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Sunday, 05 July 2009


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James T

"While the evidence that the actual Spartans is scant and somewhat contradictory"
Whoops! Evidence of what?

James T

...Oh, and at that resolution, the last link is inarguably NSFW.


Thanks for the correction, James, and sorry about the resolution. Firefox downsizes everything unless I click on it, and it's not even remotely NSFW at that unclicked resolution. I'll add a note.


has the focculadian idea of a 19th century creation of the category set homosexual finally died? Because I always feel weird when people use the word before it's time, but that might be my hang up.


"Focculadian"? Really? I always said "Foucaultian", and just pronounced it like his name with "-ian" awkwardly suffixed.

I have often wondered, going into academia, if my surname will ever be turned into an adjective.


Technically, it's Foucauldian


Hard consonants are usually added to those whose names end with vowel sounds: Foucauldian, Shavian (for Shaw).


I've always wanted my name to be turned into an adjective, but I'm hoping "Nelsonian" eventually means something along the lines of "Mathusian" or "Lovecraftian", possibly a combination of the two.


can someone now answer my question


has the focculadian idea of a 19th century creation of the category set homosexual finally died?

Sorry about that Anthony, I meant to answer it before: the Foucauldian notion still holds sway in the humanities, but I can't speak for the social sciences. However, it's not as over-arching as it once was, thanks to the work of a lot of (largely) scholars of Irish Modernist literature (or scholars who happen to be dipping into Irish Modernist literature) like Neil Bartlettt, whose Who Was That Man? (about Oscar Wilde) actually delves into the minutiae of social and legal history in an effort to put some flesh to those Foucauldian bones. That said, in any but the loosest sense I don't buy the Foucault, because while it may be true that they didn't define it like us, that doesn't mean that the category itself is somehow invalid . . . just like, to draw from my own work, just because someone isn't talking about Darwinian evolution doesn't mean that they're not talking about the development of species over time.


Anthony, I'm not sure what Scott was going for, but I'd say that in the years since Foucault was writing History of Sexuality and the like that "homosexual" has fallen far enough out of common usage that it seems less presentist than "gay", but not so far out that it seems like a historically specific formulation, like "invert" or "Urning." Of course, Foucault's point was that everything is epistemeic (I know that's probably not an acceptable adjectival mash-up), so there is no acceptable trans-historical terminology. Even abstracted alienated terms like "same-sex erotic relations" take on a specific historical value the moment they're popularized, even if they might be more useful in the moment for remind us that we shouldn't assume that men having sex with men in earlier and/or non-Western societies are necessarily homosexuals or gay men as we understand them.

At which poin I will presume to spek for what Scott was doing, because it seems to me that what he was trying to do was in fact to point out, ala Foucault vol. II, that Spartan same-sex relations, such as we are able to know them, don't reduce to gay/not gay in the way that Liefeld quote would presume they could. (One presumes that Liefeld would respond "I wasn't talking about Sparta Sparta. I just meant all serious warrior badmotherfucker-like." Or something. I don't really know who these comic book people are.) In doing so, SEK used some of that same vernacular language in a trans-historical way. This may have udercut or made his point more persuasive, depending on the sort of driving that you do, the quality of your tires, and other mileage varying things.

At the same time, this
behaviors that range from "overtly homosexual" to "extremely homosocial,"
I don't like. If "homosocial" means anything useful it has to be seperable -- not opposed, but seperable, and therefor not meaningfully part of a spectrum -- from sexual relations. Otherwise you're essentially saying "Dude, they were so bromantic, they were totally gay for each other." Michel would indeed tsk.


Michel tsked a lot. i have been sort of accepting the idea as doctrinaire for a while, and i am sort of trying to figure out if i can move things about while still maintaining it's authenticity.

Karl Steel

You may also want to look into James Schultz, "Heterosexuality as a Threat to Medieval Studies," Journal of the History of Sexuality 15.1 (2006) 14-29. Here's the opening to the essay:

Medievalists know that if they claim to have found "homosexuals" in the Middle Ages they will provoke cries of outrage, and nothing else they say will be heard. So they avoid the term. Thus Allen Frantzen, on the very first page of Before the Closet: Same-Sex Love from "Beowulf" to "Angels in America," declares categorically: "I call this a book about 'same-sex love' because the obvious choice, 'homosexuality,' is, for periods before the modern era, inaccurate. 'Homosexuality' and 'homosexuals' were not recognized concepts in the Middle Ages." Apparently, the same is not true of "heterosexuality" and "heterosexuals." Frantzen does not hesitate, throughout his volume, to oppose "same-sex relations" to "heterosexual relations." 1 The result is a Middle Ages that would make Pat Buchanan jump for joy, one from which all the homosexuals have been banished and only heterosexuals remain.

This should give one pause. If homosexuality was not a "recognized concept" in the Middle Ages, then heterosexuality wasn't either. This in itself is not a reason to argue against its use: much of the best work in medieval studies relies on concepts that were not recognized in the Middle Ages. And, in any case, to insist that medieval scholarship limit itself to medieval concepts in their medieval meanings is to insist on an impossibility. I want to argue against the use of heterosexuality in medieval studies not as a matter of high principle but as a practical matter because of the damage it does.

To be sure, other scholars have questioned the wisdom of imposing the heterosexual norm on the Middle Ages. 2 Karma Lochrie makes the point [End Page 14] with exemplary clarity: "Heterosexuality as a normative principle simply did not exist" in the Middle Ages. 3 But Lochrie, like others, voices her objections as part of a larger argument on a different topic. Perhaps it is for this reason that the case against heterosexuality has not carried the day. In what follows I propose to isolate the issue and illustrate the consequences, both historiographical and political, of reading heterosexuality backward into the Middle Ages.


I'm not crazy, am I? You did make a dick joke in there, didn't you? (Or do I just have a dirty mind?)

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