The Seduction of the Mediterranean: Writing, Art, and Homosexual Fantasy

The Seduction of the Mediterranean: Writing, Art, and Homosexual Fantasy

The Seduction of the Mediterranean: Writing, Art, and Homosexual Fantasy

The Seduction of the Mediterranean: Writing, Art, and Homosexual Fantasy

Synopsis

Through an explanation of forty figures in European culture, ^The Seduction of the Mediterranean argues that the Mediterranean, classical and contemporary, was the central theme in homoerotic writing and art from the 1750s to the 1950s. Episodes of exile, murder, drug-taking, wild homosexual orgies and court cases are woven into an original study of a significant theme in European culture. The myth of a homoerotic Mediterranean made a major contribution to general attitudes towards Antiquity, the Renaissance and modern Italy and Greece.

Excerpt

‘If you are Mediterranean, easygoing, fit, short-to-medium in height who would like to meet two, late-twenties, Anglo-Celtic guys who are fit and attractive, please write….’ So reads a personal advertisement in a gay magazine published in Melbourne, Australia. Such advertisements are one way in which gay men search for sexual partners, preserving their anonymity except to those who respond to their calls, yet describing the sort of partner or the kind of sexual activity which they desire. In this case, the object of desire for the ‘Anglo-Celtic’ men is a ‘Mediterranean’ man, and they probably hope to find someone with olive skin and dark eyes and hair, who may also be muscular and hirsute. The stereotype of a man from the Mediterranean region is their sexual, and perhaps romantic, fantasy, an ideal of masculine beauty and virility.

Sexual fixation on a particular type of individual—a tall, dark and handsome man or a buxom blonde woman, for instance—is common and is not restricted to homosexuals. Interest in ‘Mediterranean’ men is relatively widespread in the homosexual world, and the image has a long enough and important enough history for the Mediterranean lover to be considered one of the primary homosexual symbols. That is the subject of this work.

This is a study of a specific but recurring theme in the writings and art of men considered to be homosexual and an attempt to place that theme in its historical context. I write as a historian, not as a specialist in literature or art or an expert in psychology; what interests me is tracing the origins and development of a certain type of homosexual image and setting it within the history of European society. My examples, which are far from exhaustive, are chosen primarily from English, French and German sources, but there are parallels in other cultures as well; limitations on space have made it impossible to discuss other cases. My intention is to contribute to the now burgeoning field of gay studies and to examine the connections between the history of homosexuality and the wider social and cultural history.

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