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.


‘We Cannot Be Greek Now’: Age Difference, Corruption and the Making of Sexual Inversion (Funke, 2013)

Supported by Wellcome


A Problem in Greek Ethics, A Problem in Modern Ethics and “Soldier Love” indicate that John Addington Symonds responded carefully to social anxieties regarding the influence and corruption of youth and placed increasing emphasis on presenting male same-sex desire as consensual and age-consistent. Situating Symonds’s work in the social and political context of the 1880s and 1890s, the article opens up a more complex understanding of Symonds’s reception of Greece. It also offers a new reading of his collaboration with Havelock Ellis by arguing that Symonds’s insistence on age-equal and reciprocal relationships between men strongly shaped Sexual Inversion. This shows that concerns about age difference and ideals of equality and reciprocity began to impact debates about male same-sex desire in the late nineteenth century – earlier than is generally assumed.

Full citation:

Funke, J (2013) ”We Cannot Be Greek Now’: Age Difference, Corruption and the Making of Sexual Inversion’, English Studies: a journal of English language and literature, 139-153

Open Access article available here.