Outing Goethe & His Age

Outing Goethe & His Age

Outing Goethe & His Age

Outing Goethe & His Age

Synopsis

This collection of twelve essays employs historical, biographical, and textual evidence to paint a cohesive picture of the incontrovertibly sexual nature of male-male and female-female relationships in 18th and 19th century Germany.

Excerpt

Nowadays the terms "to out" and "to come out" are fighting words used to defy a straight culture that would curb alternative sexualities to its perceived norm. Outing a celebrity, revealing his or her homosexuality to the media, flagrantly exhibits not only details about an individual's personal life but also the societal assumptions about sexual preference that have allowed and abetted idolization: outing takes sardonic revenge on the sexual status quo. Similarly, when gays and lesbians come out of the closet to claim entry into society, they force it to challenge its presuppositions regarding gender.

But working against the agonistic, dualistic premise that governs current gay usage of the word "out" is the performative, transitional, processual aspect to outing and coming out or, as Shane Phelan puts it, "becoming out." She writes: "That stability [of what it means to be lesbian or gay] is not given by discovery of deep truth; one realizes one is lesbian or gay by participating in particular historical communities and discourses. Coming out is partially a process of revealing something kept hidden, but it is more than that. It is a process of fashioning a self -- a lesbian or gay self -- that did not exist before coming out began" (774). The dichotomies in/out, straight/gay, and heterosexual/homosexual, as Eve Sedgwick has shown in Epistemology of the Closet, operate on the premise that we know what the opposite terms signify in relation to each other; their very duality lends them a deceptive clarity. But if the boundary dividing these terms blurs, if coming out is seen to be a continual process, an ongoing discussion with one's family and ever changing circle of . . .

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