Wednesday

University revisited; The love that dare not speak it's name


“Please note; the exhibition on level 2 of the Fisher Library includes images and language which may offend some people reads the photocopied sign at the entrance to the library. 

The walls of books, faded grey carpet and bespectacled librarians hardly indicate a tendency toward risqué material, and bored looking students barely notice the sign as they check out their books.
Revisiting university life once a week as a post-grad student, my eyes are opening to a world of stimulation, interest and activity that I either took for granted or blatantly ignored as a time-rich undergrad more interested in magazines than class content.


With education repositioning itself as a privilege not a chore, I am discovering a smorgasbord of events, exhibitions and resources at my fingertips.  Accustomed to the pay-as-you-go world of corporate working life, it is like being a kid in an educational candy store (though sadly, the majority do take place during working hours and are therefore still inaccessible).

‘The love that dares not speak its name; same se*x desires in the Victorian world’ exhibition in the rare books section of Sydney Uni's Fisher Library offers a glimpse into a bawdy past through the lense of literature.
With original, aging books on display for perusal, one is invited to experience a topical modern genre which has actually been under scrutiny in various guises for centuries.  The title phrase was aptly adopted from the 1984 Lord Alfred Douglas poem ‘Two Loves’, and also featured in Oscar Wilde’s gross indecency trail.
Book such as The Well of Loneliness (1928), Dos Sexuallenben der Afrikaner (1908) and a French history of Prostitution (1881) delve into the detail through illustrations, text and research.  The exhibition is complete with a surprisingly lurid reconstruction of a 19th Century peep show.
Despite the shock value, the library is hushed and the exhibition ignored as students tap away at laptops, slip out for coffees and seem oblivious to the original 1911 Henry Lawson manuscripts clamouring silently for attention. Open to the general public, grab your slouchiest jumper and slope back into student mode – you might actually appreciate it this time around.

The Fisher Library is part of the University of Sydney.  Details of 2011 exhibitions can be found here

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