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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: August ::
Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0775  Friday, 21 August 1998.

[1]     From:   Carl Fortunato <
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        Date:   Sunday, 16 Aug 1998 11:14:52 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0767  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

[2]     From:   Christopher Warley <
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        Date:   Sunday, 16 Aug 98 15:53:31 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0767 Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

[3]     From:   Martin Green <
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        Date:   Sunday, 16 Aug 1998 20:27:10 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0767  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

[4]     From:   Tracey Sedinger <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 Aug 1998 15:57:13 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0762  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carl Fortunato <
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Date:           Sunday, 16 Aug 1998 11:14:52 EDT
Subject: 9.0767  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0767  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

>> I have always assumed that they were autobiographical.  I would think
>> that the "Will" sonnets are a strong indication of that, as well as the
>> personal references and sheer vagueness of some of them.  Rowse made a
>> whole career on the supposition that they were autobiographical.  He
>> denied their homosexuality, but he was a homophobe (At one point,
>> arguing against Shakespeare's homosexuality, he writes, "Shakespeare was
>> perfectly normal.")

>Rowse may have been a homophobe, but if so he was one of the
> self-loathing sort. Rowse himself was openly gay.

REALLY?  And he wrote a sentence like the one above?

Just amazing.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christopher Warley <
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Date:           Sunday, 16 Aug 98 15:53:31 EDT
Subject: 9.0767 Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0767 Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

To Richard Burt's list of books discussing homosexuality in
Shakespeare's Sonnets, I'd also ad Gregory Bredbeck's Sodomy and
Interpretation, which, like Sedgwick, focuses attentionon the ways in
which gender and desire are constructed in the poems.  An important
inquiry into the validity of the usual "story" of the sonnets (and the
division into young man and dark lady) is Heather Dubrow's
"'Incertainties now crown themselves assur'd': The Politics of Plotting
Shakespeare's Sonnets," SQ 47 (1996): 291-305.  It seems to me the
important and timely questions to be asking about the sonnets now
involve the historical construction of the "story" and the uses to which
it has been put (which clearly relates to questions of gender,
sexuality, and class), rather than the biographical basis of the poems
(which is a critical concern invented and passed along by Victorian
readers).  Another way of putting this might be to ask "what do the
things which are indeterminate in the sonnets tell us about early modern
culture?" rather than seeking to resolve those indeterminacies.

Best,
Christopher Warley

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Green <
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Date:           Sunday, 16 Aug 1998 20:27:10 -0700
Subject: 9.0767  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0767  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

Anent Jeffrey Myers' observation on the possible meaning of "nothing" in
Sonnet 20: in "The Labyrinth of Shakespeare's Sonnets" (London, 1974,
pp. 59-81) I wrote/suggested/argued/whatever that Sonnet 20 is an
elaborate pun, which says one thing on one level, and quite the opposite
on another level - - and that when Shakespeare (or "the speaker," as is
today's fashion) writes that nature added to the young man "one thing to
my purpose nothing," he is indeed, on the punning level, writing that
nature had added to the young man something which, for his purpose, was
exactly like a "nothing" insofar as it could be a focal point for sexual
desire. And I also pointed out that in Sonnet 136, Shakespeare does
exactly the opposite, and urges the Dark Lady to consider him, although
a nothing, "a something sweet to thee." In  Sonnet 20, a something is
deemed a nothing; in Sonnet 136, a nothing is urged to be considered a
something. And in both cases, these nothings are the same "thing."

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tracey Sedinger <
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Date:           Monday, 17 Aug 1998 15:57:13 +0000
Subject: 9.0762  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0762  Re: Sonnets and Homosexuality

"Many people view sonnet 20 as the opposite - a statement that WS loves
the young man, but has no use for his "appendage" - which would seem to
be a statement of heterosexuality."

But since she pricked thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love, and thy love's use their treasure.

Perhaps the opposition at work here is not heterosexuality/sodomy, but
reproductive/non-reproductive sexuality. Booth glosses "use" both  as
"employment for sexual purposes" and as "interest paid on a loan." So
"love's use" might refer to pregnancy (cf. sonnets 2, 4, and 6, as well
as The Merchant of Venice), such that the phrase "mine be thy love"
might refer to sexual practices which don't result in sexual
reproduction.

Tracey Sedinger
 

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