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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: November ::
Re: Mercutio: Queer, Homosexual, Gay, Bisexual
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1123.  Sunday, 9 November 1997.

[1]     From:   Louis C Swilley <
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        Date:   Friday, 7 Nov 1997 19:41:32 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1120  Re: Mercutio: Queer, Homosexual, Gay, Bisexual

[2]     From:   David P. McKay <
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        Date:   Sunday, 9 Nov 1997 10:02:19 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Queer Mercutio


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Louis C Swilley <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 7 Nov 1997 19:41:32 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.1120  Re: Mercutio: Queer, Homosexual, Gay, Bisexual
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1120  Re: Mercutio: Queer, Homosexual, Gay, Bisexual

> At the moment, I'm wondering how this idea of "queering"
> helps me to understand anything much about the play, the movie, the
> character.
>
> from the hinterlands, cg.

Right on, Ms. Gilmore!  The hinterlands have certainly not harmed your
good judgment.  Great plays are about *persons* who love or who should
and don't love, persons who are making moral choices; they are only
incidentally about men and women, gay or straight.

L. Swilley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David P. McKay <
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 >
Date:           Sunday, 9 Nov 1997 10:02:19 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Queer Mercutio

Christine Gilmore writes:

>If we have this quite useful term of Eve Sedgewick (I think and someone can correct
>me if I'm wrong), i.e., "homosocial" why do we need a neologism that seems simply
>a bit of twisted lingo and perhaps over-determined thinking?  Is this usage of "to
>queer" common, or am I out of the loop?

In the intro to <Between Men> Sedgwick says, ""Homosocial' is a word
occasionally used in history and the social sciences, where it describes
social bonds between persons of the same sex; it is a neologism,
obviously formed by analogy with 'homosexual,' and just as obviously
meant to be distinguished from 'homosexual' . . . it is applied to such
activities as 'male bonding,' which may, as in our society, be
characterized by intense homophobia, fear and hatred of homosexuality."
She distinguishes this from "queer" in her essay "Queer and Now" where
she says that "one of the things that 'queer' can refer to [is] the open
mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances,
lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone's
gender, of anyone's sexuality aren't made (or can't be made) to signify
monolithically" and that it "hinge[s} . . . on a person's undertaking
particular, performative acts of experimental self-perception and
filiation."

"Homosocial" and "queer," then, do not describe the same thing, and I
think we need to be careful not to start erasing terms.  One thing that
has bothered me from the inception of this thread of discussion is the
idea that Mercutio in Luhrmann's film in "not obviously gay."  To steal
from Valerie Traub, not obvious to whom?  I do not think it accidental
that Lurhmann's Mercutio is African-American.  When I look at Lurhmann's
Mercutio I see an example of Marlon Riggs' "snap queen," most especially
when he is in drag.

And what exactly does "not obviously gay" mean?  In much of the
discussion, it seems to indicate that since he is "not obviously gay,"
he must be "straight."  I do not agree with Gilmore that in Lurhmann's
film the queering results in "ignoring sexual preference," nor does it
result in a "non-display."  Lurhmann's Mercutio seems to be depicted as
a character who cannot seem to make his erotic attraction fit within the
confines of acceptable behaviour in his society.

I think Liz Dietz is correct to make a distinction between the
Zeffirelli and Luhrmann Mercutios.  Zeffirelli uses Mercutio to
underscore the misogynistic, homosocial bonds of the society, although
here too there does seem to be an excess of eroticism, but that is only
my reading.  It seems to me that Lurhmann is doing something much
different.  And I think these issues are being presented not only by the
movies, but by the plays themselves, albeit without our contemporary
terminology.

One last point: a polite reminder about a related concept to
"homosociality" and "queering", and that is heterocentricism.  While I
think we all agree that there is no comfortable fit between our
terminology and analogous Eliz./Jacobean "realitites,"  why is it that
we require homosexuality in modern productions to say something?  The
characters in Eliz/Jacobean drama are no more heterosexual (a term
coined almost twenty years after the term homosexual) than they are
homosexual.  And yet I don't believe I've ever seen the question asked,
except in queer theory, what it means to make any of these characters
"straight."
 

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