Senior Capstone Colloquium: Reading Bodies in German Culture

Portrait of August von Platen

On Intergenerational Queer Kinship and the Frail Body of August von Platen
Ervin Malakaj (University of British Columbia)

August von Platen’s (1796–1835) name appears regularly when browsing through queer German print culture around 1900. Following the highly advertised publication of the famed poet’s diaries in 1896 and then in 1900, sexologists and admirers took up the culture of reading Platen’s work for traces of the queer life he led. Book reviews of the diaries, re-readings of his works for signs of queerness, and biographical sketches recounting his position in the sensationalized Heine-Platen affair that publicly outed him in 1827 appeared in a number of venues.

This talk explores one such project of engaging with Platen’s queer life through his diaries. The American Edward Prime-Stevenson published "The Intersexes: A History of Similisexualism as a Problem in Social Life in 1910" under the pseudonym Xavier Mayne in 1910. Beyond offering an overview of contemporary sexological writing about and advocacy for queer life, the last section of the 640-page book contains an extensive biography of Platen. Fashioned through close reading of his diaries, Mayne’s biography features a number of key scenes in which Platen’s body is prominently described. This talk will examine how the crafting of Platen’s body in text—an embodiment through words—played a central role in imagining an ideal queerness venerated by Mayne and much of the writing about Platen around 1900.

Student Capstone Presentations: 4 p.m.
Keynote Address: 4:30 p.m.