Stoically Sapphic:

Gentlemanly Encryption and Disruptive Legibility in Adapting Anne Lister


  • Sarah E. Maier University of New Brunswick, Saint John
  • Rachel M. Friars Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario


adaptation, encryption, Gentleman Jack, lesbianism, Anne Lister, queer history, The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, transcription


Anne Lister (1791–1840) was a multihyphenate landowner-gentry-traveller-autodidact-queer-lesbian, a compulsive journal writer who lived through the late-Romantic and well into the Victorian ages. While her journals have proven to be an iconographic artefact for queer and lesbian history, our interest here is in the public adaptations of Lister’s intentionally private writings for twenty-first-century audiences as found in the film The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (2010) and the television series Gentleman Jack (2019–). Our discussion queries what it means to portray lived queer experience of the nineteenth century, how multimedia translate and transcribe Lister’s works onto screen, as well as how questions of legibility, visibility and ethics inevitably emerge in these processes.