Figuring Sex Between Men
This chapter addresses the question of how sex between men was figured rhetorically, drawing attention to two distinctive features of those literary texts which represent such desires—both those which are hostile and those which are celebratory. The first feature is the careful use of definition and indefinition. Writers wishing to voice love between men often develop strategies which allow such desire to be identified, while also inviting readers to construe it as something other than sexual—as masculine friendship, as religious devotion. By contrast, writers condemning such desires as diabolical sodomy may insist upon punitive definitions, turning the complexities of real human beings into caricatures, into monsters. Central to the argument in this chapter is the idea of paradiastole, the rhetorical trope which redefines something in other terms, a manoeuvre familiar from lawyers’ arguments which seek to maximize or minimize a crime by careful redescription. Within the texts discussed, paradiastole both creates space for the homoerotic imagination to play in relative safety by permitting multiple readings, and, in bigoted texts, brands homosexual desires with the stigma of legal and religious anathema.
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