Visions of Queer Martyrdom from John Henry Newman to Derek Jarman

University of Chicago Press
Free sample

With all the heated debates around religion and homosexuality today, it might be hard to see the two as anything but antagonistic. But in this book, Dominic Janes reveals the opposite: Catholic forms of Christianity, he explains, played a key role in the evolution of the culture and visual expression of homosexuality and male same-sex desire in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He explores this relationship through the idea of queer martyrdom—closeted queer servitude to Christ—a concept that allowed a certain degree of latitude for the development of same-sex desire.
Janes finds the beginnings of queer martyrdom in the nineteenth-century Church of England and the controversies over Cardinal John Henry Newman’s sexuality. He then considers how liturgical expression of queer desire in the Victorian Eucharist provided inspiration for artists looking to communicate their own feelings of sexual deviance. After looking at Victorian monasteries as queer families, he analyzes how the Biblical story of David and Jonathan could be used to create forms of same-sex partnerships. Finally, he delves into how artists and writers employed ecclesiastical material culture to further queer self-expression, concluding with studies of Oscar Wilde and Derek Jarman that illustrate both the limitations and ongoing significance of Christianity as an inspiration for expressions of homoerotic desire.
Providing historical context to help us reevaluate the current furor over homosexuality in the Church, this fascinating book brings to light the myriad ways that modern churches and openly gay men and women can learn from the wealth of each other’s cultural and spiritual experience.
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About the author

Dominic Janes is professor at the University of the Arts, London, and a reader in cultural history and visual studies at Birkbeck, University of London. He is the author of several books, including God and Gold in Late Antiquity and Victorian Reformation: The Fight over Idolatry in the Church of England, 1840–1860.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Apr 27, 2015
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9780226250755
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / Great Britain / General
Religion / Christianity / History
Social Science / General
Social Science / LGBT Studies / Gay Studies
Social Science / LGBT Studies / Lesbian Studies
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Eligible for Family Library

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“I do not say you are it, but you look it, and you pose at it, which is just as bad,” Lord Queensbury challenged Oscar Wilde in the courtroom—which erupted in laughter—accusing Wilde of posing as a sodomite. What was so terrible about posing as a sodomite, and why was Queensbury’s horror greeted with such amusement? In Oscar Wilde Prefigured, Dominic Janes suggests that what divided the two sides in this case was not so much the question of whether Wilde was or was not a sodomite, but whether or not it mattered that people could appear to be sodomites. For many, intimations of sodomy were simply a part of the amusing spectacle of sophisticated life.

Oscar Wilde Prefigured is a study of the prehistory of this “queer moment” in 1895. Janes explores the complex ways in which men who desired sex with men in Britain had expressed such interests through clothing, style, and deportment since the mid-eighteenth century. He supplements the well-established narrative of the inscription of sodomitical acts into a homosexual label and identity at the end of the nineteenth century by teasing out the means by which same-sex desires could be signaled through visual display in Georgian and Victorian Britain. Wilde, it turns out, is not the starting point for public queer figuration. He is the pivot by which Georgian figures and twentieth-century camp stereotypes meet. Drawing on the mutually reinforcing phenomena of dandyism and caricature of alleged effeminates, Janes examines a wide range of images drawn from theater, fashion, and the popular press to reveal new dimensions of identity politics, gender performance, and queer culture.
From neighborhoods as large as Chelsea or the Castro, to locales limited to a single club, like The Shamrock in Madison or Sidewinders in Albuquerque, gay areas are becoming normal. Straight people flood in. Gay people flee out. Scholars call this transformation assimilation, and some argue that we—gay and straight alike—are becoming “post-gay.” Jason Orne argues that rather than post-gay, America is becoming “post-queer,” losing the radical lessons of sex.

In Boystown, Orne takes readers on a detailed, lively journey through Chicago’s Boystown, which serves as a model for gayborhoods around the country. The neighborhood, he argues, has become an entertainment district—a gay Disneyland—where people get lost in the magic of the night and where straight white women can “go on safari.” In their original form, though, gayborhoods like this one don’t celebrate differences; they create them. By fostering a space outside the mainstream, gay spaces allow people to develop an alternative culture—a queer culture that celebrates sex.

Orne spent three years doing fieldwork in Boystown, searching for ways to ask new questions about the connective power of sex and about what it means to be not just gay, but queer. The result is the striking Boystown, illustrated throughout with street photography by Dylan Stuckey. In the dark backrooms of raunchy clubs where bachelorettes wouldn’t dare tread, people are hooking up and forging “naked intimacy.” Orne is your tour guide to the real Boystown, then, where sex functions as a vital center and an antidote to assimilation.
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