Monday, September 29, 2008


Homosexuality in Modern France edited by Jeffrey Merrick and Bryant T. Ragan, Jr. (Not to be confused with its counterpart by the same editors, Homosexuality in Early Modern France: A Documentary Collection, because both Amazon and LibraryThing seems to think they're the same book, or the same person is uploading the wrong cover. For the latter, the cover on my copy shows a statue of Ganymede and the eagle.)

It's a good book! There's ten good essays by smart people, covering the Enlightenment, the French Revolution (one is specifically on the pornography starring Marie Antoinette that was published against her), legislature and its lack in early and mid 19th century Paris, a murder case from 1877 involving a gay couple, the medicalization of "inversion", working class lesbian subculture at the turn of the centuty, Gide's Corydon, and Foucault in the context of French history and politics.

I always remember the things I complained about better. Have some funny excerpts.

"Invisible Women", Sautman, page 186: "According to Julien Chevalier, homosexuality was an aberration rare in high society, "regarded with horror" by the working class, and completely unknown in country areas. It was a vice in which only the "cafe society and theater" engaged. In something of a contradiction, Chevalier argued that gender nonconformity in physical appearance led directly to sexual inversion and that women from the working class and peasantry were more likely to display virile aberrations. Because of promiscuity in servants' quarters, the nervous tension resulting from working in a sitting position too long, and the "physiological harm" caused by the sewing machine, Ali Coffignon also saw women workers as being particularly prone to sexual corruption."

Sewing machines=lesbianism. Got it.
Later in the same essay there's some translation failure: a phrase from Jean Lorrain's La Maison Philibert (1904) is translated as "fags and lezzies". The footnote is only a citation, and there's no modern edition that I can find. "Lezzies" might be gougnottes (girlfriends), as used elsewhere in the text with better notes, but I have no idea what "fags" was originally. It irritates me when liberal translations show up in academic works. If that's the best connotative selection, make a note and explain your choices.

"Natalism, Homosexuality, and the Controversy over Corydon" by Martha Hanna is very interesting and has a lot of stuff I was glad to learn. In one part, discussing (at the time) modern reactions to Greek homosexual practices, there's a paragraph on Dr. Riolan's 1909 Pederastie et homosexualitie that's just comedy gold:
"Unlike modern pederasty, which Riolan characterized as the predilection of dissipated older men bored by heterosexuality, Greek pederasty was, he argued, a culturally specific aesthetic response to the ugliness of Greek women. "In Greece, pederasty was the result of the admiration the Greeks professed for beautiful forms. Like all women of the Orient, Greek women quickly lost their youthful shape, and the citizen of Athens, returning from the Olympic Games, could not help but compare the women whom he saw in Athens to the athletes he had applauded in the arena." If, as Riolan suggested, pederasty was understandable in those societies where women quickly lost their sexual allure, it was neither understandable, permissible, nor defensible in a nation like France, famous for its beautiful- and desirable- women. Riolan was not the only medical expert convinced that beautiful women constituted a nation's best protection against homosexuality."

I think my housemate's reaction was "Oh my god, there's so many things wrong with that I don't even know what to say!"

Maybe I need an "adventures in stupidity" tag.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

GLBT History Month; research for class

the GLBT History Month site

I'm doing it again! This time with official resources, a booth in the student union, and hopefully much more success. Last year I shot myself in the foot several times, not preparing well enough, not advertising well enough, etc. In lieu of shiny printed logo-bearing things I made a couple of picture boards that are pretty cool (I will take and post pictures soon), a fact sheet-timeline thing, and a bibliography for the curious. I may post PDFs if my updates to these things turn out spiffy. Updates as they come.

I am also doing more of the "tie in queer history to every class I take ever" thing for my Feudal Japan class. Paper 1 is a historiographical book review (The Love of the Samurai: A Thousand Years of Japanese Homosexuality by Tsuneo Watanabe and Jun'ichi Iwata), paper 2 is topical (same-sex relationships and structures in Buddhist monasteries- a huge topic! there's a whole genre of literature!), and paper 3 is a term research project carrying the grade for the final (same-sex love poetry and literature in historical and political context- still working on the boundaries of that one, just got the initial proposal back today).

Things I'm reading for that aside from Watanabe:
Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan by Gary Leupp, Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender edited by Jose Ignacio Cabezon, which has an essay I need by Paul Gordon Schalow and hopefully some other good stuff (but I don't know, because the interlibrary loan system hasn't spit it out yet), a couple of essays out of Monumenta Nipponica on the Chigo Monogatari ("tale of the acolyte", the aforementioned Buddhist genre of same-sex love poetry, literature, and sermons) and Kitamura Kigin's Tokugawa poetry collection Iwatsutsuji ("Wild Azaleas"). The class does not cover the Tokugawa era, but all of these sources include information and insight on former eras if they don't focus on them. Iwatsutsuji, in particular, is very interesting because the items it collects are all pre-Tokugawa expressions of ideal nanshoku- male love.

Things I will not be covering: kabuki theater or Ihara Saikaku, even if I have Schalow's cool translation of The Great Mirror of Male Love. Both distinctly Tokugawa. Those are the two things that are invariably mentioned on this particular topic, and it's probably good that I'm restricted to the earlier, more obscure material.

Related to nothing, apparently when I took this same prof's East Asia class last year I did a short review of Passions of the Cut Sleeve, which I totally do not remember and contains the telltale phrase "in conclusion", which means I wrote it the morning it was due after drinking too much coffee and bullshitting with Prism people into the wee hours. Good book. Terrible paper. What was I thinking?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dept. of News To Me

Ancient Near East C. 3000-330 BC, pg 147: “Another story, composed in either the early New Kingdom or the late Middle Kingdom but still circulating in the eighth to sixth centuries, concerns King Pepy II and one of his generals. Unfortunately, it is very fragmentary, and only two episodes have been partially preserved; in one the king is sneaking around secretly at night to visit the general with whom he is in love. It is impossible to reconstruct the story: it may have been a comic tale or one reflecting Egyptian disapproval of homosexuality.”
In a discussion of how stories reflected Pharaohs and their antics or flaws.

This one's not new to me, but I do sometimes wonder if some translator is putting the world on: possibly the first same sex couple as a matter of historical record, Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep, the "overseers of the manicurists in the palace of the king". Old Kingdom.

Friday, May 2, 2008

11th~10thC German Love Letter

To G--, her unique rose,
A-- sends the bonds of precious love.
What strength have I that I may bear it,
That I may endure your absence?
Is my strength the strength of stones
That I can wait for your return?
I never cease from aching, night and day,
Like someone missing a hand and foot.
Without you anything happy or delightful
Seems like mud trod underfoot.
Instead of rejoicing I weep;
My spirit never seems joyful.
When I remember the kisses you gave me,
The way you refreshed my little breasts with sweet words,
I would like to die
Since I cannot see you.
What should I, most wretched, do?
Where should I, most poor, do?
O, if my body had been committed to earth
Until your longed-for return,
Or if I could go on a journey like Habakkuk,
So that just once I could come to where
I saw the face of my lover,
Then I would not care if I died that very hour.
For there is no one who has been born in the world
Who is so lovable and dear,
No one who without feigning
Loves me with so deep a love.
Therefor, I ache without end
Until I am allowed to see you.
According to one wise man, the worst misery
Is to be far from someone one cannot live without.
As ling as the world endures,
You will never be blotted out from my heart's care.
Why do I linger with so many words?
Come back, sweet love!
Don't put off your journey any longer.
Know that I can no longer endure your absence.
Remember me.

Stehling 113, found in Gay and Lesbian Poetry: An Anthology from Sappho to Michelangelo, edited by James J. Wilhelm.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Shakespeare's Birthday

I love my nerd friends. Not even an hour after midnight, and they're already digging up their favorite obscure quotes and YouTube clips. In standard form, I cannot find the passage where Sebastian from Twelfth Night compares himself to his mother while flirting with Antonio.

In Richard II, the main conflict is based on the title monarch's inability to separate his favorites from his politics, and partly on his wife's suspicious lack of children. At the beginning of Act III, Scene I, Sir John Bushy and Sir Henry Green, two of Richard's favorites, have been taken prisoner as traitors by Henry Bullingbrook, whose exile they were responsible for. He's back, though, and he's pissed. The politics have much more going on than beds, but when it's the loyalties around the king that are at issue, it's revealing what becomes significant.

Bull. Bring forth these men.
Bushy and Green, I will not vex your souls--
Since presently your souls must part your bodies--
With too much urging your pernicious lives,
For 'twere no charity; yet, to wash your blood
From off my hands, here in the view of men
I will unfold some causes of your deaths:
You have misled a prince, a royal king,
A happy gentleman in blood and lineaments,
By you unhappied and disfigured clean;
You have in manner with your sinful hours
Made a divorce betwixt his queen and him,
Broke the possession of a fair queen's cheeks
With tears drawn from her eyes by your foul wrongs...

The queen's unhappiness would be totally immaterial if not for the implication that Richard is sexually involved with his favorites. Kings and nobles took mistresses and locked their wives up in towers or worse all the time.

Richard's real crimes seem to consist of being selfcentered and not knowing who he needs to keep happy. He's just Some Dude who happens not to make a very good king. Which, okay, a lot of people wouldn't.

That wasn't very fun. Why did I pick that? Thinking of more lighthearted things to post about brings me to Showtime's The Tudors, wherein Hollywood makes up an affair between Thomas Tallis and William Crompton, of all people. Seriously? Shift historical figures towards the gay? Does that ever happen? Villainous effeminacy, maybe, but actual sex is crazy talk, much less a sympathetic relationship.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Holy cow you guys!

Read this blog. Right now. The Drummer's Revenge.

It's a gay history essay blog focusing on Canada, going back several centuries and very detailed. I haven't even read it all yet, I'm so excited to tell you it merely exists. The author is excellent from what I've seen so far, and I dream of being that productive- the first post was two months before mine.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Book rec

A book I finished recently and enjoyed: Pages Passed from Hand to Hand: The Hidden Tradition of Homosexual Literature in English from 1748-1914 edited by Mark Mitchell and David Leavitt. Many of the stories were published in the mainstream, but the "hidden" part mostly refers to who was interpreting the subtext and how. Most of the selections by well known authors are lesser-known ones people are less likely to run into (such as "I and My Chimney" by Herman Melville instead of an excerpt from Moby Dick or Billy Budd, etc). I hadn't even heard of many of the pieces, such as Louis Wilkinson's pastiche of Henry James, or Joseph and his Friend: A story of Pennsylvania by Bayard Taylor. There's the moderately well known Lord Strutwell part in Smollett's The Adventures of Roderick Random, which I've read before but still like. Edward Prime-Stevenson's "Out of the Sun" is printed in entirety, as is Alan Dale's A Marriage Below Zero, which is nice because the most recent edition seems to be the original one (1889). I have to say I enjoyed that last a lot more than I expected to; it's most commonly interpreted as pure homophobic evil but that seems to depend on taking the (extremely bitter) female narrator at her face value.

The introductions to each author by the editors are quite witty and informative, but sometimes threw me. So much research has clearly been done, but neither of them bothered to find out who said "Once a philosopher, twice a sodomite"? The text blithely asks, "Was it Rousseau?" No, it wasn't. It was Voltaire (maybe not even reliably; the closest origin I can find right now with my quick-n-dirty methods is Richard Burton, writing more than a century later in 1886, and I can't remember what book I originally read the story behind it in). Another story- Tobermory by Saki, about a cat who is taught to speak and reveals many indiscretions on the parts of some garden party attendees- I have no earthly idea why it was included. The intro claims that the tomcat that kills Tobermory was some "rough trade" afraid of him talking? I read it about three times and still missed it, and I'm basically the Queen of Subtle References.

This is me nitpicking, though, and on the whole the book is a very well researched and edited collection, worth finding a copy.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Third Kalandar's Tale (The Arabian Nights)

The world really needs an edition of homoerotic tales from the Arabian Nights. has a few, centering on the 8th century Islamic rake and poet Abu Nawas. My book of selected stories, a battered 1959 hardbound edited by Bennett A. Cerf, has The Third Kalandar's Tale, which, in part, details the trials of a king stranded on an island.

But while I was pondering my case and longing for death behold, I saw afar off a ship making for the island; so I clomb a tree and hid myself among the branches. Presently the ship anchored and landed ten slaves, blackamoors, bearing iron hoes and baskets, who walked on till they reached the middle of the island.
[They dig up a trapdoor and open it, then return to the ship for food, furniture, decorations, and other household goods, and put them underground. An old man disembarks, escorting a young man:]
And the Shaykh held by the hand a youth cast in beauty's mould, all elegance and perfect grace; so fair was he that his comeliness deserved to be proverbial; for he was as a green bough or the tender young of the roe, ravishing every heart with his loveliness and subduing every soul with his coquetry and amourous ways...
[They bury the boy in the underground dwelling.]
When they turned away to depart, I came down from the tree, and going to the place I had seen them fill up, scraped off and removed the earth; and in patience possessed my soul until I had cleared the whole of it away. Then appeared the trap-door which was of wood, in shape and size like a millstone; and when I lifted it up it disclosed a winding staircase of stone. At this I marvelled and, descending the steps till I reached the last, found a fair hall, spread with various kinds of carpets and silk stuffs, wherein was a youth sitting upon a raised couch and leaning back upon a round cushion with a fan in his hand and nosegays and posies of sweet scented herbs and flowers before himl but he was alone and not a soul near him in the great vault. When he saw me he turned pale; but I saluted him courteously and said, "Set thy mind at ease and calm thy fears; no harm shall come near thee; I am a man like thyself and a King to boot; whom the decrees of Destiny have sent to bear thee company and cheer thee in thy loneliness. But now tell me, what is thy story and what causeth thee to dwell thus in solitude under the ground?"
When he was assured that I was of his kind and no Jinni, he rejoiced and his fine colour returned...

[The boy explains that he is his elderly father's only child, but that a prophecy foretold he would live fifteen years only to be killed by a man named Ajib, son of King Khazib. This man was also fortold to shoot down the horseman of yellow laton on top of a mountain of magnet, already accomplished earlier in the story. Of course, our hero is Ajib himself, reported drowned- the boy's father will come back in thirty days to fetch him, with the assumption that Ajib is dead for sure and no longer a threat. Ajib does not declare himself, but swears an oath not to harm the boy- indeed, to serve him and keep him company until the time is over, at which point he'll ask the boy's father for an escort to his own kingdom. The boy is glad, they eat dinner, and go to sleep.]
Next morning I arose and warmed a little water, then lifted him gently so as to awake him and brought the warm water wherewith he washed his face and said to me, "Heaven requite thee for me with every blessing, O youth! By Allah, if I get quit of this danger and am saved from him whose name is Ajib bin Khazib, I will make my father reward thee and send thee home healthy and wealthy; and, if I die, then my blessing be upon thee." I answered, "May the day never dawn on which evil shall betide thee; and may Allah make my last day before thy last day!" Then I set before him somewhat of food and we ate; and I got ready perfumes for fumigating the hall, wherewith he was pleased. Moreover I made him a Mankalah-cloth; and we played and ate sweetmeats and we played again and took our pleasure until nightfall, when I rose and lighted the lamps, and set before him somewhat to eat, and sat telling him stories till the hours of darkness were far spent. Then he lay down to rest and I covered him up and rested also. And thus I continued to do so, O my lady, for days and nights and affection for him took root in my heart and my sorrow was eased, and I said to myself, The astrologers lied when they predicted that he should be slain by Ajib bin Khazin: by Allah, I will not slay him. I ceased not ministering to him and conversing and carousing with him and telling him all manner takes for thirty-nine days. On the fortieth night the youth rejoiced and said, "O my brother, Alhamdolillah!-praise be to Allah- who has preserved me from death and this is thy blessing and the blessing of thy coming to me; and I prayed God that He restore thee to thy native land. But now, O my brother, I would thou warm me some water for the Ghusl-ablution and do thou kindly bathe me and change my clothes." I replied, "With love and gladness;" and I heated water in plenty and carrying it to him washed his body all over, the washing of health, with meal of lupins and rubbed him well and changed his clothes and spread him on a high bed whereon he lay down to rest, being drowsy after bathing. Then said he, "O my brother, cut me up a water-melon, and sweeten it with a little sugar-candy." So I went to the store-room and bringing out a fine water-melon I found there, set it on a platter and laid it before him saying, "O my master hast thou not a knife?" "Here it is," answered he, "over my head on a high shelf." So I got up in haste and taking the knife down from its sheath; but my foot slipped in stepping down and I fell heavily upon the youth holding in my hand the knife which hastened to fulfil what had been written on the Day that decided the destinies of man, and buried itself, as if planted, in the youth's heart.

Of course the same sex relationship is not the main point of the story, but that it appears so casually in a group of stories holds cultural significance. Later in the same story Ajib finds a palace with forty beautiful maidens in it, with much the same enthusiasm, but a different moral.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Miscellaneous Observations, and some half-assed research

Richard and Robin Nursery Rhyme
First of all, there’s two versions of the last two lines:

Robin and Richard were two pretty men,
They laid in bed till the clock struck ten;
Then up starts Robin and looks in the sky:
"Oh, brother Richard, the sun's very high!
The bull's in the barn threshing the corn;
The cocks on the hayrick blowing is horn"


You go before, with the bottle and bag,
And I will come after on little Jack Nag.”

Somewhere there is a forum with an individual complaining about how “inappropriate” this rhyme is for their child, but I can’t find it again. I did find a fiction piece with the same title in Harper’s Magazine from December 1894- with the subjects “artists” and “bachelors”, I’d eat my hat if it’s not about (or inspired by) Wilde and co. But I don’t feel like paying for a year to read this one piece. *tears hair* Do any of you beautiful friendly readers have a subscription? It would be totally amazing if you could email me the PDF.
Google searches come up with Robin Hood and Richard Lionheart. The closest there is to even a discussion of this rhyme is a comment on one site that this is a “lost” rhyme with an unknown history.
After a short trip to the library, at least I have an “around by” date now: 1765, the year Mother Goose’s Melody: or, Sonnets for the Cradle was first published (first Mother Goose published ever, actually). Quote: “What lazy rogues are these to lie in bed so long, I daresay they have no clothes to their backs, for Laziness clothes a man with rags.”
Supposedly later versions have Alfred and Richard, “two lazy men”, instead, but this book (The Annotated Mother Goose, Baring-Gould, 1962) has an extreme lack of clear citations. The shift in terms in a later version may indicate some editor had the same hunch as me, that the two men are in a relationship. I can’t find any other evidence for the Alfred and Richard claim in my admittedly limited resources. Although, on that note, NAU finally has JSTOR access! Whee!

On a totally unrelated tack, this is a very interesting quote from John Keay's India: A History, referring to the medieval Muslim conquests in India (1293~1310) by Ala-ud-din Khalji:
"Among Cambay's seized assets the most prized was a Hindu captive who would add particular lustre to the Khalji sultanate. A eunuch and a slave, he quickly espoused Islam but retained the nickname 'Thousand-dinar Kafur', presumably a reference to his original valuation. 'His beauty,' says Barani, 'captivated Ala-ud-din' who thereafter trusted him implicitly and appointed him a Malik-naib, or senior commander."

Barani is Ziau-ud-din Barani, an important contemporary historian.

The other thing I'm sharing because it's hilarious. It's taken from the notes on Robert D. Tobin's essay in Outing Goethe and His Age, edited by Alice A. Kuzniar.
"13. This incident may have origins in the adventures of the two Counts Stolberg, with whom in 1775 Goethe first visited Switzerland and who enjoyed bathing in the nude so much they were eventually asked to leave the country (Eissler 1:373)."
The "incident" in question is Werther's narcissistic admiration of his friend Frederick's nude bathing body in Johann Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. This note has no other context or explanation, which is why it's so funny.

The same essay inspired me to look up Goethe's Roman Elegies ("...August Wilhelm Schlegel objected to a passage in Goethe's tenth elegy that, in a list of great warriors, included Frederick the Great along with Alexander, Caesar, and Henry IV, who would gladly exchange their victories for a night in bed with the speaker's lover." Tobin 98) The context is clear that the shared trait is intentional on Goethe's part, except for Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, who was/is called the Great, but I can find no evidence of him having homoerotic inclinations. The gender of the speaker's lover in the Elegies is fluid, sometimes female and sometimes appearing to be a representative Cupid, who would be a third party except for passages describing him as the object. The original objection would seem to indicate a larger understanding of the lover as male. Was there ever a German tradition (queer or mainstream) of Henry having had male lovers? I don't know.