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Historicizing Romantic Sexuality

"That Obscure Object of Historical Desire"

David M. Halperin, University of Michigan

David Halperin responds to the essays in this collection, many of which respond to his 2002 book, _How to Do the History of Homosexuality_. This essay appears in _Historicizing Romantic Sexuality_, a volume of _Romantic Circles Praxis Series_, prepared exclusively for Romantic Circles (http://www.rc.umd.edu/), University of Maryland.

  1. I was of course pleased but also quite surprised when Richard Sha wrote me to say that he had conceived the idea of a volume for the Romantic Circles Praxis Series that would consist of responses to my 2002 book, How to Do the History of Homosexuality. I know little, and so I said little, about the Romantic period in that book, and I didn't see how my speculations would be especially helpful to Romanticists. So it was with a good deal of interest that I read the stimulating essays collected here, but it was also with a continuing sense of puzzlement—a puzzlement shared, evidently, by some of the contributors themselves, who could identify only extremely tenuous or general connections between their work and my own. The result, which will be reflected in the commentary that follows, has been a pronounced fluctuation in our level of engagement with one another's work.

  2. I found myself most in sympathy with the projects of Susan Lanser and Bradford Mudge. Lanser's effort to imagine and to describe a history of female homosexuality separate from that of male homosexuality is very much in line with a couple of hints contained in my book, as she notes, though the credit for conceiving lesbianism as both a perennial potentiality within and a possible menace to the social structures of male dominance belongs to Gayle Rubin and to Valerie Traub, as Lanser also knows.[1] Moreover, Lanser seems to be elaborating the tension that Traub discerns in English Renaissance discourses between the figure of the tribade and the figure of the friend, the former being a monstrous image of sex and gender deviance while the latter embodies the possibility of a female homoeroticism contained within the bounds of virtue and the canons of femininity. When Lanser writes of "the fine line of external appearance that separates the gender-bending sapphist from the virtuous friend," I wonder about two things. First, what sort of historical connections does Lanser see between the phenomena described by Traub in the earlier period and what Lanser calls "the lines separating virtuous from transgressive alliances" in her period—lines which, she says, "were often literally paper thin"? Second, I wonder whether or not it makes sense to attempt to construct, from whatever resemblances there might be between "the tribade" and "the gender-bending sapphist" on the one hand and the virtuous female friends of the early modern and Romantic periods on the other, two enduring types or figures or forms of life that would correspond, within the history of lesbianism, to the sorts of transhistorical categories that compose a genealogy of male homosexuality, at least according to the model I sketched out in the title essay of my book.

  3. The source of my greatest sympathy with Lanser springs from her avowed interest in the possible connections between homosexuality and cultural forms, because that interest happens to coincide with my current preoccupations.[2] Lanser seeks to uncover and to clarify the relation between poetic tropes and female homosexuality as well as the relation between poetic discourse and the history of sexuality in general: "I want to ask," she writes, "what we can learn about the place of sapphism in the Romantic imagination by looking at poetic tropes." I would like to encourage her to pursue and even to broaden that project, by analyzing the peculiar relevance of specific cultural forms to homosexuality itself. As she notes, Andrew Elfenbein has already provided a model for such a project in Romantic Genius: The Prehistory of a Homosexual Role, which inquires into what might be called the culture of homosexuality, by which I mean both homosexuality as a cultural practice and culture as a carrier of homosexual meanings. Elfenbein's achievement in that book, at least in the eyes of this non-specialist, consists in describing and assessing the particular sexual value that could be attached, and that came ultimately to be attached, to a cultural form—in this case, the theory and practice of individual genius. It is as if Elfenbein had identified, at a formative stage in the developmental history of European culture, what D. A. Miller identified at a formative stage in the developmental history of the gay male individual: namely, "those early pre-sexual realities of gay experience" that impart a definite, discernible gay orientation, a kind of gay internal logic, to an existence that has yet to crystallize into a homosexual identity—that can be described, therefore, only as proto-gay (26).

  4. At least since the success of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and its spinoffs, it has become commonplace to regard homosexuality as somehow producing a unique perspective on the world as well as a cluster of superior insights into life, love, and matters of taste in general. According to this way of thinking, homosexuality involves not only specific sexual practices but a wide variety of distinctive social and cultural practices, a particular attitude to life, a critical take on straight society, a heightened sense of taste and style, a collectively shared but nonetheless singular outlook on the world. Of course, as any reader of Elfenbein's book knows, such a notion is nothing new—although its entry into the stock of received ideas that constitute the common sense of straight society has been relatively recent. It seems to me that Lanser may be in a good position to contribute an important and revealing chapter to the history of that notion, and to expand its purview within studies of female homoeroticism and homosexuality. "Tropics of discourse," ethical as well as literary genres, structures of feeling, and codes of behavior may offer a lot of useful material with which to think about sexuality as a cultural form no less than as an erotic practice.[3] It would be good to know more about the lesbian specifics of sexuality as culture.

  5. Bradford Mudge's proposal "to include the emergence of pornography as one of the premier events of modern culture" in our new histories of both sexuality and literature is also most welcome and long overdue. Others have considered the rise of pornography in the eighteenth century to be formative for the constitution of modern sexual subjects.[4] Mudge extends their work by providing a rigorously historicist approach to the very category of pornography that gives it new substance and greater precision in historical terms. As he writes, "The history of pornography begins at the moment that the word itself is dislodged as a 'given,' as an absolute that imposes itself anachronistically upon contested terrain." Although he apologizes for taking part in a "semantic shell game" that consists in arguing about what exactly the word means and to what phenomena it can be most accurately applied, he rightly insists that this sort of semantic quibbling "performs a necessary service, opening up 'pornography' as an imaginative construct whose history has the potential to complicate our ideas about human sexuality and its representations." The study of the word, its meaning, and the history of its deployment is crucial, because, "like 'homosexuality,' in other words, 'pornography' can uncritically erase the very historical process that brought it into being—regardless of critical intentions." Mudge's analysis dramatizes, and is intended to dramatize, the usefulness of the kind of historicism that I have tried to defend, so it's not surprising that I like his essay. I also agree with Mudge that many feminist critiques of pornography, in the course of their laudable efforts to focus attention on the enduring aspects of gender hierarchies, have despecified and essentialized it.[5]

  6. Jill Heydt-Stevenson's study of the sexual exuberance of Jane Austen's early writings clearly fits in well with Mudge's project. Mudge writes:

    What if, however, modern "literature" had an evil twin, a shady and disreputable other whose pleasures mocked the refined taste of the public sphere even as they embodied the quintessence of its new consumer capitalism? What if, in other words, literature and pornography were complementary constructions whose Manichean drama (as artificial and self-serving a contest as those staged by professional wrestling) obscures the power with which they together construct and deploy sexual norms and deviancies? Then, presumably, the sexual bodies imagined by romantic fiction would become valuable prehistory to our modern paradigms; no longer either legitimate or illegitimate aesthetic representations, they would instead become both imaginative prefigurements of our lived realities and historical records of the evolving conflicts between private acts and the public domain that sought at once to express and control those acts.
  7. Daniel O'Quinn's effort to historicize "Equiano as a subject of desire" did not fail to evoke a grateful echo in me.[6] I wonder if Equiano's post-conversion memoir affords material of sufficient quality and quantity to enable the critic to historicize his erotic subjectivity, but I can only applaud O'Quinn's impulse to "bring styles of thinking endemic to queer theory to bear on the historical materialism of much recent work on the relationship between colonial and metropolitan society in Romantic studies."

  8. I now come to the essays by Jonathan Loesberg and Richard Sha, both of which contain substantial critiques of my work on Foucault and the history of sexuality, and which call for a more extended response. I shall try nonetheless to be brief.

  9. Loesberg is envious of me. That is not a moral judgment: it is what he proudly and unapologetically declares. He endows me (undoubtedly for the first and last time in my life) with a heroic glamor, analogous to that attached to the survivors of the Normandy landings in the eyes of the post-Spielberg generation, and he positions himself as a "hedgerow historian"—that is, a detached, nostalgic spectator longing, at a safe distance, for the danger and glory of The Good Fight. In this case, that fight is over the proper uses of Foucault, of gay history, and of the interpretation of sexual life in ancient Greece. Loesberg's ostensibly frank avowal of the inauthenticity of his stake in these controversies—he has, he confesses, "no Greek, no Latin, no expertise in any of the requisite fields"—is, and is meant to be, disarming. In other words, it doesn't leave me much in the way of a viable subject-position from which to respond. Can the object of voyeuristic fascination speak? Can those who already know their credentials to be inauthentic suffer any further disqualification? As typically happens in public self-abasement, however, Loesberg confesses to the wrong sin: what he excuses himself for merely serves as a cover for a more dubious maneuver that he refuses to cop to.

  10. To be perfectly uncharitable about it, Loesberg is unhappy because he feels excluded from the philosophical thrills of the history of homosexuality—and excluded by homosexuals, of all people, who have somehow managed to shoulder him aside in a come-from-behind triumph of radical chic. He wants to stake his claim to this territory, in particular to explore the philosophical issues that emerge from scholarly efforts to link history with politics, truth with power, Foucault's life with Foucault's work, and homosexuality with the history of homosexuality.[7] In the case of Foucault, he objects to readings of Foucault's History of Sexuality that invoke Foucault's interest in sadomasochistic practices in order either to defend or to discredit his work, and he criticizes me for letting liberal critics "off the hook by creating the authentic connection of a hagiography that excludes them from the possibility of comprehending." He goes on to say that "the problem with all these connections (between S/M and life) is that they reduce the challenge of Foucault's thought to a reaction to a specific practice rather than using a reaction to a practice to test our ability to accommodate a way of thinking." (Loesberg's own tendency to characterize my approach to Foucault and to gay history as narrowly political rather than as philosophical or scholarly seems to me reductive in just this way.) Loesberg clearly has an investment in this topic: he wants to be right there, in the front lines of the battle, on Omaha Beach, but he thinks he's too late to make it. He comforts himself for not being an authentic warrior by constructing from his very inauthenticity a passport to philosophy, if not to Normandy, one which has (according to him) Foucault's authenticating stamp on it. I do sympathize with him, in fact: working occasionally as a man in feminism, I too have experienced the masochistic joys and epistemic benefits of inauthenticity, of being necessarily and irredeemably the wrong man in the wrong place.[8]

  11. The problem is that Loesberg isn't willing to interrogate the nature of his own investment in The Good Cause beyond simply declaring it. Much less is he willing to claim it and own it. What his handwringing amounts to is a refusal to recognize that in fact he has no "hedgerow envy": there is no detachment here, no belatedness at the scene of battle. Loesberg is passionately engaged, in his fashion. He is already implicated in the history and theory of homosexuality, but he is not willing to explore (indeed, he is almost unwilling to name) his own implication in it as a heterosexual postmodernist, except by entitling his interest, defensively, "philosophy." Thus, his apologetic, self-conscious, abashed, but ultimately triumphal claim to join the party ends up looking too much like what it had sincerely wanted to avoid: namely, an assertion of heterosexual (philosophical) privilege. But, really, as all the world knows, identification is a solvent of identity. There is room in gay history for all sorts of people, and the history of sexuality matters to many of us for many sorts of reasons. Identifying, claiming, and knowingly mobilizing those reasons shouldn't be such a scary business. Nor should it be necessary to make other people pay for one's own lack of the "correct" identitarian or scholarly qualifications, for one's loss of a sense of entitlement. Come on, Loesberg and other victims of hedgerow envy: encore un effort pour être historiens!

  12. Richard Sha also wants to be me. At least he reworks bits of my prose into his own text, more as a series of in-jokes addressed to me, or so I presume, than as winks at the reader.[9] But he has a larger point to make: "alterity has become a post-modern version of objectivity. By that I mean that whereas under objectivity, historians could rely upon an historical object independent of the subject who wants it to become an historical object—a position that can now seem naive—our recent historicist self-consciousness that there are no innocent objects of historical inquiry has meant that alterity now takes on the possibility of distance between subject and historical object without bringing with it objectivity's naive baggage. Our alterities are calculated." That criticism seems to me to be very astute and far-reaching. It is quite canny of Sha to notice the way that the category of "alterity" can function in the history of sexuality as a badge of honor, a test of rigor, a guarantee of objectivity. So his criticism of the function of alterity seems well-founded. But I'm not sure it represents a valid criticism of me.

  13. In fact, I should have thought that Sha, in framing his critique of the place of alterity in current histories of sexuality, would have numbered me among his allies instead of his targets. What I had singled out as "priggish" about "my [earlier] insistence on the alterity of the Greeks, about my [former] effort to get historians of sexuality to adhere unfailingly to neat, categorical, air-tight distinctions between ancient paederasty and modern homosexuality," after all, was precisely the tendency to dictate the proper uses of alterity, to identify a historian's dedication to alterity with objectivity, rigor, resistance to pleasure, and intellectual virtue (How to do, 14). When I called my earlier attitude "priggish," what I meant was that there was something excessively strict, doctrinaire, righteous, superior, even schoolmarmish about my desire to prescribe to students of the past what sort of pleasure they were entitled to find in the archive, and how they might connect pleasure with truth. In undertaking a public auto-critique, I intended to acknowledge that the history of sexuality allows for multiple sites of identification with the past, and that it is not the historian's job to decide whether others should get off by seeing themselves reflected in the surviving record of antiquity or by discovering strange and exotic historical creatures beyond the horizons of their own cultural imagination. I clearly stated my own preference for a historicist approach, and I also tried to specify the reasons as well as the personal (erotic, ethical) investments that lay behind that preference. But I also recognized, in the end, that "a historicist approach to sexuality needs to be argued for as a preference, not insisted upon as a truth" (23). So much, I would have thought, for alterity as objectivity. Sha quotes this last remark of mine, rather skeptically, but he discounts it, as if he thought I didn't really mean it.

  14. To be sure, I do think there are some cognitive advantages for historical understanding in attending to and even emphasizing alterity. I don't deny that for a moment. But to speak of "cognitive advantages for historical understanding" is to open up the category of "historical understanding" to further negotiation and specification, to allow for an ongoing discussion of what constitutes such an understanding, what kind of understanding we seek when we undertake any particular project of historical analysis, how that work is carried out, within what sort of intellectual and political and institutional horizons it is inscribed, who wants it and for what reasons. My attachment to alterity therefore has little to do with a notion of historical objectivity as a kind of permanent court of last appeal sitting in perpetual session to judge the rightness or wrongness of historical statements. My own belief is that my pragmatist understanding of the value of alterity is consistent with my pragmatist notion of objectivity—with an alternative view of what constitutes objectivity within the realm of historical practice. Such a revisionist notion of objectivity is in any case far removed, I think, from Sha's somewhat punitive, positivistic understanding of "objectivity."

  15. Sha writes, "Just as imposing our notions of sexuality onto the Greeks leads to blindnesses, so too does insisting that the Greeks were absolutely other." I agree. Did I not urge, after all, that "a sensitivity to difference should not lead to the ghettoization or exotification of the Other, to an othering of the Other as an embodiment of difference itself"? (17). I rather thought that by making an explicit defense of historicism; by stating my preference for an approach to the past that valued, without fixating singlemindedly on, its alterity; by articulating the reasons for my preference; and by emphasizing that preference as a preference—and not as a truth or a law or a method or a virtue or an imperative: I thought that by doing all those things I had opposed the very fetishizing of alterity of which Sha now accuses me. I don't maintain that the Greeks were "absolutely other." Indeed, my hermeneutic principles, which insist that any notion of alterity is inevitably determined by reference to the subject who constructs it and thus by reference to our present, forbid me to imagine, let alone to lobby for, any such transcendental object of historical knowledge and desire. Already in my 1990 book, One Hundred Years of Homosexuality, I inveighed against what I called "a kind of ethnocentrism in reverse, an insistence on the absolute otherness of the Greeks, . . . an ethnographic narcissism as old as Herodotus—a tendency to dwell only on those features of alien cultures that impress us as diverging in interesting ways from 'our own'" (60). And in How to Do the History of Homosexuality I argued that we cannot reconstitute the otherness of the Greeks "by an insistent methodological suspension of modern categories, by an austerely historicist determination to identify and bracket our own ideological presuppositions so as to describe earlier phenomena in all their irreducible cultural specificity and time-bound purity" (107).

  16. It is Sha who dreams of an otherness that would be really, truly, objectively Other:

    On the one hand, Halperin wants to think outside of our present concept of orientation. On the other hand, he makes orientation his vantage point for establishing the alterity of Ancient Greek sexuality. His choice of orientation as the vantage point for gauging the alterity of the Greeks has the unintended effect of anchoring modern sexual categories in the ontology of history. One could easily imagine other ways of thinking about alterity: for example, by examining how different cultures cope with the elasticity and excessiveness of desire, orientation thus becomes a strategy for dealing with—for tempering—the mobility of desire just as gender is one means of discouraging excess desire in Ancient Greece. Such a reimagining demands that we truly think outside of orientation by insisting upon its ideological work without running the danger of reifying orientation as a vantage point from which to gauge alterity.
  17. And so he is upset with me because he suspects that I may have palmed off on him an alterity that is not the genuine article. As the passage quoted above makes clear, he thinks he has caught my version of alterity in the act of smuggling in contemporary identities in the guise of otherness, just as he has caught me in the act of "anchoring modern sexual categories in the ontology of history" and "reifying orientation as a vantage point from which to gauge alterity." But I made no secret of it. That is exactly what I set out to do. There is no "unintended effect" here. My insistence on approaching the history of sexuality from within the cultural and sexual horizons of my own location is the very thing that safeguards the version of alterity I desire from ever being or claiming to be "absolutely other." Contrary to what Sha claims, I don't try, as a historian, to step out of my own world, to escape my own culture, and I don't dream of a "view from nowhere."[10] I am happy to inhabit the contradictions of my own existence.

  18. In other words, Sha is quite right when he claims that I want both to think outside modern sexual categories and to acknowledge them as framing my historical inquiries—when he speaks of "Halperin's resistance to orientation, a resistance that simultaneously tries to step outside of it and to enshrine it as a vantage point." That is what I think historians of sexuality need to do. After all, to be a historian of sexuality is necessarily to inhabit multiple temporalities: as a sexual subject oneself, one is bound to contemporary sexuality in an instinctive and unarguable way, but as a historian one engages in the thought-experiment of living in a different world. To be a historian of sexuality is therefore to give oneself over to an endlessly stereoscopic sort of vision: it is to see the world simultaneously as it makes sense to oneself, at a very visceral level, and as it makes sense of the documented experiences of others. It is to recognize that modern sexual concepts compel belief with a force unlike that of any other philosophical concepts, while also recognizing that they do not determine the totality of one's cognition or prevent one from entering imaginatively into other people's experiences of desire and pleasure. The elusive but seductive goal of this intellectual ascesis is to turn us into anthropologists of our own culture and historians of our own present.

  19. Now, no one said that any of this was going to be easy, that it would be free from contradiction and paradox, that it would produce some stable and lasting scholarly dispensation, that it would safeguard us from noxious effects and consequences, that it would place in our hands some surefire disciplinary method or set us on the royal road to historical objectivity. But that's precisely what makes it interesting—and, in my view at least, preferable to the alternatives.

 

Works Cited

Crandall, Emma. "Do the Right Thing: Lesbian Honor, Butch Codes, and Historical Ethics. An Autobiographical Exercise in Futility." Unpublished.

Davidson, Arnold I. "Ethics as Ascetics: Foucault, the History of Ethics, and Ancient Thought." Foucault and the Writing of History. Ed. Jan Goldstein. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1994. 63-80, 266-71.

Elfenbein, Andrew. Romantic Genius: The Prehistory of a Homosexual Role. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Eribon, Didier. Réflexions sur la question gay. Paris: Fayard, 1999.

---. Insult and the Making of the Gay Self. Trans. Michael Lucey. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.

Halperin, David M. "Homosexuality’s Closet." Michigan Quarterly Review, 41.1 (Winter 2002). 21-54.

---. How to Do the History of Homosexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

---. One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and other essays on Greek Love. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Hitchcock, Tim. English Sexualities, 1700-1800. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Macmillan Press; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997.

---. "Redefining Sex in Eighteenth-Century England." History Workshop Journal, 41 (1996). 73-90.

Jackson, Earl, Jr. Review of Richlin. Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 3 (1992). 387-96.

Miller, D. A. Place for Us [Essay on the Broadway Musical]. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.

Nagel, Thomas. The View from Nowhere. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Richlin, Amy. Pornography and Representation in Greece and Rome. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Rubin, Gayle. "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex." Toward an Anthropology of Women. Ed. Rayna R. Reiter. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975. 157-210.

Traub, Valerie. The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Notes

1 See Rubin, "The Traffic in Women," and Traub, The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England.
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2 See, especially, "Homosexuality's Closet."
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3 For a brilliant attempt to understand lesbianism as a cultural form in just these terms, see Crandall, "Do the Right Thing."
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4 Mudge might have acknowledged in this connection the work of Tim Hitchcock, particularly Hitchcock's "Redefining Sex in Eighteenth-Century England" and the introduction to his edited collection, English Sexualities, 1700-1800.
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5 Mudge writes: "Feminist commentators, on the other hand, read 'pornography' as the quintessence of patriarchal oppression, objecting to sexualized violence and demeaning stereotypes. Both groups [i.e., traditional historians and feminist critics] treat 'pornography' as a monolithic discourse, generally unspecified as to text or image and uniformly self-evident both in purpose and affect. Both assume that the word will remain a pejorative and that the category it names is transhistorical in nature. Thinking of 'pornography' first and foremost as an act of the imagination, however, allows for a better understanding of pornography's satiric entanglements within the larger cultural field, for a more nuanced reading of its textual or visual strategies, and for a greater appreciation of its historical development." Mudge might have included Richlin's Pornography and Representation in Greece and Rome among his examples of this transhistorical tendency in feminist criticism: for a critique of that collection along precisely these lines, see the review by Jackson. Gayle Rubin demonstrated long ago, in "The Traffic in Women," that it is possible to treat forms of female oppression as both universal and constructed: the enduring nature of an oppressive structure therefore provides no justification for essentializing it.
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6 The third chapter of How to Do the History of Homosexuality is entitled "Historicizing the Subject of Desire."
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7 It is curious in this context that Loesberg doesn't refer the reader to some of the most important scholarship on the connections between Foucault's thinking about sexuality and his personal life: see especially Davidson, "Ethics as Ascetics," and the third part of Eribon, Réflexions sur la question gay.
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8 See, for example, "Why is Diotima a Woman?" in One Hundred Years of Homosexuality, 113-151, 190-211.
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9 For example, Sha's "acting like a tourist in the archive" echoes my "behaves, in effect, like tourists in the archives" (How to Do the History of Homosexuality, 60); similarly, his "One thing is for sure: the Greeks did not define their sexual differences to enable the 'disintegration of our own concepts'" echoes my "the one thing about the original spectators of the Oedipus Rex that we can be sure of is that they did not wonder what it was like to be the original spectators of the Oedipus Rex" (ibid., 21).
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10 Cf. Nagel, The View from Nowhere.
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1 See Rubin, "The Traffic in Women," and Traub, The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England.
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2 See, especially, "Homosexuality's Closet."
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3 For a brilliant attempt to understand lesbianism as a cultural form in just these terms, see Crandall, "Do the Right Thing."
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4 Mudge might have acknowledged in this connection the work of Tim Hitchcock, particularly Hitchcock's "Redefining Sex in Eighteenth-Century England" and the introduction to his edited collection, English Sexualities, 1700-1800.
Back

5 Mudge writes: "Feminist commentators, on the other hand, read 'pornography' as the quintessence of patriarchal oppression, objecting to sexualized violence and demeaning stereotypes. Both groups [i.e., traditional historians and feminist critics] treat 'pornography' as a monolithic discourse, generally unspecified as to text or image and uniformly self-evident both in purpose and affect. Both assume that the word will remain a pejorative and that the category it names is transhistorical in nature. Thinking of 'pornography' first and foremost as an act of the imagination, however, allows for a better understanding of pornography's satiric entanglements within the larger cultural field, for a more nuanced reading of its textual or visual strategies, and for a greater appreciation of its historical development." Mudge might have included Richlin's Pornography and Representation in Greece and Rome among his examples of this transhistorical tendency in feminist criticism: for a critique of that collection along precisely these lines, see the review by Jackson. Gayle Rubin demonstrated long ago, in "The Traffic in Women," that it is possible to treat forms of female oppression as both universal and constructed: the enduring nature of an oppressive structure therefore provides no justification for essentializing it.
Back

6 The third chapter of How to Do the History of Homosexuality is entitled "Historicizing the Subject of Desire."
Back

7 It is curious in this context that Loesberg doesn't refer the reader to some of the most important scholarship on the connections between Foucault's thinking about sexuality and his personal life: see especially Davidson, "Ethics as Ascetics," and the third part of Eribon, Réflexions sur la question gay.
Back

8 See, for example, "Why is Diotima a Woman?" in One Hundred Years of Homosexuality, 113-151, 190-211.
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9 For example, Sha's "acting like a tourist in the archive" echoes my "behaves, in effect, like tourists in the archives" (How to Do the History of Homosexuality, 60); similarly, his "One thing is for sure: the Greeks did not define their sexual differences to enable the 'disintegration of our own concepts'" echoes my "the one thing about the original spectators of the Oedipus Rex that we can be sure of is that they did not wonder what it was like to be the original spectators of the Oedipus Rex" (ibid., 21).
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10 Cf. Nagel, The View from Nowhere.
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