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Chelsea Green Publishing--Fall 2020

Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love
By (author): Naomi Wolf
Naomi Wolf


Chelsea Green Publishing



Product Form:


Form detail:

Paperback , Trade


General Trade
Oct 09, 2020
$28.95 CAD


229 x 153 x 26 mm | 570 gr

Page Count:

384 pages


Black-and-white photographs and illustrations throughout
Chelsea Green Publishing
SOCIAL SCIENCE / LGBTQ+ Studies / Gay Studies
Biography: writers|Ethical issues: censorship|Sex and sexuality, social aspects|LGBTQ+ / Gay and Lesbian Studies|Social and cultural history|1837–1901 (Victorian period)|Relating to LGBTQ+ people

From New York Times bestselling author Naomi Wolf, Outrages explores the history of state-sponsored censorship and violations of personal freedoms through the inspiring, forgotten history of one writer’s refusal to stay silenced.

Newly updated, first North American edition--a paperback original

In 1857, Britain codified a new civil divorce law and passed a severe new obscenity law. An 1861 Act of Parliament streamlined the harsh criminalization of sodomy. These and other laws enshrined modern notions of state censorship and validated state intrusion into people’s private lives.

In 1861, John Addington Symonds, a twenty-one-year-old student at Oxford who already knew he loved and was attracted to men, hastily wrote out a seeming renunciation of the long love poem he’d written to another young man.

Outrages chronicles the struggle and eventual triumph of Symonds—who would become a poet, biographer, and critic—at a time in British history when even private letters that could be interpreted as homoerotic could be used as evidence in trials leading to harsh sentences under British law.

Drawing on the work of a range of scholars of censorship and of LGBTQ+ legal history, Wolf depicts how state censorship, and state prosecution of same-sex sexuality, played out—decades before the infamous trial of Oscar Wilde—shadowing the lives of people who risked in new ways scrutiny by the criminal justice system. She shows how legal persecutions of writers, and of men who loved men affected Symonds and his contemporaries, including Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Walter Pater, and the painter Simeon Solomon. All the while, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was illicitly crossing the Atlantic and finding its way into the hands of readers who reveled in the American poet’s celebration of freedom, democracy, and unfettered love.

Inspired by Whitman, and despite terrible dangers he faced in doing so, Symonds kept trying, stubbornly, to find a way to express his message—that love and sex between men were not “morbid” and deviant, but natural and even ennobling.

He persisted in various genres his entire life. He wrote a strikingly honest secret memoir—which he embargoed for a generation after his death—enclosing keys to a code that the author had used to embed hidden messages in his published work. He wrote the essay A Problem in Modern Ethics that was secretly shared in his lifetime and would become foundational to our modern understanding of human sexual orientation and of LGBTQ+ legal rights. This essay is now rightfully understood as one of the first gay rights manifestos in the English language.

Naomi Wolf’s Outrages is a critically important book, not just for its role in helping to bring to new audiences the story of an oft-forgotten pioneer of LGBTQ+ rights who could not legally fully tell his own story in his lifetime. It is also critically important for what the book has to say about the vital and often courageous roles of publishers, booksellers, and freedom of speech in an era of growing calls for censorship and ever-escalating state violations of privacy. With Outrages, Wolf brings us the inspiring story of one man’s refusal to be silenced, and his belief in a future in which everyone would have the freedom to love and to speak without fear.

First North American edition--fully reviewed and updated

Naomi Wolf ’s most recent books include the New York Times bestsellers Vagina, The End of America, and Give Me Liberty, in addition to the landmark bestseller The Beauty Myth. A former Rhodes Scholar, she completed a doctorate in English language and literature from the University of Oxford in 2015, was a research fellow at Barnard College and the University of Oxford, and taught rhetoric at the George Washington University and Victorian studies at Stony Brook University. Wolf lives in the Hudson River Valley.

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"This [is a] long-overdue literary investigation into censorship and the
life of a tormented trailblazer, a prescient father of the modern gay rights movement." - Oprah Magazine

"[This] remarkable book is a tour de force of research and insight
into Symonds' life and work and the related evolution of public and state attitudes toward homosexuality. [Wolf's] is an essential contribution not only to queer history but also to studies of nineteenth-century culture. It is not to be missed." [Starred review]
- Booklist

"Wolf provides engrossing accounts of Whitman and Symonds, yet her
story is even more compelling in its wider portrait of the societies and institutions in America as well as England that served to shape the fears and prejudices that have lingered into our modern age. An absorbing and thoughtfully researched must-read for anyone interested in the history of censorship and issues relating to gay male sexuality." - Kirkus

"This ambitious literary, biographical, and historical treatise from Wolf (The Beauty Myth)
examines both 19th-century Britain's persecution of gay men and the work and life of the relatively obscure gay writer John Addington Symonds (1840-1893)...a fascinating look at this period and these writers." - Publishers Weekly

"A heartbreaking, eye-opening book...Outrages is revelatory in
the way it brings together sometimes unbearably painful personal narratives with political and literary history...[a] remarkable book."

- Harper's Bazaar

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