Toward a Trans Philology Article (Faculty180)

cited authors

  • Gamble, Joseph


  • This essay charts the circuitous trajectory of the words “transfeminate” and “transexion” as they travel from their textual origin, Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646), through various lexicons, both early modern and modern. Thomas Blount’s Glossographia (1656) defines “transfeminate” as “to turn from woman to man, or from one sex to another,” a definition that will be repeated by subsequent lexicographers until 1883, when Charles Annandale’s revision of John Ogilvie’s The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language will invert Blount’s definition and define the word as “to change from a male to a female.” The essay argues that the inversion of the definition of “transfeminate” is symptomatic of an epistemological shift in the sex/gender system in the late nineteenth century, one which rendered the notion of trans-femininity possible. Juxtaposing this lexical shift with the contemporaneous sexological work of Havelock Ellis, the general editor of the original Mermaid Series of non-Shakespearean early modern English drama, the essay argues that recent “new” and “queer” philologies are key tools for understanding the history of transgender. The essay thus offers some conceptual and methodological propositions for a movement toward a specifically trans philological practice—one which can, in particular, confront the intertwining of the philological history of “trans” with both early modern and modern genres of racism.


publication date

  • 2020

start page

  • 26

end page

  • 44


  • 19