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Homosexuality & Civilization
Synopses & Reviews
How have major civilizations of the last two millennia treated people who were attracted to their own sex? In a narrative tour de force, Louis Crompton chronicles the lives and achievements of homosexual men and women alongside a darker history of persecution, as he compares the Christian West with the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, Arab Spain, imperial China, and pre-Meiji Japan. Ancient Greek culture celebrated same-sex love in history, literature, and art, making high claims for its moral influence. By contrast, Jewish religious leaders in the sixth century B.C.E. branded male homosexuality as a capital offense and, later, blamed it for the destruction of the biblical city of Sodom. When these two traditions collided in Christian Rome during the late empire, the tragic repercussions were felt throughout Europe and the New World.
Louis Crompton traces Church-inspired mutilation, torture, and burning of "sodomites" in sixth-century Byzantium, medieval France, Renaissance Italy, and in Spain under the Inquisition. But Protestant authorities were equally committed to the execution of homosexuals in the Netherlands, Calvin's Geneva, and Georgian England. The root cause was religious superstition, abetted by political ambition and sheer greed. Yet from this cauldron of fears and desires, homoerotic themes surfaced in the art of the Renaissance masters — Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Sodoma, Cellini, and Caravaggio — often inter-twined with Christian motifs. Homosexuality also flourished in the court intrigues of Henry III of France, Queen Christina of Sweden, James I and William III of England, Queen Anne, and Frederick the Great. Anti-homosexual atrocities committed in the Westcontrast starkly with the more tolerant traditions of pre-modern China and Japan, as revealed in poetry, fiction, and art and in the lives of emperors, shoguns, Buddhist priests, scholars, and actors. In the samurai tradition of Japan, Crompton makes clear, the celebration of same-sex love rivaled that of ancient Greece.
Sweeping in scope, elegantly crafted, and lavishly illustrated, Homosexuality and Civilization is a stunning exploration of a rich and terrible past.
"[I]mpressive for its breadth and readability....Crompton's work will be valuable to scholars of all stripes." Publishers Weekly
"This impressive work is an essential purchase for all gay and lesbian studies and history collections." Library Journal
"A minor masterpiece. Each chapter is a small work of art in itself." William A. Percy, coeditor of Encyclopedia of Homosexuality
"Through spirited, richly detailed chronicles...Homosexuality and Civilization aims to refute Foucault's legacy of social-construction theory." Ed Halter, The Village Voice
Sweeping in scope, elegantly crafted, and lavishly illustrated, this volume is a stunning exploration of a rich and terrible past. 80 color illustrations. 30 halftones.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 584-597) and index.
About the Author
Louis Crompton was Professor of English, Emeritus, at the University of Nebraska.
Table of Contents
1. Early Greece: 776-480 BCE
2. Judea: 900 BCE-600 CE
3. Classical Greece: 480-323 BCE
4. Rome and Greece: 200 BCE-138 CE
5. Christians and Pagans: 1-565 CE
6. Darkness Descends: 476-1049
7. The Medieval World: 1050-1321
8. Imperial China: 500 BCE-1840
9. Italy in the Renaissance: 1321-1609
10. Spain and the Inquisition: 1506-1700
11. France from Calvin to Louis XIV: 1517-1715
12. England from the Reformation to William III: 1533-1702
13. Pre-Meiji Japan: 800-1868
14. Patterns of Persecution: 1700-1730
15. Sapphic Lovers: 1700-1793
16. The Enlightenment: 1730-1810
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