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literature

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The Bible  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  

Conclusion

Two conclusions may be drawn regarding the Bible's place within the gay and lesbian literary heritage.

First, it is surprising that the Bible has not inspired more significant lesbian attention. For example, the narratives of Deborah, the only female judge of Israel, and of Jael and Judith, who adroitly save their people when the male leaders of the community prove unequal to the task, offer significant models of the self-empowering woman; yet the lesbian literary imagination has been more fully engaged by the legendary Greek amazons.

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Likewise, although The Song of Songs licenses the erotic description of female anatomy, it has been almost exclusively appropriated by male writers in a heterosexual context; lesbian poets have found in the poems of Sappho more productive lyric models.

The problem of invisibility that has historically excluded female same-sex activity from legal consideration seems to operate even in terms of biblical literary tradition: Although Sodom's sister-city Gomorrah has often been interpreted (as in Proust's Cities of the Plain) to signify lesbianism, there is no lesbian interpretive tradition corresponding to the incredibly rich one surrounding Sodom. The homoerotic literary traditions that issue from the Bible are predominantly male.

Second, the Bible significantly refers to certain acts, not to persons of one orientation or another; as John McNeill concludes, what is referred to in the Bible under the rubric of homosexuality is neither the same "reality as we have today" nor predicated on "the same understanding of that reality as we have today. Further, it can be seriously questioned whether what is understood today as the true homosexual and his or her activity is ever the object of explicit moral condemnation in Scripture." For this reason, a survey of interpretive strategies as applied to the Bible proves in part to be a history of social attitudes toward homosexuality.

But whether the Bible is seen as promoting the acceptance or the repression of homosexuality, its most important function historically has been to place homosexuality into discourse and, by its ambivalence and seemingly conflicting traditions, to keep it under discussion.

Raymond-Jean Frontain

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   Related Entries
  
literature >> Overview:  Amazons

Historically either distrusted as agents of chaos or admired as examples of female power and intelligence, Amazons were depicted as heterosexual until the twentieth century, when lesbians adopted them as symbols of powerful women living without men.

literature >> Overview:  Classical Mythology

The Greco-Roman myths concerning same-sex love have been of crucial importance to the Western gay and lesbian literary heritage, both as texts and as icons.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sodom

Sodom is a city mentioned in the bible as having been destroyed by god in a rain of brimstone and fire for the "sin" of its inhabitants, traditionally thought to have been male homosexual intercourse.

arts >> Overview:  Subjects of the Visual Arts: David and Jonathan

It is not surprising, since the Bible insists that David be looked at and admired, that he should emerge in Western art as the incarnation of male physical attractiveness, especially as rendered by Michelangelo.

arts >> Overview:  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Ganymede

Since antiquity Ganymede, the beautiful Phrygian youth abducted by Jupiter, has served as an artistic expression for homosexuality.

literature >> Aelred of Rievaulx

A twelfth-century English abbot, Aelred of Rievaulx was a specialist in friendship who used the image of John, the beloved disciple, as an icon of masculine love.

literature >> Baldwin, James Arthur

James Baldwin, a pioneering figure in twentieth-century literature, wrote sustained and articulate challenges to American racism and mandatory heterosexuality.

literature >> Bentham, Jeremy

The most notable law reformer in the English-speaking world, English philosopher, jurist, economist, and political scientist Jeremy Bentham argued for a tolerant attitude toward homosexuality in a series of papers first published in full in 1985.

literature >> Cernuda, Luis

Luis Cernuda, one of Spain's most important twentieth-century poets, expressed his homosexuality first indirectly and then explicitly in his poetry.

literature >> Cullen, Countee

Countee Cullen, an important member of the Harlem Renaissance, has coded references to homosexuality in much of his poetry.

literature >> Dante Alighieri

In the Divine Comedy Dante treats male homosexuality first as violence against God and then more sympathetically as merely one of the kinds of love.

arts >> Donatello

The varied oeuvre of Renaissance sculptor Donatello includes figures of beautiful male youths imbued with homoerotic sensuality.

literature >> Forster, E. M.

One of the finest English novelists of the twentieth century and a tireless defender of humane values, Forster deserves a special place in the gay and lesbian literary heritage.

literature >> Gide, André

André Gide, one of the premier French writers of the twentieth century, reflected his homosexuality in many of his numerous works.

social sciences >> Gomes, Peter

After coming out publicly in 1991, to protest a homophobic incident at Harvard University, the Reverend Peter Gomes lent his eloquent voice to the cause of equality for glbtq people.

literature >> Hollinghurst, Alan

Noted for his elegant prose style and subtle representations of moral ambiguities, Alan Hollinghurst has in recent years emerged as Great Britain's most significant contemporary gay novelist.

literature >> Howard, Richard

Richard Howard's searching and witty poetry, in which homosexuality is not a problem but a solution, is a significant contribution to the gay and lesbian literary heritage.

literature >> James VI and I

Sponsor of the English translation of the Bible that bears his name and himself an accomplished author, James VI of Scotland (and later James I of England) was well known for his passionate attachments to handsome young men.

literature >> Lawrence, D. H.

For his time, D. H. Lawrence was a maverick in his open and adventurous discussion of all sexual issues and especially homosexuality, both male and female.

literature >> Marlowe, Christopher

Christopher Marlowe represents homoerotic situations and incidents in his plays and poems more frequently and more variously that any other major English Renaissance writer.

literature >> Melville, Herman

The most important American novelist of the nineteenth century, Herman Melville reflects his homosexuality throughout his texts.

literature >> Michelangelo Buonarroti

Best known for his genius in art and architecture, Michelangelo was also an accomplished author of homoerotic poetry.

arts >> Michelangelo Buonarroti

The most famous artist who ever lived, Michelangelo left an enormous legacy in sculpture, painting, drawing, architecture, and poetry; while the artist's sexual behavior cannot be documented, the homoerotic character of his drawings, letters, and poetry is unmistakable.

literature >> Miller, Isabel

The fiction of Isabel Miller explores and celebrates relationships between women, often across class lines.

literature >> Milton, John

While Milton accepted the biblical condemnation of sodomy, some of his works suggest that his attitude toward same-sex relations was enlightened for his age.

literature >> Norse, Harold

Often categorized as a Beat writer, poet and memoirist Harold Norse created a body of work that uses everyday language and images to explore and celebrate both the commonplace and the exotic.

literature >> O'Hara, Frank

The influential poet Frank O'Hara wrote works informed by both modern art and the world of urban gay male culture.

literature >> Pasolini, Pier Paolo

Most of the fiction and much of the poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini, one of the great Marxist homosexual artists of the twentieth century, was shaped by his fascination with the lives of subproletarian youths.

arts >> Pasolini, Pier Paolo

One of the most important cultural figures to emerge from post-World War II Italy, Pier Paolo Pasolini was a versatile man-of-letters, but he was foremost a filmmaker.

literature >> Patristic Writers

Patristic Writers, also known as the Church Fathers, appropriated currents of hostility to homoeroticism in pagan thought and used them to strengthen the prohibitions of Leviticus and Paul, while also expressing their own hostile interpretations.

social sciences >> Paul, St.

Verses from two epistles of the Apostle Paul shaped the attitudes of Christianity toward male and female homosexuality.

literature >> Proust, Marcel

Marcel Proust is the author of A la recherche du temps perdu, one of the major achievements of Modernism and a great gay novel.

literature >> Rochester, John Wilmot, Earl of

In his poetry and his dramatic farce Sodom, the Restoration rake Rochester depicts heterosexual love as imperfect or incomplete and offers homosexual intercourse as a natural alternative.

literature >> Rolfe, Frederick William

Frederick William Rolfe (Baron Corvo) is important for the gay literary heritage because of his distinctive decadent prose style, his outrageous decadent lifestyle, and his unashamed celebration of eroticized male friendships in his works.

literature >> Russell, Paul

Known for his intricate narratives and eloquent prose style, novelist Paul Russell creates works that focus on the sexual and emotional complexities of gay male relationships, especially those that cross generations.

literature >> Sade, Marquis de

Whether or not the Marquis de Sade was himself bisexual, homosexual activity is an important item in his program of revolutionary sexual libertinism.

literature >> Sappho

Admired through the ages as one of the greatest lyric poets, the ancient Greek writer Sappho is today esteemed by lesbians around the world as the archetypal lesbian and their symbolic mother.

literature >> Vidal, Gore

The multifaceted Gore Vidal is important in the gay literary heritage because of the straightforwardness with which he pursued gay themes and included gay characters in his work.

literature >> Wilde, Oscar

Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.

literature >> Williams, Tennessee

Conflicted over his own sexuality, Tennessee Williams wrote directly about homosexuality only in his short stories, his poetry, and his late plays.


    Bibliography
   

Bailey, Derrick Sherwin. Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition. 1955. Rpt. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1975.

Boswell, John. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Bredbeck, Gregory W. Sodomy and Interpretation: Marlowe to Milton. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991.

Cole, William Graham. "Homosexuality in the Bible." Sex and Love in the Bible. New York: Association Press, 1959. 342-372.

Crompton, Louis. Byron and Greek Love: Homophobia in 19th-Century England. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Foster, Jeannette. Sex Variant Women in Literature. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Diana Press, 1975.

Frontain, Raymond-Jean, ed. Reclaiming the Sacred: The Bible in Gay and Lesbian Culture. New York: Haworth, 1997.

Frontain, Raymond-Jean. "'Ruddy and goodly to look at withal': Drayton, Cowley, and the Biblical Model for Renaissance Hom[m]osexuality." Cahiers Elisabethains 36 (Oct. 1989): 11-24.

Goldberg, Jonathan, ed. Reclaiming Sodom. New York: Routledge, 1994.

Hallam, Paul. The Book of Sodom. New York: Verso, 1993.

Horner, Tom. Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978.

Jeffrey, David L., ed. A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1992.

Jordan, Mark D. The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Kay, Richard. Dante's Swift and Strong: Essays on Inferno XV. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1978.

McNeill, John J. The Church and the Homosexual. Kansas City: Sheed Andrews and McNeel, 1976.

Pebworth, Ted-Larry. "Cowley's Davideis and the Exaltation of Friendship." The David Myth in Western Literature. Raymond-Jean Frontain and Jan Wojcik, eds. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1980. 96-104.

Rule, Jane. Lesbian Images. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. "Loyalty and Love: The Language of Human Interconnections in the Hebrew Bible." Michigan Quarterly Review 22 (Summer 1983): 190-204.

Saslow, James M. Ganymede in the Renaissance: Homosexuality in Art and Society. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Frontain, Raymond-Jean  
    Entry Title: The Bible  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated January 26, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/bible.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

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