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.