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Ancient Rome and the Construction of Modern Homosexual Identities$
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Jennifer Ingleheart

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199689729

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199689729.001.0001

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The Erotic Eye

The Erotic Eye

Cinema, Classicism, and the Sexual Subject

(p.252) 13 The Erotic Eye
Ancient Rome and the Construction of Modern Homosexual Identities

Alastair J. L. Blanshard

Oxford University Press

From mainstream Hollywood studios to the pornographic outputs of backyard production houses, cinema has continually been tantalized by the homoerotic possibilities of ancient Rome. From some of the earliest productions, we can see cinema providing much for the enjoyment of queer viewers, as male bodies are positioned and displayed for voyeuristic pleasure; this chapter interrogates the queer viewing experience. Over time, a cinematic narrative about Roman homosexuality has developed, in films such as Ben-Hur, Spartacus, Fellini Satyricon, and Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane, as well as in pornographic films. It is one in which hierarchically structured relationships centred on scenarios of domination and submission predominate. The eroticization of slavery represents one of cinema’s most distinctive contributions to the representation of Roman homosexuality and it is a feature that only a few film-makers have been prepared to subvert.

Keywords:   queer viewing, Roman homosexuality, cinema, Hollywood, pornographic films, slavery, Ben-Hur, Spartacus, Fellini Satyricon, Sebastiane

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