncertain in their critical stance. Full subject indexes, which would have served to offset some of these shortcomings are lacking; instead each volume has its own author indexes. The shortcomings of this major work, undertaken largely by volunteer staff working under movement auspices, illustrate the problems that have, as often as not, been made inevitable by the social neglect and obloquy in which the subject has been enveloped. To his credit, W. Dorr Legg, the project director, realized that an altogether new work was needed, one that would remedy the all-too-evident faults of the existing work. After several years of intense work, it was found that fundamental disagreements prevented the editors from concluding the task, which had reached the letter N. The copious materials for this unfinished project are now preserved in the ONE archives at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

In San Francisco in the 1960s William Parker began gathering material for a one-person effort. His first attempt was Homosexuality: Selected Abstracts and Bibliography (San Francisco, 1966); this publication, and a number of other earlier lists, are now most easily accessible in the Arno Press omnibus: A Gay Bibliography: Eight Bibliographies on Lesbianism and Male Homosexuality (New York, 1975). Parker's more substantial work is Homosexuality: A Selected Bibliography of over 3,000 Items (Metuchen, NJ: 1971), followed by two supplements (published in 1977 and 1985), which carry coverage up through 1982. These volumes arrange the material (English-language only) by types of publication; there are helpful subject indices. Although some note is taken of films, television programs and audiovisual materials, the coverage of print items is almost entirely restricted to nonfiction.

Parker's two supplements cover six- and seven-year periods respectively, but even as of 2010 there is no current annual bibliography of homosexuality. For a time, the best means of of monitoring current production was through the "Relevant" section of the scholarly Dutch bimonthly Homologie (Amsterdam, 1978-97 ), which utilized the resources of Homodok (Dokumentatiecentrum Homostudies), founded in 1977 under the auspices of the University of Amsterdam.

In San Francisco the lesbian monthly The Ladder, published by the Daughters of Bilitis organization, included notices of books from its inception in 1956 (the full set was reissued with a new index in New York in 1975). Eventually these notices were coordinated on a monthly basis by Gene Damon (Barbara Grier), whose later columns have been recently collected in a handy, indexed volume: Lesbiana: Book Reviews from the Ladder, 1966-1972 (Reno, 1976). Utilizing input from Marion Zimmer Bradley and others, Damon and Lee Stuart produced the first edition of The Lesbian in Literature: A Bibliography (San Francisco, 1967). This work subsequently appeared in an expanded, third edition: Barbara Grier, The Lesbian in Literature (Tallahassee, 1981), with about 3100 items, including some nonfiction. The entries are labeled with an ingenious coding system, balancing relevance and quality.

The complement to Grier in the male sphere is Ian Young, The Male Homosexual in Literature: A Bibliography (second ed. Metuchen, NJ, 1982), with 4282 items, interpretive essays by several hands, and title index. While there are no annotations, Young sweeps the field: fiction, poetry, drama, and autobiography. Like Grier, the volume is restricted to works written in English and translations of foreign works. Regrettably, no scholars have come forward to update these exemplary works by Grier and Young on creative literature.

Apart from the general bibliographies just discussed, which claim to cover at least the whole-English language production in their chosen domains, there are also a number of works defined by the country in which they appeared. William Crawford (ed.J, Homosexuality in Canada: A Bibliography (Toronto, 1984), contains a good deal of material, in French as well as English, that has been overlooked elsewhere. Manfred Herzer, Verzeichnis des deutschsprachigen nicht belletristischen Schrifttums zur weiblichen und männlichen Homosexualität aus den Jahren 1466 bis 1975 in chronologischer Reihenfolge (Berlin, 1982) is an exemplary compilation of some 3500 nonfiction items published in German up to 1975. For Italian-language material, see the annotated listing by Giovanni Dall'Orto, Leggere omosessuale (Turin, 1984), a roster of publications from 1800 to 1983. Still awaiting systematic treatment is the rich Italian material before 1800, though much of this can be recovered from Dall’Orto’s extenive website, Claude Courouve's work on French bibliography was privately published.

Almost from the beginning homosexual organizations have created their own periodicals to supplement the mainstream journals which tend to scant, or even exclude altogether research on sexual variation. A detailed roster of no less than 1924 publications existing (or believed to exist) in the 1980s is Robert Malinowsky, International Directory of Gay and Lesbian Periodicals (Phoenix, 1987). By definition, this work does not include older journals that had ceased (309 of these are listed in Bullough, et al., cited above), nor does it provide, for obvious reasons, a listing of the contents of these publications. Gay and lesbian journals are covered only sporadically in current bibliographies, and even copies of the less familiar newspapers are hard to find once they leave the stands; here the gay and lesbian archives are doing an essential job of preservation, since public and univer­sity libraries usually do not preserve these materials. In the early twenty-first century, unfortunately, poor economic conditions caused the demise of a number of gay and lesbian periodicals.

A summation of bibliographical work appears in Wayne R. Dynes, Homosexuality: A Research Guide (New York, 1987). In addition to the bibliography section proper, each of the approximately 170 subject groups contains an introduction outlining the strengths and problems of the topic in its current state of development (or lack of development). This volume is conceived as interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and transhistorical, and may be consulted for a sense of the complexity of the overarching field. Unfortunately, an updated edition has proved unfeasible due to the flood of new publications.

As early as 1990, in fact, it was clear that the proliferation of material was outrunning the efforts to monitor it. Here the Internet seemed to offer an ideal solution, but unfortunately it was not as effective as one would have thought. The advantages of publishing bibliographies in this format are obvious: economy, since no publisher of the traditional kind was needed and no one need pay for consult the compilation; ease of access; and flexibility, since the editor(s) could keep constantly adding new items as they appeared.

Yet things did not quite work out as expected. The problems are illustrated by the fate of a truly remarkable effort conducted by the Englishman Paul Halsall while he was a graduate student at Fordham University in New York. Working selflessly and with almost feverish energy, during the 1990s Halsall created “People with a History” (PWH) ( This a major annotated bibliography covering gays, lesbians, and trans people for all historical periods and areas, including non-Western ones. Fully annotated, the site contains links to other sites created by Halsall. While PWH can be used as a supplement and continuation of Dynes, Homosexuality: A Research Guide, the site also notices earlier works. Unfortunately, Halsall had to stop work in 1998 in order to complete his dissertation. He has since returned to England, where he has moved on to other tasks.

Working at the same time as Halsall, Gary Simes of Sydney Australia, created the last printed bibliography of the subject that is truly comprehensive in scope. This is Simes, Bibliography of Homosexuality (Sydney: University of Sydney Library & The Australian Centre for Lesbian and Gay Research, 1998), based on the holdings of the University of Sydney Library. This listing of 6129 items is selectively annotated. A different approach appears in the massive volume edited by Timothy F. Murphy, the Reader’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Studies (Chicago, 2000). The Guide consists of some 430 essays, from “Academicians” to “World War II, Cultural Effects of.” Each entry begins with a list of publications; these are mostly books and items written in the English language--two serious limitations. While a few of the essays that follow are thoughtful, even penetrating, many are lackluster, having apparently been compiled by graduate students. A stronger hand on the part of the overall editor would have been helpful.

Returning to Internet resources, probably the best way for the tyro scholar to begin is to turn to the lists maintained by the London-based scholar Rictor Norton at his site: One may also consult online the collective work known as GLBTQ, which bills itself as “the world’s largest encyclopedia of gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer culture” ( The articles are generally clear and reliable, though coverage is limited to literature, the arts, and the social sciences, with inclusion of numerous relevant biographies For the older, entries, however, the attached bibliographies tend not to be up-to-date. Many relevant Wikipedia entries contain bibliographies, Finally, one may consult the listings in the CD-ROM of Paul Knobel of Sydney, Australia. His Encyclopedia of Male Homosexual Poetry and its Reception History (2002) covers poetry with 6,300 entries.

Online one can also browse two large and continuously updated repertoires that stem from the library world. The first, Harvard Libraries’ HOLLIS Classical is relatively concise, with somewhat under 5000 items appearing when one types in the key word “homosexuality.” One may also access the vast list of the holdings of the Library of Congress on line. Finally, one can proceed to a truly enormous compilation, that of Worldcat ( Among its 1.2 billion items are more than 50,000 entries relevant to our subject, including books, periodicals and periodical articles, dissertations, CD-ROMS and other electronic compilations. The enormous profusion of periodical articles, of varying quality, poses a huge problem of bibliographical control. Worldcat presents these only selectively (e.g. items from the Journal of Homosexuality), but seems to be constantly increasing coverage.

Using the resources of Worldcat, Paul Knobel created an invaluable Bibliography of Homosexuality: The Non-English Sources, comprising an astonishing 4600 entries from 39 non-English languages. Consulting this important work will do much to correct the Anglophone exclusivity that hobbles scholarship in many areas. Knobel’s work may be viewed at



Post a Comment

<< Home