Lecture, Oct. 18, 2018 “The Erotic Importance of the Van Buskirk Diaries to the Histories of Art, Literature, and Sexuality”

Matthew KnipJoin us for a lecture by
Matthew Knip

October 18, 2018
3:00 – 4:30 pm
Allen Library Auditorium (ground floor Allen Library North)
University of Washington Suzzallo/Allen Libraries

The Erotic Importance of the Van Buskirk Diaries to the Histories of Art, Literature, and Sexuality

van buskirk imageMatthew Knip will discuss the importance of the Philip C. Van Buskirk diaries—housed in the Pacific Northwest Collection of the University of Washington Libraries Special Collection—to nineteenth century art, literary, and cultural criticism. Knip’s talk will scrutinize the homosocial and homoerotic subculture detailed in the diaries and outline the literary and artistic challenges this previously overlooked and misunderstood cultural world presents to a constellation of commonly-held critical assumptions about the nineteenth century, from authorship, privacy, and friendship to sexuality and identity.


Matthew Knip is a doctoral candidate in English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and an adjunct instructor at Hunter College. His dissertation, Before Melville’s Masts: Sex in the Age of Sail, examines diverse sexual cultures Herman Melville experienced at sea and how these might inform the way we read his fiction. As a component of his research, he created a digital archive of the Philip C. Van Buskirk diaries from 1852 through 1858, including transcriptions of each entry. His essay “Homosocial Desire and Erotic Communitas in Melville’s Imaginary: The Evidence of Van Buskirk,” published in ESQ 62:2 (2016) won the 2017 Hennig Cohen Prize of the Melville Society for best article, book chapter, or essay on Herman Melville.

More about the significance of the Van Buskirk diaries

Between 1850 and 1903, Philip C. Van Buskirk composed more than three dozen volumes of a confessional diary that has the potential to powerfully reshape assumptions within art, literary, and cultural criticism of the nineteenth century. Historian B. R. Burg suggests the journals represent “the most extensive record of introspection ever kept by an American.” Van Buskirk recorded in his journals the everyday happenings that affected him personally. Less interested in the great political and military events that he witnessed firsthand—the Perry Expedition to Japan and the American Civil War, for instance—he outlined the moral and spiritual failings he identified in himself and others, with self-deprecating sincerity and confessional detail. By doing so, he quite unintentionally produced a remarkable, thick description of the homosocial organization of desire he (and Herman Melville) experienced among working-class sailors at sea. He opens a window into a previously overlooked and misunderstood world that existed before the emergence of modern sexuality, which interpellates subjects into identities that coalesce around object choice.

The lecture is free and open to the public.





PNW Historians Guild Event – New Research Lectures – Jan. 15

New research on the history and landscape of the Pacific Northwest will be presented by three graduate students from UW’s History Department and College of the Built Environment.

Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 6:00-8:00 pm at the University of Washington – Suzzallo Library Maps/Special Collections Classroom, B89.  Call 206-543-1929 for information.

The event is free and open to the public.

Gig Harbor Grange #445 in Pierce County. Photo: Holly Taylor

Holly Taylor, a graduate student in the University of Washington College of the Built Environment’s Interdisciplinary PhD program and principal of Past Forward, a consulting company specializing in historic preservation projects in the Pacific Northwest, will be sharing findings from her recently completed Master’s Thesis, “Grange Halls in Washington State: A Critical Investigation of a Vernacular Building Type.”

Her presentation will examine Progressive-era history of the Grange, consider why Washington State has more Grange members at present than any other state, and explore preservation issues related to the Order’s rural and small-town community halls.

Ross Coen, a graduate student in the History Department at the University of Washington and the author of Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil The Epic Voyage of the SS Manhattan Through the Northwest Passage (University of Alaska Press, 2012) will present a paper entitled “Owning the Ocean: Environment and Identity in the Bristol Bay (Alaska) Salmon Fishery, 1930 to 1938.”

Patricia Gauthier, also a graduate student in History at the University of Washington, will share her work “Far From the Center of Charities: Chemawa Indian School and the Gendered Display of the ‘New Indian’, 1880 to 1905.”