Studies of Homosexuality Volume 8 Introduction

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[2/17/92] [vol. 8: literary studies]

Contents

Introduction

Various kinds of evidence afford us views of the reality of homosexual behavior of the present and the past, seen from the perspective of such fields as sociology, psychology, and history. Within the realm of cultural representation, which includes literature, matters are more complicated. Scholars do use these sources, especially when other evidence is available to corroborate them, to enrich our knowledge of past and present behavior—what people did. However, the main use of such cultural documents belongs to a second order, that of showing how diverse groups of artists, and hence readers and audiences, regard homosexuality. Such representations are always condition¬ed by the prevailing views of same sex relations within the civilization that gave them birth; furthermore, they tend to mirror, though usually with a time lag, shifts in conceptualization of the primary phenomena.

Literature holds an especially important place in the overall panorama of these cultural representations (including, among others, visual art, dance, music, film, and photography), for it maintains great continuities over time, and can attempt to convey subtle emotions (the "interiority" of homosexual experience) that are not always so easily grasped in the other arts.

Within the framework of gay, lesbian, and bisexual studies, investigation has proceeded along five main lines: (1) the identification of authors involved with homosexuality or lesbianism, whether positively or negatively, biographically and through analysis of their works in an effort to expose the often hidden influences of their sexuality on their creative product; (2) the study of such recurrent themes as coming out, the growth of consciousness, friendship, interaction of characters with the mainstream society, conflict between homosexual and heterosexual desires, and "arcadia" (the attempt to find special places of refuge where gay and lesbian persons can flourish undisturbed); (3) examination of literature as social reflector, an endeavor which extends to authors without known personal involvement, but who have treated (or deliberately ignored) homoeroticism in the course of their works; (4) analysis of literary works as factors in the growth of political consciousness, especially important in lesbian literary criticism; and (5) interaction with emerging modes of study, including ethnic literature (for gay and lesbian fiction presents significant similarities—as well as differences—with black and other minority literatures), deconstruction, and cultural criticism, which deliberately blurs the lines between high and low culture and between literature and the other arts.

The current volume is concerned with modern Western literature, but the history of homoeroticism in Western literature begins with the classic works of the pederastic authors of ancient Greece and Rome, for which see also Garland's companion volume on the Ancient World. There is also a large and unself¬conscious body of homoerotic (largely pederastic) literature in Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Urdu, and Persian, for which see the volume on Asian Studies.

Literary Censorship

Since the accession to power of homophobic Christianity in the fourth century, European and American homoerotic literature has suffered from censorship, which has taken a number of forms: official prohibition (first by the Church and later by many governments); reluctance or refusal by publishers, printers, medieval copyists, booksellers, and reviewers to deal with it; and, even more pervasively, self censorship by authors (and academics) unwilling to assume the risks involved in revealing positive attitudes towards such a highly stigmatized activity, or even to break the taboo against mentioning it. This self censor¬ship has led to subtle indirection, use of code phrases, and portrayals of passionate attachment without mention of genital activity, among other strategies for hinting at the unstatable. Another general form of censorship appears in the efforts to persecute well known authors whose sexual indiscretions have become known: the most famous case is that of Oscar Wilde, but he is far from alone.

Systematic official literary censorship did not become possible until the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century made a mass literature possible, and the censors' concern for the mass audience rather than the elite has remained remarkably consistent, leading to contemporary problems with film, television, and popular music but little current American interest in suppressing books or periodicals.

Some of the strategies for getting around official censor¬ship involved concealing the identity of the author and publishing the work abroad. One legacy of the latter strategy was that customs agents became prominent enforcers of censorship, a role they still hold in the United States to this day, even though American presses can publish works more outrageous than those seized by customs. Restrictions on mailability of homoerotic material were not overcome until the Supreme Court decided the ONE, Inc. (Los Angeles) case in 1958.

Exile has frequently been the lot of homoerotic authors since 521 B.C., when homophobic Persians forced the pederastic poets Ibycus and Anacreon to flee the island of Samos. In the twentieth century numerous lesbian and gay writers left the United States and England for the more hospitable cafes of Paris; Radclyffe Hall left after England banned her novel The Well of Loneliness (1928). Many more literary refugees, including Thomas Mann and Christopher Isherwood, fled Hitler's campaign against homosexuality and settled in America, while the Spanish poet Luis Cernuda reestablished himself in Mexico.

Biography

A major preoccupation of gay and lesbian scholarship in earlier decades has been the "outing," or discovery of the homosexuality, of significant figures of the past, including writers. Implicit in this program is the sense that if they could recover the homosexual behavior and sentiments of such authors, the critics could link such to their works even those in which there is no overt mention of homosexuality, for there may be such a thing as a gay (or lesbian or bisexual) sensibility, or perhaps several related sensibilities for each.

Biographies which dealt candidly with homosexuality were common in ancient times, when the form originated, but with the coming to power of Christianity they disappeared, only to be revived in the most recent times.

Plutarch's Parallel Lives, perhaps the best known of ancient biographies, treats his subjects' pederastic interests in a routine way. Later Roman treatments of the lives of the emperors by Tacitus, Suetonius, and Lampridius gleefully recount any sort of sexual scandal, with indifference as to whether homo or hetero erotic.

Resisting Christian repression, Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 1778) described a youthful homosexual episode in his autobiography, but generally autobiographers avoided such revealing material and biographers did likewise. One exception was Sigmund Freud's 1910 "psychohistory" essay on Leonardo da Vinci.

With the growth of the gay and lesbian movement, however, biographers began to look back at such figures as the leading lights of the Bloomsbury circle with a new candor, and biographies dealing with homosexuality multiplied.

Problems of concealment are critical in the biographies and autobiographies of homosexually involved people, though more and more mainstream biographers are at least alluding to the sexual life of their subjects, if not exploring the effects of this aspect on their work.

The problems confronting biographers in dealing with a subject they suspect of being homosexually involved may be daunting. The truth about closeted figures has tended in many cases to be elusive, with the biographer having to rely on deductions, hints, obscure symbolisms, and other indirect clues. Sometimes the only clear references are in contemporary gossip or in personal attacks by a figure's enemies, but the unconfirmed use of such material to demonstrate actual homosexuality is often question¬able. Even where the investigator can find documentation of same sex activities, there remains the task of situating the individual's sense of self within the larger context of prevalent attitudes towards homosexuality. There is also the task of evaluating heterosexual elements in order to determine whether they point to bisexual inclinations or were camouflages adopted under pressure.

There are a number of indicators which, taken together, point to homosexuality: unmarried status (or a "failed marriage" which never developed intimacy), known proclivities of his or her associates, interests or pursuits fashionable among homosexually inclined people of the day, unusual turns of phrase or speech, unexplained resignations or hasty exile, the homosocial crossing of class or other boundaries, a preference for same gendered environments, allusions to classical symbols such as Ganymede or David and Jonathan, and others. Being familiar with the period, the biographer becomes alert to clusters of such indicators.

Having established the sexual aspect of the subject's life, the biographer confronts the challenge of examining its effects on the subject's self image, interests, personality, ideas, and creativity.

Poetry

The homoerotic literary tradition is most evident in the realm of poetry, perhaps because of its long association with love and romance, its inherent ambiguity (which makes veiled references easier than in prose), and its anchoring in a body of pederastic ancient Greek verse.

Actually the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, versions of which go back to the third millennium B.C., can rank as the first surviving homoerotic poem, treating the love between the semi di¬vine hero Gilgamesh and his "wild man" companion Enkidu.

The first known lesbian poetry is that of Sappho of Lesbos (ca. 612 ca. 560 B.C.), who addressed herself in intensely personal lyric verse to the girls under her tutelage in corerasty, a female equivalent of pederasty.

The Shield of Hercules, an epic work of Hesiod's school, may be the earliest Greek work to address homoerotic themes, with its love between Hercules and his page Iolaus. Some scholars believe that Homer referred to homosexuality in his works, though in an elliptical way. Sappho's contemporary Theognis inaugurated a tradition of Greek pederastic poetry which lasted nearly a thousand years, addressing many of his poems to his beloved, Cyrnus. Other Greek poets notable for their pederastic themes were Ibycus, Anacreon, and Theocritus. Pindar (518 438) composed magnificent odes to Olympic victors and may be seen as the first ephebophilic poet.

Among the Romans, Catullus stands out for piercingly eloquent poetry on the joys and sorrows of pederasty. Tibullus, Martial and Vergil also wrote verse on homoerotic themes. After the fall of Rome, Luxorius continued this poetic tradition in North Africa and the Greek Nonnus did so in Alexandria.

The eleventh and twelfth centuries witnessed a number of poets who addressed pederastic themes in medieval Latin; most of them were French clerics, and they included Abelard, Baudri of Bourgueil, the Englishman Hilary, Marbod of Rennes, and Walter of Châtillon. This flourishing came to an end with the intensification of homophobic repression by clerical authorities in the thirteenth century. The Jews of medieval Spain, influenced by Arabic pederastic verse, developed a body of homoerotic poetry of their own, see Norman Roth's article, included herein. A vast amount of Islamic homoerotic poetry in Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and Urdu remains to be translated. The Renaissance brought a resurgence of pederastic poetry in Italy, first in Burchiellesque forms notable for obscurely coded double entendres in the fifteenth century, then in the more accessible Bernesque style (after Francesco Berni) in the sixteenth century. The Counterreformation brought these developments to an end.

For two and a half centuries homoerotic verse appeared only in scattered works from Shakespeare, Denis de Saint Pavin, Lord Rochester, and a few minor poets. Ironically, it was the period of Victorian repression which saw the rise of modern homoerotic poetry. In England lords Byron, Tennyson and Douglas all expressed themselves in homophile verse; see Christopher Craft's article on Tennyson, included herein.

The British golden age of homoerotic (mostly pederastic and ephebophilic) poetry came in the latter half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth, witnessing an outpouring of love poems directed mostly at boys from John Addington Symonds, Edward Carpenter, Frederick Rolfe, Aleister Crowley, Ralph Chubb, and others. This traditional verse gave way to modernist poetry by Wystan Auden, Thom Gunn, and others.

British lesbian verse experienced a brief flowering in the seventeenth century, but then the tradition remained dormant until a revival in the first decade of the twentieth century by Pauline Tarn (Renée Vivien), who spent most of her life in Paris.

In the United States, the key figure was the ephebophile Walt Whitman, whose 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass included a homoerotic section, "Calamus," which caused no little uproar upon publication. Whitman, whom critics have acclaimed as America's greatest poet or the father of modern poetry, lost his government job in Washington but had a tremendous influence on subsequent poets in English speaking countries and elsewhere.

Emily Dickinson wrote many poems which, appearing obscure, upon close examination reveal lesbian elements. A number of other minor American poets composed homoerotic verse; see Stephen Wayne Foster's article, included herein. After World War I, the modernist Hart Crane, like so many others a disciple of Whitman, contributed The Bridge to American literature. Among the female American poets, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Amy Lowell, and Katherine Lee Bates authored homoerotic verse.

After World War II Allen Ginsberg achieved worldwide fame with frankly homoerotic verse. Paul Goodman, James Merrill, Jack Spicer, Judy Grahn, Adrienne Rich, and many other American poets have published since censorship became less problematic in the 1960s.

In Germany, Count August von Platen was a homoerotic poet of the early nineteenth century, followed by the great Stefan George (1868¬ 1933), who expressed his homoeroticism through a complex code of references and veiled language.

Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud dominated nineteenth-century French homoerotic poetry, while Lautréamont wrote pederastic verse, but there has been no great flowering of gay poetry in French in the twentieth century.

The Alexandrian poet Constantine Cavafy became a luminary of modern Greek literature through a body of concise lyrics he wrote in the early part of this century, often reflecting the world of the urban gay male, and established himself as a key litterateur of the modernist movement.

Many of the novelists who treated homoeroticism in their fiction also wrote poetry, but in recent times, poetry has left the cultural mainstream and become uneconomic. In the process, it has been claimed as an art form by the underground artist and the street poet. Contemporary gay and lesbian poetry tends to be published by gay and lesbian small magazines for gay and lesbian audiences; it is uncensored but largely unread outside of a small literate gay or lesbian ghetto.

The Mainstream Novel

By sheer volume, at least, the mainstream novel has become the dominant form for the literary expression of homoerotic themes. Tracing its roots to second-century B.C. Greece, when Achilles Tatius' The Adventures of Leucippe and Clitophon mingled heterosexual and homosexual episodes with aplomb, the mainstream novel has also served as a vehicle of popular attitudes towards homosexuality, and in addition has served as a source for historians lacking other documentation for earlier periods.

Perhaps the best known ancient novel dealing with homosexuality is Petronius Arbiter's Satyricon, in which the main characters are a pair of bisexual pederastic lovers, Encolpius and Giton. Christianity suppressed such themes throughout the medieval period, but after the Renaissance we have the mid seventeenth century Venetian pederastic work L'Alcibiade fanciullo a scola, attributed to Antonio Rocco, though the author had to camouflage his identity. From then until the end of the eighteenth century, however, references to homosexuality in the novel were generally negative.

With the French Revolution came the publication of the libertine fiction of the Marquis de Sade, as well as Denis Diderot's La Religieuse, on lesbianism in a convent.

The nineteenth century saw a number of semi clandestine French erotic novels, but the outstanding character in mainstream fiction was Vautrin in Honoré de Balzac's La Comédie humaine; see Philippe Berthier's article, included herein.

Homoeroticism flowered in the French novel of the early twentieth century, with works by Marcel Proust, André Gide, Colette, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Jouhandeau, Marguerite Yourcenar, and Jean Genet; see the article by Elaine Marks, included herein.

In Germany, Thomas Mann's popular 1912 novella Death in Venice described the love of an aging writer for a beautiful boy, but equates that love with the writer's downfall and death. Writing in the 1930s, his son Klaus Mann, Hans Siemsen, Bruno Vogel, Anna Elisabet Weihrauch, Christa Winslow, and Hermann Broch all produced gay or lesbian oriented mainstream novels.

Denmark's Herman Bang published a novel of decadence in 1880, then followed with a novella, Mikaël, in 1904. The last years of Czarist Russia saw Mikhail Kuzmin's popular Wings (1906). In Holland, Louis Couperus wrote a number of mildly successful homoerotic novels set in ancient Rome and Greece; in the postwar period Gerard Reve mixed Catholicism and gay liberation.

In Brazil, Adolfo Caminha published Bom Crioulo in 1895, a tragic interracial romance between two sailors. The Cuban José Lezama Lima published Paradiso, including frank depictions of the narrator's homosexuality, in 1966 (begun in 1944) and saw it confirmed as a masterpiece; see Gustavo Pellón's article, included herein. Also in Latin America, the Argentinian Manuel Puig authored Kiss of the Spider Woman, which later became a highly acclaimed film.

English writers, never the most adventurous where sex is concerned, were even more reticent after the Oscar Wilde trials traumatized them in the 1890s. On Wilde, see the article by Richard Dellamora, included herein. E. M. Forster wrote his ephebophilic Maurice in 1913, but it did not appear in print until 1971. Radclyffe Hall's lesbian novel of 1928, The Well of Loneliness, provoked a storm of outrage, the British govern¬ment declaring it obscene and seizing copies, though it seems tame today; see the article by Gillian Whitlock, included. Other pre World War II British authors who touched on homoerotic themes included Virginia Woolf (see the article by Sherron Knopp), Ronald Firbank, and Compton Mackenzie.

After World War II, Mary Renault achieved considerable fame with her series of historical novels set in ancient Greece and environs, and often revolving around homosexual lovers, sympathetically depicted. As historical fiction dealing with a culture in which homoeroticism was accepted and common, Renault's works benefited from a license which was not at the time applied to contemporarily set works. Other postwar British authors who occasionally presented sympathetic homosexual characters included Angus Wilson and Iris Murdoch.

In the United States, the nineteenth century saw a number of major novelists in whom twentieth century critics retrospectively discerned homoerotic sensibilities, including Herman Melville (Billy Budd and Moby Dick) (see the article by Robert K. Martin), James Fenimore Cooper, Mark Twain (Huckleberry Finn), Horatio Alger, Willa Cather (see the article by Sharon O'Brien) and Henry James (see the article by Eve K. Segwick). In the cases of the ephebophile Alger and Cather, there is little doubt as to the homosexual element in their lives.

In 1899 Alfred J. Cohen's A Marriage Below Zero explicitly made homosexuality the central theme, though in a negative way; he also established the longlasting tradition of ending the tale with the suicide of the homosexual character. Nine years later Edward I. Prime Stevenson published the first positive look at explicit homosexuality in an American novel in his Imre: a Memorandum. Another eleven years passed before Henry Blake Fuller wrote Bertram Cope's Year. Djuna Barnes, a lesbian residing in Paris, published Nightwood, which focuses on a gay male transvestite narrator, in 1936, with an introduction by T. S. Eliot.

After World War II, major American novelists were able to make allusions to homosexuality: James Jones negatively with respect to queens in From Here to Eternity (1951) but positively in depicting the situational type among soldiers in The Thin Red Line (1962); Norman Mailer ambiguously in Why We Are in Vietnam, and Allen Drury negatively in Advise and Consent. A number of publicly known gay novelists were able to break into the first rank of famous authors: Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, James Baldwin, Christopher Isherwood, and William Burroughs. No other national literature supported so many gay identified best selling novelists.

After gay liberation hit the front pages, novels by previously unknown authors like Patricia Nell Warren's 1974 The Front Runner were also able to win a wide audience. Acclaimed by some critics as the best novel to come out of the Vietnam War experience, Charles Nelson's The Boy Who Picked the Bullets Up depicted, with unsettling frankness, the experiences of a gay medic.

Jane Rule and Mary Sarton appear to be the first significant mainstream novelists to deal with lesbian themes, in 1964 and 1965 respectively. Rita Mae Brown's 1973 Rubyfruit Jungle found a wide audience and critical acclaim in the wake of the flowering of the gay liberation movement, in which she had become a student leader in 1968. Alice Walker made an impression with her 1982 work The Color Purple, later made into a major film. Other significant writers dealing with lesbian themes included Ann Shockley, Isabel Miller, Maureen Brady, and Sarah Schulman, and the French Monique Wittig.

The Gay directed Novel

In addition to the mainstream writers mentioned above, who aimed their books at a wide general audience, another group of novelists have written works specifically for a gay or lesbian audience. This fiction has ranged from high quality literature through many gradations to semi pornographic erotica; since the 1970s it has found a home with gay oriented publishers such as Alyson, Gay Sunshine Press, and Naiad Press in the United States, Gay Men's Press in England, Persona in France, and Rosa Winkel Verlag in Germany. Such novels are reviewed in gay periodicals and sold in gay bookstores, reflecting in literature the ghettoization which has increasingly characterized the gay experience in North America and northern Europe. Critics have attacked this segregation in literature, yet it has provided an outlet for creative writing by gays and lesbians uninhibited by the dis¬approval or squeamishness of heterosexual readers.

In German literature, John Henry Mackay led the way with his pederastic novel Fenny Skaller in 1913 and Der Puppenjunge, set in the world of Berlin's male prostitutes, in 1926. Hans Henny Jahnn wrote a series of novels employing homosexuality as a central theme, pairing inhibited intellectuals with sensual "nature boys." In the postwar years, Hubert Fichte published a series of homosexually oriented novels between 1965 and 1974.

In the United States, the first widely successful gay directed novel was James Barr's Quatrefoil, a 1950 work portraying a love affair between two Navy officers. A long hiatus followed before John Rechy's City of Night (1963) had a major impact with its gritty semi autobiographical depiction of the ephebophilic world of male prostitution. In the 1960s and 1970s gay liberation ideas slowly made their way into gay and lesbian novels, while in the 1980s authors usually ignored the AIDS epidemic.

Gale Wilhelm inaugurated the lesbian directed novel in the United States with two works of the 1930s, Torchlight to Valhalla (1935) and We Too Are Drifting (1938). After World War II, Ann Bannon and Paula Christian joined this field, but more recent writers of note have tended to appeal to a wider audience even while treating lesbian themes. In general, the distinction between mainstream and specialized novels has been effaced, with many works that once would have been attributed to the latter class even achieving notices in the ultrarespectable New York Times Book Review.

Literary Critics

Prior to the later nineteenth century, universities generally recognized literary criticism only as it bore on the study of the classical languages, Greek and Latin. Study of vernacular literatures was commonly left to independent writers ("men of letters") writing essays addressed to general, though cultivated readers. Although literary study is now a well established field in the university, this distinction between professional scholar and the person of letters tends to persist.

Until the middle of the twentieth century, critics were hesitant to deal with homoeroticism, reflecting the taboos in effect in the wider society. While Oscar Wilde's sexuality was too notorious to ignore, even as well documented a figure as Walt Whitman tended to be locked in the closet by his biographers, who went to great lengths to construe even what seem to us today to be obviously homoerotic passages in an "innocent" fashion.

Leslie Fiedler broke new ground in a widely reprinted 1948 essay, "Come Back on the Raft Ag'in, Honey," which found a broad strain of interracial homoerotism (not necessarily consciously expressed) in mainstream American fiction. Citing such authors as Cooper, Richard Henry Dana, Melville, and Twain, Fiedler even spoke of the "sacred marriage of males." Controversy over the supposed homoerotic content of works by these authors has continued for over four decades since the 1948 essay.

A year after Fiedler, Justin O'Brien wrote a paper, "Albertine the Ambiguous," (included herein) describing a practice of gay and lesbian authors in "heterosexualizing" relationships in their works through the expedient of changing the gender of their characters, the "Albertine complex." O'Brien named it after Marcel Proust's female character Albertine, who supposedly represents Proust's chauffeur, Agostinelli.

Conclusion

Until the 1960s the dominant trend in American literary study was the New Criticism, which stressed formal analysis of the autonomous literary artifact, which critics examined largely in isolation from its biographical, social, and ideological moorings. Critics enshrined a canon of "major" authors, most of them white, male, and heterosexual, and did not deem "minor" writers worthy of study. Although subsequent trends were not as different from the New Criticism as they supposed, they did raise issues of audience, canon, and ideology, and of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. The social activism that developed in the context of the civil rights and anti Vietnam War movements stimulated these new approaches, and many of the new literary scholars believed that their work would contribute to significant social change.

The most important of these new trends was feminist criticism, which stressed the examination of values deemed patriarchal in established male writers, the restoration of neglected female authors of the past, and the exploration of posited aspects of female aesthetic. This feminist criticism was not monolithic—one historian has detected fourteen separate strands—and this complexity contributed to its strength. The questioning of the existing canon of "great male (heterosexual) authors" opened the way to the study of lesbian, gay, and bisexual authors hitherto considered minor. French feminists, under the influence of both psychoanalysis and Marxism, urged a return to pre Oedipal links with the mother to attain a utopian radical polysexual femininity—a kind of lesbianism. Such visionary perspectives encountered rejection from many as impractical and even as impediments to social change, but they do illustrate the major roles that lesbianism and woman identification were beginning to play. The greatest triumph of feminism was the creation of hundreds of women's studies programs in American universities. Many lesbians, open and closeted, were able to study and teach in these settings, and much valuable research emerged; see the contributions of Trudy Steurnagel, Catherine Stimson, and Bonnie Zimmerman in this volume.

Another trend, linked ultimately to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, stressed the importance of ethnic difference. In the United States this meant studying the work of black, chicano, Puerto Rican, American Indian, and Asian writers. While a few of the critics in this movement, such as Barbara Smith and Cherrie Moraga, added sexual orientation difference to their distinctions as women and members of minorities, the main role of ethnocriticism in the present context was to offer a model of the study of minority literatures to gay and lesbian studies.

Other trends were reader response criticism, which opened new perspectives by emphasizing that the understanding of texts varied according to period and social milieu; cultural criticism, which denied the separation between "high culture" and such popular media as advertising and the comics; as well as Marxism and psychoanalysis. These last two perspectives were not really new but reinvigorated as a result of the renovation of their perspectives on the part of social thinkers on the European continent.

Deconstructionist criticism aspired to a certain universality, qualified by its emphasis on indeterminacy. The roots of this trend lie in the reaction to structuralism by such French thinkers as Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. Many younger critics found its openness appealing and rallied to deconstruction, which in the the 1980s seemed poised to assume the mantle of the new orthodoxy. Among those in this camp who address gay/lesbian themes, the most prominent today is the resourceful Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, whose influence is prodigious. Others, however, began to criticize the hermeticism of the often opaque deconstructionist texts, the apparent indifference to social and political realities, the seeming self indulgence in the free play of "undecidable" interpretations, and the elitism of its highly developed, but often murky vocabulary.

The great variety of these trends provided many opportunities—and some dangers—for gay and lesbian critics. The politicization implicit in a number of these trends caused concern on campuses, where some observers, not all of them conservative, began to combat what they perceived as the compulsory imposition of "political correctness." In any event, however, it seemed impossible to confine the genie again to the New Criticism bottle, and gay, lesbian, and bisexual concerns were now discussable and discussed—more than ever before in English and language departments of universities in the advanced Western world.


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