The Germanic Mosaic: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Society

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview

30
Homosexual Identity (Misin)Formation in Hesse's Demian

PATRICK J. GIGNAC

The subject of this chapter has received very little or no attention until very recently. The subject concerns the stereotypical portrayal of homoerotic love -- that is, love between men bordering on sexual expression, but remaining sexually unfulfilled -- and how this portrayal oppresses homosexual identity. Homoerotic love is utilized to indicate implicitly the presence of homosexuality, and then this presence is explicitly concealed by colluding with the dominant discourse of heterosexual presupposition. German literature of the early twentieth century has a tradition of representing homosexual love and homoerotic imagery as a restrained sentiment either unreciprocated or purely "platonic" (Jones). 1 The implication of a homosexual presence is explicitly refuted through the introduction of ambiguous and opposing symbols of heterosexual convention. For the gay/homosexual reader, these signs are part of a covert code used to establish a patriarchally defined identity, and have also served to oppress the construction of a self-defined identity. In his article "Homosexual Signs," Harold Beaver describes the importance of these signs:

Exclusion from the common code impels the frenzied quest: in the momentary glimpse, the scrambled figure, the sporadic gesture, the chance encounter, the reverse image, the sudden slippage, the lowered guard. In a flash meanings may be disclosed; mysteries wrenched out and betrayed. ( Beaver: 105)

This dichotomy between implicit expression of homosexual desire through sign recognition and the explicit denial of that desire through the representation of a contrary sign is instrumental in both oppressing and forming a homosexual identity, though it is also important to note that this denial is sometimes a necessity for survival in a homophobic society. Oppression occurs by establishing same-sex loving relationships and then denying or morally problematizing them, thus demonstrating the shame and betrayal of the dominant code through homosexual desire. The problem is magnified by the

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