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The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature
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The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature presents a global history of the field and is an unprecedented summation of critical knowledge on gay and lesbian literature that also addresses the impact of gay and lesbian literature on cognate fields such as comparative literature and postcolonial studies. Covering subjects from Sappho and the Greeks to queer modernism, diasporic literatures, and responses to the AIDS crisis, this volume is grounded in current scholarship. It presents new critical approaches to gay and lesbian literature that will serve the needs of students and specialists alike. Written by leading scholars in the field, The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature will not only engage readers in contemporary debates but also serve as a definitive reference for gay and lesbian literature for years to come.

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Page 1 of 2

  • 6 - Male-Male Love in Classical Arabic Poetry
    pp 107-124
  • View abstract
    For Western culture, and particularly for women, the Greek lyric poet Sappho, has come down as the original poet of female desire as well as the original figure of same-sex female erotics. Sappho was renowned throughout the ancient world for the unique power and expressiveness of her lyricism. The three primary modes of representing Sappho during the early modern period, incorporating the garbled tradition of "the two Sapphos", were repeatedly elaborated and sometimes conflated. Sappho was represented: as the first example of female poetic excellence; as an early exemplar of the "unnatural" or monstrous sexuality of the tribade; and as a mythologized figure who acts the suicidal abandoned woman in the Ovidian tale of Sappho and Phaon. Apart from the appeal of Sappho's poems to classicists and poets challenging themselves via translation and the use of Aeolian meter, Sappho's representation as an originary poetic figure has captured the imagination of many generations.
  • 7 - China: Ancient to Modern
    pp 125-142
  • View abstract
    The philosophical dialogues of Plato, especially the Symposium and Phaedrus, have been enormously influential on modern gay writers. Same-sex eroticism is a frequent theme in the dialogues of Plato. References to pederastic attractions are often part of Plato's literary mise en scene, which frame the philosophical discussion at the heart of each dialogue. This chapter begins with the views of the historical Socrates. Socrates would play a privileged role in the reception of Greek philosophical ideas about eros in modern gay literature, but the figure celebrated in those later texts is the Platonic Socrates of the Symposium and Phaedrus. For Socrates, same-sex eroticism was just one context in which to explore human desire for the good; for Plato, it was consistently the starting point for such explorations. Xenophon, a younger contemporary of Plato, wrote a Socratic dialogue entitled Symposium, which aimed to correct the views expressed in Plato's dialogue of the same name.
  • 8 - From the Pervert, Back to the Beloved: Homosexuality and Ottoman Literary History, 1453–1923
    pp 145-163
  • View abstract
    The extent of Greek influence on the Roman practice of homosexuality during the period has been a matter of controversy, with some historians asserting its pervasiveness and others emphasizing indigenous Roman traditions. The comedies of T. Maccius Plautus provide earliest literary references to homosexual relations, but none of the plots of his twenty-one extant plays are primarily about erotic relations among men. Modern readers of the varied poetic corpus of G. Valerius Catullus are often struck by the free employment of sexually explicit language pertaining to both homosexual and heterosexual acts. It is in the poetry of the Augustan Golden Age that one come close to the bisexual indifference characteristic of much Greek erotic poetry. Juvenal's satiric world is populated by a similar menagerie of freaks and oddities. The second century CE, the period of the so-called Pax Romana, was a time of relative political stability and the apogee of Roman prosperity and power.
  • 9 - English Renaissance Literature in the History of Sexuality
    pp 164-178
  • View abstract
    The discovery of historical genders and sexualities offers the possibility of establishing continuities between the past and present that allow for identification and a more nuanced understanding of contemporary categories. Sexually, femininity was defined by the passive position in heterosexual intercourse, and yet, one of the principal medieval associations with femininity was sexual voracity. The survey of genders and sexualities discussed in this chapter is organized around a few configurations found in medieval literary texts. Beginning in the twelfth century, the literature of romance initiated a new model of heroic masculinity in tandem with the invention of heterosexual courtly love. Same-sex desire in the Middle Ages appears most often in the context of friendship. Virginity provided a kind of gender transitivity for women in a way that it did not for male saints. Finally, the chapter addresses literary representations of gender transgression and sexual acts between members of the same sex.
  • 10 - How to Spot a Lesbian in the Early Modern Spanish World
    pp 179-196
  • View abstract
    This chapter deals with the early history of male-male love poetry in Arabic, followed by a section on the social norms underpinning it. It describes the stunning career of erotic epigrams from the Ayyubid period onward. After a "mystical intermezzo", the chapter questions why 'Abdallat-if's epigram was one of the last of its kind. The poet who enabled the breakthrough of homoerotic love poetry was Abu Nuwas. Abu Nuwas soon became one of the most famous Arabic poets of all time. Arabic poetry began as a purely profane literature in pre-Islamic times and remained one of the most important secular discourses in the Islamic era until the present day. Contemporary Western experience shows that despite public campaigns and tremendous progress in gay rights, homophobia is by no means about to vanish. Around the middle of the nineteenth century, homoerotic poetry vanished almost completely and people started to look at their own literary heritage with mixed feelings.
  • 11 - Cross-Dressing, Queerness, and the Early Modern Stage
    pp 197-217
  • View abstract
    Female-female eroticism had no formal space in the dominant premodern discourse on sex, which posited the phallus as indispensable to a woman's social and sexual fulfillment. For this reason, inevitably this chapter largely focuses on male, rather than female homoeroticism. The chapter provides a review of some of the earliest Chinese sources on male-male relations, especially because they gave rise to a classic lexicon of homosexuality. The expressions "longyang", "shared peach", and "cut sleeve" are the most prominent of such lexicon, and are still used. Some pornographic narratives from the second half of the seventeenth century indeed feature a new type of libertine, who can be sexually penetrated without his masculine credentials being compromised. The homosexual initiation takes the form of a rape, with the husband taking advantage of the libertine young scholar's intoxicated state. A discursive orientation more critical of homoeroticism can certainly be detected in eighteenth-century fiction.
  • 13 - Homobonding and the Nation
    pp 241-253
  • View abstract
    This chapter considers the canon of English Renaissance literature in terms of the history of sexuality as it relates to relations between men. George Puttenham's history of English literature often is told in terms of relations between men. For him and for many literary historians since, Wyatt and Surrey initiate the literary history of his period; such pairings can be seen in modern literary histories that find the male couple - Sidney and Spenser, Shakespeare and Marlowe, and Donne and Jonson. Surrey's elegy for Wyatt and Spenser's for Sidney suggest that elegy is a form in the period in which male-male desire often is articulated. In his epic, however much Milton celebrates the wedded love of Adam and Eve, he also is intent on Adam's relationship with Raphael, and beyond that, a depiction of the sexual relations of angels as a model for human relatedness.
  • 14 - Bildungand Sexuality in the Age of Goethe
    pp 254-271
  • View abstract
    Scholars who spend time thinking about and looking for traces of passion between women in the early modern Spanish world are inevitably confronted with a certain degree of hesitation over evidence and terminology. This chapter considers some of the questions that early modern observers were asking about women suspected of loving other women. Legislators, medical specialists, theologians, and writers engaged in lively cross-disciplinary debates that pondered basic questions such as what women were doing with each other behind closed doors and what those erotic encounters meant for different individuals and institutions. The role of erotic fantasy is also significant for understanding how witnesses imagined and articulated sexual relations between women. While portraits, appearances, and plays could of er early modern spectators provocative visual evidence of lesbians and their desire, material artifacts could also provide concrete signs of same-sex passion. Religious material artifacts could be implicated in forbidden sexual encounters.
  • 15 - The Gothic Novel and the Negotiation of Homophobia
    pp 272-287
  • View abstract
    In the thirty years that have passed since the publication of Alan Bray's landmark book Homosexuality in Renaissance England, feminist and queer scholars have asked and answered the question - how queer was the transvestite theatre, in a variety of ways. This chapter describes some salient trends that have shaped critical interpretations of three transvestite comedies: William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, John Lyly's Galatea, and Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker's The Roaring Girl. It provides the diverse ways conjunctions of transvestism and homoeroticism obtain both on the early modern stage and in early modern culture. The chapter uses the term "queer" to signify an array of social and sexual practices, arrangements, and peoples that, when put into discourse, confront or undermine the (perceived) dominant culture's views on gender and sexuality. It deployes "queer" to designate those conjunctions of crossdressing and same-sex desire that in the process of challenging dominant beliefs and attitudes, imagine alternative arrangements and practices.
  • 16 - Same-Sex Friendships and the Rise of Modern Sexualities
    pp 288-304
  • View abstract
    The parade of sexualized personae that features in this chapter's title carries a history. Libertines, rakes, and dandies are figures that occur in a sequence that begins in the sixteenth century and effectively comes to an end by the twentieth century, although it is a sequence marked by overlaps and ambiguities. Drawing on a rich body of scholarship, the chapter traces passages from the libertine through the rake and dandy, concentrating on each in turn. It focuses on metropolitan England, where, arguably, the libertine, the rake, and the dandy came most vividly to life. Libertinage has a long and complex history that reaches back into antiquity. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the category was mainly applied to a kind of writing that already held a firm place in manuscript culture. Rake is more concretely bound to particular sites and institutions than the libertine, and especially to a particular moment in the court's recent past.
  • 18 - Turn-of-the-Century Decadence and Aestheticism
    pp 325-343
  • View abstract
    The accusation that eighteenth-century Berlin was home to sexual affection between men presumably gained traction because of the rumors surrounding Friedrich II, known in English as Frederick the Great. While the Age of Goethe did not have a vocabulary of "homosexuality", "bisexuality", or "heterosexuality", it did possess an emerging rhetoric of "sexuality". The concept of the Bildungstrieb relies on the notion of Bildung, which is famously difficult to translate. The Age of Goethe's focus on Bildung produced a new genre, identified by Karl Morgenstern as the Bildungsroman in his 1819 lecture "Uber das Wesen des Bildungsromans" ("On the Essence of the Bildungsroman"), which was published in 1820. The bildungsroman is classically the story of the development or acculturation of typically a young man who discovers who he is and how he fits into society. A distinctive aspect of the Age of Goethe's discussion of sexuality is its fervent and sensual depiction of intense physical and emotional friendships between men.
  • 19 - Black Socks, Green Threads: On Proust and the Hermeneutics of Inversion
    pp 344-362
  • View abstract
    The Gothic novel, at least prior to the Stonewall Resistance Riot of 1969, is profoundly reticent about the spectacle of direct homophobia, as reticent as it is about the spectacle of homosexuality. To approach the dialogue between the structuring principle of homophobia in the early Gothic novel and the novel's remarkable silence on the topic of male-male sexual relations, one must return to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's formative work in Between Men. This chapter describes two Gothic narratives from the long nineteenth-century Anglo-Irish tradition: Lewis's 1796 novel The Monk, and Sheridan Le Fanu's 1872 novella "Carmilla". If The Monk offers its readers a series of anachronistically understood metonyms that can be pressed to cohere in the legible figure of "the homosexual" Le Fanu's "Carmilla" offers a narrative of a young woman named Laura, who lives with her father in a remote castle in the Austrian province of Styria.

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