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"Woods' own artistry is evident throughout this elegant and startling book. . . . These finely honed gay readings of selected Western (and some Eastern) literary texts richly reward the careful attention ...
"Woods' own artistry is evident throughout this elegant and startling book. . . . These finely honed gay readings of selected Western (and some Eastern) literary texts richly reward the careful attention they demand. . . . Though grounded in the particulars of gay male identity, this masterpiece of literary (and social) criticism calls across the divides of sex and sexual orientation."-Kirkus Reviews (a starred review)
"An encyclopedic mapping of the intersection between male homosexuality and belles lettres . . . [that is] good reading, in part because Woods has foregone strict chronology to link writers across eras and cultures."-Louis Bayard, Washington Post Book World
"Encyclopedic and critical, evenhanded and interpretive, Woods has produced a study that stands as a monument to the progress of gay literary criticism. No one to date has attempted such a grand world-wide history. . . . It cannot be recommended highly enough."-Library Journal (a starred review)
"A bold, intelligent and gorgeously encyclopedic study."-Philip Gambone, Lambda Book Report
"An exemplary piece of work."-Jonathan Bate, The Sunday Telegraph
In September 1865 the pioneering sexologist and homosexual activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs drafted a list of 'Bylaws for the Urning [i.e. homosexual] Union', a kind of premature gay liberationist manifesto. Among the principal goals of this as yet nonexistent Union were:
Ulrichs was a poet himself, though not a very good one. He planned to publish Nemus Sacrum (Sacred Grove), an anthology of Greek and Latin classics of homosexual poetry, along with some of his own verses; but the plan never came to fruition. Later Edward Carpenter, too, would combine the roles of poet and sexologist, though to rather more productive effect. The relationship between poetry and homosexual advocacy has a long history. After all, in Greek myth, the most prominent candidate for the honour of having been the first mortal man to love his own sex was the poet Orpheus. It was he who attempted to persuade the men of Thrace to start loving boys, an indiscretion for which he was dismembered by the Maenads. Another of the men reputed to have been the first homosexual mortal, Thamyris, was also a wonderful poet. He made the hubristic mistake of challenging the Muses to a contest; as a consequence of this impertinence, he was deprived of the powers of sight and song.
If we are to speak of a continuous, or even intermittent, 'gay tradition' in literature -- and every gay theorist warns us to be careful if we wish to do so -- it would be a tradition not of novels but mainly of verse. Brought together in one place, its constituent texts would look something like, but be even broader than, the contents list of Stephen Coote's Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse, beginning in the ancient world and progressing with great vitality -- considering how widely stigmatised male-male love has been at various points in history -- through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, beyond the modern world into the era of the postmodern; from pederasty to sodomy, from homosexuality to gayness, from pre-gay queerness to post-gay queerness, and beyond. More comprehensive than Coote, it might include the Epic of Gilgamesh, Hispano-Arabic love poetry, the meditations of Saint John of the Cross, the Chanson de Roland, Turkish divan poetry, and so forth.
We are not thinking of mere byways, obscure deviations from the mainstream. Male poets who loved boys or men do not always materialise as radical subverters of conservative traditions or as isolated eccentrics. Gay poetry does not always go against the grain; indeed, there have been many times when it was the grain. Again and again, if one examines the most deep-rooted traditions of love poetry, with the most strongly established conventions of both form and topic, not to mention etiquette, one comes across love poems addressed by men to boys (where 'men' and 'boys' tends to mean little more than a slight difference in ages). Such poems are often to be found nestling happily in the midst of heterosexual love poems. For instance, there is an anthology of 656 poems by Chinese court poets of the Southern Dynasties, entitled New Songs from a Jade Terrace. It was compiled by the poet Hsu Ling in about AD 545 As you work your way through the collection you occasionally encounter a poem which, although as conventional in its imagery and formality as any of the others, is about a desired boy rather than a woman. Yet these homoerotic poems are not simply formal exercises, allowed into the very public space of the anthology because the 'friendship' they express is 'platonic' or 'chaste'. On the contrary, a poem like Wu Chun's 'A Boy' is explicitly dismissive of 'virtue'. A man invites a boy to bed -- nothing could be less equivocal.
One factor which helps to explain why some cultures produce a proliferation of love poems addressed to boys by men is, quite simply, male privilege. The sheer availability of boys makes their concrete presence amenable to transposition into erotic imagery. The poetry of the Ottoman Empire, for instance, is shaped by the fact of a society in which women's clothing and their segregation rendered them all but invisible to men; boys, on the other hand, might be seen in all their glory at the public baths. Moreover, with levels of male and female education and expectation maintained in a condition of pronounced and permanent inequality, such societies tended to offer men very little reason for wishing to befriend women. Intimacy was easier and more natural between pairs of males.
The problem for us today is to conceive of how the mind of a poet might work in a society with completely different sexual rules from our own. Consider the erotic range of a poet like Catullus (c.84-54 BC), the scabrous laureate of the late Roman republic. His verse includes tender and vibrant love poems addressed to Clodia Metelli ('Lesbia'), a married woman; enthusiastic epithalamia on matrimony; insulting epigrams accusing a man called Gellius of all manner of sexual transgressions, including incest and cock-sucking; what we might now (inaccurately) call 'homophobic' tirades against men who loved men instead of boys, or against men who took the 'wrong' part in oral or anal intercourse with boys; and so on. However, it is also clear that Catullus, true not only to the conventions of his society but also to the promptings of his own heart and genitals, loved sex with young men and loved one man, Iuventius, with greater ardour than the feeling was returned.
Perhaps this is not the work of a 'gay poet' in the contemporary sense; yet it offers the gay reader a broad range of interest, both in terms of identifiably shared emotions and as a documentary glimpse of 'our' sexual history. The two great virtues of Catullus' view of sexuality are his sense of humour -- which leads him to laugh at himself as often as at others -- and his seriousness, the depth of his commitment to his own desires. The tension between the two moods brings him close, at times, to a tone which we might recognise in certain types of modern gay irony. This may just be a coincidence; or it may demonstrate the influence of classical education in the late nineteenth century on men who were beginning to define themselves as belonging to a distinct human type, the homosexual; or it may just be an instance of retrospective wish-fulfilment (call it cultural appropriation) on the part of a gay reader like me.
The fact is that gay literature is not simply a matter of the emotional records of individual writers. Gay writers do not, on their own, 'make' gay literature. There are processes of selection, production and evaluation to be taken into account. Our canons of literature of quality are no more eternal than any other. Indeed, gay literary critics have been fairly explicit about the intentional social purposes behind their re-evaluations of past texts and canons. The contingencies behind the heralding of gay classics need to be acknowledged and made manifest. The canon of gay literature has been constructed by bookish homosexuals, most explicitly since the debates on sexuality and identity which flourished in the last third of the nineteenth century. Indeed, if one were seeking to erect a memorial at the birthplace of gay literature, it would make sense to site it, not on some Assyrian ruin from which the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu first emerged, nor on the banks of the Nile where inscriptions speak of the relationship of Seth and Horus; but in one of Oxford's relatively unloved Victorian buildings. I am thinking of some space where impressionable youths sat at the feet of men like Walter Pater or Benjamin Jowett, or solitary garrets where the same youths read the classics in Greek and Latin and where they made lists of mythic and historical figures who felt the same as they did on catching sight of a muscular physique. Those lists would eventually turn into the contents pages of our gay anthologies and our histories of gay literature.
Actually, the writing of such lists pre-dates the Victorian age. Byrne Fone writes that 'it was in the latter [sic] eighteenth century that writers began compiling lists ... to bring legitimacy to what the world called perversion'. A much earlier example is the moment in Christopher Marlowe's Edward II when Mortimer Senior compares the king's relationship with Piers Gaveston with Alexander's love of Hephaestion, Hercules' of Hylas, Patroclus' of Achilles, Tully's of Octavius and Socrates' of Alcibiades (I. iv, 390-96). In The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596) Edmund Spenser, too, lists male lovers in pairs: Hercules and Hylas, Jonathan and David, Theseus and Pirithous, Pylades and Orestes, Titus and Gesippus, and Damon and Pythias (Book IV, Canto X, 27). Fone argues that such lists show 'the first elements of a growing awareness, and even a slowly growing militancy about and pride in the homosexual past'. There is a fine catalogue in the poem Don Leon, which dates from between 1823 and 1836 and is often attributed to Lord Byron. Here, the poet invokes the names of philosophers and poets who loved men or boys -- Plato, Socrates, Bion, Plutarch, Virgil and Horace -- in the hope of justifying his own sexual tastes. His argument boils down to its simplest elements in these two couplets:
Oscar Wilde's short story 'The Portrait of Mr W.H.' similarly turns into a kind of bibliography of gay literature; and his famous courtroom defence of 'the love that dare not speak its name' on 30 April 1895 listed David and Jonathan, Plato, Michelangelo and Shakespeare.
At about the same time, lists began to appear in sexological textbooks. In Homogenic Love (1894), later incorporated into The Intermediate Sex, one of Edward Carpenter's first purposes is to name the 'homogenic' lovers from the ancient world, the classical and oriental authors in whose work 'homogenic' passages can be found, and then a number of key writers from the modern world: Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Winckelmann, Tennyson and Whitman. In The Intermediate Sex itself (1908), Carpenter wrote, long before it would become a cliche, that 'some of the world's greatest leaders and artists have been dowered either wholly or in part with the Uranian temperament -- as in the cases of Michel Angelo, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, or among women, Christine of Sweden, Sappho the poetess, and others'. In The Intersexes (1910), Xavier Mayne (the pseudonym of the American Edward I. Stevenson) offered the following somewhat haphazard list as a demonstration of the fact that there are several varieties of 'uranism':
Mayne appears to be protesting the importance of his chosen topic. The eclecticism and unpredictability of the list, emphasised by its not being presented in any logical order, is part of the point: not only are we everywhere, but we always were. Moreover, the habit of making lists has been a hard one to break. A post-gay-liberationist project like The Pink Plaque Guide to London (1986) does not seem so very different in its essentials. Indeed, it formalises the idea of the list to the extent of turning the whole of London into a catalogue of the queer presence in metropolitan history. The fact is that many supposedly radical, post-Stonewall, gay liberationist texts were doing the same thing as the Victorian aesthetes felt needed doing. In The Sexual Outlaw (1977), John Rechy answers the accusation that homosexual man weakens the 'moral fabric' of society with the questions, 'Did Michelangelo? Da Vinci? Socrates? Did Proust? Did Shakespeare with the sonnets? Did Tchaikovsky?' Holly Johnson's 1994 song 'Legendary Children' consists of little more than lists and the affirming claim that all the named individuals were queer. Clearly, naming the major figures in the tradition had become a tradition in itself.
In essence, what we are talking about here is homosexual men's deliberate creation of a homosexual tradition. Eric Hobsbawm's lucid introduction to his and Terence Ranger's book The Invention of Tradition is helpful here. Hobsbawm writes that '"Traditions" which appear or claim to be old are often quite recent in origin and sometimes invented.' This process of inventing traditions 'is essentially a process of formalisation and ritualisation, characterised by reference to the past, if only by imposing repetition'. When Hobsbawm speaks of 'the use of ancient materials to construct invented traditions of a novel type for quite novel purposes', one inevitably thinks of the uses to which Victorian inverts put their classical learning.
Thinking along these lines, then, we have to nominate as a most significant event in the history of homosexual cultures in England the moment in the 1840s when Benjamin Jowett introduced Plato into his lectures at Oxford. Linda Dowling puts the point succinctly when she writes that 'Greek studies operated as a "homosexual code" during the great age of English university reform'. But although Jowett made the dialogues of Plato available not only through his lectures but also, much more widely, in his magisterial translations, he did not allow that they could have any valid significance within the moral life of Victorian England except when studiously appropriated and applied to the conditions of heterosexual matrimony. As he wrote in the introduction to the second edition of his translation of the Phaedrus, 'what Plato says of the loves of men must be transferred to the loves of [men for] women before we can attach any serious meaning to his words'.
Notwithstanding such displays of dutiful squeamishness, the fact is that a strongly homo-erotic atmosphere grew up in certain parts of the university at this time, not uninfluenced by the fact that until 1884 college fellows in Oxford were not permitted to marry. The model of Socratic love -- those educational affections which Plato's dialogues attribute to Socrates' relationships with beautiful boys -- could be applied, without great distortion, to tutorial arrangements which already existed within the university. Linda Dowling points out that 'the gesture that was to become a central literary trope for imaginative initiation among late-Victorian Decadent writers' was when an older man gave a younger man a copy of a significant book. Dowling uses the example of John Connington, the Corpus Professor of Latin, giving a copy of William Johnson's 1858 volume of homo-erotic poetry Ionica to John Addington Symonds. Earlier, in 1858 itself, the seventeen-year-old Symonds had discovered the Phaedrus and the Symposium and devoured them both in one feverish, transformative night. In E.M. Forster's novel Maurice, Clive Durham likewise faces up to his own inversion -- before repressing it once and for all -- on reading the Phaedrus for the first time. Comparing these two events, Richard Jenkyns remarks: 'There were no sensible little paperbacks then; the Platonic dialogues contained almost the only intelligent discussion of the subject [of homosexuality] to be found anywhere, and when inverts first lighted upon them, the sense of liberation was overwhelming'.
Over a century has now passed since Wilde failed to impress the court, though he won the applause of some in the gallery, for invoking those famous lovers-of-the-same-sex. David Halperin has called the intervening period 'one hundred years of homosexuality'. Alan Sinfield calls it 'the Wilde century'. The numbers are not exact, but the symbolism is no less precise for that. Homosexuality is in essence a construct of the (late) nineteenth and twentieth centuries; as an essence it is just as distinctively a characteristic of modernism as are atonalism in music, Cubism in painting, or interior monologue in the novel. (Alan Pryce-Jones said of Oxford in the 1920s that 'it was chic to be queer, rather as it was chic to know something about the twelve-tone scale and about Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase"'.) The existence of homosexuality, not as a circumstantial matter of passing sexual whim, but as a shared condition and identity, raises the intriguing possibility of homosexual culture, or at least of a minority subculture with sexual identity as its base. At the very least, by sympathetic identification with cultural texts which appeared to be affirmative, homosexual people saw a way to shore up their self-respect in the face of constant moral attack, and they found materials with which to justify themselves not only to each other but also to those who found their very existence, let alone their behaviour, unjustifiable.
Moreover, once homosexual people developed a need for something identifiable as their own culture, they looked not only to the future -- by producing 'e literature of their own' (to adopt John Stuart Mill's phrase about women writers) -- but also to the past. In the late nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth, homosexual people have been involved in the retrospective creation of a culture of our own -- which is to say, the appropriation of disparate cultural products and producers, and the elaboration of a fiction: that of a continuous 'male love' tradition descending to Victorian London (or Paris, Berlin, Vienna or New York) from Periclean Athens and beyond. While the ancient Greek language was still being widely taught in schools, male homosexuality was often known as 'Greek love'.
Lesbian literature never received such consistent endorsement and consolidation from readers in positions of intellectual power. While it may be true that the history of male gay literature is, in large measure, a history of acts of censorship, it is often, also, a record of self-affirming male elites with access to advanced education and the means of cultural production. There is at least as much power as powerlessness to be acknowledged in the history of male gay culture. Obviously, the situation of lesbianism is a completely different matter. Men's access to Greek and Latin literatures in the original language -- and even to formal education itself -- is probably the major determining factor here.
It is not insignificant that in the Anglo-Saxon cultures these developments coincided with the emergence of 'English', the discipline which would ultimately replace literae humaniores (classics) in the academy. The transition from classics to English -- initially under the homophobic tutelage of Matthew Arnold -- was instrumental in determining the future of the culture of homosexuality. (It was also during this period that prose fiction took over from verse as the defining centre of 'literature'.) Just as F.R. Leavis created the 'Great Tradition' (George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad) and F.O. Matthiessen created the 'American Renaissance' (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman) -- both critics working from clearly definable subject positions within debates on sexuality, Leavis the homophobic intellectual tough-guy opposed to nancy aestheticism, and Matthiessen himself secrecy homosexual -- so too had earlier figures like John Addington Symonds and Edward Carpenter started compiling lists in order to create the sense of 'a usable past'.
During this appropriative process, many different types of men, boys and cultural texts were, often without much attention to historical nuance, decisively relabelled: the Spartan pederast, the Japanese Samurai warrior, the pre-Columban native American berdache, the sodomite burnt at the stake, even the mere sentimental friend -- for a long while, indeed until very recently, even if they could not all comfortably be called 'homosexuals', they could be co-opted even so into 'homosexual culture' as heroes in its evolving but monolithic tradition. This tendency to ignore historical and cultural boundaries was reinforced by anti-homosexual discourses which associate modern queers with ancient Sodomites or (via Gibbon) with the mythical constituency of degenerates who precipitated the decline and fall of the Greek and Roman empires.
* * *
What was considered worth appropriating? Which authors began to appear on those lists of praiseworthy inverts? What written texts attracted the readers I have been referring to, and how did those texts ever become what we now recognise as a very strongly established canon of homosexual literature? The clearest canonisations have been effected, for many centuries, not only by critical appraisal but also by the assembling of anthologies. Anthologists have clearly hoped to create a sense of cultural continuity and an international community of shared sexual interest. Yet it is worth bearing in mind that, terminology apart, the notion of a sub-sector of literature devoted to homo-eroticism is not particularly new. History is littered with patrons who had specific erotic interests and tailored their commissions accordingly. At other times, artists took it on themselves to make entrepreneurial choices which affected the subsequent availability of specific types of art work.
In Greece, Phanocles wrote Love Stories, or Beautiful Boys (Erastes e kaloi), a series of elegies offering examples of boy-loving heroes and gods. Among editors working in Arabic, al-Tha'alibi (d. 1038) edited The Book of Boys, now lost. In the thirteenth century, Ahmad al-Tifashi produced The Delight of Hearts, and the enterprising al-'Adili edited both A Thousand and One Boys and A Thousand and One Girls. Ming dynasty China gives us the anonymously edited Records of the Cut Sleeve (Duan xiu pan). But most famously and influentially in the West, Strato of Sardis, who lived in the second century AD and wrote lively epigrams expressing an interest in both women and boys, nevertheless edited a narrowly specific collection called Pederastic Poems (Mousa Paidike). Almost one hundred of Strato's poems have come down to us because this anthology was absorbed into the so-called Palatine Anthology which, combined with the collection by Maximus Planudes, became that magnificent resource of 4,000 epigrams, The Greek Anthology. Whether one calls the Mousa Paidike' a gay anthology depends on the purity of the individual reader's sense of history.
Regardless of their definitional elisions and inaccuracies, anthologies have played a central role in the establishing of canons of homosexual literature. Furthermore, since the late nineteenth century they have actually provided homosexual readers with a broad kind of gay cultural education which would not have been on offer even in the English 'public' schools and Oxbridge colleges whose curricula were so heavily based on the Graeco-Roman classics. Such collections furnished extracts from a complete curriculum for the diligent, homosexual autodidact. Perhaps the most significant and original of them was Edward Carpenter's Iolaus (1902, enlarged in 1906), ostensibly an 'anthology of friendship' but actually an attempt to map out the cultural and historical roots of the people Symonds had called 'the third sex' and whom Carpenter called 'the intermediate sex'. Wits in the book trade used to refer to it as 'The Bugger's Bible'.
Carpenter wastes little time on preliminaries. His Preface does not define Friendship (the capital F is his). The fact that he is dealing only with male friendship does not merit a mention -- we are apparently supposed to take that for granted. The structure of the book is explained in one sentence: 'By arranging the extracts in a kind of rough chronological and evolutionary order from those dealing with primitive races onwards, the continuity of these customs comes out all the more clearly, as well as their slow modification in course of time.' The continuity of customs is the point. Carpenter is tracing his own heritage as a friend to other men. Iolaus consists of five chapters: 'Friendship-customs in the Pagan and Early World', 'The Place of Friendship in Greek Life and Thought', 'Poetry of Friendship among Greeks and Romans', 'Friendship in Early Christian and Medieval Times' and 'The Renaissance and Modern Times'.
By the time Patrick Anderson and Alistair Sutherland had come to publish their book Eros (1961) -- again named after a boy in Greek myth, and again an anthology of 'friendship', but this time explicitly male -- the canon had greatly expanded. Anderson's introduction is hardly more forthcoming than Carpenter's: 'The subject, as I grew to see it, was any friendship between men strong enough to deserve one of the more serious senses of the world [sic] "love"' (p. 8). Clearly a little self-conscious about this vagueness, he later remarks that 'I do not think it is the job of an anthologist to be too firm about his categories, at least when the collection is something of a pioneer' (p. 12). Homosexuality is not mentioned.
The chapters of this new collection are as follows: 'The Great Originals' (which lays the ground rules with the stories of David and Jonathan, Achilles and Patroclus, and Zeus and Ganymede), 'The Greeks', 'The Romans', 'The Dark and Middle Ages' (turning to the Christian and Islamic worlds), 'The Renaissance', 'Eighteenth Century and Romantics' 'The Nineteenth Century' and 'The Moderns'. The anthology ends with two thematic but rather haphazard chapters, 'Exotic Encounters' and 'The School Story'. Interestingly, the first chapter includes Oscar Wilde's courtroom plea on behalf of 'the love that dare not speak its name', a decision by which the editors clearly intend to link their ancient material not only with modern instances of 'friendship' but also with criminalised homosexuality. (Remember that Eros came out between the publication of the Wolfenden Report of 1957 and the Sexual Offences Act of 1967.) The fact that the medieval chapter begins by outlining the new proliferation of penalties for sodomy also, clearly, broadens the scope of the anthology beyond mere 'friendship'.
Several other survey anthologies appeared in the years subsequent to Stonewall and the birth of gay liberation. The first major attempt at a cross-cultural and trans-historical survey of poetry was The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse, edited by Stephen Coote and published in 1983. In his introduction, Coote sets out his parameters -- or rather, their lack -- with blithe unconcern for the problems he is raising with every sentence. He begins: 'This is a collection of poems by and about gay people. It ranges in time and place from classical Athens to contemporary New York.' He would like his book to be read primarily for pleasure, but also as 'a history of the different ways in which homosexual people have been seen and have seen themselves'. The introduction's sub-sections follow a now fairly familiar historical path: 'Ancient Greece', 'Rome', 'Lesbians in Classical Poetry', 'The Making of Prejudice' (this covering the territory equivalent to Anderson and Sutherland's fourth chapter, 'The Dark and Middle Ages'), 'Renaissance and Enlightenment', 'The Making of the "Homosexual"', and 'Gay Today'. The body of the anthology itself is not subdivided.
Coote's collection was widely reviewed because of its 'Penguin Book of ...' status. More often than not, it was criticised for its inclusiveness, particularly for its inclusion of sexually celebratory verse of the post-Stonewall era. The problem is, of course, in the nature of canons: do we make our choices of gay culture according to aesthetic or socio-historical criteria? Clearly, any book which unapologetically places the likes of Olga Broumas and Chuck Ortleb next to Homer and Shakespeare is likely to cause aesthetes to shudder, particularly if it appears to include the latter pair for thematic reasons rather than for the fact that they were 'great' poets. But how else can a gay anthologist operate at all?
The main defence available to the compiler of such a broad survey must be located in the pleasure of the reader; and the reader in question should be assumed to be lesbian or gay. The gay anthology is addressed to the gay reader, both to induce enjoyment and to convey a sense of cultural solidarity. Given these functions of the 'pleasure principle' in the compilation of anthologies, academic-historical and academic-aesthetic complaints may prove irrelevant to the success or failure of the enterprise. In a nutshell, it may be completely beside the point whether William Shakespeare was 'gay' or 'queer' or a 'homosexual' or a 'sodomite'; or if he and the male addressee of his sonnets were 'just good friends'; or even if no such friend ever existed and the sonnets in question were -- as so many heterosexually-identified critics have claimed -- mere poetic exercises, common to their time. All of this is irrelevant if any of the sonnets are amenable to being read by a gay reader as if they were 'gay poems'. If they work as if they were, they are. The reader's pleasure is paramount.
To this extent, anthologies like Coote's function well as capacious lucky-dips, in which any page one turns to will offer a potential gay text. And in the present context, at least, a potential gay text is a gay text. It is in their educational roles, on the other hand, that such collections really do raise problems. For instance, Coote's hope that his book will be treated as 'a record, a history' of representations of 'homosexual people' is obviously compromised by the editor's -- and therefore the book's -- willingness to assume a trans-historical and cross-cultural unifying definition of gay culture. This slippage has already occurred between the title's 'homosexual verse' and the first sentence of the introduction's 'poems by and about gay people'. Add to this the fact that Coote's own translations of the gay classics incorporate such culturally and historically specific epithets as 'faggot', 'queer', and 'queen', and one must reluctantly conclude that the academic uses of the book are limited; or, at least, that the book needs to be shelved next to a more sceptical volume of sexual history.
Of course, Coote's strategies are determined -- or, to some extent, sanctioned -- by the moment of their conception. The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse was a response to a marketing need created by the growing currency of gay culture during the previous decade. In some sense, for all its faults, it represented the culmination of what some writers and readers had been working towards: the establishing of a canon; the continuation of a tradition. Although published in 1983, the book had its origins in possibilities raised by gay liberation. In some respects already a rather dated concept in 1983, this anthology of 'homosexual verse' nevertheless bore the stamp of 1969.
|1||The Making of the Gay Tradition||1|
|2||The Greek Classics||17|
|3||The Roman Classics||32|
|4||The Christian Middle Ages||41|
|6||The European Renaissance||68|
|9||The Pastoral Elegists||108|
|10||From Libertinism to the Gothic||124|
|11||New Bearings in the Novel||136|
|12||The American Renaissance||151|
|14||Spirit Versus Physique||181|
|16||Homosexual Men by Women||201|
|17||The Harlem Renaissance||209|
|18||The Tragic Sense of Life||217|
|20||Towards the Popular||237|
|21||The Pink Triangle||247|
|22||The Post-War Starting-Point||257|
|23||European Poetry on the Left||267|
|24||Post-War Tragic Fiction||275|
|25||The Homosexual in Society||289|
|26||Black African Poetry||302|
|27||From Solitary Vice to Circle Jerk||313|
|28||Boys and Boyhood||321|
|29||The Age of Antibiotics||336|
|30||The Family and Its Alternatives||344|
|31||The AIDS Epidemic||359|
|32||Poetry and Paradox||375|
Posted January 31, 2000
It helped me deal wit my inner issues surounding my homosexuality. I now realise that its ok to be me no matter who says that it is wrong. Nothing can ever be more wright. I have been to the gates of hell and back to find my true self and now that I know who I relly am I am content. I am trully content.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.