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Thread: homosexuality in literature

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Lightbulb homosexuality in literature

    how is homosexuality represented in literature?
    which book or character captures homosexuality at its best or in even at its worst?
    please discuss.
    Last edited by cacian; 08-06-2014 at 06:21 PM.
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    Registered User Iain Sparrow's Avatar
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    Uhm... I think that is a most unfortunate way to pose the question.
    There is nothing special about homosexuality compared to heterosexuality, it's not something to be "captured" in the best or worst light. We really need to work past gay people being some sort of 'novelty' in literature. If a fictional character is gay, well then they're gay and there's no reason to dissect it further.

    The last novel I read that had a gay protagonist was The Steel Remains, by Richard Morgan... a flawed hero, that among other things has rough *gay* sex... in between hacking people to death.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Iain Sparrow View Post
    Uhm... I think that is a most unfortunate way to pose the question.
    There is nothing special about homosexuality compared to heterosexuality, it's not something to be "captured" in the best or worst light. We really need to work past gay people being some sort of 'novelty' in literature. If a fictional character is gay, well then they're gay and there's no reason to dissect it further.
    I'm not so sure about that. There is much to be said about a gay experience which is different from that of the typical heterosexual one. There is also to some extent a gay literary history from the 60s to the 90s that was not mainstream but does exist as a separate literary tradition with its own canonical figures. There also continues to be gay theatre groups, like Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto. Being gay is more than a sexuality, for many people it also involves certain cultural associations; it is a confessional identity as much as it is a biological or psychological category.
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
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    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iain Sparrow View Post
    Uhm... I think that is a most unfortunate way to pose the question.
    There is nothing special about homosexuality compared to heterosexuality, it's not something to be "captured" in the best or worst light. We really need to work past gay people being some sort of 'novelty' in literature. If a fictional character is gay, well then they're gay and there's no reason to dissect it further.

    The last novel I read that had a gay protagonist was The Steel Remains, by Richard Morgan... a flawed hero, that among other things has rough *gay* sex... in between hacking people to death.
    It depends partly on what any individual author wants to portray. Quite a lot of novels (and plays, films, shows, games, etc.) have protangonists/antagonists who just so happen to be gay - it's an essential part of their characterisation, but not the driving force of their narrative arc.

    At the other end of the spectrum, there are the usual clichéd gay characters - most notably the deranged, mincing, omnisexual pervert who so often served as a villain figure in 19th/20th century pulp fiction, but who fortunately seems to be in retreat in modern works.
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

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    Phew it is disgusting. What can you get from this literature ???

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    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    That's a very broad question, particularly seeing as social attitudes have changed towards homosexuality.

    I also find that in literature, you often get a more open spectrum of sexuality. It's not necessarily a question of which characters are straight and which are gay. DH Lawrence in particular writes about sexuality as being something fluid.

    So I think there's a distinction to be made between portrayals of homosexuality in the sense of a culture or identity and homosexuality as a sexual preference.

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berta View Post
    Phew it is disgusting. What can you get from this literature ???
    what can you get from it?
    it is what is in it that makes for an interesting discussion.
    I assume you are joking here.
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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kelby_lake View Post
    That's a very broad question, particularly seeing as social attitudes have changed towards homosexuality.

    I also find that in literature, you often get a more open spectrum of sexuality. It's not necessarily a question of which characters are straight and which are gay. DH Lawrence in particular writes about sexuality as being something fluid.

    So I think there's a distinction to be made between portrayals of homosexuality in the sense of a culture or identity and homosexuality as a sexual preference.
    Dh Lawrence? I thought he had something about his mother that made him slightly disturbing to read.
    that was my first encounter with him.
    but I am not sure I understand what he meant by ''sexuality being fluid'
    do you?
    Last edited by cacian; 08-07-2014 at 11:57 AM.
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    double post.delete.
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    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berta View Post
    Phew it is disgusting. What can you get from this literature ???
    What is 'it', and in what way is it 'disgusting', pray tell?
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

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    Registered User readspider's Avatar
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    Plenty of 'gay' scenes in both Bukowski and Burroughs books. Burroughs even wrote 'Queer" which was semi-autobiographical about his preferences and lifestyle. Bukowski states matter-of-factly gay observations and experiences particularly in his short stories that may or may not have happened. All makes for excellent reading.

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    Radclyffe Hall's Well of Loneliness and E M Foster's Maurice both contain homosexual themes.

    "Well.." is written as an appeal for tolerance of acceptance of homosexuality, and Maurice is less apologetic (Maurice was not published until after Foster's death).

    Burrough's books are full of references as is Allen Ginsberg's poetry (Howl may be a good place to start).

    Hubert Selby Junior's Last Exit to Brooklyn also contains references to homosexuality amongst other themes.

    And there's Marlow's Edward the Second too.

    I don't feel I could say which is the "best" or the "worst", but much of the stuff from the earliest twentieth century are appeals for acceptance, using the same arguments as the suffragette movement at the time. They are tame, but that is because depictions of homosexuality were subject to censorship and could be banned as "obscene".

    Stuff from the 50's (Burroughs and so on) change as obscenity laws were rescinded - as a result homosexual characters become more explicitly drawn - and there are many portrayals of characters struggling with guilt - to find acceptance in society, their social group or within themselves. Certainly "Last Exit to Brooklyn" shows the consequences of denial.

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    Marcel Proust - Sodom and Gomorrah: about someone who finds out that homosexuality exists.
    D. H. Lawrence - Women in Love: In spite of the title it deals with male homosexuality.
    Djuna Barnes - Nightwood: Probably the first novel in which a lesbian relationship occurs.
    Gore Vidal - The City and the Pillar: Very explicit for that time about male homosexuality.
    Tennessee Williams - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: play about a gay married man; this was censored in the film version.
    E. M. Forster - Maurice: posthumously released because Forster's homosexuality was hidden.
    Last edited by wordeater; 08-10-2014 at 04:34 PM.

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