QueeringtheFin
[email protected]
Some Definitions
•
“Homosexuality”:
– Term invented by late 19th-century by German sexologists
– Part of medicalization/pathologization of homosexuality
– Implicated in understanding of “the homosexual” as an identity
category
[Michael Foucault’s famous idea of the change from “behaviour” to
identity”]
•
•
•
“Sexual Inversion”
“Greek Love”
Contemporary synonyms:
– For Men: Urning, Uranist, Similsexual, etc.
– For Women: Lesbian, Tribade, etc.
•
Some current critical terms (not carrying automatic assumption of
identity categories):
• “Same-sex behaviours”
• MSM, WSM (Men/Women who have Sex with Men/Women)
• Queer
Sean Brady on Life in the 19th
century
http://www.history.org.uk/resources/gene
ral_resource_4715,5169_118.html
(No 2.)
SOME19TH-CENTURYDISCOURSESABOUT
SAME-SEXBEHAVIORSANDHOMOSEXUALITY
Burton’s Sotadic Zone
Within the Sotadic Zone the Vice is popular
and endemic, held at worst to be a mere
peccadillo, whilst the races to the North and
South of the limits here defined practise it
only sporadically amid the opprobium of
their fellows, who, as a rule, are physically
incapable of performing the operation and
look upon it with the liveliest disgust…
Pederasty, which I hold to be geographical
and climatic, not racial... (207)
“The love that dare not speak its
name”?
• Coded references:
– The Green Carnation
– Le Vice Anglais
– St. Sebastian
Thougharrowsrainonbreastand
throattheyhavenopowerto
hurt,
Whilethytenaciousface
theyfailaninstanttoavert.
Oh
mightmyeyes,sowithout
measure,
Feedontheir
treasure,
Theworldwiththong
anddartmightdoitspleasure!
[Michael Field, Sight and Song
(1892)]
“The love that dare not speak its
name”?
• Coded references:
Rictor NortononSymonds:
Inordertopublish,Symondsdevelopedasetofcodewordstopointtohis
secretsubjecttracingthemovementfromhomosexualrepressionand
self-loathingtoself-realizationandcelebration:"unutterablethings,"
"valleyofvaindesire,""theimpossible,""Chimaera,""Maya"arethe
phrasesthatrecurthroughoutthesonnetsequencesinNewandOld
(1880),Animi Figura (1882),Fragilia Labilia (1884),andVagabunduli
Libellus (1884).Hewishedtostakehisreputationasapoetuponthese
volumes,buthedarednotprovidethekeytounlocktheirmeaning.Each
volumewasreceivedbythecriticswithvaryingdegreesofindifference,
ridicule,orabhorrence.Theyrecognizedtheinadequacyofthemotive
force,asthoughithadbeenemasculated,andtheysensedthe
Swinburnian unwholesomenessbetweenthelines.
[http://rictornorton.co.uk/symonds/symonds.htm]
“The love that dare not speak its
name”?
• The University Environment
• Private publication/circulation:
– The Kama Shastra Society
– Aleister Crawley’s WhiteStains:TheLiterary
RemainsofGeorgeArchibaldBishop,aNeuropathof
theSecondEmpire:100copiesprivately printed in
Amsterdam(1898)
• The pseudonym: Katharine Bradley and
Edith Cooper, aka “Michael Field”
“The love that dare not speak its
name”?
But sloth, and fear of
men, and shame
Impose their limit on my
bliss:
Else had I laid my lips to
his,
And called him by love’s
dearest name.
(“Clifton” 4.13-16)
Crowley’s
“Ballad of Passive Pederasty”
Boys tempt my lips to wanton use,
And show their tongues and smile awry,
And wonder why I should refuse
To feel their buttocks on the sly,
And kiss their genitals, and cry:
“Ah! Ganymede, grant me one night!”
This is one sweet mystery:
A strong man’s love is my delight!
To feel him clamber on me, laid
Prone on the couch of lust and shame,
To feel him force me like a maid
And his great sword within me flame,
His breath as hot and quick as fame;
To kiss him and to clasp him tight;
This is my joy without a name,
A strong man’s love is my delight.
To feel again his love grow grand
Touched by the languor of my kiss;
To suck the hot blood from my gland
Mingled with fierce spunk that doth hiss,
And boils in sudden spurted bliss;
Ah! God! The long-drawn lusty fight!
Grant me eternity of this!
A strong man’s love is my delight.
The Resort to Classical, Age-structured Tropes
of “Boy Love”/“Paedophilia”
•
•
•
•
Ganymede
The Trojans
Plato’s Symposium: Desire and Pursuit of the Whole
Hadrian and Antinöus
The Biblical Frame
• Sodom and Gomorrah
• Jonathan and David
‘…A man by love new-made,
His every hope upon the heart was laid
Of Jesse’s son.’
(“The Meeting of David and Jonathan” 153)
The ‘Invention’ of Homosexuality:
Some Milestones
• Medico-Legal Theories of ‘Psychopathia
Sexualis,’ ‘Psychical Hermaphrodism,’ and
Perversion
• Views on “Onanism”
• 1885 Passage of the Labouchere Amendment
to the Criminal Law Amendment Act
– creates the penalty of “gross indecency” for men
and dubbed the “blackmailer’s charter”
– ‘invisibility’ of women in the statute
• TheOscarWildeTrials(1895)
• The Order of Chaeronea (1897)
The Order of Chaeronea and the Band
of Thebes
SentencingStatementfromthe
SecondCriminalTrial
Justice Wills: Oscar Wilde and Alfred Taylor, the crime of which you have been convicted is so bad that
one has to put stern restraint upon one's self to prevent one's self from describing, in language which I
would rather not use, the sentiments which must rise in the breast of every man of honor who has heard
the details of these two horrible trials. That the jury has arrived at a correct verdict in this case I cannot
persuade myself to entertain a shadow of a doubt; and I hope, at all events, that those who sometimes
imagine that a judge is half-hearted in the cause of decency and morality because he takes care no
prejudice shall enter into the case, may see that it is consistent at least with the utmost sense of
indignation at the horrible charges brought home to both of you.
It is no use for me to address you. People who can do these things must be dead to all sense of shame,
and one cannot hope to produce any effect upon them. It is the worst case I have ever tried. that you,
Taylor, kept a kind of male brothel it is impossible to doubt. And that you, Wilde, have been the center of
a circle of extensive corruption of the most hideous kind among young men, it is equally impossible to
doubt.
I shall, under the circumstances, be expected to pass the severest sentence that the law allows. In my
judgment it it totally inadequate for a case such as this. The sentence of the Court is that each of you be
imprisoned and kept to hard labor for two years.
[Cries of "Oh! Oh!" and "Shame!"]
Wilde--And I? May I say nothing, my Lord?
The court adjourned.
Courtesy of http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/wilde/wilde.htm
Cartoon from Punch (1876)
Cf.Yopi Prins,
Victorian
Sappho
(Princeton,
1999)and
“Greek
Maenads,
Victorian
Spinsters”in
Dellamora,
VictorianSexual
Dissidence (199)
‘Invisibility’ of Desire
between Women
ü “…we have too long assumed that
women in the past could not name their
erotic desires, rather than recognizing
their refusal to name them” (Martha
Vicinus, Intimate Friends: Women Who Loved
Women xix)
ü The “passionate friendship model”:
Sharon Marcus, Between Women:
http://www.history.org.uk/resources/secon
dary_resource_4715,5171_124.html
Sappho and Erinna at Mytelene
by Simeon Solomon (1864)
Katharine Bradley and Edith
Cooper
Female same-sex desire
refracted through putative
male desire
“Bradley and Cooper situated themselves
firmly within a gay male coterie, and
understanding their work requires
attention to the power of their crossgendering and their lively and active
participation in a male, largely gay,
community of writers and readers.”
—Kate Thomas, “‘What Time We Kiss’:Michael
Field’s Queer Temporalities. GLQ 13.2-3
(2007): 338
Female same-sex desire refracted
through putative male desire
THE SLEEPING VENUS
GIORGIONE
The Dresden Gallery
1HereisVenusbyourhomes
2Andrestingontheverdantswell
3
Ofasoftcountryflankedwithmountain
4
domes:
4Shehasleftherarchedshell,
5Hasleftthebarrenwavethatfoams,
6Amidearth'sfruitfultilths todwell.
7Noblylightedwhileshesleeps
8Assward-landsorthecorn-fieldsweeps,
9Pureasarethethingsthatman
10Needsforlifeandusingcan
11Neverviolatenorspot--12Thussheslumbersinnogrot.
13Butonopenground,
14Withthegreathill-sidesaround.
85
Onwhitedraperyshesleeps,
86Thatfoldbyfoldisstainedwithshade;
87Hermantle'sruddypomegranateinheaps
88Foracushionshehaslaid
89Beneathher;andtheglowthatsteeps
90Itsgrainofricherdepthismade
91Byanoverswelling bank,
92Tuftedwithdungrassesrank.
93Fromthishillock'souterheaves
94Onesmallbushdefinesitsleaves
95Broadlyonthesoberblue
96Thepalecloud-bankrisesto,
97Whilstitsinksinbland
98Sunshineonthedistantland.
Hilary Fraser on Field:
Michael Field’s poem on Giorgione’s The Sleeping Venus offers an interesting
example of this double triangulation, of the two women observing the painting,
and of the reader, the poem, and the painting. Venus’s body is lovingly
described in terms of “the verdant swell/Of a soft country flanked with
mountain domes” (98) that provides the mise-en-scène of the painting. The
Goddess of Love and Mother Earth are depicted as lying in a same-sex
embrace. Like “the Fields,” as Bradley and Cooper were affectionately called
by their friends, indeed in the very bosom of the fields (and in fact described in
a diary entry of August 16, 1891 as “simple as our fields” [Michael Field,
Works and Days 48]), they are united by the bond of their sex. The body of
Venus, who has fallen asleep after pleasuring herself, is appreciatively
described by the poet-lovers. “No one watches her,” they write (Michael Field,
Works and Days 48). And yet of course they watch her, and through them so do
we.
“AVisualField:MichaelFieldandtheGaze.”VictorianLiteratureandCulture
34(2006):553-571.
The operation of the gaze in this poem is problematised still further if we
consider how the reader/viewer enters the meaning-making process. Sight and
sexuality are metaphorically linked in this poem, as the sleeping Venus’s closed
eyes are compared to “full buds that stay, / Through the tranquil, summer hours,
/ Closed although they might be flowers,” and aligned with the “red lips” that
“shut in / Gracious secrets,” the “oval space” of her face, and the “ruddy
pomegranate” of her mantle (102–03). Kathy Alexis Psomiades has remarked of
eroticised images of women in the late nineteenth century: “We tend to assume,
unlike the Victorians themselves, that these images can only be consumed in one
way, with the effect of strengthening the structures of heterosexual romance,
whereas actually a range of different viewers might consume them in very
different ways” (37). Michael Field, as the single male persona of two lesbian
spectators/poets, offers such a different model of visual consumption. Under this
masculine signature, Venus is appropriated by the desiring lesbian gaze, in a way
that seems parodic of the phallocentric observer/observed power dynamic, as a
deity for same-sex love. Subverting the conventionally gendered economy of
vision, this poem celebrates the scopophilic pleasure of women gazing upon the
beauty of a woman’s body in a paean to female sexuality. Lesbian sexuality is
inscribed in the field of vision. (556)
The Rediscovery of Sappho
“However, the classics remained a male domain even after some women gained access to
a classical education, as Bradley and Cooper knew full well. Yopie Prins writes that ‘By
imitating Sappho’s Greek fragments, Michael Field enters into a domain often coded as
masculine, and, by the end of the nineteenth century, increasingly homosexual [by
which Prins means male homosexuality]’. Prins goes on to point out that Michael Field’s
use of the Sapphic literature indicates a fascination with the tropes of male
homosexuality rather than a way of accessing a ‘ready-made’ lesbian discourse. Insofar
as Sappho was a role model for women in the nineteenth century, she was, before the
Wharton edition of Sappho became available in 1885, known chiefly through Ovid’s
‘Sappho to Phaon’, where she was construed as the heterosexual abandoned woman,
lamenting the loss of her man. Even when the Wharton edition of the fragments was
published, bringing to light a newly homoerotic Sappho, she was configured more as a
‘schoolmistress for young women.’ It remained, Prins concludes, for Michael Field to
read a more lesbian Sappho into and out of Wharton’s text. Kate Flint also sketches a
history of the woman poet’s use of Sappho in the nineteenth century, and similarly
concludes that it is only in Michael Field’s hands ‘that Sappho’s lesbianism is
reasserted.”
--Marion Thain, ‘Michael Field’: Poetry, Aestheticism and the Fin de Siècle (Cambridge:
Cambridge UP, 2007) 52.