CFP: Homosexuality and the Royal Court: Practices and Discourses from Late Antiquity to the 20th Century (Julius Maximilians University)

Deadline for Submissions: July 28, 2016

Homosexuality and the Royal Court: Practices and Discourses from Late Antiquity to the 20th Century

October 5, 2017 to October 7, 2017
Julius Maximilians University Würzburg/Germany

For years, the royal court was regarded as an antiquated subject excessively covered by academic research. More recently, the court has been re-discovered by historians under a new approach to political and cultural history. The history of sexuality at court has hardly been explored beyond the institution of the royal mistresses. Homosexuality at court has always been a taboo, even though the sources point to a very different reality, with the recurring figure of the homosexual courtier as well as the homosexual monarch. There are numerous examples of monarchs who were allegedly homosexual, according to the popular image, without scholarship having critically evaluated the source material available.

With respect to the primary sources, we will take into account the flowing boundaries between traditional material (chronicles, correspondence, memoirs, legal documents, flyers, mass prints) and fictional texts, artistic imagery and musical sources. This would make possible an interdisciplinary approach involving History, Ancient and Modern Literature, Church History, as well as Art and Music History. In literature, art and music, homosexual relationships could be depicted rather openly by drawing on mythological references and allegories. Homosexual political decision-makers could illustrate their love as artists or maecens: The exchange between the disciplines promises a broad general overview of homosexual life as well as homosexual self- and other-perspectives at court

Using an approach to homosexuality and the royal court spanning several centuries, we intend to explore a multi-layered image of homosexuality at court, which will help to enhance and understand the contemporary perception of scandal in history. In contrast to individual studies, our interdisciplinary approach, which is not restricted to one particular period, will reconstruct and analyse lines of development, continuities, rifts and counter-currents in the history of homosexuality. Due to its origin in the late 19th century, and its distance from many sources, the term homosexuality is a useful and intentional anachronism to explore same-sex relationships in the past.

Using this category of analysis as a basis, our conference will retrace discourse and practice of homosexual life at court from late Antiquity until the 20thcentury. The following research questions should be helpful:

  • Which political, cultural, artistic and military relevance did homosexual relationships have at courts in the course of history?
  • Which expressions of homosexuality at court can we find in art, literature and music?
  • How was the figure of the homosexual courtier and monarch depicted, and then related to other eras or forms of government?
  • How can we effectively describe the relationship of homosexuality to discourses of nationhood and national identity or to other cultures?
  • How was homosexuality used in criticism of the court?
  • How was courtly homosexuality instrumentalised in political, cultural and religious terms?
  • Can we find any traces of homosexual networks of patronage?
  • What constructions of homosexual identity (self-images as well as outside projections) were there?
  • To what extent was homosexuality at court subject to social, religious and moral change?

We welcome any topics which would help to answer the above questions. We will publish the presentations in a conference volume. The languages are German and English. We are applying for funding to reimburse travel and accommodation expenses.

Please send your abstracts (1-2 pages) as well as a brief CV to Norman Domeier by 28th July 2016:

Contact Info:

Dr. Norman Domeier
Universität Stuttgart
Historisches Institut
Keplerstrasse 17
70174 Stuttgart, Germany