Introducing BLUE Scholar: Kristin Franseen

Kristin Franseen (Photo Credit: Claire McLeish)

Kristin Franseen (Photo Credit: Claire McLeish)

I am Kristin Franseen, PhD candidate (who has successfully defended my thesis yesterday! [Feb 27th 2019] in Musicology. The title of my thesis is “Ghosts in the Archives: The Queer Knowledge and Public Musicology of Vernon Lee, Rosa Newmarch, and Edward Prime-Stevenson“ and my BLUE project is entitled: Eccentric Listening through the Writings and Phonograph Collection of Edward Prime-Stevenson

CONTEXT: Edward Prime-Stevenson (1858-1942)

My dissertation examines issues of sexuality and historical knowledge in the musical writings of three early twentieth-century scholars: aesthetician Vernon Lee (pseud. Violet Paget), biographer Rosa Newmarch, and critic Edward Prime-Stevenson.

Edward Prime-Stevenson (1928)

Edward Prime-Stevenson (1928)

Despite being relatively little-known today, American expatriate music critic and amateur sexologist Edward Prime-Stevenson (1858-1942) presents a unique case study in the histories of sexuality and listening practices during the early decades of the twentieth century. His pseudonymous history of homosexuality, The Intersexes (1908/9) treats symphonic music and opera as “the ultimate expression of homosexual experience in music,” drawing upon psychological theories of musical emotion (largely inspired by the theories of aestheticians Walter Pater and Vernon Lee), biographical speculation about the private lives of canonical composers, and sexological observations of queer musical subcultures. While his writings on music are often more circumspect about sexual subtext, it is notable that the same composers and genres discussed in Intersexes are also the focus of his two later works of music criticism, Long-Haired Iopas: Old Chapters from Twenty-Five Years of Music Criticism (1927) and A Repertory of One Hundred Symphonic Programmes (1932/3). Although Prime-Stevenson's sexological writings have received attention from LGBTQ literary scholars and historians since the mid-twentieth century (Garde 1958, Bérubé 1970s, Gifford 1994, Breen 2012, and Wilper 2015 and 2016), his work as a music critic and the relevance of musical interests to his sexological research (and vice versa) remain neglected in both musicology and sexuality studies. Repertory, a collection of “playlists” of symphonic recordings interspersed with poetry and excerpts from composers’ letters and Prime-Stevenson’s criticism, provides a useful record of Prime-Stevenson’s preferred music and listening practices.

For most of my dissertation, I have been looking for intertextual references and correspondences between Prime-Stevenson’s writings on music and sexuality, especially instrumental music he repeatedly associates with having secret "homosexual messages in symphonic form." Queer musicology traditionally views these kinds of references in music history as a sort of private code. But what would it mean to take a fresh look at Prime-Stevenson’s accounts of listening as the central framework behind his musical writings? What actually happens when we use Prime-Stevenson’s Repertory as a guide to seeking out musical meanings that do not necessarily align with current analytical or stylistic models?

My project at Building 21 : a comprehensive critical edition and companion website contextualizing Prime-Stevenson

My project at Building 21 is the first step in what I hope will eventually lead to a comprehensive critical edition and companion website contextualizing Prime-Stevenson’s writings on music and making them more accessible to researchers and the general public. I am particularly interested in learning more about digital exhibitions and multimedia as a way of bringing Prime-Stevenson’s scholarship and listening to life for twenty-first-century audiences.


Meeting digitization professional.

Verified material is in public domain.

Meeting re public exhibitions.

Finding best way to incorporate sound.

Creating prototype event / website.

Works Cited

Bérubé, Allan. Allan Bérubé Papers. Series IV.I. Edward I.P. Stevenson. Box 171 (folders 17-23) and 172. GLBT Historical Society Archives. San Francisco.

Breen, Margaret. “Homosexual Identity, Translation, and Prime-Stevenson’s Imre and The Intersexes.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 14, no. 1 (2012), (accessed July 30, 2015).

Féray, Jean-Claude, ed. and trans. Du simisexualisme dans les armées et de la prostitution homosexuelle (militaire et civile) à la Belle Époque. By Edward Prime-Stevenson. Paris: Quintes-Feuilles, 2003. 

––– and Raimondo Biffi. “Xavier Mayne {Edward I. Prime-Stevenson), Romancier Français?” Inverses: Littératures, Arts, Homosexualités 1 (2001): 47-57. 

Garde, Noel I. [Edgar Leoni]. “The First Native American [sic] ‘Gay’ Novel: A Study.” One Institute Quarterly Homophile Studies 9 (1960): 185-190.

–––. :The Mysterious Father of American Homophile Literature: A Study.” One Institute Quarterly Homophile Studies 3 (1958): 94-98. 

Gifford, James. Dayneford’s Library: American Homosexual Writing, 1900-1913. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994.

Mayne, Xavier [Edward Irenaeus Prime-Stevenson]. Imre: A Memorandum. Naples: Privately Printed, 1906.

–––. The Intersexes: A History of Simisexualism as a Problem in Social Life. Rome, Florence, or Naples: Privately Printed, ca. 1908-1909. 

Prime-Stevenson, Edward. Long Haired Iopas: Old Chapters from Twenty-Five Years of Music-Criticism. Florence: Privately Printed, 1927.

–––. A Repertory of One Hundred Symphonic Programs. Florence: Privately Printed, 1932.

Wilper, James. Reconsidering the Emergence of the Gay Novel in English and German. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2016. 

–––. “Translation and the Construction of a ‘Uranian’ Identity: Edward Prime-Stevenson’s [Xavier Mayne’s] The Intersexes (1908).” In Sexology and Translation: Cultural and Scientific Encounters across the Modern World. Ed. Heike Bauer, 216-232. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015. 

Biography: Kristin Franseen is a PhD candidate in musicology at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. Her dissertation, supervised by Lloyd Whitesell, is entitled “Ghosts in the Archives: The Queer Knowledge and Public Musicology of Vernon Lee, Rosa Newmarch, and Edward Prime-Stevenson.” She has an MA in music history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a BA in music (double bass) and women’s studies from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Kristin has presented at meetings of the American Musicological Society, the Société québécoise de recherche en musique, and the Society for American Music, as well as themed regional conferences on biography, British queer history, women’s suffrage, public music discourse, and music and sexuality. Kristin's other research interests include Enlightenment philosophy in the operas of Antonio Salieri and the early promotion of the metronome.

David Jhave Johnston