University of Innsbruck


The tomb of Oscar Wilde, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Epitaph from The Ballad of Reading Gaol

Networked Narratives: Queer Exile Literature 1900-1969 examines the English-language literature that emerged from a range of queer communities across Europe and North Africa from 1900 to 1969. Within this time period, in the decades before the gay liberation movement, the United States and Britain made homosexuality a crime. In response, many queer people moved to places such as Capri, Paris, Berlin, and Tangier, where homosexuality was either legal or tolerated. Within this group, US and British queer writers wrote novels and short stories about their experiences of being forced to leave their countries of birth. This project compares these texts and suggests that they helped to establish an overlooked literary tradition: the queer exile narrative.


This project links the places and writers that shaped queer exile literature over 70 years. It shows how the queer communities of Capri, Paris, Berlin, and Tangier were linked, since queer exile writers often traveled between them. These journeys led to collaborations and exchanges between these writers, as they shared new features and conventions across their work. In one striking commonality, these texts alter traditional definitions of cosmopolitanism. Cosmopolitanism is usually thought to mean moving between cultures actively and independently, but these texts show how people can become “cosmopolitan” because of pressures beyond their control, in this case oppressive laws.

The project reveals these connections using methods from the fields of computing, sociology, and literary studies. First, it will create interactive diagrams and infographics of the exchanges between writers using new digital technologies. Second, it follows these writers’ collaborations across borders using sociological theories of networks. Finally, it uses new approaches from narrative theory to show how these authors’ identities impacted their writing. The project will apply these methods in a series of case studies that each show the ways in which queer exile writers connected across countries and communities. Many well-known writers contributed to the queer exile literary tradition, but this project highlights the equally important contribution of writers that have been relatively neglected by critics. The project therefore provides the first cultural history of queer exile that links these diverse regions and writers.

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Contact / Project Leader

Benjamin Robbins, PhD

Department of American Studies
University of Innsbruck
Innrain 52
6020 Innsbruck

The project is supported by the

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