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.