GLBT Literature: Chronological Survey – 4,000 Years

Columbia AnthologyWelcome! Although this page was originally the homepage for a discussion group focused on the indispensable Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature, it also serves as an outline of exceptional gay male writing, from the Epic of Gilgamesh (2,000 BCE) to the 1990s. In the future I hope to create a consolidated Outline of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Literature.

Between March 1999 and February 2000, our Chronological Survey Group met each month in Manhattan to explore this extraordinary 4,000-year tradition through discussions of the The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature, ed. by Byrne R.S. Fone. This superb collection — divided into nine sections (summarized below) — features fiction, drama, poetry, essays, diaries, and other documents, plus commentaries and bibliography. Below are reviews plus additional resources.

Columbia Anthology's Nine Sections

GilgameshI. INVENTING EROS: Literature of the Ancient World from the Earliest Texts to the Beginning of Premodern Times

II. INVENTING SODOM: The European Middle Ages from the Third to the 13th Century

ByronIII. PLATONIC DIALOGUES: European and English Literature from the 14th to the 17th Century

IV. REINVENTING SODOM: Homophobia and Resistance 1625–1869

ProustV. HEIRS OF EROS: English Literature 1850–1969

VI. MODERN LOVE: European Writers from 1870

WhitmanVII. MASCULINE LANDSCAPES: American Literature 1840–1933

VIII. DECONSTRUCTING "MANHOOD": American Literature 1916-1969

IX. OUT THERE: American Literature from 1969


From the Publisher

BaldwinIn the three decades since New York City's Stonewall rebellion, gay literature has exploded as a distinctive form of cultural expression. In a variety of styles and genres, gay men have increasingly begun to articulate their sexual identities. At the same time, gay writers and scholars have begun in earnest the search for a literary history long denied by the refusal to recognize homosexual love as an integral part of Western literature. Yet to date, no single volume has brought together the full history of literature from poetry, fiction, essays, and autobiography that portray love between men.

From the Epic of Gilgamesh to the poems of Allen Ginsberg, The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature draws together hundreds of texts from Western literary history that describe experiences of love, friendship, intimacy, desire, and sex among men. While other anthologies have focused primarily on poetry, drama, or fiction, this volume is the first to include a full range of genres. Spanning more than [four] millennia, from ancient Mesopotamia to the late twentieth century, and covering an impressive scope of world literature, this anthology brings together the best-known texts of gay male writing – such as the poetry of Martial and Walt Whitman, and E. M. Forster's Maurice – with lesser-known works that reveal a hidden heritage.

WildeIn The Columbia Anthology readers become acquainted with the early bonds of male companionship found in Homer's writings on Zeus and Ganymede, and with the homoerotic poetry of Catullus and Juvenal. From Shakespeare's Sonnets to the philosophy of de Sade, to the political writings of Edmund White, this masterful anthology traces a multifaceted tradition.

Arranged chronologically, sections are supplemented by illuminating introductory essays; many individual pieces include background commentary on the writer and the work. Fully annotated with suggestions for further reading, The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature will be invaluable to students and scholars in need of a guide to a massive body of literature at the very heart of every world culture. This collection also serves as a landmark for the enduring spirit of gay writers, an essential addition to the libraries of anyone searching for the historical foundations of gay identities.

The Columbia Anthology's editor Byrne R. S. Fone is professor of English literature at the City College of New York. He is general editor of the 55-volume Bell's British Theatre, editor of Hidden Heritage: History and the Gay Imagination, and author of Masculine Landscapes: Whitman Before Homosexuality, A Road to Stonewall: Homosexuality and Homophobia in English and American Literature, and Homophobia.




Additional Resources

For more information, see editor Claude J. Summers's superb one-volume reference work, The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage: A Reader's Companion to the Writers and Their Works, from Antiquity to the Present, which features over 350 outstanding essays on authors, forms, genres, and national literatures — NOTE: the entire updated contents of Prof. Summers's book, with additional sections relating to history, the social sciences, music, the visual arts, and more, is now available free online at A wide-ranging lesbian anthology is Chloe Plus Olivia: An Anthology of Lesbian Literature from the Seventeenth Century to the Present (1995), ed. by Lillian Faderman. Free online is Edward Carpenter's landmark 1908 anthology of same-sex "friendship literature," Ioläus. Much information on GLBT history, from ancient times to the present, is available at People With A History.

* More GLBT Arts Resources: GLBT Cinema, GLBT Classical Music, GLBT Literature,GLBT Visual Arts. Essay "Why a GLBT Focus?"


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