Homosexuality in Early Modern France: A Documentary Collection

Homosexuality in Early Modern France: A Documentary Collection

Homosexuality in Early Modern France: A Documentary Collection

Homosexuality in Early Modern France: A Documentary Collection

Synopsis

Homosexuality in Early Modern France is an edited volume of translated documents about male and female homosexuality in France from the Renaissance through the Revolution. It is the first documentary collection in English about homosexuality in any Continental country during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. The authors have translated a wide variety of primary documents-religious, legal, criminal, polemical, literary, and philosophical-and have included everything from the arrest records of men accused of sodomy to the writings of Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Diderot. The sources provide empirical evidence about the ways in which people of both sexes and different classes experienced same-sex relations. They also show how these relations were condemned by theologians, jurists, and doctors; regulated by police and magistrates; and manipulated by contemporaries for polemical and political purposes. Homosexuality in Early Modern France examines how the themes of same-sex relations were used in discussions of religious, political, and social issues and it provides an excellent vantage point from which to begin discussions of the representation and experiences of men and women involved in same-sex relations in early modern France. This collection offers scholars, students, and other readers access to texts and documents not previously available in English and provides them with raw material for understanding the questions about subcultures and identities that are at the heart of current debates on the history of sexuality.

Excerpt

In 1996, we published a collection of essays on homosexuality in France from the eigh- teenth to the twentieth century. That project was inspired mainly by the lack of scholarly work on both sides of the Atlantic on French gay and lesbian history at a time when aca- demics and the public at large in the United States were coming to recognize the impor- tance of “homosexuality” in understanding fundamental questions about identity and com- munity, masculinity and femininity, relations between public and private spheres, and connections between gender and political culture. This neglect seemed surprising, inas- much as France decriminalized sodomy before any other Western state and provided refuge at various times to foreign homosexuals who were harassed or even persecuted in their own countries. Despite their innovative and influential work in social history and cultural studies, French scholars have proved uncharacteristically reticent about investi- gating this part of their national past and present. Anglophone scholars, meanwhile, have naturally been more interested in exploring the history of sexuality in the United King- dom and the United States. Of those who have worked on France, most have been liter- ary scholars interested in celebrated modern authors such as Proust, Gide, Colette, and Yourcenar.

We have both taught courses on lesbian and gay history, so we are well aware of the difficulty of locating representative primary sources about same-sex relations from a wide range of cultures and centuries. While doing research for our own contributions to the previous volume, we were impressed by the wealth of documentation on early modern France, so we decided to produce a collection of translated and annotated sources in order to illustrate the variety of materials that exists in manuscript and published form and to enable scholars, students, and lay readers to evaluate samples of such materials for them- selves. We have generally opted for complete texts or sections rather than shorter pas- sages and, with a few exceptions, for documents that are not already available in Eng- lish or readily accessible in French.

The sources included in this volume provide empirical evidence about the ways in which same-sex relations were condemned by theologians, jurists, and doctors, experi- enced by people of both sexes and different walks of life, regulated by police and mag- istrates, and represented and manipulated by a variety of contemporaries for a variety of purposes. They shed light on how sodomites and tribades thought about themselves and what others thought about them, as well as the ways in which the theme of same-sex sex- uality was used in discussions of religious, political, and social issues. Many of the texts contain sexual accusations about specific individuals, but we have not made it our busi- ness to compile information about celebrities who may or may not have been sexually involved with persons of the same sex. We have attempted instead to supply readers with . . .

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