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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: May ::
Re: Portrait of Southampton
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1245  Monday, 6 May 2002

[1]     From:   Jan Pick <
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        Date:   Friday, 3 May 2002 19:14:35 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1225 Re: Portrait of Southampton

[2]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Saturday, 4 May 2002 06:03:49 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1228 Re: Portrait of Southampton

[3]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Saturday, 4 May 2002 13:00:26 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1228 Re: Portrait of Southampton

[4]     From:   Nancy Charlton <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 May 2002 02:37:57 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1225 Re: Portrait of Southampton


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jan Pick <
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Date:           Friday, 3 May 2002 19:14:35 +0100
Subject: 13.1225 Re: Portrait of Southampton
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1225 Re: Portrait of Southampton

Oh well,

I've been castigated by my teenage daughter as well!  I meant, I
suppose, that technically speaking, if a man has sexual relations with
both male and female the term would be bisexual.  But I am willing to
stand corrected!

Jan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Saturday, 4 May 2002 06:03:49 +0100
Subject: 13.1228 Re: Portrait of Southampton
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1228 Re: Portrait of Southampton

From:           Sam Small <
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>And in any case homosexuality can completely disappear from a person's
>personality behaviour as in the case of the English painter Stephen
>Spender.

Poet, presumably.  But even +that's+ open to argument. ***

>We would have to have documentary proof that other homosexual artists had
>written such erotically heterosexual lines.

The obvious (though debatable) case here would be W.H.Auden.

The tests would be the first "Lullaby" ('Lay you sleeping head, my love
..'), and "A Bride of the Thirties".

Both (I presume we can take for granted) are highly-charged erotic
poems.

The difficulties come with how we read the poems.

'Lay you sleeping head ...' (like Sonnet 18), read in isolation, by a
heterosexual reader, appears a perfectly 'normal' heterosexual love
poem.

Contexualise them (18 in the context of the Thorpe sequence of the
_Sonnets_, "Lullaby" in the context of Auden's biography) and they are
erotic poems directed by a male speaker to a male addressee ...

"A Bride of the Thirties" raises a different problem.

As originally published, this simply began, 'Easily, my dear, easily you
move your head ...'

Auden later added the title.

But this raises a further problem -- was the title -- "A Bride of the
Thirties" -- added (1) to force the poem to be read as a heterosexual
love poem, or (2) as a coded gay reference?

Whatever, generally (and leaving aside "A Platonic Blow"), W.H.Auden, a
biographically gay writer, presented his poems, some of them highly
erotic, for public interpretation as heterosexual texts.

I could go on -- where in the spectrum between Auden and Cavafy does
Edwin Morgan's work (e.g. "A Last Cigarette") lie?  Why has no major gay
poet translated Anacreon?

But to come back to a focus on Sam Small's original question:

What "other homosexual artist[s] had written such erotically
heterosexual lines",

.. the obvious answer is Auden.

Robin Hamilton

[I'm sorry, but as a totally irrelevant generational aside, am I the
only one on this list who goes totally ballistic when anyone, other than
Silone and Koesler, who was involved in _The God That Failed_, is
mentioned?]

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Saturday, 4 May 2002 13:00:26 +0100
Subject: 13.1228 Re: Portrait of Southampton
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1228 Re: Portrait of Southampton

Jonathan Hope wrote:

> Fewer and fewer gay men may feel the need
> to marry and have children as cover - but more
> and more are fathering with dyke couples. So
> his concerns about a possible decline in the
> number of homosexuals are, thankfully,
> unfounded.

I wondered about that and dismissed it as less frequent than the
behaviour it replaced. I can well see that if it's as frequent, it'll
counterbalance the trend.

> Don't seem to have heard the names Alan Bray or
> Jonathan Goldberg invoked in these discussions yet.
> Many of the categories don't make sense in the light
> of their work (the former especially).

Or indeed Foucault, to whom Bray is indebted. The Foucault/Bray view
that homosexuality is a post-Renaissance 'new invention' is challenged
in Joseph Cady's essay "'Masculine love', Renaissance writing, and the
'new invention' of homosexuality" in Claude J Summers (ed)
_Homosexuality in Renaissance and Enlightenment England: Literary
representations in historical context_ (New York: Haworth Press, 1992)
pp. 9-40.

Anybody care to defend the 'new invention' position against Cady's
evidence?

Philip Tomposki makes the point that genes aren't everything and writes
that "Human traits are usually the result of a complex interaction of
genetic and environmental factors".  I took care to include that truth
in my original posting, pointing out that our sexual drives are
obviously to a great extent shaped by our genes, yet we have minds and
choose not to do our genes' bidding when, for example, using
contraception.

Philip went on:

> There is unlikely to be 'a gene' which 'causes'
> homosexuality, much less one that causes both
> homosexuality and shame.

I take those scare quotes around 'causes' to imply that you're gently
nuancing your interlocutor's reductive view of the relationship between
genetic imperatives and observed sexual behaviour. I hope my point about
contraception indicates that I don't believe that genes simply 'cause'
anything, although they exert pressure towards certain behaviours just
as they exert pressure towards certain bodily characteristics. I
referred to an "an hereditary component to homosexuality" in order to
make clear that I was referring to a possible detectable pressure
exerted by genes, not a simple determination of the matter. My point
doesn't require utter determination, only pressure.

> Finally, your theory would suggest that brazen
> homosexuality would be extinct, both from lack
> of breeding and from persecution.

Only if we're entirely at the mercy of our genes and can't overrule
them. Above you implied that I think this--despite clear indications
that I don't--and yet you end with an assertion which indicates that you
do.

>  It is unlikely that current trends will in any way
> curb the level of homosexuality.

Why on earth not? If it's largely a matter of culture rather than
genetics, wouldn't we expect the level to change over time as different
social arrangements and cultures engage with this aspect of human
behaviour? To assert that current trends won't have any influence would
seem to take culture out of the equation, yet you're in the midst of
making an argument that we have  to consider the interaction of genes
and culture. Could you explain?

I'm upbraided for failure to consider the "complex interaction of
genetic and environmental factors", which in fact I did.  Moreover, my
posting considered not only the impact of genes on behaviour, but also
the less-often considered impact of behaviour on genes. Your electrical
engineering metaphor, Philip ("genetics hardwires shame), is not at all
appropriate for phenotypical effects and wrongly imputes fixity to
genes.  Are you sure, Philip, that you meant to say "your understanding
of genetics and evolution does not match your knowledge of Shakespeare"?
It's a bit rude.

Gabriel Egan

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nancy Charlton <
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Date:           Monday, 06 May 2002 02:37:57 -0700
Subject: 13.1225 Re: Portrait of Southampton
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1225 Re: Portrait of Southampton

Is Wriothsley pronounced "rutsley" or "risley"? I've heard both,
wondered is there is an official (or at least a Received) P.

Nancy Charlton

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