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social sciences

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Europe: The Enlightenment  
page: 1  2  

Nevertheless, there are many prominent homosexuals from this period, including Gustavus III of Sweden (1771-1792), Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia (1712-1786), Count Giuseppe Gorani (1740-1819), and Grand Duke Giovanni Gastone of Florence (1671-1737).

Among the more colorful homosexual figures was Admiral Pierre-André Suffren de Saint-Tropez (1729-1788), who commanded the French fleet in the Indian Ocean. He encouraged homosexuality aboard the ships he commanded and enjoyed matching up older and younger sailors in "marriages."

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Discussions of Same-Sex Sexual Relations

Marquis Charles-Michel de Vilette (1734 - 1793), Voltaire's protégé, was alleged by satirists to be a spokesman for French homosexuals; books promoting homosexuality were (falsely) attributed to him.

Enlightenment thinkers explained homosexuality outside the framework of theology. For example, Montesquieu (1689-1755), one of the most important philosophes, attributed it to national custom. In general, the Enlightenment discussions of homosexuality were a confusing mélange making reference to disease, nationality, and even sin.

For example, Pierre Bayle's Dictionnaire historique et critique (1697, with many subsequent editions) considered homosexuality the result of clerical celibacy. In the entry "On Sodomy" in his Dictionnaire philosophique (1764), Voltaire proclaimed adult homosexuality to be an abomination. Nonetheless in his legal critique, Prix de la Justice et de l'Humanité (1777), he argued for decriminalization of homosexuality.

More radical was the great Danish historian and playwright, Ludvik Holberg (1684-1754): he argued for government indifference to what he regarded as fundamentally a private matter.

As a result of the Enlightenment's discourse on sexuality, a greater openness towards sexuality became apparent and the framework for discussing homosexuality was transformed from viewing it as a sin against the divine to a greater tolerance of the human.

John D. Stanley

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literature >> Cleland, John

Although predominately heterosexual in its orientation, John Cleland's Fanny Hill has passages which give insight into lesbian and male homosexual roles and practices in eighteenth-century England.

social sciences >> Éon de Beaumont, Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée

The most famous transvestite of the eighteenth century, French diplomat Chevalier Éon de Beaumont lived the first half of his life as a man and the second as a woman.

social sciences >> Frederick the Great

The homosexuality of Frederick the Great of Prussia was an open secret during his reign, yet some historians have attempted to deny it or to diminish its significance.

social sciences >> Gustav III, King of Sweden

Gustav III, King of Sweden, was an enlightened despot who encouraged a remarkable flowering of art and culture.

literature >> Winckelmann, Johann Joachim

The art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the first German to have been publicly acknowledged as a homosexual, developed an aesthetic deeply rooted in his homosexuality.


Blanc, Olivier. Les Libertines: Plaisir et liberté au temps des Lumières. Paris: Perrin, 1997.

Cassirier, Ernst. The Philosophy of the Enlightenment. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1951.

Coward, D.A. "Attitudes to Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century France." European Studies Review 10 (1980): 231-55.

Gorani, Giuseppe. Mémoires. Paris: Gallimard, 1944.

Jones, Howard Mumford. Revolution and Romanticism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974.

Hatfield, Henry Caraway. Aesthetic Paganism in German Literature, from Winckelmann to the Death of Goethe. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964.

Lever, Maurice. Les büchers de Sodome. Paris: Fayard, 1985.

Merrick, Jeffrey, and Bryant T. Ragan, eds. Homosexuality in Modern France. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Solé, Jacques. L'amour en Occident à l'époque moderne. Paris: Albin Michel, 1976.

Steakley, James D. "Sodomy in Enlightenment Prussia." Journal of Homosexuality 16 (1988): 163-75.

Tarczylo, Théodore. Sexe et liberté au siècle des Lumières. Paris: Presses de la Renaissance, 1983.


    Citation Information
    Author: Stanley, John D.  
    Entry Title: Europe: The Enlightenment  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated November 14, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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