1st Edition

Male Homosexuality in Children’s Literature, 1867–1918 The Young Uranians

By Eric L. Tribunella Copyright 2023
    214 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In his 1908 cultural and historical study of homosexuality titled The Intersexes: A History of Similisexualism as a Problem in Social Life, Edward Irenæus Prime-Stevenson includes a section on homosexual juvenile fiction, perhaps the first attempt to identify a body of children’s literature about male homosexuality in English. Known for pioneering the explicitly gay American novel for adults, Stevenson was also one of the first thinkers to take seriously the possibility and value of homosexual children, whom he called "young Uranians." This book takes as its starting point Stevenson’s catalog of homosexual boy books around the turn of the century and offers a critical examination of these works, along with others by gay writers who wrote for children from the mid-nineteenth century through the end of World War I. Stevenson’s list includes Eduard Bertz, Howard Sturgis, Horace Vachell, and Stevenson himself—to which Horatio Alger, John Gambril Nicholson, and E.F. Benson are added. Read alongside major developments in English- and German-language sexology, these boy books can be understood as participating in the construction and dissemination of the discourse of sexuality and as constituting the figure of the young Uranian as central to modern gay identity.

    List of Figures


    Introduction Uncovering the Early History of Gay Children’s Literature

    Chapter 1 New York City and the Proto-Uranian Street Boys of Alger’s Ragged Dick Series

    Chapter 2 Boys as Noble Uranians: Eduard Bertz’s The French Prisoners and the Discourse of Sexology

    Chapter 3 Suicide, Self-Sacrifice, and Uranian Schoolboys in Howard Sturgis’s Tim and Horace Vachell’s The Hill

    Chapter 4 Between Boys: Coding Young Uranians in Edward Prime-Stevenson’s  Left to Themselves and White Cockades

    Chapter 5 The Adult Tutor and the Young Uranian: Greek Love in John Gambril  Nicholson’s In Carrington’s Duty-Week and The Romance of a Choir Boy

    Chapter 6 E.F. Benson’s David Blaize Books and Boys as the "Third Sex"

    Conclusion "The Future May be Trusted to Decide": Boy Books and the Possibilities of Gay Children’s Literature





    Eric L. Tribunella, Professor of English, teaches children’s and young adult literature and gay studies at the University of Southern Mississippi. He is the author of Melancholia and Maturation: The Use of Trauma in American Children’s Literature (2010), the co-author of Reading Children’s Literature: A Critical Introduction (2013/2019), and the co-editor of A de Grummond Primer: Highlights of the Children’s Literature Collection (2021). He edited a critical edition of Edward Prime-Stevenson’s 1891 boys’ novel Left to Themselves (2016), and among his various journal articles and book chapters, he contributed the essay on children’s literature and childhood studies to the Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature (2014).