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Travel Literature  
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John Addington Symonds, for example, acted as an international homosexual clearinghouse, coordinating gay correspondence and keeping people in touch.

The Homosexual Exile

But Symonds is also exemplary in another way: as the archetype of the Romantic homosexual exile. A distinguished historian of the Renaissance, he fled England to Italy and eventually settled with his Italian lover in Davos, Switzerland, refusing to return to his native England on the grounds that it was oppressive to homosexuals like himself. Instead, he offered hospitality to hundreds of men passing through.

Exchanging one's country for sexual reasons was risky, with serious consequences whether one remained abroad (clear evidence of being a sodomite) or returned (evidence the traveler had fled, like Beckford, from scandal).

The Liberating Potential of Travel

Walt Whitman captured some of the potency of homosexual fantasy among travelers in poems like "We two boys together clinging," in which the metaphors of traveling together, in groups, arm in arm, breast on breast, are potent.

The liberating potentiality of travel is also apparent to novelists like E. M. Forster, whose Italian novels feature the transformations of Englishmen by their experiences abroad.

For English writers in the 1930s, it was Weimar Germany that seemed to offer the greatest prospect of liberation, as witnessed by the work and experiences of Christopher Isherwood, Stephen Spender, and W. H. Auden.

Isherwood's autobiographical Christopher and His Kind (1980) is particularly interesting as a travel book, for it is in large part the saga of Christopher and his German working-class lover Heinz, who in the late 1930s move restlessly from one European city to another in search of a haven where they can live together.

Edmund White has also inscribed the dynamics of the gay travel experience in his fiction, as well as in his nonfiction States of Desire: Travels in Gay America (1980). States of Desire and gay guides like the periodically issued Spartacus, to say nothing of the organized tours for gay men and lesbians led by Hans Ebenstein and others, now seem highly efficient means of exploring places, but they are not entirely new inventions.

The paradigm of the mother country has altered, as has remaining abroad. And it can no longer be said, as it was in the nineteenth century: "Be suspicious of any Englishman who exchanges England for Italy even for purely political reasons."

Perhaps Norman Douglas, the twentieth-century English poet and novelist, has uttered the last word about homosexual travel and its significations when providing reasons for going abroad the first time: "Norman Douglas of Capri, and of Naples and Florence, was formerly of England, which he fled during the war to avoid persecution for kissing a boy and giving him some cakes and a shilling."

George S. Rousseau

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literature >> Auden, W. H.

One of the most accomplished poets of the twentieth century, W. H. Auden found that his gayness led him to new insights into the universal impulse to love and enlarged his understanding of all kinds of relationships.

literature >> Beckford, William

Extremely wealthy and connected to the aristocracy, British author and connoisseur William Beckford was ostracized by English society for the last sixty years of his life because of his homosexuality.

literature >> Byron, George Gordon, Lord

The bisexual Lord Byron treated many of his homosexual love affairs in his poetry, encoding them by the use of classical references or by purporting that they were affairs with women.

arts >> Charke, Charlotte

Actress and writer Charlotte Charke was known for portraying male characters on the eighteenth-century English stage and for cross-dressing in private life.

literature >> Chatwin, Bruce

The acclaimed prose style of travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin, a secretive bisexual, may have been developed as a means of hiding the truth of his sexuality.

literature >> Dessaix, Robert

Australian translator, editor, essayist, travel writer, and novelist Robert Dessaix did not publish his first book until he was fifty; two novels later he is recognized as an important voice in Australian gay literature.

literature >> Douglas, Norman

Norman Douglas, who wrote travel books and autobiographical works, is best known his explorations of the pleasures of the hedonistic life.

literature >> Fernandez, Dominique

A member of the Académie française, novelist and academic Dominique Fernandez pioneered the "psychobiography" and explores the complex question of the outlaw nature of homosexuality.

literature >> Forster, E. M.

One of the finest English novelists of the twentieth century and a tireless defender of humane values, Forster deserves a special place in the gay and lesbian literary heritage.

literature >> Gray, Thomas

Thomas Gray, the best-loved English poet of the eighteenth century, wrote several poems that express the love he felt for other men.

literature >> Halliburton, Richard

There has been renewed interest in the life and work of American adventurer and travel writer Richard Halliburton at least in part because of his homosexuality.

literature >> Isherwood, Christopher

A major Anglo-American novelist and a pioneer in the gay liberation movement, Christopher Isherwood created gay characters whose homosexuality is a simple given, an integral part of the wholeness of personality and an emblem of their common humanity.

literature >> Kanga, Firdaus

Indian writer Firdaus Kanga has explored the intersection of two kinds of marginality: that based on being a member of a sexual minority and that based on being a disabled person.

literature >> Lewis, Matthew G.

Matthew Lewis's scandalous masterpiece, The Monk, is one of the great works in the gay and lesbian literary tradition.

literature >> Melville, Herman

The most important American novelist of the nineteenth century, Herman Melville reflects his homosexuality throughout his texts.

literature >> Schwarzenbach, Annemarie

Swiss writer and photojournalist Annemarie Schwarzenbach documented social conditions from Afghanistan to Alabama; her fiction reflected the tormented attachments and recurring loneliness that plagued her short lifetime.

literature >> Spender, Sir Stephen

In his poetry and his autobiography, Stephen Spender wrote about his homosexual experiences in his early life.

literature >> Symonds, John Addington

John Addington Symonds was the most daring innovator in the history of nineteenth-century British homosexual writing and consciousness.

literature >> Thesiger, Sir Wilfred

Although there is some question as to whether travel writer, explorer, photographer, and cult figure Sir Wilfred Thesiger can be labeled as homosexual, his most powerful emotional ties were with the young male companions of his famous journeys.

literature >> Walpole, Horace

Throughout his life, Horace Walpole was devoted to other men, and his exploration of dysfunctional families in The Castle of Otranto and The Mysterious Mother probably stems from his own experience with a destructive father.

literature >> White, Edmund

One of the most prominent and highly acclaimed figures of contemporary gay literature, Edmund White works in many distinct categories of fiction and nonfiction.

literature >> Whitman, Walt

Celebrating an ideal of manly love in both its spiritual and physical aspects, Walt Whitman has exerted a profound and enduring influence on gay literature.

literature >> Winckelmann, Johann Joachim

The art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the first German to have been publicly acknowledged as a homosexual, developed an aesthetic deeply rooted in his homosexuality.


Beckford, William. Dreams, Waking Thoughts, and Incidents: in a Series of Letters, from Various Parts of Europe. London: J. Johnson, 1783.

Chaney, Edward. The Grand Tour and Beyond: British and American Travellers in Southern Italy, 1545-1960. London: Oxford University Press, 1974.

Fussell, Paul. Abroad: British Literary Traveling between the Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

_____, ed. The Norton Book of Travel. New York: Norton, 1986.

Massie, Allan. Byron's Travels. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1988.

Porter, Dennis. Haunted Journeys: Desire and Transgression in European Travel Writing. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Rousseau, G. S. "In the House of Madame van der Tasse: Homosocial Desire and a University Club during the Enlightenment." The Pursuit of Sodomy: Male Homosexuality in Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe. Kent Gerard, ed. New York: Haworth Press, 1987. 311-348.

_____. Perilous Enlightenment: Pre- and Post-modern Discourses: Sexual, Historical. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990.

_____. "The Sorrows of Priapus: Anticlericalism, Homosocial Desire, and Richard Payne Knight." Sexual Underworlds of the Enlightenment. G. S. Rousseau, ed. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987. 101-153.

_____, and Roy Porter, eds. Exoticism in the Enlightenment. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989.

Stoye, John. English Travellers in the Renaissance. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1954.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rousseau, George S.  
    Entry Title: Travel Literature  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated April 15, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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