I've been thinking about the liminal lately. Mostly because of two of my classes, Variations in Human Sexuality and World History, the subject keeps grabbing my attention. I find it intriguing how various societies react to liminality, that undefined region removed form normality.
For many, mostly polytheistic societies, viewed liminal experiences as a rite of passage. Think of societies which practiced institutionalized intergenerational homosexuality, the Greeks most famously, the Hua, the Sambia, some evidence even suggests early Germanic tribes. For them the liminal is seen as a space where male adolescents undergo a learning process part of which involved sex with his adult mentor as a means of passing maleness or knowledge through semen. In stories the liminal is celebrated as a space the hero must move through and undergo a series of challenges and tests, the Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh.
For some, monotheistic societies, Zoroastrian and Jewish, liminality was seen as a moral hazard, chaos which must be guarded against at all costs, hence proscriptions on homosexuality.
Is it the need to forge identity in a hostile world, their dualistic natures which see things as black and white, good or evil, or something else?
Friday, March 13, 2009
New book tonight by Bernard Sergent, French historian specializing in ancient Greek history, who suggests that cultures which place strict definitions on normality so as to define a heterosexual majority and a homosexual minority is a typical feature of racism. Hmmmm . . .
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
In “Charles Warren Stoddard: From Bohemian Effete to Homosexual,” Elwood Miller attempts to identify some of the shifts in transhistorical continuities of discourse during the end of the nineteenth century which begin to signify the generation of our modern conception of homosexuality. He analyzes the life, and friendships of nineteenth century writer Charles Warren Stoddard relative to their particular place in the changing definitions of nineteenth century homo-social relationships and looks for clues which indicate a shift, however subtle, in attitudes of these historical subjects around those definitions. By examining these shifts in attitude, Elwood believes we may begin to see the groundwork being laid for the shift to the twentieth century’s binary regulatory system of male/female, heterosexual/homosexual, masculine/effeminate which comes to dominate the nineteenth century’s system of separate spheres for the sexes where both men and women were free to explore deep and loving friendships with members of their own sex.
Monday, March 2, 2009
I submitted the paper on Stoddard which I did for my seminar in historical analysis last semester for the 2009 History Students Symposium at SFSU. I heard back today; it was accepted. Know I must come up with a short abstract by Thursday and a twenty-five minute presentation by March 17th.