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Stanford historian uncovers the historical origins of the gay suicide stereotype

Historians in the News
tags: LGBT



From films to literature, the stereotype of the suicidal gay or lesbian character is a common one in modern entertainment. In Michael Cunningham's novel The Hours, for instance, there are three gay and lesbian suicides and attempted suicides. In the Netflix series, House of Cards, the only openly gay character kills himself after just a few episodes.

Research by Stanford doctoral candidate Samuel Clowes Huneke traces the roots of this detrimental and pervasive cliché to its surprising origins in modern Germany. Huneke has discovered that gay suicide is a historical phenomenon, one with a distinct and varied past.

"What my research shows is that a striking trend of gay suicide evolved in German culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries," he said.

Huneke, who is writing his dissertation on homosexuality in 20th-century Germany, is the first scholar in the field of modern German history to examine the relationship between suicide and gay identity. He is also the first to historicize gay suicide and trace the ways in which it pervades the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Through a close examination of German suicide notes, letters, diaries, medical records, gay literary magazines and novels, Huneke has identified clear connections between the suicide trope and the development of gay identity in modern Germany. ...

Read entire article at Stanford Report


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