Bray 1982

From Whiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Bray, Alan. Homosexuality in Renaissance England. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995 [1982].

"The imaginative world of Renaissance England which we are about to enter was set not in a renaissance of antiquity but in the contracting and fearful vision of the close of the Middle Ages." (8)

"The eager researcher is first likely to notice a difficulty when considering the terms used for homosexuality in the sources, or rather when trying to pin them down: it soon becotnes apparent that this is a search for something that does not exist." (8)

"There was an immense disparity in this society between what people said - and apparently believed - about homosexuality and what in truth they did. The evidence for this disparity, at first a nagging doubt, grows to my mind until it is not to be got round. A careful and thorough assembling of comments and reliable facts about homosexuality in Renaissance England, however scholarly, is not of itself sufficient. It is likely to leave one with the feeling that they are the answer to questions which have not yet been asked and as matters stand are not going to be." (9)

homosexuality as a form of debauchery

"To talk of an individual in this period as being or not being 'a homosexual' is an anachronism and ruinously misleading. The temptation to debauchery, from which homosexuality was not clearly distinguished, was accepted as part of the common lot, be it never so abhorred." (16-7)

on methodology of history of sex:

"This leaves the historian in a quandary. Modern categories may well be misleading but merely adopting those of the period is no real solution: there is no guarantee that they will be used appropriately, which is the essence of the matter. The solution I have adopted is to use the term homosexuality but in as directly physical - and hence culturally neutral- a sense as possible. I have also restricted the scope of the book to questions of male homosexuality. Female homosexuality was rarely linked in popular thought with male homosexuality, if indeed it was recognised at all. Its history is, I believe, best to be understood as part of the developing recognition of a specifically female sexuality. Whatever solution one adopts, the problem is a salutary warning: the terms in which we now speak of homosexuality cannot readily be translated into those of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. There was a breadth in the concepts used that, at the onset, should put us on our guard. We need to carry our preconceptions lightly if we are to see in Renaissance England more than the distorted image of ourselves." (17)

religious deviation identified with sexual deviation

homosexuality as not part of nature but deviation from order of nature

"Homosexuality was not part of Hooker's law of nature. It was not part of the chain of being, or the harmony of the created world or its universal dance. It was not part of the Kingdom of Heaven or its counterpart in the Kingdom of Hell (although that could unwittingly release it). It was none of these things because it was not conceived of as part of the created order at all; it was part of its dissolution. And as such it was not a sexuality in its own right, but existed as a potential for confusion and disorder in one undivided sexuality." (25)

connection with Sodom and Gomorrah

sodomite as "young man-about-town"

catamite -- young male

institutionalized homosexuality in master-servant relationship, education relationships

"there is reason to think that the educational system, as well as the household, involved forms of institutionalised hon1osexualiry. This was particularly likely at the universities, where an unmarried and supposedly celibate college fellow would customarily share his room with a number of young male students." (51)

homosexual prostitution -- important part of sexual life of London into second half of 17c

no homosexual subculture as minority community; "What we look for in vain are any features peculiar to it alone. And the social forms it did take, within the confines of small rural communities and the patriarchal structure of the household - a structure discernible also in a series of parallel relationships throughout society - had their origin elsewhere." (56)

"Except for a short period under Mary, homosexuality was a felony punishable by death throughout the period this book is concerned with." (62)

"homosexual themes in Renaissance literature need to be treated with extreme caution." (65)

"when one looks at the circumstantial details of how homosexuality was conceived of and how it was expressed in concrete social forn1s, it becon1es obvious how very easy it was in Renaissance England - far more so than today - for a cleavage of this kind to exist, between an individual's behaviour and his awareness of its significance." -- "In such circumstances historians should be watchful for signs, however difficult to detect, that for someone involved in a homosexual relationship the nature of that relationship might not have been as obvious to him as it is to them." (68)

"So long as homosexuality was expressed through established social institutions, in normal times the courts were not concerned with it; and generally this meant patriarchal institutions- the household, the educational system, homosexual prostitution and the like." (74)

"Despite the contrary impression given by legal theorists, so long as homosexual activity did not disturb the peace or the social order, and in particular so long as it was consistent with patriarchal mores, it was largely in practice ignored." (74)

not tolerance -- just reluctance to recognize homosexual behavior

"Hostility to homo- sexuality, unlike many other legacies of the late Middle Ages, showed no signs of atrophy: it had all the robust vitality of a living idea, and it had long been built into its dominant intellectual traditions. This rejection was total and unbending; there was no civilisation in the world at that time with as violent an antipathy to homosexuality as that of western Europe. 80 And yet it was faced with the unalterable fact that homosexuality did exist within it on a massive and ineradicable scale." (79)

the "molly house," a tavern of drink and homosexual prostitution/carousing; important in late 17c, 18c London; occasional crack-downs; extravagant effeminacy and transvestism

"Alongside the old forms of society in which homosexuality had appeared, new meanings were now being attached to homosexuality: it was more than a mere sexual act." (88)

"There was now a continuing culture to be fixed on and an extension of the area in which homosexuality could be expressed and therefore recognised; clothes, gestures, language, particular buildings and particular public places - all could be identified as having specifically homosexual connotations. In contrast, the socially diffused homosexuality of the early seventeenth century was far less obtrusive, and violent condemnations of it rarely had any significance outside of a world of symbol and myth." (92)

emergence of minority identity as both problem and solution:

"It was thus both the root of the problen1 and in part its solution. It had been the extension of the n1eaning of homosexuality into areas previously unaffected by it that had made homosexuality qualitatively more apparent and vulnerable to persecution; and with that came a sharper choice and the guilt and alienation that attended it. But this extension of the meaning of homosexuality was also in part its own answer. At the same time it made it possible for the perplexed and harassed individual to find a refuge in an alternative society and identity where homosexuality had a coherent and central position. He could be a molly, the cause of his alienation and the means of overcoming it." (99)

"there is no linear history of homosexuality to be written at all" (104)

with the emergence of mollies and a distinct homosexual identity, homosexuality became "universal only among a particular kind of people, mollies: it was their vice. The change is one of viewpoint, from the typical and the general to the individual and the particular." (105)

emblem books show allegorical worldview of Elizabethans; "what gave allegory its weight and significance was that, more than mere artifice and deeper than the surface of life, it was taken as uncovering the foundations upon which the world had been built." (107)