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The Ladies of Llangollen

As we continue to celebrate LGBT History Month, Sarah Bentley explores the relationship between the two 18th century women known as the Ladies of Llangollen. 

“My dear Mrs Goddard I cannot paint our distress.
My dear Sally lept out of a Window last Night and is gone.
We learn Miss Butler of the castle is with her. I can say no more….
We are in the utmost distress and I am sure you pity us…”
– Lady Betty Fownes (from Elizabeth Mavor’s The Ladies of Llangollen)

“Sally” mentioned above was Sarah Ponsonby, an orphan, charge of her late father’s cousins, Sir William and Lady Betty Fownes. Miss Butler “of the castle” was Eleanor Butler: intellectual and passionate, with biting wit. At 29 she was asked to keep a friendly eye on Sarah who’d been placed at Miss Parke’s School near Kilkenny castle in 1768.

Eleanor made a big impact on teenage Sally. Continue reading

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Queer Territory: Claude Cahun and a land without labels

In the first of our posts for LGBT History Month, Sarah Jaffray looks at how the artist Claude Cahun explored the parodies of gender.

In her 1930 auto-biography Disavowals artist-writer Claude Cahun addressed the question of her identity, explaining: “Shuffle the cards. Masculine? Feminine? It depends on the situation.” Long before the articulation of Queer Theory in Judith Butler’s seminal Gender Trouble (1990), Cahun and her partner (both in art and life) Marcel Moore explored the masquerade of gendered existence. They worked decades before anyone was ready to accept that gender is a social construction.  Continue reading

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Graphic sex

Last week our Graphic Sex event offered a taste of sexuality, desire and disease in comics and graphic novels: from the ripped shirts of Doc Savage to Adam Hughes’ ‘Wonder Woman’ to gay marriage in ‘Astonishing X-Men’. The speaker, Stephen Lowther, tells us about some ways in which sex and sexuality have been represented in comics.

The humble comic book has evolved since its early days as a cheap, throwaway entertainment medium aimed squarely at children, whose images helped them to learn to read. Just as books, films and television cater to a wide audience and age ranges, so do 21st century comic books and graphic novels, as diverse today as they have ever been.

Continue reading