The Bloomsbury Group was a loose network of artists, writers, and intellectuals who lived, worked or studied in Bloomsbury in London. Comprised of Thoby Stephen, Adrian Stephen, Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Roger Fry, Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strechey, Desmond MacCarthy, Clive Bell, Maynard Keynes, E.M. Forster and Saxon Sydney-Turner, the Bloomsbury Group contributed greatly to 20th Century modernist aesthetics and culture. Not only was the Bloomsbury Group instrumental in the development of modernist art and ideas, but also in their experiments with gender and sexuality. In the introduction to their anthology Queer Bloomsbury, Helt and Detloff write, “the ‘queer’ of Queer Bloomsbury was ‘produced through embodied social practice’ that was dynamic and generative of new norms that members of the group took to the other spaces in which they lived and worked.” (Queer Bloomsbury p.3) These personal lives of the Bloomsbury Group were not quirky biological sidenotes, but rather “forms a core value of Bloomsbury life and culture. Sexual intimacy between friends of either gender was not only accepted, but understood as a rich source of intellectual, artistic and philosophical affinity among the group.” (p.3)
Refusing to separate Bloomsbury art and thought from the life of the Group, Queer Bloomsbury offers queer readings of writers like Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, and E. M. Forster; artist and designers like Duncan Grant and Dora Carrington; philosophers like G.E. Moore, Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein; and economists like John Maynard Keynes. In this session we will be talking to Madelyn Detloff (Department of English, Miami University) about the relationship between queer theory and the Bloomsbury Group. Drawing upon her co-edited volume Queer Bloomsbury, and her other books such as The Value of Virginia Woolf, and The Persistence of Modernism: Loss and Mourning in the Twentieth Century, we will explore themes of politics, modernism, radical art and literature, trauma, gender and sexuality.
This session was recorded as part of the Exploding Appendix Avant-garde Art Practice and Research Group on the 10th August 2021. If you would like to be involved in future sessions send me a message at explodingappendix [at] gmail.com.