POLEMIC(REFUTATION):UNIVERSALITY AND (GAY)SEPERATISM IN LITERATURE(ESPECIALLY NOVELS)

Why is this polemic(in the sense rather of refutation on an established argument, rather than initiating an argument)in a blog about decay?

For two reasons:

1. the blog is also about invisibility and marginalisation, be it the sidelining, by history and commercial interests, of a department store; or be it a character in a story/novel

2. because this blog relates to

breaking/falling apart

In a text, this is the unrealisation of the WHOLE  text itself, if the author’s intentions, his/her authorial or narrative standpoint, or his/her WHOLENESS  and SELF-ACTUALISATION  (as a person) are ignored in crucial, life-affirmative ways. In a lot of writers who were attracted to people of the same sex in their lives, and who wrote under political/state/social/legal censorship, the text, if unrealised to its full potential, CRUMBLES like disintegrating bricks and mortar. The mortar is the gaps, ie. the PARALLEL texts; which are also BETWEEN the lines, which have to be realised, understood and INCLUDED in the textual reading otherwise the author him/herself and their characters are incomplete travesties. To stop this textual decay, brought about by ignoring the hidden, parallel gay-affective texts, we can elucidate them and BRING THEM AND THE CHARACTERS FULLY TO LIFE.

I am, in fact attempting to LINK TOGETHER two sides of a Berlin wall. The ultimate result does not have to be seperatism of same-sex experience, in literature, from “the universal”(presumably meaning, in people’s common useage of the term, emotions-love,for instance,-that are common to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender); but, rather, an initial(only an initial) acknowledgement that it is not a level playing field; and that, though, immense strides in civil equality have been made recently in the UK and other countries, in many countries, and in many eras in many other countries, same-sex affection and same-sex sex carry/carried the death penalty at worst and social ostracisism at best. Once this full  acknowledgement is made, and its concomitant that there may be unwritten texts parallel with the “texts”(or between them), and that this is because of censorship(and resulting self-censorship and self-oppression), THEN, and ONLY THEN, can the said texts be read and admired in ALL their complexity and richness; and same-sex affection transmuted into the universal(now sans quotation marks!):-these writers and books/novels ARE now universal in the sense that most people fall in love, whatever the sexual identity of the object of their attraction.

So, to clarify, some examples:

A Victorian gay/homosexual man, especially one writing after the Labouchere Amenment of 1885(which, apart from sodomy, which was made illegal by a seperate act, criminalised homosexual acts between consenting men; lesbians were ignored),had to write-if he were to express his sexual orientation at all-in what I will call a PARALLEL TEXT, going alongside the actual, overt, written text, which used coded messages and references to make obvious certain things to people “in the know”. It would, thereby, be missed by the censors. For instance,

WALTER PATER, in his essay on “Diaphaneite”(which, significantly, in light of the above historical/legal context, was not published till 1895, the year AFTER his death, though it was originally read to the Old Mortality Society in 1864), talks of a luminous transparency(diaphanousness) of “character”; and it is about “another type of character”(a beautiful, shining young man), who is”… that  fine edge of light, where the elements of our moral natures refine themselves to the burning point”; these people are not “disquieted” by “the preference of one part in life rather than another, or passion or opinion”. It is PHYSICAL(as well as) moral beauty.Pater is talking TO other people who have a same-sex affect and physical attraction here, but he has to use the code to which I referrred earlier: the diaphanous character is ” like a relic from the CLASSICAL age, laid open by accident to our ALIEN MODERN atmosphere{My italics}”. So here is the reference, one of many in the essays collected in the Oxford Worlds Classics Edition “Studies in the History of the rennaissance”(new edition, 2010), to Hellenism: ancient Greek culture’s celebration of (amongst other things) male beauty and same-sex love, especially that between an older and younger man(in fact, this was seen as the IDEAL of the expression of love, and there is the usual (overwhelming and underwhelming) debate-some of  it homophobic- between whether it was “spiritual” “only” or whether there was physical lovemaking/sex, thereby giving away the debater’s fatal split between mind, spirit and body. Of course, some of it was not physical in expression but they have to be VERY careful to say that; I do not. I do not feel the need to defend a heterosexual, and therefore, in THIS case, hererosexist, insecure standpoint. And I am in good academic company here(the very fact I have to even SAY this exemplifies how the the odds are stacked against a parallell text, homo-erotic and homosocial, reading of these Pater, and other Victorian, texts- there has to be much academic validation from respected sources, preferably without “axes{for which, read so-called same-sex attraction equality “axes” to “grind”})because Matthew Beaumont, in his homoerotically and homosocially aware preface to the above edition says, “The diaphanous type embodies the youthful Pater’s utopian dreams of a homosocial society that re-instates the ethics and aesthetics associated with the spirit of Hellenism, and in particular ‘the care for physical beauty, the worship of the body{PATER’S OWN WORDS}'”.

And Laurel Brake, esteemed Victorian scholar and authority( in academic circles), on Pater himself, says “.although he was writing from ‘inside’ a culturally dominant institution, he wrote from the endangered position of a homosexual in such an institution, WRITING PRIMARILY FOR OTHER MEN OPEN TO SUCH HOMOSOCIAL READINGS{my CAPITALS}”(“”Degrees of darkness:Ruskin, Pater and modernism”, in Cianci and Nicholls, eds, “Ruskin and Modernism”, 2001)

EM FORSTER-an even more pertinent example.In his diaries, Forster said he was unable to write for a significant period of time after finishing “Howard’s End”…. until he had written “Maurice”, a much maligned but beautiful novel of same-sex love with troubled and untroubled(Alec) protagonists. he said he could no longer write re opposite sex relationships till he had written about his TRUE sexual(AND emotional)self, ie. his same-sex emotional, spiritual and sexual self. Significantly, “Maurice”, was not published till just after his death, and a few years after sexual activity between CONSENTING male adults was made legal(1967). incidentally, the woodcutter scene in “Howards End” is PLAINLY homoerotic, and charged with same sex longing and lust(though AGAIN this was censored and therefore shortened in the final published version; but, agin, for those in the know, it is very obviously there). After the composition of “Maurice”, Forster, after some years gap, felt freed to write “Passsage to India”; but, after that, he was , once more, a sufferer from writers block (in relation to composing more novels) for the same depressing/repressing reasons as previously. He never wrote another novel, just privately circulated homoerotic short fiction(now published, eg “Arctic Summer”) and essays in support of democracy and generally liberal attitudes on many subjects.

Again, to give academic kudos and respectability to this argument, Wendy Moffat, has just published a biography of Forster, which has had access to previously unobtainable personal letters, which argues for the ABSOLUTE CENTRALITY of Forster’s same-sex/homosexual affect and physical attraction in ALL his wrtings(though the way was paved by Arthur Martland in “EM. Forster:Passion and Prose”{Gay Mens press, 1999};but, this being a “niche”/”ghettoised” publisher, its significance will have been often disregarded as “axe-grinding” again.)

So how to extrapolate from Pater and Forster and other repressed(externally and therefore INternally)writers to make my central thesis.THERE WAS NO LEVEL PLAYING FIELD(though its getting leveller now, in the UK  anyway, not in other repressive parts of the world). Pater and Forster HAD to sublimate, put in parallel texts, Hellenise, metaphorise(ANYTHING indirect) in order to avoid

censorship-expurgation or complete ban

legal prosecution

social ostracism

This can’t be morally and legally correct/justifiable(though some will use certain means to attempt so to justify, even now). Nor can their characters reach the stage of being universal types/archetypes, because they, and their creators(the authors) couldn’t be their WHOLE selves; yes, they could be PARTS of themselves(Forster, for instance,was a supreme stylist and wrote on many other major themes, like the urban versus the countryside). Heterosexual/opposite sex affective writers/people are writing ON a wholly level playing-field, and can embody universality of character traits and emotions WITHOUT BITS OF THEIR PSYCHE AND SPIRIT BEING EXCISED. This is the difference.

This creates tremendous difficulties/issues in discussing writers such as Pater and Forster, but also, for instance, Gosse and Melville(“there can’t POSSIBLY be any homoeroticism in “Moby Dick” is a comment i have actually heard, regardless of Ishmael and Queequeg’s marriage bed scene!This is just risible,camp even; and its irrelevant whether Melville knew his own sexual nature himself or not, because it comes out subconsciously but OVERTLY in the text at times.) So, with these authors we need to read a parallel text(I prefer that to subtext, solely for the reason that “over-subtextualising” is loaded and perjorativised by the “close reading” lobby, who think you read what is just “in the text”, ie. overtly and simply stated{which is as risible as just listening to what someone is saying with their mouth-in words-without paying attention to the-often countermanding-body language.}) It is pyschologically obtuse.

Luckily, for those open-minded enough to read some of it, deconstructionism, feminist readings, gay and lesbian studies and queer studies have started to excavate these legally and socially compromised texts; and re-habilitated the writers as WHOLE people(and, thereby, doing the same for their characters). This is healing work. (Eve Sedgwick was particularly groundbreaking in her “Epistemology of the Closet”.)

And I havent even mentioned the issue of women writers, some of them who needed to use male nom-de-plumes, or who, like Edith Wharton, were brave enough, to write about the predicaments(economically and socially) of the early twentieth century woman…..

Anyway. as  a gay man, I do like short-ish periods of seperatism(to get our strength up!); but I also, and probably OVERRIDINGLY want us all to be PEOPLE first and foremost, not all the same, but accepting each other for who we are, in ALL respects: sort of universality of difference with similarites, REGARDLESS of whether your emotional and physical/sexual attachment is to same-sex, opposite sex, or both sexes, and to varying degrees within that vast spectrum.

But these authors from the Victorian period, and afterwards, of whom I speak, need continued and COMPLETE rehabilitation into their WHOLE emotional and sexual selves BEFORE we can say “it doesnt matter; we are all people”

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Published by: decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)

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