Call for papers: Panel on “Language and sexuality before Stonewall”

Call for papers ending on



This is a call for papers for a panel to be held at the 26th Lavender Languages and Linguistics Conference, which will take place May 2-4, 2019, at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden (conference website:


Call for papers: Panel on “Language and sexuality before Stonewall”

Panel organisers:

William L. Leap, American University Washington DC / Florida Atlantic University ( Heiko Motschenbacher, Western Norway of Applied Sciences Bergen / Florida Atlantic University (


Language and sexuality researchers have demonstrated how sexuality is discursively shaped by the way we use language to talk and write about sexuality-related aspects. This issue becomes even clearer when it is investigated how sexuality-related language use changes over time, since differences in language use evolving from a comparison of historical periods tell us something about how our conceptualisation of sexual phenomena has developed. It is often against the backdrop of historical (linguistic) evidence that we realise how culturally relative our modern-day understanding of sexuality is.

This panel, therefore, invites contributions from researchers who have worked on the discursive construction of sexuality via language in times before the Stonewall Riots – the central event of gay liberation in the Western world (Duberman 1992). The year of the event (1969) is here set as a final boundary, with work that studies sexuality-related language use dating from any period up to this year being welcome. Potential topics include sexuality-related language use in various historical periods, ranging from Ancient Greek and Rome (Adams 1982), to linguistic repercussions of the desire-identity shift in the conceptualisation of sexuality in the late 19th century (Barrett 2015, Foucault 1978 [1976]), to sexuality-related language use in the first half of the 20th century. One central function of such work is to uncover the experiences of historically marginalised and non-normative sexualities and to reconstruct their genealogies, which have often been publicly silenced, through textual evidence. Investigations covering the time period directly before Stonewall (Leap forthcoming) could, for example, consider how linguistic practices helped establish the event as an “emblematic event in modern lesbian and gay history” (Duberman 1992: xvii) or highlight evidence for alternative narratives of language and sexuality in U.S. history.

Work on language and sexuality before Stonewall will normally involve some archival work and/or analysis of historical textual data. This also raises questions on what methods to use when examining language and sexuality historically and what kinds of theories support and emerge from the inquiry (for example, what is the queer linguistic potential of such analyses?).   

Previous work on the historical dimension of language and sexuality has, for example, shed light on sexuality-related lexicography (Adams 1982, Coleman 1999, Nevala & Hintikka 2009, Simes 2005), the historical discursive construction of prostitution and men engaging in same-sex practices (Hintikka & Nevala 2017, McEnery & Baker 2017a, 2017b), or the historical development of desire-related text types (Wyss 2008). The panel hopes to unite papers that investigate a range of sexuality-related phenomena and that draw on various language- and text-centered types of analysis.


Please contact the panel organisers ( / for more information or to propose a paper for this panel. Abstracts of maximally 250 words should be submitted to the organisers by November 15, 2018.


Please follow the conference organisers’ guidelines for abstract submission:

Title: Do not capitalise the whole title but only the first letter of the title (e.g. Language and homonationalism)

References: Please keep references to a minimum and do not provide a reference list. For references in the text please follow the surname date convention with no comma between surname and date (e.g. Ericsson 2018)



Adams, James N. (1982): The Latin Sexual Vocabulary. London: Duckworth.

Barrett, Rusty (2015): Desire versus 'sexual identity' debate. In: Patricia Whelehan & Anne Bolin (eds.): The International Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 294–296.

Coleman, Julie (1999): Love, Sex, and Marriage. A Historical Thesaurus. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Duberman, Martin (1993): Stonewall. New York City: Penguin.

Foucault, Michel (1978 [1976]): The History of Sexuality. Volume 1. An Introduction. New York: Penguin.

Hintikka, Marianna; Nevala, Minna (2017): Representations of prostitutes and prostitution as a metaphor in nineteenth-century English newspapers. Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics 3 (2), 219–240.

Leap, William (forthcoming): Language before Stonewall. London: Palgrave McMillan

McEnery, Tony; Baker, Helen (2017a): Corpus Linguistics and 17th-Century Prostitution: Computational Linguistics and History. London: Bloomsbury.

McEnery, Tony; Baker, Helen (2017b): The public representation of homosexual men in seventeenth-century England – A corpus based view. Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics 3 (2), 197–217.

Nevala, Minna; Hintikka, Marianna (2009): Cider-wenches and high prized pin-boxes. Bawdy terminology in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England. In: R. W. McConchie, Alpo Honkapohja & Jukka Tyrkkö (eds.): Selected Proceedings of the 2008 Symposium on New Approaches in English Historical Lexis (HEL-LEX 2). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project, 134–152.

Simes, Gary (2005): Gay slang lexicography. A brief history and a commentary on the first two gay glossaries. Dictionaries 26, 1–159.

Wyss, Eva L. (2008): From the bridal letter to online flirting. Changes in text type from the nineteenth century to the Internet era. Journal of Historical Pragmatics 9 (2), 225–254.




Contact person
Heiko Motschenbacher
Contact person email address