Sculpture, Sexuality and History Encounters in Literature, Culture and the Arts from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (2019)

Supported by Wellcome

Our team members Jana Funke and Jen Grove are editors of a new volume Sculpture, Sexuality and History Encounters in Literature, Culture and the Arts from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (Palgrave, 2019).

This volume:

  • Offers a new understanding of the different ways in which the reception of statuary has been shaped by debates about sexuality and history
  • Explores how sculptures have opened up debates about queer desires and identities, as well as obscenity, censorship and morality
  • Brings together leading international experts and cutting-edge scholars from an extensive range of disciplines

For more details see here.

German and British Sexual Sciences Across Disciplines at the Fin de Siècle: ‘Homosexuals’, Inverts and ‘Uranians’ (Linge I, 2017)

Dr Ina Linge, Associate Research Fellow on the Rethinking Sexology project, published a chapter on “German and British Sexual Sciences Across Disciplines at the Fin de Siècle: ‘Homosexuals’, ‘Inverts’ and ‘Uranians'” in The Edinburgh Companion to Fin-de-Siècle Literature, Culture and the Arts, ed. Josephine Guy (Edinburgh University Press, 2017).

Biological Discourses: The Language of Science and Literature around 1900 (Linge I)

Dr Ina Linge, Associate Research Fellow on the Rethinking Sexology project, published a co-edited volume (with Dr Robert Craig, University of Bamberg) entitled Biological Discourses: The Language of Science and Literature around 1900 (2017). Several chapters within this volume, in particular in ‘Part II: Constructions of Desire’ discuss the history and literature of sexology and psychoanalysis.


The relationship between biological thought and literature, and between science and culture, has long been an area of interest by no means confined to literary studies. The Darwin Anniversary celebrations of 2009 added to this tradition, inspiring a variety of new publications on the cultural reception of Darwin and Darwinism. With a fresh scope that includes but also reaches beyond the «Darwinian» legacy, the essays in this volume explore the range and diversity of interactions between biological thought and literary writing in the period around 1900.

How did literature uniquely shape the constitution and communication of scientific ideas in the decades after Darwin? Did literary genres dangerously distort, or shed critical light upon, the biological theories with which they worked? And what were the ethical and social implications of those relationships? With these broad questions in mind, the contributors consider the biological embeddedness of human nature, perspectives on sexual desire, developments in racial thinking and its political exploitation, and poetic engagements with experimental psychology and zoology. They also range across different literary traditions, from Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, to Britain and the USA. Biological Discourses provides a rich cross-section of the contested relationship between literature and biological thought in fin-de-siècle and modernist cultures.

Reference: Ina Linge and Robert Craig (eds.), ‘Biological Discourses: The Language of Science and Literature around 1900’ (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2017).

“Let Us Leave the Hospital […]; Let Us Go on a Journey Around the World: Sexual Science and the Global Search for Variation and Difference” (Fisher K and Funke J 2017)

Supported by Wellcome

Fisher K and Funke J, “Let Us Leave the Hospital […]; Let Us Go on a Journey Around the World: Sexual Science and the Global Search for Variation and Difference”, in Fuechtner, V, Hayes D, Jones R (eds) A Global History of Sexual Science, 1880-1960, Oakland: University of California Press, 2017.

Illustrating Phallic Worship (Funke, Fisher, Grove and Langlands, 2017)

Supported by Wellcome

Abstract: This article reveals previously overlooked connections between eighteenth-century antiquarianism and early twentieth-century sexual science by presenting a comparative reading of two illustrated books: An Account of the Remains of the Worship of Priapus, by British antiquarian scholar Richard Payne Knight (1750–1824), and Die Weltreise eines Sexualforschers (The World Journey of a Sexologist), by German sexual scientist Magnus Hirschfeld (1868–1935). A close analysis of these publications demonstrates the special status of material artefacts and the strategic engagement with visual evidence in antiquarian and scientific writings about sex. Through its exploration of the similarities between antiquarian and sexual scientific thought, the article demonstrates the centrality of material culture to the production of sexual knowledge in the Western world. It also opens up new perspectives on Western intellectual history and on the intellectual origins of sexual science. While previous scholarship has traced the beginnings of sexual science back to nineteenth-century medical disciplines, this article shows that sexual scientists drew upon different forms of evidence and varied methodologies to produce sexual knowledge and secure scientific authority. As such, sexual science needs to be understood as a field with diverse intellectual roots that can be traced back (at least) to the eighteenth century.

Full citation: Funke J, Fisher K, Grove J, and Langlands, R, “llustrating phallic worship: uses of material objects and the production of sexual knowledge in eighteenth-century antiquarianism and early twentieth-century sexual science”, Word and Image, Volume 33, 2017 – Issue 3: Mediating the Materiality of the Past, 1700–1930

This article is available open access.

The Reception of Rome in English Sexology (Funke and Langlands, 2015)


Rome is a significant site in the late nineteenth-century sexological construction of modern figurations of homosexuality, although so far it has been overlooked. Although sexological discussions of Rome are often less elaborate than those of Greece, Roman sexualities proved central to the sexologists’ interest in diverse types or subcategories of ‘homosexuality’ or ‘sexual inversion’, and Roman history and literature enabled sexologists to develop and reinforce distinctions between, for example, congenital homosexuality and cultured or degenerative sexualities. The chapter focuses on Havelock Ellis and John Addington Symonds, and their dialogue with continental sexology, exploring the representation of Greek and Roman sexualities, and analysing the conflicted ways in which Rome is integrated into the narrative of an affirmative history of male homosexuality that begins to emerge in sexological writings of the period.

Full Citation:

Funke, J and Langlands R (2015) ‘The Reception of Rome in English Sexology’, in Ingleheart J (eds) Ancient Rome and the construction of modern homosexual identities109-125.


Navigating the Past: Sexuality, Race, and the Uses of the Primitive in Magnus Hirschfeld’s The World Journey of a Sexologist (Funke, 2015)


This chapter explores the as-yet little understood place of anthropological research into cross-cultural sexual behaviours and customs within the broader field of early twentieth-century sexual science. She offers a close reading of German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld’s travel narrative The World Journey of a Sexologist (1933) and focuses, in particular, on his engagement with allegedly ‘primitive’ phallic cults in Asia. In so doing, the chapter interrogates how temporal hierarchies between the primitive and the civilized shaped modern understandings of sexuality, which emerged in dialogue with colonial constructions of racial and cultural difference. It also draws on Hirschfeld’s travel writings to demonstrate that the primitive past could be used in contradictory ways that both challenged and reinforced racial and cultural hierarchies and to different ends: to open up an understanding of sexual diversity and variation across the world and to legitimize the Western project of sexual science.

Full citation:

Funke, J (2015) ‘Navigating the Past: Sexuality, Race, and the Uses of the Primitive in Magnus Hirschfeld’s The World Journey of a Sexologist‘ in Fisher, K and Langlands, R Sex, Knowledge, and Receptions of the Past, Oxford University Press, 111-134.

Cross-Disciplinary Translation: British Sexual Science, History and Anthropology (Fisher and Funke 2015)


In the second half of the nineteenth century, sexuality was refigured as a subject of scientific investigation. Scholars have explored how psychiatrists and medical doctors across Europe investigated the somatic and psychological causes of sexual behaviour. With some exceptions (e.g. Bauer; Rosario; Schaffner), the use of clinical evidence (above all the patient case study) has been identified as the key mechanism to secure scientific authority. This scholarship has resulted in a flawed understanding of the history of sexual science, as it is assumed that non-clinical forms of evidence or methodologies had no place in scientific writings about sexuality and were seen as injurious to scientific respectability. As a result, our histories have not paid significant attention to the ways in which European sexual science became a site for transnational and interdisciplinary translation.

This chapter, however, demonstrates that non-clinical forms of evidence were central to Western sexual science, specifically in its second generation, which emerged at the turn of the twentieth century. Increasingly, from the very end of the nineteenth century and in the first years of the twentieth, sexual science was explicitly authorised as an interdisciplinary intellectual enterprise with sexologists like Havelock Ellis in England or Ivan Bloch and Magnus Hirschfeld in Germany calling for interdisciplinary and international collaboration to reshape the field of sexual science. The chapter traces the disciplinary and transnational expansion of sexual science in its second generation by exploring the widespread uses of anthropological and historical evidence. Focusing on journals like Hirschfeld’s Jahrbuch, scientific congresses in the first decades of the twentieth century, and the formation of organisations like the BSSSP as important forums of interdisciplinary and international exchange, it identifies three main driving forces behind this reshaping of sexual science: the conscious desire to break with a narrow medical and pathological model of sexuality; the search for sexual variation across different cultures and historical time period; and the wish to reach out to broader audiences beyond the professional scientific and medical community.

This interdisciplinary perspective opens up a more nuanced understanding of Western sexual science. It makes it possible to revise perceived notions of what it meant to write scientifically about sexuality and who was authorised to do so. This is of particular significance when studying British sexual science, which did not take a coherent and institutionalised form. For this reason, it has often been assumed that British sexual science was marginalised within Europe. In shifting attention to processes of interdisciplinary translation and transnational exchange, however, this chapter shows that British sexual science was a vibrant interdisciplinary discourse, taking shape across various fields of knowledge. Moreover, the interdisciplinary nature of British sexual science did not set it apart from European sexual science. Rather, the appeal for an interdisciplinary culture of sexual knowledge articulated by sexual scientists across Europe found particular resonance in Britain.

Full citation:

Fisher, K and Funke, J (2015) ‘Cross-Disciplinary Translation: British Sexual Science, History and Anthropology’ in Bauer H (ed) Sexology and Translation: Cultural and Scientific Encounters across the Modern World, Philadelphia: Temple University Press.