Katz graduated from The High School of Music & Art in New York City with a major in art in 1956. Since 2004, he has begun to emerge publicly as a visual artist. He went on to study at Antioch College, the City College of New York, The New School, and Hunter College. As a teenager, Katz was featured in Life magazine for his efforts to create a film version of Tom Sawyer.
Katz taught as an adjunct at Yale University, Eugene Lang College, and New York University, was the convener of a faculty seminar at Princeton University, and was a keynote speaker at Harvard University. He is a founding member of the Gay Academic Union in 1973 and the National Writers Union in 1980. He was the initiator and is the director of OutHistory.org, a site devoted to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, (LGBTQ) and heterosexual history, that went online in September 2008, and was produced in its first four years by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, an institute at the City University of New York Graduate Center, under a grant from the Arcus Foundation. Since 2012, the site has been co-directed by Katz and John D'Emilio.
Katz received the Magnus Hirschfeld Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Sex Research from the German Society for Social-Scientific Sexuality Research in 1997. In 2003, he was given Yale University's Brudner Prize, an annual honor recognizing scholarly contributions in the field of lesbian and gay studies. His papers are collected by the manuscript division of The Research Libraries of The New York Public Library.
He received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from Publishing Triangle in 1995.
The Invention of Heterosexuality was first published as an essay in 1990 and then expanded into a larger book. In it, Katz traces the development of heterosexual and homosexual and all the ideology, social and economic relations, gender expectations that were packed into it. He notes the radical change, in the late nineteenth century, from a sexual ethic of procreation to one based on erotic pleasure and sexual object choice. Noting the distinction that a procreation-based ethic condemns all non-procreative sex, categorizing sexual relations based primarily on this point. A gender-based sexual ethic is concerned with procreative sex on a secondary level, if at all.
Katz follows the development of heterosexual as going through several stages. Coined in 1868 (in German, Heterosexualität) by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the term, used to pathologize certain behaviors, initially referred to a person with an overwhelming drive toward the opposite sex and was associated with a number of pathologized behaviors. In 1889, Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing used the term in something like its modern-day sense. The first known use in America was in 1892, by James G. Kiernan. Here, it referred to some combination of bisexuality and a tendency to thwart the then-existing procreation ethic.
Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis, published in 1889, and then in English in 1892, marked the clear turning point from a procreation-based sexuality to a pleasure-based ethic which focused on gender to define the normal and the abnormal. Krafft-Ebing did not, however, make a clean break from the old procreative standards. In much of the discourse of the time, the heterosexual was still a deviant figure, since it signified a person unconcerned with the old sexual norms.
For a variety of economic and social reasons, Katz argues, during the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, this new norm became more firmly established and naturalized, marking out new gender and sexual norms, new social and family arrangements, and new deviants and perverts. One of the important consequences of this line of thought which Katz notes in "Homosexual" and "Heterosexual": Questioning the Terms, is that we can only generalize sexual identities onto the past with a limited degree of accuracy: "So profound is the historically specific character of sexual behavior that only with the loosest accuracy can we speak of sodomy in the early colonies and 'sodomy' in present-day New York as 'the same thing.' In another example, to speak of 'heterosexual behavior' as occurring universally is to apply one term to a great variety of activities produced within a great variety of sexual and gender systems."
Jonathan Ned Katz by Robert Giard
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digital
Love Stories: Sex between Men before Homosexuality by Jonathan Ned Katz
Paperback: 440 pages
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (December 14, 2001)
Amazon: Love Stories: Sex between Men before Homosexuality
In Love Stories, Jonathan Ned Katz presents stories of men's intimacies with men during the nineteenth century—including those of Abraham Lincoln—drawing flesh-and-blood portraits of intimate friendships and the ways in which men struggled to name, define, and defend their sexual feelings for one another. In a world before "gay" and "straight" referred to sexuality, men like Walt Whitman and John Addington Symonds created new ways to name and conceive of their erotic relationships with other men. Katz, diving into history through diaries, letters, newspapers, and poems, offers us a clearer picture than ever before of how men navigated the uncharted territory of male-male desire.
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