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Homosexuality During the Renaissance

Uploaded by colakid on Oct 30, 2004

Sexuality, and the role that sexuality plays in the spectrum of life, from literary to more contemporary reflections in the media, are difficult subject areas to approach. What makes this cultural and literary study impressively difficult to tackle is the ever-changing perception of what it means to be gay against the changing background of our societies. The idea of sexuality along with the social and ethical complications surrounding it during the Renaissance created a society of sexually repressed people, a society that few dared to rebel against. In many ways, scholars such as Michael Rocke, author of Forbidden Friendships, examine the accomplishments of the Renaissance, asking whether the products of this period of elitism actually have benefited society and people today, because much of what occurred during this period acts as the foundation for many systems of belief today.

Beginning with the publication of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Between Men, in 1985, the emergence of male homosexuality has become a prominent topic of medieval and Victorian literary culture. During the introduction, Sedgwick comments on the importance of understanding and recognizing a homosexual continuum, paying particular attention to the term, “Renaissance.” She states:

We can’t possibly know in advance about the Harlem Renaissance, any more than we can about the New England Renaissance or the English or Italian Renaissance, where the limits of a revelatory inquiry are to be set, once we begin to ask – as it is now beginning to be asked about each of these Renaissances – where and how the power in them of gay desires, people, discourses, prohibitions, and energies were manifest. We know enough already, however, to know with certainty that in each of these Renaissances they were central.
Sedgwick, 58-59.

The actual definition of the word “homosexual” within the context of the period is essential for a complete understanding of what it meant to be gay during the same time. Often, the word homosexual is mistakenly associated with the words sodomite or sodomy. However, when those words are used interchangeably, the homosexual identity is blurred, and many times, is misunderstood. In an article by Giovanni Dall’Orto, entitled “’Socratic Love’ as a disguise for same-sex love in the Italian Renaissance,” Dall’Orto differentiates between what was meant by the term “sodomite,” and it’s relationship to homosexuality:

The recent stimulating discussion about the ‘historical construction of the homosexual’ deals...

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Uploaded by:   colakid

Date:   10/30/2004

Category:   History

Length:   10 pages (2,245 words)

Views:   12271

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