Launching Pride History Month

4 February 2022

Dr Ibba Nicholson

Launching our exciting programme of events to celebrate Pride History Month, Dr Ibba, Head of Italian, gave a Nicholson Lecture entitled ‘Sexual or social deviancy? Theorising and translating inversion(s) in the nineteenth century’.

Dr Ibba started his talk with a brief account of the birth of sexology or scientia sexualis in the second half of the 19th century, first in Germany and then in Britain. He argued that the emergence of sexology as a scientific discipline was closely tied into nationally-specific cultural discourses of the time. He explained how the translation of German sexological texts changed some of the original meaning to adapt it to the British context and omitted the reference to female homosexuality. Following this, Dr Ibba examined how discourses on same-sex desire and male and female sexualities were constructed in the 19th century and investigated the specific literary dimension that characterised British sexological allowing for a positive space for debates on sexualities until Oscar Wilde’s trials in 1895. He underlined how discussions carried by women focussed more on gender than sexualities.

He concluded by analysing how the trials had a double effect: the end of the Victorian exploration of same-sex relations, but it also offered a possible model of same-sex desire paving the way for future gay and lesbian movements.