Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gay-rights movements

Just concluded in June, the commemoration of New York City's Stonewall Rebellion has prompted some important questions regarding the origins of the American gay movement. Even though the mainstream media keep recycling the fiction that it all began in 1969, research has established that the first attempt in the US was by Henry Gerber in Chicago in 1924-25. This fledgling effort was soon quashed, so that one had to wait until 1950 for Harry Hay and others to found the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles in 1950.

Since the landmark publication of The First Homosexual Rights Movement (1864-1935), by John Lauritsen and David Thorstad (1974), those who cared to look into the matter have known that the first gay-rights movement started in Central Europe in the nineteenth century. The adumbrations of Karoly Maria Kertbeny and Karl Heinrich Ulrichs came to fruition when Magnus Hirschfeld and his Berlin associates formed the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee in 1897. As a native of Germany who had also served there as a US soldier in the occupation of the Rhineland, Henry Gerber knew of these precedents. So too, in all likelihood, did Mattachine’s Harry Hay, who benefited from the counsel of Rudi Gernreich and Christopher Isherwood. Towards the end of the Weimar period, Isherwood had actually lived in the Berlin building in which HIrschfeld’s Institute was housed.

Why should these issues have come to the fore in Central Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century? At that time and place the nationalities question was becoming acute. In 1848 the first Pan-Slavic conference was held in Prague. Sometimes assuaged, sometimes not, these nationalist strivings eventually led to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire. We know that K. H. Ulrichs in particular was interested in the question of German unification (not achieved until 1871)--in particular the issue of whether non-German-speaking peoples, such as the Czechs and Slovenes, were to be incorporated.

In other words, during that era an implicit analogy emerged, linking the gay question with that of resurgent ethnic groups. The subalterns were restless. To put in the vernacular, uppitiness was becoming rampant. As far as I know, however, this line of analogous thinking did not become fully explicit until Kurt Hiller’s gay-rights analysis, which came in the wake of the Versailles Conference of 1919, in which the aspirations of a number of formerly subject peoples came to the fore.

But this is not the end of the story, for It seems that the gay-rights movement had even earlier origins--in the eighteenth century, when the matter emerged under the aegis of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. An epochal event was the decriminalization of sodomy by the French Constituent Assembly in 1791, the first time in the history of Christendom that this salutory departure had occurred. The overall background is of course the philosophical movement known as the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on self-affirmation unfettered by throne and altar.

Let us note some specific forerunners of gay-rights in the eighteenth century. The first is the Sect of the Anandrynes, founded in 1770 by Therèse de Fleury. (“Anandryne” is a neologism formed from Greek roots, meaning “women without men.”) The votaries of the society, all female, met in the Rue de Boucheries-Saint-André in Paris. Eventually a quarrel broke out as to whether gay men should be admitted as associated members, and the group broke up in 1784.

There was in fact a counterpart that was largely male, Les Gens de la Manchette, led by the celebrated libertine, the Marquis Charles-Marie de la Villette (1736-1793). A satirical pamphlet. Les enfans de Sodome a l’Assemblée Nationale, published in the early days of the French Revolution, names some 160 members, men and women. Another pamphlet of the same time, Les petits bougres en manège, advances several progay arguments. One is the appeal to Greco-Roman precedent, a common feature of the period. The most important, however, is the motto “[Tous] les goûts sont de la nature,” that is to say, all (sexual) preferences are natural.

This relativistic argument directly confronts the conventional wisdom that same-sex behavior is by definition unnatural. Previously, the Marquis de Sade had explored this territory with his designation of same-sex behavior as “antiphysique,” against nature--a quality that he thought was a plus. The Marquis may have been the first to essay the modern ploy of detoxifying negative terms that is familiar to us now in the effort to rehabilitate the word “queer.” Sade also referred to masturbation as “pollution,” a seemingly pejorative term, but one which he adopted as a positive designation--though of course a transgressive one.

It seems that the groups mentioned, the Anandrynes and the Gens de la Manchette, were mainly social groups. Yet the fact that they could exist at all is notable. Moreover, as we have noted in connection with the last-mentioned pamphlet, these groups and the intellectuals connected with them began to generate progay arguments. These two features--collective groupings and new, positive thinking--are the two most salient features of what was to become the gay rights movement.

What accounts for the timing of these developments? Some historians of homosexuality would maintain that the appearance of a sense of gay identity (as distinct from same-sex behavior itself, which seems to have been always with us) is the essential precondition for the emergence of such pro-gay rights groups. Some historians place the starting point of the “modern homosexual,” the bearer of gay identity, as late as 1869. However, the formation of eighteenth-century groups with names like Anandrynes and Gens de la Manchette suggests that this date is too late.

An alternative theory of gay identity, espoused by Randolph Trumbach and others, is that it emerged in northwestern Europe about 1700. This date would fit the French social and intellectual development I have been outlining. I would stress though that the boundary between the pre-gay identity period and gay identity proper is a fluid one. Some in ancient Greece and Rome may have embraced something approaching a gay identity. Unpleasant as the term is, the word sodomite served as a uniting designation for certain medieval people. Indeed, the expression survived in the first of the two pamphlets cited: les Enfans de Sodome, the children of Sodom.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Robert Wright's optimistic account of religion

Some five years ago, I began to create in these pages a kind of balance sheet displaying what was beneficial and what was noxious in the heritage of the Abrahamic religions. At the outset I kept a hopeful outlook. That is to say, once the bad stuff was purged, each of the three major faiths must needs reveal its own edifying core. Removing the dross would make the positive contributions stand out more clearly. Possibly, I thought, there was a temporal dimension in this inquiry. Without doubt, some of the most disturbing religious effluvia derive from the “primitive,” formative phases (think of the Pentateuch and the more horrendous parts of the Koran). As time went on, it would seem, the Abrahamics had succeeded in civilizing themselves--at least up to a point.

Fairly early on I had to abandon this sunny outlook. I acknowledged that the deleterious matter cannot be, as it were, quaranteened by confining it to the early phases. The ugly truth is that the most outrageous rubbish pervades the three Abrahamics. It runs through all of them, all the time.

By contrast, Robert Wright has espoused the view I discarded, for a progressive approach underlies his much-noticed recent book, The Evolution of God (for excerpts, see the site

Like many seemingly novel approaches, Wright’s has had significant predecessors. In fact, the idea that religion shows a history of progress goes back to German theologians of the first half of the nineteenth century. First, they said that man made God and not vice a versa. A second theme was what Arthur O. Lovejoy has called the “termporalization of the Great Chain of Being.” That is to say, instead of having a vertical hierarchy, with the lowest values at the bottom and the highest at the top, one tips the scheme on its side. Thus humanity evolves from primitive ideas to more refined ones. Why should this process not rule in religion, just as it has in other spheres of human endeavor?

In his earlier book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (2000), Wright argued that human history shows increasing opportunities for non-zero-sum interaction where both parties achieve something. This “win-win” situation stands over against zero-sum situations where one party gains at the expense of the other.

In the aggregate this gradual shift lends a favorable direction to the history of civilization. Somewhat breathlessly, Wright exclaimed that “it is hard, after pondering the full sweep of history, to resist the conclusion that--in some important ways, at least--the world now stands at its moral zenith to date."

Now comes The Evolution of God, where Wright further elaborates his view that moral progress is central to the course of history. It might even be termed the “deep structure” of humanity’s adventure on this planet.

In his new book Wright offers a rationalist analysis of changing portrayals of gods and God. But he also indicates that history shows there might be a kind of "God force" behind moral improvement. I note that his thesis is compatible with two positions regarding the ever-contentious question of the existence of supernatural beings: 1) gods are purely human artifacts, though they tell us a good deal about moral thinking: 2) there is something like a god, but of a very attenuated sort.

Wright holds that God evolves. By this claim he means not so much an actual God, which may in fact be an illusion, but rather our thinking about gods and God. His "evolution" is essentially cultural evolution, though the book provides an appendix on the possible biological roots of religion.

The main part of the book seeks to trace the history of gods from hunter-gatherer societies through chiefdoms, polytheistic kingdoms, the emergence of monolatry and monotheism, and ultimately the scriptural presentation of God in the Abrahamic faith of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (One notes parenthetically that this view is centered on the West. Why should not Buddhism or Daoism represent the pinnacle of humanity’s religious evoluton?)

Among other things, Wright is interested in how gods may have felt about cultural outsiders, about "others" who are not part of one's own group. Gods, it seems, have oscillated between two policies: inciting their followers to destroy those perceived as aliens vs, fostering accommodation and acceptance of people with different beliefs--or at any rate their incorporation, forceful or otherwise, into the body of believers. Whether gods were viewed as belligerent toward out-groups or not often depended on the political needs of societal leaders at the time. When leaders perceived zero-sum conflict situations in relations with other groups it was useful to have one's own gods cheering the effort on. But this was not always the case. If there were inviting non-zero-sum opportunities in alliances, as through trade or military coalitions, then it became useful to be more cooperative, accepting to some degree others' gods as well as one's own. This process of assimilation was common in polytheism, whereby individual deities fused into a clan of gods, related to each other by family ties.

One of Wright's central themes is that human history reveals a moral trajectory in which opportunities to realize the good are constantly increasing. He claims that "[t]he march of history challenges people to expand their range of sympathy and understanding, to enlarge their moral imaginations, to share the perspective of people ever farther away." To be sure, it is not inevitable that we will keep coming closer to moral truth, but Wright believes that growing process of the non-zero-sum situation requires us to face up to the task. Otherwise we will descend into chaos.

Conceding that there has been no simple linear progress, the author posits that there has been an overall forward movement in fits and starts, with some backsliding along the way.

Wright then seeks to draw conclusions from his exposition. He acknowledges that if there is a moral order, and if conceptions of God have evolved to support it, that does not necessarily mean there is a God. Still, he hopefully asserts, these conditions may tend to tip the balance in favor of the God-hypothesis.

Even if gods arose from illusions, Wright suggests, the evolution of such illusions "points to the existence of something you can meaningfully call divinity." Without insisting that the God hypothesis is is true, he asserts that it is not implausible.

In his valuable commentary at Amazon, Jay C. Smith reaches an unfavorable conclusion. “Wright's reasoning is dubious. From his questionable assertion that there has been moral progress it is a big leap to claim, as he does, that it reflects a purposeful historical goal. Patterns do not necessarily imply purposes. And only after he has smuggled in the idea of purposeful history is it possible for him to speak of a source of the purpose. A ‘purpose’ by its very nature has an agent, some sentient entity capable of intent, at least in our common understanding. Where we see purposes we see agents, just as Wright does here. There are further flaws in his logic, including reliance on a false analogy between propositions about God as the source of moral order and physicists' postulation of electrons to help explain the behavior of matter.”

Presently, I will let Wright speak in his own words, copying the gist of the Internet version of Chapter 13 of his book, which concerns the emergence of the Christian idea of the afterlife.

I preface these passages, though, with the following observations. Some peoples, such as the ancient Greeks, held a somewhat vague idea of the afterlife, suggesting that the dead persist in the form of ghosts, a radically diminished form of existence. This idea has folk survivals in modern observances of the Hallowe’en type. With their idea of living a glorious life in all eternity, the ancient Egyptians had a much more hopeful view--at least for some, because the Egyptians held that before attaining this state one must undergo various perils; succumbing to these would mean extinction.

Another concept holds bad people do not simply disappear, having failed the test for a happy afterlife. Instead, they suffer eternal torment for their sins. This notion responds to the idea that the world must exhibit some overall pattern of justice, whereby the prosperity of the wicked in this life is balanced by punishment in the next. The tremendous contrast between the fate of the blessed and that of the damned probably reflects the influence of Zoroastrian dualism. Significantly, the word “paradise” comes from Old Persian.

Indian religions respond to this concern for inclusive justice by offering a different solution, the idea of samsara, whereby people are reborn in a living state befitting their previous karmic status. Like Christianity and Islam, Mahayana Buddhism also entertained the ideas of heaven and hell, the punishments in the latter being particularly severe.

Any proper sense of the origins of the Christian idea of the afterlife requires attention to anticipations stemming from the late phase of Second Temple Judaism. Much of this material did no make it into the Hebrew Bible. One text, though, did make it: the book of Daniel, which belongs to the second century BCE. “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Dan. 12:2). The frescoes in the Synagogue of Dura Europos make it clear that many thought of this awakening as an actual resurrection of the body.

In her otherwise useful and learned book, The Resurrection of the Body (1995), Caroline Walker Bynum ignores this Jewish evidence, maintaining that the idea of the resurrection of the body is sui generis in Christianity. Concededly, it is a strange doctrine, with all sorts of consequences regarding the treatment of the dead. However, it is not unique to Christendom. It is one of a number of significant doctrines that bind Christianity with major strands of the Hellenistic Judaism of the latter part of the Second Temple Era. Because of these connections, Christianity ranks as a continuation of Judaism--in some ways more authentic than the later neo-Judaism of the rabbis--and not an antithesis to it.

Having made these points, I turn to Wright’s own excerpt from Chapter 13 of his book. For convenience I omit quotation marks.

[Robert Wright:]

The idea of followers of Jesus getting to join him in heaven upon dying probably didn’t take shape until about a half-century after Jesus died. To be sure, Jesus’s followers believed from early on that the faithful would be admitted to the “Kingdom of Heaven,” as the New Testament calls it. But “Kingdom of Heaven” is just Matthew’s synonym for what an earlier Gospel, Mark, had called the “Kingdom of God.” And this kingdom was going to exist on Earth, when God righted history’s many wrongs by establishing an enduringly just rule.
The Gospel of Luke, written around 80 or 90 CE, half a century after the crucifixion, offers the New Testament’s earliest clear expectation of a rewarding afterlife upon death. Luke says that the god-fearing criminal hanging on the cross next to Christ will find himself in “paradise” alongside Christ that very day. Luke also tells a story about the afterlives of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man, who died without repenting his sins, goes to a part of the underworld where, he observes, “I am in agony in these flames.” The poor man has better luck. He finds himself in the company of Abraham—perhaps, as some have argued, in heaven, but, at the very least, in a more hospitable part of the underworld: someplace where “he is comforted.”
Some scholars contend that this idea of immediate reward for the Christian dead goes back to Christ himself—who, after all, is the one who in Luke makes these two references to the afterlife. Yet neither reference is found in the earliest gospel, Mark, or in the earlier-than-Luke “Q source” (the hypothesized source of stories shared by Luke and Matthew).
What caused this shift in expectations by the time Luke was written? For one thing, as the decades rolled by and the supposedly imminent Kingdom of God failed to materialize, there was growing concern among Jesus’s followers over the state of the not-yet-resurrected dead. The Apostle Paul, writing around two decades after Jesus’s death, had reassured followers that recently departed family and friends of believers would join “the rest of us” in the Kingdom once the Kingdom came. But by the time of Luke, more than a decade after Paul’s death, hopes for the Kingdom’s near-term arrival had dimmed.
Now the attentive Christian was concerned not just about whether dead friends and relatives would eventually be resurrected but about what death would feel like until resurrection—since it increasingly looked as if the Christian in question would join his or her friends and relatives in that state before Judgment Day.
Had Christian doctrine not evolved in response to this challenge, it would have lost credibility as the Kingdom of God failed to show up on Earth—as generations and generations of Christians were seen to have died without getting their reward. So the Kingdom of God had to be relocated from Earth to heaven, where generations of Christians had presumably gotten their reward—and you could, too, if you accepted Christ as your savior.
Why is it Luke, not the roughly contemporary Matthew, who makes this pivot? Maybe because Luke is a more “gentile” gospel. Whereas Matthew often seems to be trying to convert devout Jews to the Jesus movement, stressing its compatibility with traditional Judaism, Luke is focused on winning “pagan” converts. And if he is going to compete with pagan religions, he’d better make sure that Christianity can match their most popular features
And one of those features was a blissful afterlife. Though the official gods of the Roman state offered no such thing, the empire had been besieged by foreign cults that, by filling this void, had won followings. These religions of salvation came under a variety of brands. Persian cults talked of souls migrating through the planetary spheres to paradise, and Greek cults offered bliss in Hades, the Greek underworld that had once offered only a humdrum existence for the average soul but now featured lush subdivisions. Many rivals of Christianity seem to have been thriving in part by offering eternal bliss.
Am I saying that Luke stole his afterlife scenario from a competing religion? Not with great confidence, no. But if you wanted to indict him on this charge, you would not be wholly lacking in evidence. The evidence would focus on the Egyptian god Osiris. Osiris bears a certain resemblance to Jesus as Christians would later come to conceive him; Osiris inhabited the afterworld and judged the recently deceased, granting eternal life to those who believed in him and lived by his code. But Osiris was doing this a long time before Jesus was born, and meanwhile he had migrated to the Roman Empire, where he had developed a following.
Certainly that story in Luke about the rich man and the poor man in Hades has Osirian overtones. At the time Luke was writing, a written copy of an Egyptian story about the afterlife was circulating in the Roman Empire. It was about a rich man and a poor man who die and go to the underworld. Both are judged at the court of Osiris.
The rich man’s bad deeds outweighed his good, and so he was consigned to one of the less desirable stations. (Specifically, the story explains: the “pivot of the door” to the underworld is “planted in his right eye and rotating on this eye whenever the door is closed or opened.” Understandably, his “mouth was open in great lamentation.”) In contrast, the poor man, whose good deeds outweighed his bad, got to spend eternity in the company of the “venerable souls,” near the seat of Osiris. Plus, he got the rich man’s clothes: “raiment of royal linen.” (The rich man in Luke’s story wore “purple and fine linen.”) The moral of the story, “He who is good upon earth they are good to him in Amenti (the underworld), while he that is evil they are evil to him.”
Luke’s story about the rich man and the poor man seems to have no precedent in earlier Jewish or Christian tradition. So there is indeed a chance that Luke heard or read the Egyptian story and adapted it for Christian use. But we’ll probably never know, and anyway, that isn’t the point. The point is that, whether or not Luke borrowed this particular story from Egypt’s heritage, this theme—immediate reward in the afterlife—must have come from somewhere, and the likely source is one of the religions with which Christianity competed in the Roman Empire.

[Thus Robert Wright]

There is much that could be said about this exposition. For one thing, it relies upon the concept of the delayed parousia, the purported tardy arrival of the Kingdom, so strongly emphasized by Albert Schweitzer and others of his generation. Yet recent scholarship, notably the members of the Jesus Seminar, tends to downplay this assumption. There is also too much focus on Egyptian sources to the exclusion of others. As I indicated above, Iranian and Jewish precursors played important roles. For an encyclopedic survey of these precursors, see Alan F. Segal Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion (2004).


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Two giants of gay scholarship

Two giants of gay scholarship, Louis Crompton and Simon Karlinsky, passed away last week in the Bay Area of California.

Louis Crompton died at age 84 in El Cerrito, California on July 11, 2009. Born in Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada, on April 5, 1925, he was the son of Clarence Crompton, Master Mariner, and Mabel Crompton. He graduated from the University of Toronto with an M.A. in mathematics in 1948, and from the University of Chicago with a Ph.D. in English in 1954. After teaching mathematics at the University of British Columbia and English at the University of Toronto, he joined the English department at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1955, retiring in 1989.

Louis Crompton's work in the early days of the modern gay movement has been included in a soon-to-be released documentary film, Before Homosexuals, directed by John Scagliotti. Prior to his turn to gay studies, Crompton achieved an international reputation as a Bernard Shaw scholar. His book on Shaw's plays, Shaw the Dramatist, won the national Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Award for Literary Criticism for 1969. In 1970 his pioneering interdisciplinary course in gay studies at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, reputedly the second in the nation, became an issue in that year's state elections; one legislator introduced a bill banning the teaching about homosexuality at any state college. The bill failed. Nonetheless, Professor Crompton concluded that it would be wise to cease giving the course. Undeterred, he decided to pursue scholarship in the field through articles and books.

In 1978 Crompton achieved a major “scoop” with his publication (in the Journal of Homosexuality) of Jeremy Bentham’s essay “Offenses against One’s Self: Pederasty,” which had languished since the British thinker first wrote it in 1785, Bentham also figures in his monograph Byron and Greek Love: Homophobia in 19th-century England (1985).

In 1974 Crompton co-founded the Gay and Lesbian Caucus of the Modern Language Association which attracted a large membership. In 1978 the Association began the Crompton-Noll award, administered through the gay and lesbian caucus of the MLA. The award pays tribute to Professors Crompton and Dolores Noll (the latter of Kent State University). I first met Lou through our common work in the National Committee for Sexual Civil Liberties, headed by Arthur C. Warner.

Homosexuality and Civilization (2003), his magnum opus, required 19 years in the writing, even more in the gestation. Working with the utmost patience through the records documenting same-sex love, Louis Crompton tackled the Herculean task of chronicling the history of homosexuality in Europe and parts of Asia from Homer to the eighteenth century. In a series of pithy accounts, the author detailed the "rich and terrible" stories of men and women who have been immortalized, celebrated, shunned or executed for the special attention they paid to members of their own sex. Two chapters on China and Japan are a welcome complement to the usual Eurocentric focus. In the context of world history, Crompton's comparative study reveals the anomaly of Judeo-Christian aversion to homosexuality.

Rejecting the social-construction approach that flourished under the aegis of Michel Foucault, Crompton went directly to the sources, showing how much could be accomplished by applying the well-established methodology of the historian. Defying the current fashion that holds that gay history began only about 1700--or even as late as 1869--this book triumphantly affirms the unity of gay history. Even in the West, which has seen a major affliction of antihomosexual sentiment, the pattern is one of affimation, retreat, and renewed affirmation.

Lou Crompton is survived by his husband of many years, Luis Diaz-Perdomo.

Simon Karlinsky died peacefully at home on July 5, 2009, at the age of 84. He is survived by his husband, Peter Carleton.

Simon was born in 1924 to a Russian-Jewish family living in Manchuria. He came to America when he was 14. His father, who was sympathetic to the Soviet Union, prudently decided not to return there. Simon and I sometimes compared notes about growing up in a far-Left family, finding our bearings to a saner view as young adults.

At first it seemed that Simon Karlinsky would make his mark as a composer. His “Five Piano Pieces” are still occasionally performed. But his superb language skills impelled him to become a professor of Russian philology, a topic he pursued in many years of teaching in the Department of Slavic Languages at the University of California, Berkeley.

Karlinsky’s masterpiece is his Sexual Labyrinth of Nikolai Gogol of 1976. Through careful readings of the Ukrainian writer’s most famous works, Karlinsky argues that Gogol's homosexual orientation—which Gogol himself could not accept or forgive in himself—may provide the missing key to the riddle of Gogol's personality. This work is no simple excercise in “outing” but a subtle exploration of the possibility that sexual repression may be the key to understanding this tormented personality--a personality that is responsible for some of the most brilliant works of world literature.

In an announcement his Berkeley department acknowledged that it "is difficult to imagine the contemporary study of early Russian drama, Gogol, Chekhov, Tchaikovsky, Diaghilev, Russia's gay literature and culture, Stravinsky, Nabokov, Tsvetaeva, and the Russian emigration in general without Simon's pioneering efforts." I am proud to have published his article on Russia in the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality.

Louis Crompton and Simon Karlinsky were beacons of sanity against the backdrop of the painful birth of gay studies. Yet the exemplary work of Crompton and Karlinsky points up two problems--two categories of growing pains, as it were--that have afflicted the emerging field of gay studies.

Here is the first of these issues. Not unlike ethnic groups who have suffered discrimination, gay and lesbian people have sought to bolster their collective self-esteem by compiling lists of famous homosexuals from various walks of life. This approach has the drawback of focusing on the elite to the neglect of the life circumstances of most gay men and lesbians across the centuries. Still, the effort has undoubtedly led to an increase in knowledge.

A serious methodological difficulty, though, transpires from the opening paragraph of the Wikipedia List of such persons. “This is a referenced overview list of notable gay, lesbian or bisexual people, who have either been open about their sexuality of for which reliable sources exist. Famous people who are simply rumored to be gay, lesbian or bisexual, are not listed.”

This distinction--between the ascertained cases and those who are merely rumored to be such--is not easy to establish. The reason is that in the past, and even today, many individuals have judged it wise to remain in the closet. The protective gear they donned was intended to thwart hostile efforts at outing. Later, these disguises proved an obstacle to friendly efforts.

In some instances gay scholars have been unable to resist the temptation to "out" historic figures who in actuality cannot be outed because they were not gay in the first place. Consider the matter of President Abraham Lincoln, the subject of an ingenious monograph by my late friend Clarence Tripp. This book has been available for four years now. The overwhelming consensus among Lincoln scholars is that Tripp did not prove his case, and Lincoln was not gay. Still, the allegation is believed by many gay and lesbian people. Such shanghaiing creates a gulf between “straight” (i.e. majority) scholarship and gay scholarship, tending to discredit the latter.

The other problem is the way in which Queer Theory has elbowed its way to the forefront of our studies. Regarded by some as a branch of gender studies, Queer Theory became prominent in the early 1990s. Heavily influenced by the work of Michel Foucault, this approach claims to be a kind of hermeneutics fostering “queer readings” of all sorts of texts.

The word queer is itself problematic because its advocates have not succeeded in divesting the word of its negative charge. The reference is also unclear. Are “queers” simply gay, lesbian, and bisexual people? Or does the term embrace all sorts of groups and individuals who have been regarded as eccentric and deviant?

To judge from the work produced so far, most contributions to Queer Theory have been rhetorical. The method permits its practitioners to dispense with empirical research, and simply reprocess their often rather banal ideas in an arcane jargon that gives the appearance, but not the reality of novelty.

Under attack by Larry Kramer and others, Queer Theory is now fading. Yet the damage that this fad has done will not soon disappear.

The only peers that come to mind of Louis Crompton and Simon Karlinsky are scholars in their sixties and seventies. To be sure, HIV/AIDS has taken its toll. But devastating in their own way are the two pseudo-sciences I have just discussed: indiscriminate outing of past figures, and the bluster of Queer Theory.

I have said enough about Crompton and Karlinsky to demonstrate the enduring value of their work. Something else must be added, something that at one time we took for granted, but can no longer. Both of these scholars were superbly r e l i a b l e. When they ascertained that something was a fact, they certified that it was. When doubt remained, they indicated that as well.

Let us hope that the passing of Crompton and Karlinsky does not signal a fatal decline of the integrity of gay scholarship. In fact I think that we can recover from the two blights I have mentioned. From time to time I will review works that show that their authors have successfully eluded the lure of shoddy methodology. Going against the current, a growing number of younger scholars have shown that it is possible to persevere, with solid results. These successes, still relatively uncommon, do not absolve those of us who are rightly critical from exposing the excesses of Queer Theory.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Typology of homosexuality

The publication of the two landmark volumes of Alfred Kinsey et al. in 1948 and 1951 opened the way to a vast amount of research and publication in the field of human sexuality. Yet the yield has not been as much as might be expected, in part because political considerations hindered the funding of other studies of similar scope.

In the study of same-sex relations there were particular problems. Initially there was a need to overcome a vast amount of lingering antihomosexual prejudice which hindered accurate assessments. Then, just as it seemed that victory over these obstacles had been secured, two forms of obfuscation welled up from the gay camp itself. The first, surfacing in the 1980s, was the social-construction trend, which claimed, among other absurdities, that there had been no homosexuality prior to 1869. This aberration was followed by Queer Theory, which substituted verbal dexterity (of a sort) for genuine research and analysis.

This essay discusses one finding about same-sex behavior that I would have thought is secure--though some say that it is not.

In 1979 Stephen O. Murray, a major gay scholar residing in San Francisco, established a three-fold typology of male same-sex behavior. The three basic types are: 1) age-differentiated, as found in the pederastic culture of ancient Greece, medieval Islam, and the Japan of the Samurai; 2) gender-differentiated, as found in the shamans of Northeast Asia, the Amerindian berdache, and a number of contemporary societies in Southeast Asia; 3) egalitarian (or androphile) in which the partners are of roughly the same age and gender identity. The latter type is characteristic of the advanced industrial societies of the West, but occasionally elsewhere, as in the Old Kingdom in Egypt.

The examples given are for the purposes of preliminary description only. In complex societies there is usually one dominant type, with one or both of the others represented as a minority preference. In the US, for example, the egalitarian form is dominant, while age-differentiated and gender-differentiated types exist among smaller portions of the population. With this proviso, research has shown that this typology is valid world wide, and that there are no other major types of male same-sex behavior capable of rivaling these three.

Some observers object, however, saying what about those who are attracted across class boundaries, and those who seek interracial unions? And what about those who look for slender or muscular partners, ones who are hirsute or not. Should't options like these be added to the list?

Closer analysis shows that these preferences, while significant to those who hold them, are not on the same plane as the primary ones mentioned. First, let us note that the three categories themselves draw on but two variables: age-grading and sexual dimorphism. These categories, I would argue, are fixed.

But are they? Advancing age can be disguised, but cannot be denied. As far as sexual dimorphism goes, some now claim that they have changed sex. There are two views regarding this claim. Some skeptics say that there really is no change of sex, simply an elaborate series of plastic- surgery interventions, supplemented by hormones. For the purposes of argument let us accept that complete change has occurred, so that Linda has become Larry. If then Larry choses to form a relationship with a biological female, the partnership is heterosexual, and does not enter into our purview here. If Larry, by contrast, goes with a biological male, then the relationship is likely to be of the egalitarian-homosexual type, because that is the dominant form in our society.

Observance of class distinctions is a product of a relatively recent stage of advanced industrial society; it is not a cultural universal. Race presents thornier issues. First, however, there are no pure races, and the matter of choice in this area is complicated. A white person attracted to blacks might tend to prefer “authentic blacks,” that is those with dark skins, ignoring the others. By contrast some blacks themselves are known to prefer light-skinned partners of their own race. Arguably, Michael Jackson changed his race. At all events, after the interracial partnership is established, it will fit into one the three types, with say an older white man forming a relationship with a younger black one, or vice versa. Similarly, one or the other partner could be transgendered. In our own society, though, such relationships are likely to be egalitarian.

Other preferences fit the malleability model fairly easily. A man who lacks muscles can acquire them, or slim them down later, if he wishes. Body hair can be shaved off, though not so easily added. Almost any man, though, can grow facial hair.

These issues are, some of them at least, debatable. But what rules all the rest, which decides whether the “go” signal is to be triggered, is the location of the desired individual on the love-map of tripartition. Consider, once again, the white chocoholic in the following scenario. This person sees a black male he thinks may be available. What determines whether he makes a move is the set of three options under discussion. If the white guy is an older intergenerationalist he will act only if the targeted individual is an adolescent or ephebe. If he is attracted to gender-benders he will want to see some capacity for cross-dressing and/or effeminacy. And of course if he is an egalitarian he will want to go with another of roughly his own age and habitus. As in the other two cases, candidates who do not fit this profile are excluded, even though they are black.

Thus the three characteristics the model singles out--age-differentiated, gender-differentiated, egalitarian--are trumps, deal makers or deal breakers. As a rule, they m u s t be in alignment for any action to occur. Other qualities are secondary because they do not possess this power of acting as trumps.

Some will find this discussion unfortunate. In sex as in life, shouldn’t we be open to a variety of experiences? In principle, certainly yes. Yet for reasons that lie deep in our biological heritage, sexual choices are not entirely free choices. Or to put it differently, one can indeed go with someone who is not part of one’s love map. Ultimately, though, we tend to end up with (or wish we had ended up with) an individual of our desired type.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Finis classicae

The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation
Troubles my sleep,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation
Troubles my sleep.
Nunc dimittis, now lettest thou thy servant,
Now lettest thou thy servant
Depart in peace.
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation...
Oh well!
It troubles my sleep.

[Ezra Pound. 1918]

No one need lose sleep over this prospect. It ain't gonna happen, ever.

The mania over Michael Jackson--despite his evident pedophilia--shows that such phenomena have long since absorbed all the cultural oxygen. The expression "popular culture" is redundant. Today, popular culture is the only culture we have

I was lucky enough to pass my teaching career in "elitist" colleges where things like ancient Greek sculpture, medieval Cathedrals, Michelangelo, and Rembrant were still in the curriculum. Elsewhere such things are being crowded out by "media studies."

Of course, classic texts by all sorts of figures, from Plato and Aristotle to Ezra Pound himself may be found on the Internet. But when one makes an allusion to these things--well, forget it.

With each passing day, it seems that the Garden of the Muses is still shrinking. I will continue to enjoy it while I can.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Fading of the radical spirit

[Continuing my previous Stonewall themes, the following remarks respond to the sense of disappointment that some veterans of that remarkable era have expressed that its radicalism has faded.]

One of Constantine Cavafy’s poems, written long after the fact, evokes the “days of 1909, 1910, 1911.” For many of us of a certain age living today the days of glory came some sixty years later: 1968, 1969, 1970. (Contrary to rumor, I was not around in 1909-11.) The year 1968 saw the uprisings in Paris and at Columbia University in New York; 1969, Stonewall; while 1970 confirmed that these events were not mere flashes in the pan, but indicators of a profound shift in the ethos of our advanced industrial society.

Closer analysis suggests that this shift had two aspects. The first consisted of a fundamental transformation in the deep structure of consciousness, which even in different circumstances would surely have come. This was the change from the culture of conformity to the culture of expressivity. In the ethos of conformity one had carefully to adhere to rigid dress and language codes. Gratification was best delayed. And of course anyone with an inclination to sexual nonconformity had best conceal it as much as he or she could. It was the era of the closet, par excellence.

The deplorable conformism of this era--essentially the period from the end of WW II until the death of President Kennedy in 1963--was well displayed in a scene in the recent film “Revolutionary Road.” In this vivid piece of orchestration a vast army of hatted businessmen, all the same, with no women present, advance in lockstep, having come from their ticky-tack suburban homes by train to the vast concourse of Grand Central Station.

Anticipated by the Beatnik writers, the contrasting culture of expressivity came on strong in the sixties. In the new dispensation, personal satisfaction became the paramount value. The point was to “do one’s own thing.” Each individual was supposed to choose a personal lifestyle. Little matter that millions of others had also chosen that same “personal lifestyle,” more or less. The thing was to avoid being a square at all costs; it was mandatory to be “groovy.” So it is not surprising that in those seemingly happy-go-lucky days open gayness became more accepted (though certainly not universally so). In the new era of expressivity, it was different strokes for different strokes.

Alongside these deep-structure shifts, which continue to permeate our lives, was a series of contingent factors. Among these factors were the maturation of the civil rights movement, the emergence of the women’s and Hispanic movements, the novelty of drugs, and the revulsion against the Vietnam war that was felt almost universally. Many advocates of social change were heartened by the emergence of liberation groups in Latin America, Algeria, Kenya, Angola and other countries emerging from the blight of colonial domination (only to find in the sequel that there was a new blight of corruption and factionalism). In the US, the continuing turmoil culminated in an extraordinary event: the palace revolution that deposed Richard Nixon.

Exciting as these developments were at the time, they pale in comparison with the fundamental shift of consciousness that replaced the culture of conformity with the culture of expressivity.

When I hear laments about the loss of the radicalism of forty years ago, I am doubly skeptical. In terms of the deep structure there is no need (or little need) for further change. In fact, as I reel in the face of the Michael Jackson mania I can’t help wondering if things have not gone too far. (Maybe my own conformist roots are showing.)

By contrast, the contingent phenomena are not destined to recur, certainly not in the combination we experienced in those glorious days of 1968, 69, and 70. As it became clear that George W. Bush was determined to launch his unnecessary and disastrous war on Iraq, I started marching and attending candlelight vigils. Alas, the inspiring days of opposition to the Vietnam war were not to recur.

Trips down memory lane are appealing, I agree. They may even be a necessary journey in terms of sorting out one’s ideas. But it is no good mourning past glories which are never going to be repeated, because, in one key respect,they are already here with the accomplishment of the deep structural shift. Despite the culture wars they have waged, social conservatives have not been able change this. There are signs that they are finally getting used to the change,

By contrast, there is no current basis for recurrence of the second set of factors, the contingent ones I outlined above. Hopefully, we will move towards decriminalization of the more harmless “controlled substances.” But the glamor of drugs has gone. And the fascination with newly independent third-world countries has given way to a sense of despair: will they ever emerge from their poverty and corruption? It is almost superfluous to remark that HIV/AIDS has made the sexual revolution problematic. All these changes have induced a sense of proportion--but they have not reversed the shift in consciousness I outlined.

And of course there is something fundamentally new, not even glimpsed forty years ago. The Internet and other digital developments are of monumental significance. To judge from the “digital natives” I know, young people nowadays have a very different sense of time, one that is radically compressed. It all starts, I think, with video games. I found my current partner on the Internet, and this--not the gay bars and baths of yore--is now the primary venue. Thus far, though, I do not see any great changes in the realm of sex, at least not gay sex. Not to be too gross about the matter, fellatio will never go out of style. What is happening, I think, are major changes in the technology of birthing: older women having babies, embryos being transplanted, and so forth. These changes may lead to new concepts of custody in which traditional claims of parental rights are replaced by a new, more diffuse sense of custody of minors.

NOTE. At the time of the great shift in consciousness several attempts were made to describe it. Much attention was paid to Charles Reich’s The Greening of America (1970). A best seller in its day, the book is now almost forgotten.

A law professor at Yale, Reich holds that there have been three successive stages of consciousness. "Consciousness I" characterizes the world-view of rural farmers and small businesspeople dominant in nineteenth-century America. "Consciousness II" was the viewpoint of "an organizational society,” fostering meritocracy and improvement through various large institutions; it dominated the New Deal, World War II and 1950s generations. In Reich’s time, it was yielding to "Consciousness III," embodied in the worldview of the 1960s counterculture, focusing on personal freedom, egalitarianism, and the use of recreational drugs.

Identifying with the freewheeling ways of his Yale students, Charles Reich (b. 1928) was perhaps too starry-eyed to offer an objective analysis. In fact Reich is gay, and came to terms with his orientation in San Francisco during the period of rapidly advancing gay rights and liberation in the 1970s. His autobiographical memoir, The Sorcerer of Bolinas Reef, details his activism and the process of coming to terms with his then long-repressed homosexuality.

Less enthusiastic than Reich was the conservative critic Alan Bloom in his Closing of the American Mind of 1987. Ranging from Plato to Nietzsche and Heidegger, this book casts a broad net. One chapter examines the role of rock music in contemporary culture. Disapproving but not unknowledgeable, he directed attention attention to the industry, its target-marketing to teenagers and young adults, its top performers, its place in our capitalist economy, and (of course) its pretensions to liberation and freedom. Bloom singles out pop star Mick Jagger as the veritable incarnation of the hypocrisy and erotic sterility that, in his view, characterize pop music.

A less judgmental analysis would affirm the role of today’s popular music in sustaining the culture of expressivity. Some observers--especially Robert Pattison in his 1987 book The Triumph of Vulgarity: Rock Music in the Mirror of Romanticism--have traced the origins of this music to the cult of feeling exalted by the romantic movement some two hundred years ago.


Friday, July 03, 2009

Morelli, Wölfflin, Beazley

[The following piece will be of interest to students of art history,]

      One of the most incisive and for decades the most influential of the theorists of the visual arts was the strange Italian Protestant, Giovanni Morelli (1816-1891). Even today the adjective “Morellian” honors the distinctive method of art analysis he pioneered.

Educated mainly in Swiss and German schools, Morelli preferred to write in the German language. After home-schooling at Bergamo, he received more formal instruction at Aarau in Switzerland. Debarred as a Protestant from attending any Italian college, he enrolled at the University of Munich, where he was a student of Ignatius Dellinger, a noted professor of anatomy and physiology. His formation was principally scientific and medical. A little later in Paris, his friendship with the art critic Otto Mindler stimulated his growing interest in the visual arts.

Morelli then entered politics in Italy, urging reform in the administration of the fine arts. Eventually he headed a commission to bring under government control all works of art which could be considered public property. He appointed as his secretary G. B. Cavalcaselle, who was then engaged in collecting materials for a work on Italian art. Cavalcaselle, who followed an essentially positivist methodology of collecting facts, presented his findings in the well-known New History of Painting in Italy published in 1864 in conjunction with Sir Joseph Crowe.

Morelli’s next move in the realm of the fine arts was produce a series of articles in German, which he subsequently gathered into books. His first contributions, a cluster of articles on the Borghese Gallery in Rome, were published in Lützow's Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, 1874-76. Posing as an art-loving Russian, he adopted the pseudonym "Ivan Lermolieff." The surname is an anagram of his own family name with a Russian suffix, while Ivan corresponds to Giovanni. Further complicating matters, the essays were purportedly translated by Johannes Schwarze, another ruse (Moro = Schwarze).

As Constance Jocelyn ffoulkes remarks: “[t]he originality of the method recommended by the author for studying art, the general soundness of his critical opinions, and the many new (and apparently correct) attributions suggested for pictures in the Borghese Gallery and elsewhere, attracted the attention of all students of art; but failure attended every attempt to discover the identity of the Russian critic.” In 1880 Morelli followed suit by published a small book bearing the same pseudonyms, entitled Die Werke italienischer Meister in den Galerien von München, Dresden und Berlin. This volume reached a larger public, creating consternation in some quarters because the author dared to contradict the views of the most renowned art historians of the day. An English translation of the book appeared in 1883, this time with Morelli’s own name on the title page.

Subsequently, Morelli published some further iconoclastic articles. Amusingly, he also wrote a skit (unpublished) on art connoisseurship in Europe, planning to issue it in English as the musings of an American satirizing the follies of art critics in the Old World. Morelli’s appetite for concealment had revived in a different form

What in fact was Morelli’s method? It has been aptly characterized by Constance Jocelyn ffoulkes in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica:

”The study of the individual parts and forms was, in his estimation, of the highest importance, for they were not mere incidents, but the outward and visible seal of an artist's character stamped upon his work, and obvious to all who had eyes to see. By diligent observation of the forms the rudiments of the language of art might be mastered, and the first step taken towards initiating a methodized system of study. The education of a critic consists chiefly in learning to compare, and Morelli soon recognized the value of systematic comparison in the study of art. By the combined methods of critical analysis and comparative observation he found the clue he had so long been seeking. Studying one day in the Uffizi, it suddenly struck him that in a picture by Botticelli containing several figures the drawing of the hands was remarkably similar in all; that the same characteristic but plebeian type, with bony fingers, broad square nails, and dark outlines, was repeated in every figure. Turning to the ears, he observed that they also were drawn in an individual manner, and that in the numerous figures in which the ear was visible the same typical form recurred. Having noted these fundamental forms, he proceeded to an examination of other works by this painter, and found that the same forms were exactly repeated, together with other individual traits which seemed distinctive of the master: the characteristic type of head and expression, the drawing of the nostrils, the vitality of movement, the disposition of drapery, harmony of colour (where it had not been tampered with by the restorer), and quality of landscape. In all Botticelli's true works the presence of these and other characteristics proclaimed their genuineness. In paintings where the forms and types were those of the painter, but where vitality, movement, and all deeper qualities were absent, Morelli recognized works executed from the master's cartoons; while in pictures where neither types nor forms responded to the test, and where only a general family likeness connected them with Botticelli, he discerned the productions of pupils and imitators. After applying his method to the works of Botticelli, he proceeded to examine those of other Florentine masters, and afterwards of painters of other Italian schools, everywhere meeting with results to him not less convincing. If the drawing of the hand and ear were not always conspicuous, there were other peculiarities of this language of form to aid in the identification of a master: the treatment of the hair, as in Piero [della Francesca]i; the indication of the sinews, as in Foppa; the drawing of the eye, as in Liberale da Verona; the modelling of the eyelid and upper lip, as in Ambrogio de Predis; the form of the feet, as in Luini. In short, all apparently insignificant details were of importance in his plan of study, for to him they were like the signature of the master.”

Clearly Morelli's method of attending to individual bodily parts reflected his scientific training in anatomy and medicine. Following the principles of medical symtomatology, the physician looks for tell-tale signs--the quavering of the hands, the yellowness of eyes--as indicators of an overall physical condition. Of proven worth for attribution, the method struck some observers as too atomistic, for it appeared to ignore the whole work in favor of certain details.

Not so Sigmund Freud who acknowledged his affinity with Morelli, based on their common interests in medical symptomatology and in art. In a much-noticed 1980 article, the Italian scholar Carlo Ginzburg cleverly noted that Morelli, as well as Freud and Sherlock Holmes (all roughly contemporary), concentrated on normally ignored small, inconspicuous details to trace patterns that would identify the true works of an artist, trace the evolution of species, and catch master criminals--clues that when properly interpreted would disclose the truth.

Why did Giovanni Morelli go to such lengths--at least at first--to conceal his true identify? The device is striking because the purpose of his method was to validate attribution, unmasking the false identities under which art works had been passing so as to reveal the painters who were their true authors. In his own person, however, he adopted the opposite procedure, obscuring a true identity under the cover of a false one.

There are of course many reasons for adopting a pseudonym, one of them being to achieve greater credibility. Shrewdly, Mary Anne Evans realized that her novels would have greater impact if they were published under a man’s name, George Eliot. Morelli’s procedure was the inverse, since he chose to publish his first works under the assumed name of a Russian dilettante.

Does this habit of concealment have something to do with Morelli’s own nature? He never married, and his efforts at concealment may have something to do with a problem that faced most men and women of homosexual temperament during his time. The issue of course was the prudential imperative of maintaining closeted status. As a rule, gay people of this period became versed, almost by necessity, in the art of camouflaging one's identity. This factor of sexual orientation, if it could be demonstrated conclusively, would explain both Morelli’s own personal disguise and his preoccupation with the disguises that had been imposed on the paintings that he deeply admired.

Morelli had a number of significant disciples in the world of art scholarship, among them Gustavo Frizzoni, Jean Paul Richter, Adolfo Venturi, Bernard Berenson, and Sir John Beazley, the most renowned student of Greek vase painting of the time. In actuality the more creative of these followers subtly modified the theory, making use of the work of a younger scholar, Heinrich Wölfflin, a Swiss Protestant. It is interesting that the two most influential art historical authorities of the second half of the nineteenth century were both Protestants with a Swiss formation.

Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945) was the son of a classics scholar.  He studied art history in Basel under Jakob Burckhardt, then in Berlin and finally in Munich, where he submitted his doctoral dissertation, Prolegomena zu einer Psychologie der Architektur in 1886. With little interest in either biography or iconography, Wölfflin focused on the principles for analyzing works of art as much as the art itself.  He spent two postdoctoral years in Italy, producing his first book, Renaissance und Barock (1888).  In 1893 he moved to Basel to succeed his mentor Burckhardt. This succession was curious because the younger scholar was to discard the cultural-history approach of his mentor, replacing it with a narrower formalistic method. It was during this time that Wölfflin wrote his widely read book Klassische Kunst (1898), which actually concerns the masters of the Italian high Renaissance.   In 1901 was called to the summit of German-speaking academia, the University of Berlin to become a full professor, succeeding the pedestrian Hermann Grimm. In 1912 he returned to Munich, withdrawing to his native Switzerland in 1924.

In Wölfflin's case there are strong indications of homosexuality, obscured by the scholar's tendency to caution and secrecy.  During the period 1920-35 he destroyed all his personal correspondence. Following the decedent's wishes, his literary heirs deleted all "intimate and private" passages from his diaries. Possibly revealing letters to his friends Robert von Planta, Emanuel LaRoche, and Ernst Heidrich have disappeared, and must be presumed lost.  As a result of this process of erasure, the "homoerotic deep structure permeating his entire life and creative achievement can only be reconstructed in general terms."  (Bernd-Ulrich Hergemöller, Mann für Mann: Biographisches Lexikon, Hamburg, 1998, p. 750).

Wölfflin’s most significant contribution is embodied in his Kunstgeschichtliche Kunstbegriffe (1915), known to many from its somewhat inaccurate English version, Principles of Art History. This book sets up a binary system of two sets of five polarities. In a nutshell this is the contrast between the linear and painterly modes, the first exemplified by the Renaissance and the second by the Baroque. In doing this Wölfflin decisively broke with the then-common judgmental dismissal of the Baroque, paving the way for an impartial study of all periods and styles.
In his own time Wölfflin ranked as one of the greatest of art historians.  The English formalist and Bloomsburyite Roger Fry's produced an enthusiastic (though anonymous) review of the English edition of Klassische Kunst (1903) in the Athenaeum. In the second edition of his Drawings of the Florentine  Painters (1938), Bernard Berenson exclaimed: "would that our studies had more Wölfflins!" 

In the 1970s the rise of the social-history approach to art as well as iconographic studies and poststructuralism eroded Wölfflin’s standing, as he became a target for all that was ostensibly wrong with current art history--in a word formalism. This label may be applicable, but the method is not necessarily bad.
While Morelli emphasized significant details and Wölfflin holistic analysis, both did in fact concentrate on style and form, neglecting subject matter. The roots of formalism in aesthetics have been traced to the Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick (1825-1904), together with other musical analysts, who pointed out that instrumental music generally has no subject matter, and therefore m u s t be analyzed in formalistic terms. Possibly a more important source is the doctrine of French writers of the l’art pour l’art (for art’s sake) school.

The decisive formulation of the concept is credited to Théophile Gautier (1811–1872). Some hold that Gautier was not the first to advance this view. Scholars have traced its beginnings to the works of Victor Cousin, Benjamin Constant, and Edgar Allan Poe. Gautier, however, was the first to crystalize the idea as a slogan. "Art for art's sake" was a bohemian creed in the nineteenth century, a slogan raised in defiance of those who, from John Ruskin to the later Marxist advocates of social realism, held that the purpose of art--in fact, its only redeeming virtue--lay in serving some moral or didactic purpose. By contrast, "art for art's sake" affirmed that art was valuable as art, that artistic pursuits were their own justification, and that art did not need moral justification. It if turned out to be morally subversive, so be it.

The explicit slogan is associated in the history of English art and letters with Walter Pater and his followers in the Aesthetic Movement, which was self-consciously in rebellion against Victorian moralism. The precept first appeared in English in two works published simultaneously in 1868: Pater's review of William Morris's poetry in the Westminster Review and in William Blake by Algernon Charles Swinburne. A modified form of Pater's review appeared in his Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873), one of the most influential texts of the Aesthetic Movement. Pater was cautious, unlike his outspoken follower Oscar Wilde, who held that there was no such thing as an immoral book. A book was either well written or it was not.

Many influences coalesced then to account for the appeal of formalism in the second half of the nineteenth century. Some were bohemian and avant-garde, others ostensibly “scientific.” Some scholars, however, sensed that this aesthetic approach was not sufficient, among them was Emile Male, who founded the modern discipline of iconography in France at the end of the nineteeenth century.

Implicitly, Edward Warren, the Boston connoisseur, recognized that subject matter was important, as he was drawn to art objects touching upon his own sexual nature. For many at least, homosexuality involves the aesthetics of bodies. Yet it also involves choice, with the idealized young male body at the height of the pyramid. This kind of selectivity may be termed iconographic in the broadest sense.

To complete our picture, one final art scholar must be discussed. Sir John Davidson Beazley (1885-1970) was an English classical archaeologist. An indefatigable and gifted connoisseur, Beazley is best known for his vast repertoires of Greek black-figure and red-figure pottery based on artistic styles.

As an undergraduate, he studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was reputedly "much involved" (according to John Boardman) with the poet James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915). Flecker wrote poetry dedicated to Beazley and the two enjoyed an aesthete lifestyle that may have been modeled on their Oxford predecessor, Oscar Wilde. Beazley began producing articles on Greek vase painters in 1910; his first study of the Berlin Painter was published in 1911. In 1918 he published his book Attic Red-Figure Vases in American Museums which included a history of the genre and the artists' works in the text. In 1925 he published the first edition of what would be his major contribution to classical archaeology, in German, Attische Vasenmaler des rotfigurigen Stils, a systematic list of red-figure artists and their relationship to other artists. Throughout his career Beazley was to revise and update these lists in a series of successive editions.

After many subsequent monographic publications, Beazley issued his corollary magnum opus on black-figure painting, Attic Black-figure Vase-painters, in 1956.

Beazley acknowledged the German classical scholars Adolf Furtwängler, Paul Hartwig, and Friedrich Hauser as his mentors. However, Beazley's method differed from theirs. This difference reflected his major debt to Giovanni Morelli. Using the Morellian approach to detect the specific "hands" (individual styles) of individual artists, he developed a comprehensive vision, looking at the sweep of classical pottery--major and minor pieces--so as to construct a history of workshops and artists in ancient Athens. Beazley's friend and colleague at Cambridge, Andrew Gow (1886-1986), may have influenced his focus on Morellian methods.

It is often thought that Beazley had little interest in iconography. While this may be generally true, he made a major contribution to the study of imagery in an article slyly and innocuously entitled “Some Vases in the Cyprus Museum” (Proceedings of the British Academy, 33, 1947 197-244). Here he identified several major semiotic devices of homosexual courtship, including the chin chuck and the presentation of gifts. Today, this article ranks as the beginning of modern study of gay subject matter in the vases.