Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2012 :: December ::
Early Modern Sexuality

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0513  Wednesday, 12 December 2012

 

[1] From:        Harry Berger Jr < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         December 11, 2012 12:44:14 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Early Modern Sexuality 

 

[2] From:        John Briggs < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         December 11, 2012 1:14:33 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Early Modern Sexuality 

 

[3] From:        Conrad Geller < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         December 11, 2012 2:16:05 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Early Modern Sexuality 

 

[4] From:        Markus Marti < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         December 11, 2012 3:54:00 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Early Modern Sexuality 

 

[5] From:        Gabriel Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         December 12, 2012 4:37:55 AM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Early Modern Sexuality 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Harry Berger Jr < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 11, 2012 12:44:14 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Early Modern Sexuality

 

>trying to assess Shakespeare’s sexuality based on his work

 

Why try?

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        John Briggs < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 11, 2012 1:14:33 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Early Modern Sexuality

 

Jess Winfield wrote:

 

>While this may be true, it needn’t preclude us from trying to assess

>Shakespeare’s sexuality based on his work, nor positing opinions 

>about it. Current science suggests that sexual preference is not 

>environmentally determined, so what Shakespeare’s contemporaries 

>thought of their own behavior, while interesting, is a different subject 

>than his sexuality. One might as well suggest that possible mental

> disorders in early modern individuals are best discussed in terms of 

>imbalance of the humours. I’m sure there’s an academic term for such 

>a fallacy.

 

Isn’t the notion that you can determine aspects of an author’s life from his works termed the Biographical Fallacy?

 

(Discussing possible mental disorders in early modern individuals in terms of imbalance of the humours would indeed be fruitful, as that would have been the paradigm constraining the reporting of symptoms.)

 

John Briggs

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Conrad Geller < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 11, 2012 2:16:05 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Early Modern Sexuality

 

Why would anyone make an inference about an author “from his work”? A writer’s work is the product of his imagination. He takes on a character and writes as from that character. 

 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Markus Marti < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 11, 2012 3:54:00 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Early Modern Sexuality

 

I really don’t care how famous people (do or did) pee, shit or fuck (excuse my French) and what other “disgusting” but actually normal things they do or did in their spare time. “Sexuality” and “sexual preferences” (and so forth) in our modern sense are very late 19th century terms if I am not mistaken.

 

Sexual preferences and sexual behaviour in general is a great field to investigate in cultural studies, and as an old lecher I am all for it, but it has not much to do with literary studies and it is terribly unfair to judge people of former ages in which these terms were not known.

 

Markus Marti

 

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Gabriel Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 12, 2012 4:37:55 AM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Early Modern Sexuality

 

Jess Winfield claims that

 

> . . . what Shakespeare's contemporaries thought

> of their own behavior, while interesting, is a

> different subject than his sexuality.

 

Putting it like this suggests that there are two things existing at once: a person’s real sexuality and what they think their sexuality is. This distinction works well for many branches of knowledge, so that for example there was the real shape of the Earth (roughly spherical) and what people thought its shape was (flat). But such a hard distinction doesn’t work well for self-reflexive topics like consciousness and sexuality.

 

To see why not, imagine our topic were not sexuality but indeed consciousness. It would scarcely make sense to distinguish between ‘what Shakespeare consciously thought’ and ‘what Shakespeare consciously thought he consciously thought’. While we may all be mistaken about our mental processes from time to time, even Freud would concede that we are entitled to consider ourselves the foremost authorities on at least our conscious minds. (Indeed, Freud’s ‘where id was, there shall ego be’ is predicated on this confidence in the autonomous power of the conscious mind.)

 

Since a considerable part of sexuality is likewise self-reflexively conscious, Winfield’s claim that we can consider early moderns’ sexuality as something entirely distinct from their view of their sexuality is clearly overstated.

 

In any case, Ian Steere’s claims about Shakespeare’s sexuality aren’t confined to what Shakespeare really was but also encompass (if I understand him right) what Shakespeare thought of himself. That makes the early modern view of sexuality a relevant topic for Steere and renders his uncritical application of our ideas of sexuality vulnerable to the charge of anachronism.

 

Jess Winfield makes the very interesting announcement that:

 

> Current science suggests that sexual preference

> is not environmentally determined . . .

 

I’d be very interested to receive citations of the science on this topic. I find that I often make such a request on SHAKSPER and seldom does anybody write back advising me to “Read xxxx and yyyy . . .”. Instead SHAKSPERians seem to assume that my request is only rhetorical. It never is. I’d genuinely be grateful if Winfield took my request literally and passed along some references, and I really would go away and do the prescribed reading.

 

Gabriel Egan

 
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.