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Outrages

Outrages

The bestselling author of The Beauty Myth, Vagina and The End of America chronicles the struggles and eventual triumph of John Addington Symonds, a Victorian-era poet, biographer, and critic who penned what became a foundational text on our modern understanding of human sexual orientation and LGBTQ+ legal rights.

In Outrages, Naomi Wolf chronicles the struggles and eventual triumph of John Addington Symonds, a Victorian-era poet, biographer, and critic who penned what became a foundational text on our modern understanding of human sexual orientation and LGBTQ+ legal rights, despite writing at a time when anything interpreted as homoerotic could be used as evidence in trials leading to harsh sentences under British law. Wolf’s book is extremely relevant today for what it has to say about the vital importance of freedom of speech and the courageous roles of publishers and booksellers in an era of growing calls for censorship and ever-escalating state violations of privacy. At a time when the American Library Association, the Guardian, and other observers document national and global efforts from censoring LGBTQ+ voices in libraries to using anti-trans and homophobic sentiments cynically to win elections, the story of how such hateful efforts evolved from the past, to reach down to us now, is more important than ever.

Drawing on the work of a range of scholars of censorship and of LGBTQ+ legal history, Wolf depicts how state censorship, and state prosecution of same-sex sexuality, played out-decades before the infamous trial of Oscar Wilde-shadowing the lives of people who risked in ever-changing, targeted ways scrutiny by the criminal justice system. She shows how legal persecutions of writers, and of men who loved men affected Symonds and his contemporaries, all the while, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was illicitly crossing the Atlantic and finding its way into the hands of readers who reveled in the American poet’s celebration of freedom, democracy, and unfettered love. Inspired by Whitman, Symonds kept trying, stubbornly, to find a way to express his message-that love and sex between men were not ‘morbid’ and deviant, but natural and even ennobling. He wrote a strikingly honest secret memoir written in code to embed hidden messages-which he embargoed for a generation after his death – and wrote the essay A Problem in Modern Ethics that was secretly shared in his lifetime and is now rightfully understood as one of the first gay rights manifestos in the English language. Equal parts insightful historical critique and page-turning literary detective story, Wolf’s Outrages is above all an uplifting testament to the triumph of romantic love.
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Genre: Humanities / History / History: Specific Events & Topics / Social & Cultural History

On Sale: 19th November 2020

Price: £16.99

ISBN-13: 9780349004105

Reviews

An important look at how the Obscene Publications Act helped usher in the state's purported need and right to police speech
Stylist
With precision and sensitivity, Naomi Wolf traces how the state came to police the private sphere; she brings into the light the lives of those whose resistance to this brutality was a beacon for the future. Outrages is a remarkable, revelatory book
Erica Wagner
Outrages reveals a powerful history of how science, law and culture intersected to suppress and silence sexual expression
Shahid Buttar, Marriage Equality Advocate
A remarkable and moving work of creative scholarship
Larry Kramer, author of Faggots and The Normal Heart
An absorbing and thoughtfully researched must-read for anyone interested in the history of censorship and issues relating to gay male sexuality
Kirkus
This ambitious literary, biographical, and historical treatise from Wolf examines both nineteenth-century Britain's persecution of gay men and the work and life of the relatively obscure gay writer John Addington Symonds . . . A fascinating look at this period and these writers
Publishers Weekly
A heartbreaking, eye-opening book . . . Outrages is revelatory in the way it brings together sometimes unbearably painful personal narratives with political and literary history . . . [a] remarkable book
Harper's Bazaar