Intersectional Ecologies Working Group – “Lesbian Genius Loci at the Fin-de-Siècle”

Friday, Feb 25, 2022 | 10:00 am - 11:30 am

VIRTUAL - Zoom Webinar

Intersectional Ecologies Spring 2022 FlyerIntersectional Ecologies: Spatial Practices, Pedagogies, Imaginations Working Group
Lesbian Genius Loci at the Fin-de-Siècle
with Kate Thomas (K. Laurence Stapleton Professor of Literatures in English at Bryn Mawr College)

Zoom Webinar – Please email us to register at

In Roman mythology, a “genius loci was the protective spirit of a place, a concept that landscape architects have long been exhorted to revere; in 1731 Alexander Pope, urged all those who build and plant to “Consult the Genius of the Place.” This genius is both the special qualities of a landscape that must be respected, and also a mystical guardian of a natural world that needs to be defended, with ferocity and tenderness.  At the fin-de-siècle, communities of lesbian artists, writers and gardeners understood themselves as best suited to be those defenders. The writer and art historian Vernon Lee wrote an entire study of Genius Loci (1899)opening it with a line that asserts a lesbian passion for place and landscape: “To certain among us [. . .] localities [. . .] become objects of intense and most intimate feeling [. . .] they can touch us like living creatures.”  Lee wrote these lines from her home in one of the Tuscan hillside towns overlooking Florence, a place that had become something of a destination and commune for Anglo-American lesbians who sought to preserve and reanimate the mythic and erotic spirits they sensed there.  In this paper, I will reconstruct their understandings of place and landscape, of ruin and replanting, as they relate to contemporary queer theorizations of orientation and ecology.  Learn more.

The Intersectional Ecologies working group is supported with grants from the Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Center for Race and Gender, the Draper Architectural History Research Fund and the Arcus Chair of Gender, Sexuality & the Built Environment at the Architecture Department at UC Berkeley.

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